“That story sounds a lot like mine — if they can conquer [health problem], so can I.”
One of the most powerful ways to connect with a healthcare audience is through stories.
So how can you use patient stories to create authentic, meaningful connections with your audience? Take a look at these 5 hospitals — and learn how you can model their successful strategies.
Tonya Trostel: UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital
Grab the tissues before reading Tonya Trostel’s touching childbirth story from UCHealth. We love this piece because it:
- Gives context: We learn Tonya’s entire story, beginning years before her life-changing experience at UCHealth.
- Isn’t promotional: The story focuses solely on the experience of Tonya and her family.
- Includes a mix of visuals: We see photos of Tonya and her daughters, plus a moving television ad (that we ranked #1 in our list of top hospital commercials of 2019).
Now try it: Focus on the patient, not the hospital
The text in Tonya’s patient story doesn’t scream, “Come to UCHealth to deliver your baby!” It doesn’t brag, “Look how awesome we are!” It’s about Tonya.
Through the story, we share in her joy after having each of her three baby girls. We share in her grief after experiencing placenta accreta, which required having an unplanned, life-saving hysterectomy. And we share in her selflessness through annual blood donations on her daughter’s birthday.
Boone Bartlome: Craig Hospital
A high school football star experiences a traumatic injury on the field but recovers with the help of a dedicated, caring team. Boone Bartlome’s story is an inspiration to those facing what seems like an unattainable feat. And it proves how much you can achieve when you have the right people around you.
Craig gives visitors an option to read the story or watch a video, where Boone talks about his experience at the hospital.
Now try it: Highlight your team
In Boone’s story, he is the main character. But he’s not alone: the story highlights the hospital team members who worked with Boone.
During his recovery, Boone was motivated, determined, supported by a loving family and community — and working with an expert, compassionate team of providers. It’s a powerful reminder that when you’re surrounded with the right care and support, almost anything is possible.
Derin Gebhardt: Mayo Clinic*
Derin’s story, published on Sharing Mayo Clinic, is a double whammy: You follow his journey with a benign brain tumor and his path to becoming a father. Mayo’s renowned health experts weigh in to discuss the tumor, the effect on Derin’s fertility and the treatment process.
Now try it: Bring in your experts
When writing patient stories, remember that readers like to know the “how” and “why” behind the story. Demystifying the medical process helps readers understand what happened and reduces fear and anxiety.
So don’t just write, “We did a surgery, and then they were able to conceive.” Get into the weeds! (Using patient-friendly language, of course). What is the tumor’s name? What were the effects of the tumor? How did the team remove it? What happened after? Let the readers see and hear from your experts — the same doctors they may call on one day.
Aurora Lucas: Rush University Medical Center*
What makes Aurora’s patient story stand out? Aurora wrote it herself! A first-person narrative is captivating because readers can put themselves in the writer’s shoes. (“Yes! I would feel the same way!”) Plus, any promotional aspect of the story is genuine because it comes from the patient, not the hospital.
Now try it: Let patients tell their stories
What better way to encourage a connection between a former patient and a potential patient? Open the door for a conversation between the two. Give the patient the byline. (Of course, you’ll want to edit the story for spelling, grammar and style guide compliance.)
Audrey Armstrong: Kentucky Children’s Hospital
Audrey’s story is full of complicated terms and rare conditions, such as “Hirschsprung’s disease.” How can readers empathize with Audrey when they have no idea what she experienced?
The answer: plain language. When writing patient stories, Kentucky Children’s Hospital does a brilliant job of clearly explaining complex terms. The writer says: “In HD, there are no nerve cells in the wall of the affected intestine. Without nerve cells, the intestine does not move things through, and the affected area acts like a blockage.”
Now try it: Stick to plain language
Without clear explanations, the reader is left in limbo. Plain language is a bridge that connects the reader and the patient. Use terms people can grasp to create that “Aha!” moment.
We can’t overstate the value of writing patient stories the right way. They’re covert marketing pieces that accomplish what all healthcare content strives to achieve — creating genuine connections between audiences and organizations.
Have you read any spectacular patient stories lately? Share them with us.
*Current or former Aha Media Group client.