Chatbots have the ability to improve user experience on healthcare websites.
Key Post Highlights
> Building a strong digital strategy starts with determining your goals.
> Remember to always think about the actions your audiences should take.
> Don’t forget to focus on voice and tone.
Let’s get right to it: You can’t build a strong digital strategy without having a vision. But you also can’t start the process of creating a vision without knowing what exactly goes into a vision.
Without giving away all of our CareContent secrets, we’ll fill you in on how we get the process going.
Here are 5 questions to ask yourself while building your vision:
1. What are our goals — and what will happen if we don’t achieve them?
This is a pretty lofty task, but it’s also one of the most crucial.
The first step is to solidify your goals. For a healthcare system, these often include service lines you want to highlight to bring in more patients, or revenue streams you’re hoping to maintain or improve. A cancer research center’s goal may be to be the #1 destination for aspiring researchers.
For a nonprofit, the goal could be to bring in more donations. These goals can run the gamut, but it’s important to be as specific as possible.
The next part is to consider the worst case scenario. We like to ask what will happen if you don’t obtain, grow, or maintain [fill in the blank]. For instance, this could be:
- What will happen if we don’t grow our membership?
- What will happen if we don’t receive accreditation from a governing body?
- What will happen if we don’t maintain our current patient population?
This helps reign in the focus of your goals even more and assists strategists as they create calls to action (CTAs).
2. Who are your key audiences?
There is a long list of potential clients — too long to list all of them here. But some of the most common audiences we focus on are:
- Current or prospective patients
- CEOs or marketing managers
- Current or prospective employees
- DEI or accessibility leaders
From there, it can be helpful to get even more specific. For example, think about your organization’s average patients’:
- Education level
- Current health status
- Potential health problems that could arise from their living situation (e.g., living in the city can worsen asthma for children in lower income families)
Values and beliefs
Also think about how your patients could benefit from your DEI efforts — and how you can go about meeting your DEI goals.
3. What are your calls to action?
Without nailing down what your audiences should do after visiting your site or reading your content, you probably won’t have much luck in meeting those goals you identified in step #1.
In many cases, each audience has their own call to action (CTA). Some CTAs might overlap between audience groups.
We like to break these down into low-, medium-, and high-level “asks.” For instance, if you’re talking to prospective patients, CTAs might be:
- Low level:
- Follow us on social media
- Learn more about services
- Medium level:
- Find a provider
- Engage with content on social media
- Ask a question
- High level:
- Book an appointment
- Refer a loved one who is in need of care
4. How do you want your audiences to perceive you?
It’s time to focus on voice and tone. This is called your “message architecture.” At CareContent, we do this by giving a (long) list of words, and asking our clients to put each one into a category:
- Who we are
- Who we are not
- Who we want to be
It’s great to do this as a live discussion between multiple stakeholders, rather than sitting down to do it yourself. We’ve heard some fantastic conversations come out of people debating over certain words, and it gives the content team significant insight.
Some of the words we’ve had great discussions about include:
- Cutting edge vs. bleeding edge
- Formal vs. informal
5. And finally…a bunch of other questions to consider.
I may be CareContent-grounded if I go into further detail about every single question to ask yourself. So I figure I’d save myself with a quick list:
- Who will you need to interview for discovery? (Stakeholders, audience members, etc.)
- What are the potential risks and roadblocks?
- Who will be in charge of content and design governance? (Rules and procedures for how everything will be overseen and approved)
- What are a few of the main distribution channels you’re aiming to use? (e.g., social media, email newsletters)
- Who are your competitors?
- What can you learn from them?
- What differentiates you from them?
- What will you need in order to achieve your goals from a technical or policy standpoint? (e.g., certifications, new website hosting capabilities, etc.)
Still a bit overwhelmed? Totally understandable. The CareContent team is here to get you started on creating your own digital strategy vision.
Key Post Highlights
> Talking to your key audience is one of the most critical steps in developing a digital marketing strategy.
> Content needs to meet your business goals.
> Don’t forget to plan for content distribution.
Well, it’s very likely that your hospital’s digital marketing strategy isn’t exactly where it should be.
Here are 5 reasons why your digital marketing strategy just isn’t working.
1. You didn’t talk to a key audience: patients ...
We can’t stress this enough: Talk to patients. Current patients, former patients, potential patients, patients who considered your hospital but decided to get care elsewhere. All of these perspectives are crucial for creating a strategy that actually meets audiences’ needs and keeps them coming back.
At CareContent, we tend to break up discovery interviews with patients into several buckets: needs, fears, frustrations, and motivations. Often, we break them up further so that we cover both their care and the website. For example, we might ask them about what they need from their providers in order to feel more comfortable with a diagnosis, as well as what types of information and functionality they need from the website.
