With so much content out there these days, being a reputable source is more important than ever. Readers want to be able to trust the information they find, particularly when it comes to healthcare topics. Having an author byline establishes the credibility and trust readers seek, and gives healthcare professionals the opportunity to build relationships with patients and potential patients.
Here at Kuno, we’ve always felt it’s important to include an author byline with posts, regardless of industry because of the credibility it adds and the opportunity it brings to humanize your brand. And with 80 percent of Internet users (that's about 93 million Americans) researching health topics online, blogging is becoming more popular in the healthcare industry as a way to provide patients with the health-related information they seek.
Physicians and other medical professionals are using their knowledge to boost their visibility and spread the word about common and uncommon conditions. There is a wide range of healthcare blogs—from doctor blogs to blogs about living with specific conditions—that cater to just about everyone’s individual needs and interests.
Google has addressed the need to provide readers with the most reputable sources by including Author Rank in its algorithm. Similar to how Google ranks websites and pages, authors are now ranked for their authority, in addition to the quality and timeliness of the content itself.
In the healthcare field, physicians and other medical professionals can leverage their credentials to become a trusted source of health information. This backing will encourage positive interactions with readers who will view blog content with less skepticism than other content not authored by someone working in the field of medicine. Having an author byline will establish the fact that the content was written by someone who is well-connected and well-informed, both important elements of Author Rank.
Most doctors begin blogging to market their services and help their practice stand out among the competition. It’s a great way to connect with patients and build a community outlet to discuss conditions.
When a doctor uses their name in the author byline, it adds to the credibility of the resource because doctors can lend their professional knowledge to an issue and provide advice on approaching that issue.
Doctors and other medical professionals who blog should include not only their name and credentials (oncologist, M.D., Ph.D), but also information on their place of employment to further the credibility that they are in fact licensed and actively practicing medical personnel. When it comes to establishing credibility, transparency is key.
The KevinMD blog is a platform for healthcare professionals and patients to share insight and start conversations on medical topics. Multiple authors provide a candid take on healthcare topics. The blog gives physicians the chance to show readers their personalities and connect with the audience. Contributors post regularly, and topics range from insurance information to an inside look at what it's like to treat a patient.
Likewise, others who blog about conditions they live with, or about issues such as healthcare policy also should be transparent and honest about their symptoms or opinions. While these types of blogs do not necessarily require the author to disclose his or her name, using a pen name is a good way for them to identify with their audience who consistently read their posts.
When using an author byline, it’s a smart move for medical professionals to also include a disclaimer that protects themselves and their employers from any liabilities.
Disclaimers are particularly helpful for blogging medical professionals to let readers know their posts should not be substituted for seeing a doctor when necessary. It is a simple way of stating their opinions are their own and that any information concerning a specific condition may not apply to everyone's individual case.
This blog post by Dr. Margaret Polaneczky illustrates why a disclaimer is needed. Dr. Polaneczky explains that doctors must make it clear the information offered in their blog is the advice given to their own patients, and while readers should consider it, they should ultimately consult their own physician before making a healthcare decision.
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 restricts what information healthcare bloggers can share. HIPAA laws protect patient information; bloggers do not want to risk their careers over a post. This also includes social media, which has gotten many healthcare employees fired for posting confidential information online.
The No. 1 way to avoid violating HIPAA is to never disclose any information that could identify a patient in any way—this includes HIPAA’s outlined 18 unique identifiers, which include photographic images, even if they are not of the patient's face.
Also, err on the side of caution. If something sounds too personal to a particular patient and you are not sure, it’s best not to post about that topic. When choosing examples, keep in mind that writing can be used in malpractice suits. Be as general as possible when describing the situation to avoid it being traced back to a specific patient.
Healthcare blogging is a great way to start conversations about a variety of topics, bring people together with like experiences and provide some comfort that there is a community out there facing similar issues to assure individuals they are not alone.
But healthcare bloggers must post with caution, especially if they are credentialed professionals. Including an author byline directly ties your words to you and your place of employment. While this establishes credibility, it is a conscious reminder to remain ethical, back your blog with a disclaimer and never include information that distinctly describes a patient or health case. It’s also a reminder to infuse your posts with your personality so readers can develop a connection with you and feel comfortable trusting your information.