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inboundMed Blog

Medical infographics 101: What they are, why and how to use them

Aug 24, 2016, 7:30:00 PM / by inboundMed

medical_infographic_without_text as an example of what an infographic looks likeOne of the coolest things to come out of publishing is the advent of the infographic.

This graphic element started out as a "thing" back in the days of print newspapers and magazines, with USA Today probably deserving credit more than any other publication for using it to capture large amount of data in a small space.

Back in the days of newspapers, space was always a premium; it was bought and sold, so making the most of "column inches" was necessary for a newspaper or magazine to be economically viable.

Today, we see infographics all over the Internet. Not because there are space issues... quite the contrary.

However, our culture, steeped as we are in the Internet, has become a visually engaged one. Infographics exist not to save space, but to deliver information in a way that is accessible, pleasing, and useful.

What exactly are infographics?

Infographics are graphic elements which tell a story in pictures, words, and numbers, usually conveying a load of data in a small amount of space. Generally, they are created as digital files which can be tweaked as necessary.

They make excellent patient education tools, are easy to share online, and built with the intention of carrying both your brand and your message out into the world through an information-rich format. They belong in every inbound marketing effort because of their versatility.

Customer Magnetism has done such an awesome job of conveying the value of infographics by way of—you guessed it!an infographic, that we are going to share it and link it here

customer_magnetism_infoG.jpg

(Hat tip to Customer Magnetism for sharing this brilliant graphic!)

Types of infographics

The kind of infographic you should choose depends a great deal on the content you want to convey. Here are some pertinent examples using medical information:

  1. Storyboard: Tells the story through visual  panels (example: "What happens during an MS flare?")
  2. Flowchart: Can be useful for explaining systems or processes; in medicine, there are a lot of these (example: "How blood clots threaten the vascular system")
  3. Timeline: For historical overview, can offer patients a linear perspective about therapies or research (example: "The history of insulin treatment")
  4. "1000 words": Shows a beautiful picture with data imprinted or laid over it which is relevant to the image (example: "How the corpus callosum works")
  5. Wagon wheel: Surrounds a central image with bursts of graphic data (example: "What are the main causes of obesity?")
  6. Stat porn: Focuses on lots of statistics, with the design emphasis on numbers (example: "Drowsy driving, by the numbers")
  7. This versus That: Compares a "good" versus a "bad" scenario through images, text, and statistics (example: "What happens if you keep smoking versus what happens if you quit smoking)
  8. Cribsheet: Instructs through illustrated tables (example: "At age 18, what a vaccination and booster record should look like")
  9. Pie or bar chart: Shows inequities, imbalances, or divisions within a certain set of data (example: "How most people get their daily exercise")
  10. Top ten (or other number): Breaks down a subject into equitable segments (example: "Top 5 reasons pregnant women should take prenatal vitamins")
  11. Hierarchy: Visually illustrates layers of information based on their relationship to one another (example: "The USDA Food Pyramid")
  12. Geographical analysis: Using a map (of counties, states, countries, continents) to convey healthcare trends (example: "Incidence of Type II diabetes by state")

There are even more than these, but you get the idea. 

Why you should use infographics infographics_make_surfing_the_web_fun-011981-edited

There are lots of good reasons to try these elements as part of your healthcare marketing strategy.

Infographics provide:

  • A more dynamic way to present statistics and information. Visual delivery of data is often more easy on the eyes and more pleasant to encounter, especially when the topics are dense or controversial. 
  • A better experience for visitors. Numerous studies show a human preference for pictures over words. When patients visit your site, and are greeted by a pleasing image, they are more likely to return.
  • Healthcare information that is more memorable than text alone. Some research suggests that learning and remembering are enhanced when text is embellished with visual aids. Medical practices want their patients to learn and be better informed. Why not start with infographics?
  • Authority to your web presence. A handsome infographic posted on your website or blog shows you can do more than puts words on the page, and because these are information rich, they command authority. This added effort can subtly confirm your level of expertise.
  • Instant social sharing of your content. Have you ever spent way too much time on Pinterest? Probably. Why? It's the infographics! People share them compulsively across all facets of social media.

How to use medical infographics

Let your imagination roam... powerpoint_presentations_benefit_from_the_use_of_infographics

  • Blog posts 
  • Website columns
  • Landing pages and calls to action
  • Educational posters to display in your clinic
  • Handouts at events
  • Presentations via PowerPoint
  • Videos

Where to find infographics

rainbow_bubbles_starter by venngageMAKE YOUR OWN 

I made this one (below right), using statistics from the Preeclampsia Foundation, in less than an hour by using Venngage's free Rainbow Bubbles Template (left), and I'm no graphic designer, by any stretch of the imagination.

Though it probably still needs a few tweaks, it's still a decent start. With enough practice, any ordinary Jane or Joe can come up with attractive infographics using one of the many free online services available.

infographic_venngage_exampleCaveat: free usually has limitations to what templates you can access and how many infographics you can make, but this is also a great way to trial a service.

HIRE OUT

Graphic designers are able to create customized infographics for a reasonable rate if you provide them with specific information and details from the outset.

They can use familiar templates or may even have some favorite originals they use for their own clients. 

USE PREEXISTING ONES (with permission)

A lot of infographics are already available for use and can be found through Google Images or even Pinterest. Make sure you have permission to reuse any infographics you do find, however.

Generally speaking, nonprofit organizations love to see their infographics shared, but you cannot assume this is always the case. Simply contact the owner of the infographic (usually their name is on the infographic itself, or you can locate them by contacting the company or organization sponsoring it) and ask for permission. Generally, you will get a yes.

Any kind of product of graphic design is legally considered intellectual property and you don't want to infringe upon copyrights for those who make tthem. Getting permission (which may require you to link back to the original creator, in some case), is a safeguard against legal trouble and is considered, in general, a best practice for any business.

Other considerations

  • Make sure your data is accurate. This means checking and double checking and then triple checking your stats to make sure they are coming from the most reliable sources and that they are also the most up to date. Citing statistics from a poll done 5 years ago won't be as valid as the same poll with statistics that are as fresh as last month.
  • Make sure the infographic design is felicitous with your site design. Be cognizant of font faces, color themes, and the use of your logo; these should all factor into how a customized infographic should look. If you decide to create a series of infographics, make sure they are all part of a "matched set" to enhance branding.
  • Don't use too many. They are nifty elements, for sure, but variety in the way you deliver content is going to be more interesting for your readers than a daily dose of "today's infographic." 
  • Make sure people can read them online. The text needs to be large enough to read on various formats (including mobile), and resolutions, sizes, and orientation are important considerations. 
  • Provide prinprint_buttontable versions, if possible. If an infographic you post might be something your patients will want to download and print, make sure they can do so by providing a separate PDF link to access a printer-friendly version. A list infographic, for instance, may be useful for downloading and sticking on the refrigerator.

Sources:

Creative Bloq
Customer Magnetism

Preeclampsia Foundation
Shutterstock
Venngage
Wikimedia Commons


 

Did you know? We offer a free inbound medical marketing handbook to help medical practices learn the basics of solid inbound strategies. Click on the book link below to see how you can get your free copy. 

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