If you skip this step, you’re not doing your patients — or your hospital — any favors.
Patients will get annoyed when they can’t find the information they’re looking for the most — like if you take their insurance or if your providers offer after-hours care. Annoyed patients look elsewhere.
Health systems have a responsibility to provide their patients with the tools they need to improve their health and wellness. If you’re not utilizing your digital presence for this, you’re missing out on key opportunities to fulfill this responsibility.
2. … Or your other key stakeholders.
Since digital presence is a communications tool, the marketing and design teams are obviously going to be heavily involved. And we’ve already mentioned how important it is to talk to patients. But make sure that you’re not missing out on talking to other people who can provide valuable insights.
You wouldn't host a clinical trial by yourself. You’d go through all the proper channels. You’d work with researchers, physicians, funders, pharmaceutical companies, federal regulators — you name it. It’s the same with your marketing strategy. You can’t just pull things together by yourself and hope it works. It takes many perspectives and insights to create a successful strategy.
Don’t forget to talk to:
- Providers: They can tell you what patients frequently ask them — as well as the questions they should be asking, but aren’t. They can also inform strategy for provider-facing content, like pages about careers or educational opportunities.
- Call Center Employees: They get overworked and frustrated when they’re answering the exact same questions every 20 minutes, when those answers could easily be on the website. This also creates a back-up of people who actually need to get through on the phone lines.
- The Higher-ups: C-suite. Board members. Find out exactly what they’re hoping to grow over the next year (and beyond) so that you know what you should be writing and posting about. Which leads us to …
3. Your content doesn’t actually match your hospital’s business goals.
Your digital presence’s strategic goals need to align with the health system’s strategic goals. Otherwise, you’re not really moving the needle anywhere.
If the hospital wants to bring in more patients to the cardiology unit, but you’ve focused most of your content on oncology and women’s health, you’re not targeting the right people. If the hospital is trying to book more appointments all around, but you haven’t provided the right number or put the “Make an Appointment” button in a place that’s easy to see, you’re making that a lot more difficult.
4. Your content is stale.
The content on your site can’t just be informative. It has to be engaging, interesting, and shareable.
This is why we recommend blogging. A lot of people freak out when they hear the word “blog,” because they view blogging as a rigid chore. So instead, they create “content hubs” or “resource centers.” Totally fair.
No matter what you call it, erase the idea that blogging is a burden and embrace the blog approach:
- Post frequently and on a regular cadence. Make a content and social media calendar ahead of time so you don’t post too sporadically or suddenly post every hour.
- Tailor content to align with specific services that advance your hospital’s strategic goals (see point #3)
- Create evergreen content. This is content that isn’t time-sensitive, and can keep on bringing in traffic long after it’s published. Remember: You can always reshare this content, or go back and edit it.
- Also create timely, relevant content. Mix it up. In between your evergreen content, write about the issues that people want to know about right now, in this moment. These posts can easily bring on the clicks and shares when posted on social media.
5. You didn’t include distribution in your strategy.
Okay, so you’ve read this list so far, and you’re thinking, “Wait…but I did all of that!”
If so, it might not be a problem with your content creation strategy — it could be that you forgot about distribution.
You can create all the amazing content you want, but it won’t get results if it doesn’t get into the hands of the right people.
Social Media Distribution
Social media is a must — 57% of consumers report that a hospital’s social media presence would strongly affect where they choose to receive care. However, you don’t need to be on every single platform. Put your energy into building a strong presence on the channels that will help you meet your goals and reach the right audiences.
That means doing your research. The social media landscape is always changing, so be sure to check current trends for the most used and fastest-growing platforms (Those are Facebook and TikTok, respectively, right now). Find the platforms where the user base’s demographics match those of your target audiences. It’s also a good idea to ask your audiences during discovery interviews about the channels they use most frequently.
Also Read: What’s Your Social Media Style? [QUIZ]
Newsletters are a great way to ensure that your audiences aren’t missing out on valuable content. A newsletter doesn’t need to be old-school newspaper style, with articles and columns made specifically for it. It can simply be a round-up of new content. Depending on the platform you’re using, you might be able to make newsletters customizable so that audiences can choose the type of content they want to receive.
Bonus #6: You didn’t get help from CareContent.
Crowded bars, maskless shopping, businesses operating at 100% capacity — in many parts of the country, it feels like we’re no longer in the middle of a global pandemic.
As life in the US is starting to get back to normal, one of the questions we’ve been asking is, “Are changes we made during the pandemic going to be permanent?”
It does look like there will continue to be opportunities for many employees to work from home. And if dreams come true, curbside pickup will be here to stay, too.
When it comes to healthcare, it looks like COVID-19 will change certain aspects of the industry for good.
