A common Internet search related to healthcare includes the keyword phrase, "best of." Why is this?
We all want the best of everything for ourselves and our loved ones. The "best of" may ultimately reflect "the best we can afford," mirroring consumer trends that we do demand more value or "bang for our buck" when making purchasing decisions.
This is no less true for healthcare services, products, and procedures. When patients are able to choose, they will always aim for the "best of" what they can access.
It makes sense, then, that your medical blog should always include "best of" posts, even when you don't offer what some patients might be looking for. This form of vetted information can empower and "delight" patients, improve your reputation, and lead to a wider reach for your inbound marketing campaigns.
How information empowers patients
In the 2010 Scientific American article, "The Rise of the Empowered Patient," market analyst Richard K. Miller, author of the annual Healthcare Business Market Research Handbook, explains it best:
“Patients would rather not be passive consumers of healthcare
services... Given the choice, they want to know about their health
and medical condition, what healthcare services would cost, the
efficacy of prescribed treatments and the clinical competence of
their physicians and hospitals."
We agree. This is why we also maintain that patients need to know what is considered "the best of the best" when it comes to procedure, service, and product reviews... even when your medical practice doesn't offer them. Why?
Patients are consumers
The conversion agency, FINAO, offers these statistics on patient search strategies. Where do they look for information?
Newspapers: 18 percent
Magazines: 20 percent
Television: 32 percent
Health information websites: 52 percent
Hospital websites: 76 percent
Search engines: 77 percent
Patients are now in the habit—for good or not—of looking to the Internet for the best healthcare solutions and options. They want to know about pricing and availability, as well as what is the "best of" what they can afford and access.
They may, ultimately, not be able to afford to acquire the latest product, procedure, or service out there, but if you can share with them a range of these so they at least know their options, you'll gain their trust.
Why? Navigating the healthcare system is ridiculously complicated, a kind of rabbit hole for many that requires a huge amount of time and knowledge to master. If you can sum things up tidily for prospective patients through patient-centered marketing practices, they will not only be delighted by your efforts, but their positive emotional responses to your efforts may be a driving force behind their choice to partner with you to solve a medical problem.
What's up with the word "delight?"
This is a marketing term that describes the sense of satisfaction that a person experiences when they have acquired the solution to the problem they needed to solve.
In the world of medical practice, a delighted patient is one who feels "heard," acquires the care they need, and achieves a better health outcome.
They are also more likely to share this successful patient journey verbally with friends and family as well as online through links, positive reviews, and other forms of digital word of mouth. Your use of medical blog posting strategies can help foment this.
Patients trust apparent expertise
Let's say you are a medical practice of ObGyns, and you post an informative piece about midwifery in your region: a Who's Who of midwifery practices you most respect and endorse. And let's also say that you have zero midwives in your own practice. How does this help you?
In two ways:
By establishing your sense of ownership, qualification, and expertise in the field (in our example, obstetrics and gynecology), and
By showing patients that your chief goal is to help them make informed decisions
If you can post thoughtful medical information and share your view of what you consider the "best of" the local practicing midwives, you are essentially taking ownership over that community. You are putting your traditional ObGyn stamp of validation on what, in some communities, still may be viewed as an alternative approach.
Positive reviews of quality services, products, and procedures—even those that may extend well beyond the scope of what you offer—can give patients the feeling that you are a benevolent thought leader, more interested in their well being than in acquiring new patients. These kinds of posts also create good karma between you and your peers. After all, word of mouth by physician referral is the equivalent of 5 out of 5 stars.
Could you still acquire new patients by using this strategy? Of course! Digital word of mouth isn't always a straight line, but then again, neither is traditional word of mouth.
As an example:
- Someone who read your article about midwives in the area might pass it along as a hyperlink to their pregnant daughter.
- She may then make an important decision about how to deliver her first baby.
- She may decide for or against a traditional ObGyn, but in the meantime... she's very likely to have other pregnant friends looking for a good traditional ObGyn.
- She forwards that initial link she received from her mother to them.
- They find you online and reach out to your for services and support based on their friend's word of mouth.
Your single post about midwives (which you don't even offer at your practice) has the potential to reach dozens of other pregnant women currently making important healthcare decisions.
What you have to say (and how you say it) can lead them to their own über critical Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT), which may very well lead to new additions to your patient family (with new ones on the way!).
How is this not powerful? When healthcare marketing is "patient centered," the power remains in their hands, but you have many opportunities, like writing "Best of" blog posts, to help them get to where they need to go.
Patients appreciate breakdowns and bullet points
You don't have to "talk down" to "break it down" when it comes to relaying important information. Taking a large medical concept, such as arthritis, and breaking it down into smaller packages of information (kinds of arthritis, symptoms, risks for failing to treat it, the best procedures, the best therapies, etc.) shows you know your stuff and that you trust them to know it, as well.
There is no "best of" when it comes to suffering from arthritis, but you can create your own "best of" by approaching the subject in ways that empower patients. Indeed, this approach provides the perfect opportunity to have fun while educating patients. You could:
break down medical acronyms so patients won’t feel lost
use colorful infographics to reveal startling statistics so patients can digest them
post an animation about what arthritis does to the joints to further their understanding of the disease
provide a useful checklist of possible treatments to consider
Giving them options like these helps you to establish mutual respect with them. Your willingness to share information without expectation of reward (conversion) basically says, "We know what you need to know... and here is some information you can use to solve your problem."
