When people head to the hospital, what part of the experience matters most to them? It matters that the hospital is conveniently located, that the administrative staff and nurses are helpful and polite, that the wait times aren’t crazy long. For many patients though, the absolute most important factor that determines how they feel about their visit will be their experience with the physician.
People want to find a doctor they like and feel comfortable with. Most of accomplishing that falls on the shoulders of your physicians in their day-to-day work with patients, but you can use content marketing to give them a head start.
Patients are loyal to the doctor they know. Even in cases where an insurance plan provided patients with financial incentives to choose a different doctor, patients were more likely to switch plans than switch doctors. That speaks volumes about the importance of the relationship between doctor and patient. The connection one person has to another person (in this case, their doctor) will almost always trump any loyalty they feel to a brand like that of the hospital or insurance company.
When patients are doing the research to find a new doctor, they often have little to go on in making their choice. A name and title listed on a website doesn’t tell them anything about a doctor’s bedside manner, if they’re skilled at communicating complicated medical issues clearly, if they treat their patients respectfully, and if they’re friendly. Even if you add a photo next to the name and title (and you definitely should), the patient is still getting limited information.
To give your visitors a better feel for who your caregivers are and what they know, humanize your physicians by getting them involved in the content creation process. Blog posts with their byline show your readers they know their stuff and have a friendly, helpful tone (you may need to help with that latter part—not all doctors are born writers).
You can also use your blog to highlight physicians—think a “Meet the Physician” series that addresses some of their interests and hobbies beyond work. The Faces series on the Altru blog tackles both the specialties and skills of the individual doctors, as well as more personal, humanizing bits of information like their favorite pizza and what superhero power they’d most like to have.
You don’t want to get too personal—patients don’t need to hear about the messy divorce a physician’s going through—but learning that a physician’s a dog lover or that she thinks Star Trek is better than Star Wars (but that X-Files beats them both) gives a patient something to relate to.
With most doctors, you’ll probably get nowhere if you try to urge them to develop a social media presence. Most people don’t have the time to give to social media, and for physicians working 60 hours a week, you can expect Twitter to be a hard sell. But social media is an important medium for connecting with patients. In a recent survey, 41 percent of respondents said social media has an influence on the hospital or doctor they choose.
Even if your doctors don’t want to commit the time to social media, you can use it to help your patients get to know them a little better. Promote events they’re involved in and any content they help produce on your social media accounts. If Dr. Smith runs 10ks, that could lead to a blog post about best tips for training, a series of social media updates that synthesize some of those tips, and a mention in your email newsletter about where she placed in the last race.
St. Michael’s does a great job of highlighting different physicians in its feed:
Our Dr. Jenkins on how cholesterol-lowering #PortfolioDiet reduces #BloodPressure. #onHWS » https://t.co/QCkhg4zHLk pic.twitter.com/BnY1pZ6Nyf— St. Michael's (@StMikesHospital) November 7, 2015
Anyone following the St. Michael’s social media feeds, or who happens upon one of their Tweets or updates, now knows more about each of the doctors they promote than they would based on a name, title and photo on the website. Wouldn’t you rather go with a doctor who’s demonstrated her knowledge in a blog post or by earning awards than one you know nothing about?
Much of the content should be packed with the kind of information doctors have and the general population (or your specialized audience) needs. But some of it can be more focused on making them more familiar as people.
One doctor at the University of Chicago was comfortable talking about his own experience with cancer on the hospital’s blog. Any prospective patient who reads that post knows he’s a physician who understands what it’s like to experience a health scare, go through treatment, and come out on the other side healthy. That’s a great referral. And the post highlights the primary doctor who provided him care, which helps humanize that physician as well.
Obviously, not every doctor would be comfortable sharing about their own health problems, but if your physicians have causes they care about or hobbies they’re happy to discuss, those can help fuel content that humanizes them just as well. Keep the tone positive and casual; something dry and full of medical language won’t have the same effect. You want your physicians to come off as someone patients would want to chat with, while also trusting them with their care.
Nothing you put on your website or social media will do the whole job of building trust and comfort with your physicians, but they already know that’s part of their job once a patient walks through the door. Your job is to help get them through that door to begin with, and portraying your doctors as individuals that have distinct personalities along with their medical knowledge is a good start.