Here are some of the predicted post-pandemic healthcare trends — and what that means for your healthcare organization’s website.
Trend #1: Promoting Telehealth Offerings
Telehealth usage skyrocketed during the pandemic. And even though usage has declined since in-person visits resumed, the vast majority (88%) of Americans want to continue telehealth after the pandemic. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has even expanded telehealth coverage, so it doesn’t look like telehealth is going away any time soon.
Patients of all ages use telehealth, but the ones who are most likely to keep using it are millennials (those born between 1981 and 1996) and Gen Zers (those born between 1995 and 2012). About 33% of millennials and 41% of Gen Zers prefer virtual visits to in-person ones — compared to just 9% of baby boomers.
What This Means For Your Website
Boost your marketing of telehealth services and focus on how to reach the audience who wants those services. Remember that when you’re marketing to this age group, you’re more likely to get results if you keep content short and sweet. Gen Zers also are known to think pragmatically and to be very busy, so drive home how practical telehealth is for them with their packed schedules.
Trend #2: Rethinking Usage Of Healthcare Services
Wasted services, like unneeded scans or unnecessarily aggressive treatments, can harm patients and are expensive. It’s estimated that overuse contributes between $75.7 billion to $101.2 billion to wasted healthcare spending in the US every year.
During COVID-19, more than 40% of US adults chose to forgo some or all of their healthcare appointments or tests, including emergencies. For some patients, this meant not receiving life-saving care. But for others, it didn’t make a difference — or even benefited them.
The amount of delayed or missed care gave medical researchers data they have never had before as well as insights that could prevent unnecessary or overly aggressive treatments, and excessive costs.
What This Means For Your Website
The trick is to draw people in ethically. Amp up marketing of essential services that people often skip, like routine physicals or vaccinations. Advertise smoking cessation programs or free mammograms that will get potential patients in the door. Make sure that you focus just as much on what’s going to most benefit your patients’ health as you do on your profits.
Trend #3: Fighting Misinformation
The internet opens the door for misinformation — and that door was blown off its hinges during the pandemic. As people spent more time online or watching TV during quarantine, they had increased access to false or misleading information.
Some of this misinformation had devastating consequences.
For example, in the 8 days following the start of the rumor that injecting oneself with disinfectant would help them fight COVID-19, reports of accidental poisonings with household disinfectants in the US increased 121% compared to the same period the year before.
What This Means For Your Website
Throughout the pandemic, healthcare providers became increasingly active in combating misinformation — often on social media. Many attained influencer and brand-like status on platforms like TikTok and YouTube. Providers who have achieved that status have major followings and a megaphone to fight misinformation about other medical topics, even when the pandemic is over.
Having a following isn’t surprising. A Pew Research Center research study found that 74% of US adults trust that their physicians care about patients’ interests all or most of the time.
Use this to your advantage. Choose a few providers to be voices of your hospital, on both social media and on the website. These providers will be seen as trusted members of your community and can help fight the spread of misinformation — throughout the rest of the pandemic and beyond.
Trend #4: Focusing On Diversity And Inclusion
Not only was 2020 the year of COVID-19, but it was also marked by racial reckonings and cries for change in the US.
The racial divide in healthcare isn’t going to change overnight. But committing your organization to improving, and truly following through, is a start. And your communication efforts should reflect that commitment.
As healthcare professionals know, COVID-19 and race are deeply intertwined, with Americans from racial and ethnic minority groups having a greater risk of getting sick and dying from COVID-19, and a lower likelihood of getting vaccinated, than white Americans.
It has become a new era of diversity and inclusion in the workplace — especially in healthcare — and it is essential to be ahead of the curve.
What This Means For Your Website
Americans in minority groups want to go to providers who look like them, and their health improves when they do.
In addition to bolstering your efforts to hire a diverse team, step up diversity in marketing. Use your organization’s providers in marketing materials rather than stock imagery and footage. If you’re planning on using testimonials, make sure that the patients who share their stories represent your entire patient population.
Listen to Modern Healthcare’s Next Up podcast episode (hosted by CareContent), “Dealing with two crises Pt. 2.”
Just remember that at the end of the day, the real way to make a difference is to make actual improvements and not give out empty promises. Marketing your organization as committed to diversity and inclusion efforts shouldn’t be a smokescreen. Make sure that your organization’s culture lives up to what you’re marketing.
And that goes for your entire website.
You provide your patients with amazing care — and your website should show just that.
Whether it means making a few quick updates or doing a complete website overhaul, keeping your online presence in line with the latest healthcare trends is essential. Let the team at CareContent help you get started.
Whether it’s scheduling a dentist appointment, buying tickets to a concert, or reading the news, we use the internet on a daily — if not an hourly — basis. And if you don’t have a disability, it’s easy to take being able to do these things online for granted.