That's sure to delight a prospective patient; it makes their difficult journey a little bit easier and gets them closer to their goals. This may also include a decision to partner with your medical practice.
Patients find caché in the concept of being "well informed"
Who doesn't like to be told they are "smart," "savvy," or "well informed"? Patients who feel they are ahead of the pack when it comes to healthcare information take pride in that fact and often take the lead among their peer groups. There is tremendous value in feeling like you belong among the more astute in your particular circles.
The added value of the informed patient
Generally speaking, most healthcare professionals welcome informed patients because they are usually easier to work with: they bring in updated prescription lists, know basic medical terms, and usually attend all of their appointments.
Here are some other reasons why doctors should aim to inform their patients through their medical practice blogs:
Informed patients are empowered patients
A patient who has confidence in their understanding of a health condition, a procedure, a drug, or a therapy is more likely to be proactive about their overall lifestyle choices and achieve a positive therapeutic outcome.
An editorial in the Lancet in 2012 lays it out squarely:
Virtually all people are patients at some point in their lives.
Improving a person's ability to understand and manage his
or her own health and disease, negotiate with different cadres
of health professionals, and navigate the complexities of health
systems is crucial to achieving better health outcomes.
Informed patients are more compliant
Half of the battle is not in diagnosing a patient, but in treating them. The informed patient knows what they are doing to get better and why they need to stick to it. They are also more willing to seek out other proactive patients for support.
Healthcare professionals working in diabetes management have know this for a while. A study in 1994 that was published by the American Diabetes Association in 1995 showed that "patient empowerment is an effective approach to developing educational interventions for addressing the psychosocial aspects of living with diabetes. Furthermore, patient empowerment is conducive to improving blood glucose control."
With the inception of a new clinical credential in diabetes education, healthcare workers can now help empower patients through education to address both blood glucose management and the personal challenges of managing their chronic illness.
Informed patients actively engage in social media
Spend just half an hour in a Facebook group focused on a medical condition and you'll see a huge difference between the posts of informed, proactive patients and those who feel disempowered by healthcare. The empowered ones tend to become educators or share quality healthcare information with their peers in social media settings.
Added bonus: they will rave about the healthcare providers who have delighted them.
The flip side: When health literacy undercuts patient education
The challenge of "meeting patients where they're at" is a much bigger task than what any single medical practice can overcome.
Health literacy isn't driven only by easy assumptions: that people with low health literacy are uneducated, from a lower socioeconomic status, or culturally diverse.
In fact, health literacy strikes people at all levels of education, income bracket, and cultural background. Even the smartest patients still may not fully understand:
how insurance works
what a clinic's scope-of-practice hierarchy looks like
how to follow instructions for medications, home-based therapies, and/or durable medical equipment
basic human biology and physiology
Instead of avoiding this very real dynamic in healthcare, your medical blog may be in the perfect position to help buoy up health literacy by giving the most health illiterate visitors a "way in" to achieve health awareness.
Patient education becomes an opportunity for you to gain patient trust. If you can simplify these processes for all patients, regardless their level of health literacy, in a way that is pleasing and effective, they will not only be grateful, but they will respect you for going the extra mile.
It's a win-win, in that regard. You stand to gain by sharing information because it can ultimately define you as a reliable advocate, someone to partner with.
Patients are looking for this kind of oasis because:
Those lacking health literacy are otherwise disempowered, making them easy targets for predatory businesses hoping to sell them "cures" (Garcinia cambogia sales, as an example)
They can't afford to go back to school to master human biology. If you can offer your patient population free education on your website, you can enlighten them in a way that can stem the tide of misinformation
They are more likely to trust a medical practice that offers them information that does not result in the upselling of products and services. They want "no strings attached" because they feel (correctly) that they should be the ones in charge of making healthcare decisions
They value plain language and other health literacy tools because their number one goal is to solve problems: by contributing to their understanding of complex health issues, you are essentially telling them "we respect your intelligence"
They are quick to consider alternative therapies that may compete with your practice; if you can address these in a respectful, positive way, you have the power to change hearts and minds, no small task given the dismal state of public perception about healthcare
Just think about all the informative "best of" topics you can post about on your medical blog. Truly, the wellspring doth overflow, whether it's discussing medications, therapies, medical devices, services, even other practitioners and competitors you admire.
A final note about patient empowerment
Robert Johnstone, of the International Alliance of Patients' Organizations, was quoted in the 2012 Lancet editorial as saying that “doctors should get down from their pedestals, but patients must get up from their knees” and that “empowerment is not about trying to wrest power from the doctors, it is essentially helping people lead more proactive and fulfilling lives.”
The sooner medical practices can address the challenges of "meeting patients where they are at," the better it will be for everybody.
For your inbound marketing strategy, one of the best ways to implement change that leads to improved patient outcomes begins with presenting good information, positively spun, which praises the best of what's available.
We believe it's one of the most effective ways to use educational content to generate what all physicians know is the greatest commodity of all: patient trust.
American Diabetes Association
International Alliance of Patients' Organizations
Let us help you navigate all the details of medical practice marketing. Download our free e-handbook below to get a wealth of tips on beginning an effective inbound marketing strategy.