But for the 61 million American adults who have some form of disability, what many people consider “simple” online tasks can be challenging, frustrating, and sometimes even downright impossible.
That’s where website accessibility regulations come in.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires any US business that falls under ADA Titles I and III to have websites that offer “reasonable accessibility” to people with disabilities:
- Title I: Businesses that employ 15 or more full-time employees each working day, for at least 20 calendar weeks in the year
- Title III: Businesses considered “public accommodations,” such as healthcare providers, hotels, banks, and accountant offices
While the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) did produce guidelines that have been accepted as standards for website accessibility, there technically aren’t any regulations that clearly spell out what makes a website accessible. But in general, an accessible website is one that takes into account the needs of those with hearing, visual, physical, and cognitive impairments.
Crystal is CareContent’s resident website accessibility whiz, and she’s here to share her insight.
What are the risks of having an inaccessible website?
Crystal: An inaccessible website can alienate your audience and make your organization appear tone-deaf, especially if you serve patients with disabilities.
It also means missing opportunities to engage with your audience. You could lose patients and consumers, and decrease conversion (such as patients not making appointments after visiting your site).
This ultimately goes against your goal of improving health and wellness. And from a business standpoint, it can mean revenue loss.
There are also legal repercussions, correct?
Crystal: Yes, there can be. A user can file a lawsuit for discrimination or other claims against the organization if they are a Title I or Title III business and fail to provide adequate accommodations on their website for people with disabilities.
For example, Tenet Healthcare, which operates several healthcare facilities, was sued on behalf of Americans with visual impairments because Tenet organizations’ websites were not accessible via screen-readers.
Lawsuits are more on the extreme end, but they are increasing. ADA-related digital lawsuits in 2020 increased 23% over 2019. In December 2020, there was a nearly 100% rise over January 2020.
Has COVID-19 been a factor in that increase?
Crystal: Definitely. Quarantine has caused a significant increase in computer and internet usage, and with people spending more time online, they’re finding more accessibility issues.
On the subject of COVID-19 — accessibility issues on vaccine registration sites have impacted the ability of people with disabilities to get vaccinated.
The organization WebAIM found that in February 2021, only 13 of 94 state and DC vaccine websites had no accessibility issues.
Inaccessibility has resulted in instances where the visually impaired haven’t been able to register for vaccines without help from others. But with such few appointments available, and with them filling up the second they’re posted, relying on others can slow down the process. Many blind people use the schedule-by-phone option instead, but that comes with its own set of problems, like extremely long hold times.
Crystal’s Recipe for Redesigning an Accessible Website
Combine equal parts:
- Dedicated project resources for reviewing the website for ADA compliance
- Competent web developer to address issues found in ADA compliance review
- Consideration in the project timeline for the ADA review
What factors often get overlooked in terms of navigation and functionality?
Crystal: A lot of sites overlook people whose physical disabilities affect their fine motor skills, and can’t use a mouse.
Everything should be easy to navigate with just the keyboard. This includes menus that are easy to navigate with the tab key and a clear keyboard focus (a box around the section being tabbed through). When there are audio, visual, or carousel components, users need to be able to play, pause, replay, and advance with just their keyboard.
Every form field should have a descriptive label that doesn’t disappear as a user types, and error messages need to specify the exact error.
Also, use proper header hierarchy. Put the headers — the H1, H2, H3 tags — in logical order, which means that an H3 tag shouldn’t be used if there’s no H2 tag before it, etc. And always use these tags instead of separating sections with bold text. Devices like screen readers often scan text for the header tag elements in order to navigate through the page.
And what about in terms of the content itself?
Crystal: Pay attention to the needs of people with cognitive disabilities. Don’t use technical jargon, spell out acronyms, and define complex words. This is actually really helpful for all readers, regardless of whether or not they have a cognitive disability.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommend that any online health materials be written at a 6th to 7th grade reading level. But even the top consumer health websites, like Mayo Clinic and NIH itself, tend to be grade 10+.
There are a few ways to check your content’s grade reading level, like the “Readability Analyzer” from data·yze.
Just remember — the tool might see a jargon-y word and automatically calculate that as a higher reading level, without taking into account that you explain what that word means. In medical content, you’re almost always going to have some of these technical words. So you do have to take the scores with a grain of salt, but they are a great starting point.
If you’re struggling, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has a really helpful guide for creating easily understandable materials.
What are some overlooked media elements that designers need to keep in mind?
Crystal: Remember to always add alt text tags for images so that screen readers for visually impaired users can read the image. Also, add captioning for any video or audio media for people with hearing or visual impairments. Additionally, use color contrasting for text overlays on background or images so that they’re easier to see.
You may also want to avoid videos or interactive graphics that have flickering lights, since these can trigger seizures or migraines in people with certain neurological conditions. TikTok actually just created a feature where the user can skip any of this content.
Any last thoughts?
Crystal: At the end of the day, there isn’t a 100% guaranteed formula for an accessible website. There’s plenty of guidance available. You just have to put yourself in the shoes of users with disabilities and design and develop your website to include their needs. You know your audience best. You’re equipped to make your site the best that it can be for them.
Ready to work on a website and content overhaul to make your site more accessible? Let us know.
“Zoom fatigue” was a 2020 buzzword — and for good reason.
On March 23, 2020, just a few weeks after the work-at-home boom began, daily global Zoom downloads hit 2.13 million — up from 56,000 per day only two months before.
Working from home is great, but the problem is Zoom and its cousins — UberConference, Microsoft Teams, Google Meet — created more time spent in often unproductive and time-consuming meetings.
Among remote employees since the start of the pandemic:
- They have attended over 13% more meetings.
- 38% have experienced video call burnout.
- 25% of working parents have spent over half of their on-the-job hours in virtual meetings.
Sources: Robert Half, Harvard Business School Working Knowledge
Why Senior Leaders Should Be Concerned
Too many virtual meetings will cost your business.
In a 2019 survey of more than 1,900 professionals, 89% of participants reported wasting anywhere from 1 to 10+ hours per week on unproductive meetings. That leaves only 11% of employees who actually find meetings productive. And 67% say that meetings keep them from getting their best work done.
Plus, it’s expensive. Americans lose an estimated $37 billion to unproductive meetings each year.
What You Can Do About It
Here at CareContent, we’ve all been at risk for that Zoom fatigue. But we’ve also been fortunate. Having worked from home four days a week prior to the pandemic, we had a leg-up on making video meetings successful. It just took making an extra effort to not go overboard with virtual meetings.
Here are some of the ways that our leadership has ensured that the team isn’t overwhelmed with meetings, both before and during the pandemic. Feel free to steal away.
“The goal isn’t to have more meetings just because we have the availability and technology to do so quickly and easily, without commuting. We need to get to, ‘How can we get our time back as a result of all this easy access?’”
1. Don’t schedule meetings every single day.
Choose one or two days a week when you can have meetings. And then stick to it. Unless there’s an emergency or it’s quick (max. 15 minutes) with one of your team members, don’t accept meetings that aren’t on those blocked-off days.
It’s okay if all you do on that day or two is meetings and nothing else. As long as you have other days set aside for head-down work, you don’t need to worry about not getting other tasks done on meeting days.
Also, having a few days where you know you won’t have meetings allows you to be more flexible — which is great during the pandemic. If you need to help your child with their schoolwork or run to the doctor, you won’t need to panic about missing meetings.
2. Or, do the opposite.
If you can’t block out a few days to have meetings, block out a few times when you definitely cannot have them. Monday mornings and Friday afternoons are a no for us.
3. Don’t even have meetings.
Of course, there will be times when you absolutely need to have meetings. But before you schedule one, ask yourself — is this something I could just send via email?
If it’s not, voice recordings are an excellent alternative when you really just need to explain something rather than have a conversation. Grab your phone or laptop, open up a recording app, and start talking.
This isn’t just a time saver. It’s also a method for ensuring that your team member actually remembers what you said. One study found that 95% of employees admit to missing parts of meetings, and nearly 40% have confessed to falling asleep during them. With a voice recording, they will have something to go back to if they zone out.
4. Take meeting vacations.
Every 2 months or so, take a week-long meeting hiatus. No new meetings. No standing ones. Give yourself a whole week to tackle that x-y-z task list that requires long stretches of concentration.
And if you take an actual vacation — don’t call into meetings then, either. That’s lame.
5. Delegate meetings.
Senior leaders don’t need to be at every single meeting. If you’re swamped, skip on the meetings that are round robins where people just give status updates or discuss upcoming tasks.
Delegate someone to be the notetaker and have them deliver the notes in your preferred format. A list of bullet points, a two-paragraph email, a voice recording — anything that lets you get the key parts of the meeting in the easiest, most digestible way.
6. Invest in awesome project management software.
Invest your time, energy, and possibly a little money (if you want pro features) on high-quality project management software. It’s amazing how many meetings the right software can eliminate.
There are hundreds of different programs available, and some offer either free trials or free “lite” versions.
You don’t need to find the most elaborate program with all the bells and whistles. Find one that is easy to use, has good tech support, and communicates on your behalf so that you can cut back on meetings.
Cutting back on meetings might mean changing up your usual workflow a little bit. But once you realize how nice it is to not have meetings all day, every day, you might actually get something done.
What else would you like to learn about working from home during the pandemic? Let us know.
This weekend is Valentine’s Day — a day to send thoughtful cards to loved ones, give a gift to that special someone, and eat candy hearts galore (within reason, of course).
It’s a day full of love, kindness, and gratitude. This year, during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, who better to send a heartfelt “thank you” to than healthcare workers?
Throughout the pandemic, healthcare workers across the nation have continued to go into work to care for patients, support one another, and ultimately keep everyone in the country safe.
In short, we couldn’t have done it without them.
This Valentine’s Day, let’s take some time to thank healthcare workers and show some (virtual) love. Here are 4 ideas to get you started.
1. Donate a meal.
Food is the way to many people’s hearts — especially dedicated healthcare professionals who work long shifts.
Back at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses, restaurants, and individuals across the country began sending pizzas, sandwiches, cookie baskets, and plenty of other snacks to local hospitals. It became a simple, COVID-friendly way to show appreciation for healthcare workers who might need a little extra fuel.
A year later, this is still a thoughtful gesture — especially on Valentine’s Day. As healthcare workers forego romantic dinners and time with their families, receiving a food donation can make them feel loved.
If you can’t decide on what type of food to donate — or you want to allow healthcare workers a little more flexibility — consider a gift card to a local restaurant instead.
2. Give them a shout out on social media.
Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Vine have all played a critical role in spreading love during the pandemic. This Valentine’s Day, social media platforms are a great tool to show how much you appreciate all that healthcare workers do.
Sending encouragement to healthcare workers on social media is simple:
- Take a video or picture or find one online.
- Accompany it with a message that sends hope, encouragement, or gratitude — or all of the above!
- Post it to social media and tag the organization you want to thank.
3. Round up your kids, and send them a valentine together.
If you haven’t already, talk to your children about how much healthcare workers have done for us. Then, have them join you in saying thank you.
Whether your child wants to thank one healthcare worker or one hundred, sending a valentine can show how much they appreciate them. Ask your child if they want to send a valentine to their favorite nurse, physician, or staff member, and if they can’t decide, address it to the organization as a whole.
Due to COVID-19, it’s best not to drop valentines off in person. However, there are other COVID-friendly options. One option is to gather some paper, crayons, stickers, and any other art supplies, and have your child make a homemade valentine. Then, stick it in the mail and send it on its way.
Or, you can send a valentine virtually. Use a free valentine e-card service (like this one), or help your child craft an email and simply click send.
4. Most importantly — stay healthy.
As healthcare workers put hours upon hours into caring for patients each day, the most important thing you can do to show you care this Valentine’s Day is to stay healthy.
- Staying home, wearing a mask, and washing your hands frequently
- Getting your flu shot, if you haven’t done so already
- Staying up-to-date with routine check-ups, and using virtual visits when possible
When you and your family remain healthy, healthcare workers can dedicate their time to caring for other patients with COVID-19 and other illnesses — a Valentine’s Day gift that everyone benefits from.
This Valentine’s Day, take some time to show gratitude and love for everyone that has helped support our nation through this pandemic. In addition to healthcare workers, consider thanking others, such as grocery store clerks, mail and delivery workers, construction workers, and teachers.
It takes a village to endure a pandemic, and with support, love, and gratitude, we will make it through together.
From everyone at CareContent, Happy Valentine’s Day!
At CareContent, we help healthcare organizations develop and implement a web content strategy. Let us know how we can help your organization.
Let me start by saying that I was into puzzles before they became big (#Hipster). I started doing the 1,000-piece ones as soon as the pieces were no longer a choking hazard. As a kid, it was a special time I got to spend with my mom. As an adult, it’s a stress reliever.
When quarantine was looming, I already had an arsenal of about 10 or 12 puzzles that I knew I could redo. But I wanted something new to look forward to — something other than the box of Fudge Stripe cookies and giant pack of Swedish fish I’d just bought. So I went to Target and made my way to the puzzle section (which I could do with my eyes closed).
Imagine my astonishment when there were zero puzzles left. Zero. None. Zilch. I checked Amazon. An overpriced toy store. Same thing.
This had never happened before. COVID-19 was already cramping my style. But this was the rotten cherry on top of my melted sundae. No puzzles? I was DONE.
My mom and I finally snagged a few left on the Barnes & Noble website and resigned ourselves to redoing old ones when these were finished.
Pandemic, Puzzles, And Profits
We were not alone. It seemed like literally everyone in the US had decided to jump on the puzzle bandwagon with an unknown number of weeks (hah — little did we know) at home on the horizon.
The US game company Ravensburger had a 370% surge in puzzle sales in the last week of March/first week of April, 2020. They were selling an average of about 20 puzzles per minute in North America, compared to 7 per minute in 2019.
Other companies saw similar increases. Some even reported an increase by as much as 1,000%.
Puzzle makers across the country struggled to keep up with the massive uptick in orders, partly due to problems created by the need to social distance in warehouses. But that didn’t stop these dedicated companies from committing to fulfilling orders. For instance, the online retailer Puzzle Warehouse went from selling about 1,000 puzzles per day to 10,000 each day — as well as experiencing associated shipping delays — leading them to hire 30 new employees.
The Health Benefits Of Jigsaw Puzzles
It’s not just that people were bored being stuck at home. Jigsaw puzzles actually have therapeutic benefits. Completing a puzzle has been shown to reduce stress — which is something almost everyone needs right now.
Other benefits include improvements in:
- Memory (especially short-term)
- Visual-spatial reasoning
If you have children at home, doing puzzles together is a great way to bond, teach them about collaboration, and get them off of their screens.
The CareContent Team = All In
Alright. Enough jabber about jigsaw. Take a look at how the CareContent team’s puzzle game was on point over the last few months.
We’ll start with Lynette. She may have only done one puzzle, but she made up for it by gifting one to Natalie, taking up arts and crafts, and choosing a super cute one for the one she did complete.
Let’s move on to Nicole. Nicole wasn’t as into the puzzles herself, but her [adorable] daughters were.
Okay, now we’re getting into the serious puzzlers.
Natalie did six puzzles.
This was from Lynette!
And this was from a team gift to Natalie and her husband, Brandon, who got married in 2020.
And now …
Yes, I wrote this article. But I’m going to be completely not humble and give myself the award for #1 Team Puzzler.
I did at least 12, but I didn’t take pictures of them all. Here are some of my favorites:
This is one I ended up hanging in my room.
This is one my family got my mom for Mother’s Day.
My tiny nephew did this one. I guess it runs in the family.
Even my cat, Twyla, got in on the game. And speaking of which, this is who I have to blame …
… for this CATastrophe (look closely):
Thanks, Twy. Thanks.
Happy National Puzzle Day from the CareContent team!
Shortness of breath. Loss of smell and taste. Sore throat. Fatigue. Muscle aches. Diarrhea.
The list of COVID-19 symptoms goes on and on, with severity ranging from minor annoyances to life-threatening.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, these symptoms of COVID-19 have stumped scientists and medical professionals across the globe. Researchers have been thrust into a search for answers, with the stakes higher — and the timeline tighter — than ever before.
As the pandemic has unfolded, discoveries about the mysterious nature of the virus have sprung up in laboratories around the world.
One of the latest of these discoveries was born in the Oak Ridge National Lab in Tennessee. The Summit supercomputer in this lab analyzed over 40,000 genes from 17,000 genetic samples. Despite being the second fastest computer in the world, it took more than a week to complete.
Researchers analyzed the results from Summit and developed a model that could explain how COVID-19 impacts the body: the bradykinin storm hypothesis.
What Is Bradykinin?
Let’s back up for a moment and define some key terms needed to understand the bradykinin storm hypothesis.
The renin-angiotensin system (RAS) is responsible for controlling many parts of the body’s circulatory system. This includes bradykinin, which is a chemical that helps regulate blood pressure.
It might seem like extra bradykinin wouldn’t be harmful and would further the body’s ability to control blood pressure — but that’s not the case. Bradykinin can also induce pain and cause blood vessels to expand and leak, which can then lead to swelling in the surrounding tissue.
ACE And ACE2
Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) and angiotensin-converting enzyme-2 (ACE2) are enzymes within the RAS, and are directly involved in regulating bradykinin.
The SARS-CoV-2 (the novel coronavirus) enters cells in the body through ACE2 receptors. This usually occurs in the nose, since the nose is home to an abundance of these receptors.
The Bradykinin Storm Hypothesis
The recent study found that the SARS-CoV-2 virus tweaks the RAS. It decreases ACE levels while increasing ACE2 ones. This causes bradykinin production into overdrive, creating a “bradykinin storm.”
As bradykinin levels increase, blood vessels — the tubes that carry blood throughout the body — become leaky. When blood vessels leak during a bradykinin storm, the lungs can fill with fluid. Also, immune cells can make their way into the lungs and cause inflammation. With fluid and inflammation in the lungs, breathing becomes difficult — and that could be one explanation of why cough and difficulty breathing are effects of COVID-19.
Bradykinin Might Be Why Ventilators Aren’t Helping Everyone With COVID-19
Ventilators are machines that are like external lungs. They breathe for someone who can’t breathe on their own and reduce the amount of energy their body uses on breathing, allowing that energy to be redirected toward fighting an illness.
At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, when it became clear that severe difficulty breathing was a potentially deadly side effect of the virus, ventilators were in hot demand. Hospitals across the country feared that they would not have enough of these machines.
As it turned out, the ventilator shortage wasn’t as devastating as originally thought — not because hospitals suddenly had enough of them, but because providers learned that ventilators were not helping as much as anticipated. Ventilators were still life-savers for some patients, but were not too effective in others. In fact, some researchers have argued that ventilators can actually do more harm than good in patients with COVID-19.
This begs the question: If ventilators are supposed to help people breathe, why aren’t they working as well as expected?
One potential reason is the combination of the bradykinin storm and hyaluronic acid.
Bradykinin Storm + Excess Hyaluronic Acid (HA) = Disaster
Hyaluronic acid (HA) is a substance produced naturally by your body and found in many areas, including your skin, eyes, and synovial fluid in the joints. It can absorb 1,000 times its own weight in liquid. HA is often used in addressing cosmetic concerns, from lifting cheeks to rejuvenating earlobes. It’s also frequently used in lotions and soaps.
Similar to bradykinin, HA is helpful in the right doses. In addition to its skin and cosmetic benefits, it’s also involved with wound healing. However, too much HA can wreak havoc on the body.
HA levels can increase when someone has COVID-19. As HA in the lungs combines with fluid leaking in from the bradykinin storm, the two substances form a hydrogel that is very difficult to breathe through. Regardless of how much oxygen gets pumped into the body via a ventilator, it can’t make it through the hydrogel in the lungs. A patient can suffocate even while hooked up to a ventilator.
The Bradykinin Storm Hypothesis May Explain COVID-19’s Unique Symptoms
The bradykinin storm hypothesis doesn’t just explain the breathing problems that come with COVID-19 and why ventilators aren’t as successful as expected — it also may shed light on why some of the other symptoms occur.
For example, a bradykinin storm could be behind some of the heart damage seen in 1 in 5 patients who are hospitalized with COVID-19. While some of the damage may be due to the virus infecting the heart directly, it could also be due to the fact that the renin-angiotensin system (RAS) controls certain cardiac functions and a bradykinin storm could cause arrhythmias or low blood pressure — the heart problems seen in COVID-19 patients.
A bradykinin storm could also be why some COVID-19 patients experience neurological effects, like dizziness, delirium, or seizures. Excess bradykinin can break down the blood-brain barrier (the filter between the brain and the rest of the circulatory system). If this happens, harmful cells could make their way into the brain, where they could cause inflammation, brain damage, and the neurological effects associated with COVID-19.
Additionally, too much bradykinin could explain other symptoms, such as fatigue, diarrhea, headaches, and decreased cognitive function. These symptoms are common in other conditions involving high levels of bradykinin, so it would be reasonable to hypothesize that these symptoms in COVID-19 patients may be the result of excess bradykinin.
Some researchers have even theorized that a bradykinin storm could be the culprit behind the more “bizarre” effects, from bruised toes to thyroid disease.
What Does All Of This Mean?
The bradykinin storm hypothesis might mean a lot — but it could also mean nothing at all.
Any time we learn more about how a disease works, the more information we have at our disposal for finding a vaccine or a cure.
For instance, there are already medications approved by the FDA for treatment of other conditions that involve overproduction of bradykinin. These drugs may be able to fight off potentially fatal bradykinin storms in patients with COVID-19. (Of course, the drugs still need to be tested in clinical trials — but it’s a good starting point). In fact, the researchers who developed the bradykinin storm hypothesis identified more than 10 of these possible treatments.
There are also medications that can reduce HA levels and stop hydrogel from forming in the lungs, as well as supplements for vitamin D — a vitamin that is involved with a healthy RAS and could possibly thwart bradykinin storms.
However, while the bradykinin storm hypothesis may be the key to unlocking the mystery of COVID-19 and finding a cure, it is far from being the definitive answer. There have been other promising theories circulating since the beginning of the pandemic, so the bradykinin storm hypothesis is not the first possible explanation.
Still, there is reason to celebrate. With each new promising theory like the bradykinin storm hypothesis, we inch closer toward a return to normal — from attending concerts to going out without masks to hugging our loved ones.
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It has been a few months since COVID-19 basically made physical office spaces obsolete. And while the country has slowly started reopening, many offices still remain closed — or are allowing employees to continue to work from home if they’re more comfortable with that.
If you’re one of the millions of Americans who now work from home, you’ve probably become familiar with the world of virtual meetings. Whether it’s via Zoom, Google Meet, or Skype (so old-school), online meetings make working from home easier and allow you to still connect with your coworkers.
You know what else virtual meetings do?
They set the stage for really lame jokes and plenty of snafus that no one will let you forget.
How many of these have you experienced?