Key Post Highlights
> Show your patients that you both care and provide care through your content.
> Let patients know that you can help them with their specific needs.
> Show off your bedside manner when creating healthcare website content.
As I sit down to write this post in late July (knowing that I need several months’ head start to fine-tune this topic), my mom is a week out from a biopsy to determine if a mass in her breast is benign — or if it will be her third battle with breast cancer. By the time you read this post, we will (hopefully) have found out it is the former and this episode will be a distant memory for us.
But even if it does, we still have two other family members fighting cancer right now on my mom’s side of the family. Unfortunately, we are no strangers to this disease — in the past 5 years, I’ve received “the phone call” four times. It doesn’t ever get easier. Never. Ever.
But this blog post isn’t only about my family’s history of cancer. It’s about creating content for your healthcare organization’s website that resonates with your very human audience. And so, when I learn that yet another family member is facing a new diagnosis, I head online — for information, but also for empathy.
What I hope to find — what your healthcare organization’s web content needs to show not just me, but anyone in my shoes — is a clear “yes” to the following three questions. These are three questions to ask when evaluating if your website content is helping or hurting your bedside manner.
1. Does Your Website Content Show That You Care?
I spend most of my days reading about and fact-checking healthcare content that ultimately ends up on hospital and healthcare organizations’ websites. I would consider myself highly health literate. But every single time I get the phone call and hear, “[dearly loved family member] has cancer” — it’s a gut punch. Right then, I do not care about the facts (and that’s a big statement coming from me, a person who thrives on stats, data, and other verifiable information).
In that initial moment, I want to know that my loved one is going to receive care from someone who, well … cares.
Think about it: If I were to go to your website right now, would I be able to feel your compassion through your content? Would I see empathetic language acknowledging my emotions? Would I see testimonials from patients assuring me that they were once in my place? When these patients came to your hospital, were they immediately made to feel like they were a part of your family — and that feeling lasted throughout their treatment (and even now, when they are a proud survivor)?
Or is your content all about how great your state-of-the-art equipment is, how fancy your new building is, and how many awards your doctors have won? These are all things that are nice to know, and I’ll probably want to know them further on in my emotional journey. But when I first land on your website can I tell within a few seconds this is a place that cares about me as a patient and doesn’t just provide care?
After I get over the shocking news about another family member’s cancer diagnosis, I try to cope by burying myself in the facts:
- What type of cancer is it? No, I mean the specific type — is it ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS)? Is it invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC)?
- Has it been staged yet? Okay, what stage is it?
- Did they say what the treatment options might be? Radiation? Chemo? Surgery?
My mom is a saint for putting up with all of my questions, especially when she is getting the information for me about another family member. She’s learned a lot of the terminology from both her own experiences with cancer, as well as my incessant questioning. And she has been fortunate to have had access to care at well-equipped medical facilities — even when the timing was not ideal. (She finished treatment for invasive ductal carcinoma just days before the country went into lockdown in March of 2020.)
Which brings me to my second point.
2. Does Your Website Content Clearly Show That You Can Help?
After that initial shock wears off, I want to know — do you provide care for the specific condition my family member has just been diagnosed with? I don’t need to find out about the disease itself from your website (and it is better for you to leave the disease 101 content to the giants Google has partnered with anyway).
At this point in the patient journey, I want to know that Dr. Jones on your oncology team is the leading oncologist in the area in treating this specific type of cancer that my family member has been diagnosed with. But I realize that this may not be the case. Dr. Jones may be located at another, bigger hospital — a hospital far, far away from yours. But maybe you have a partnership with that hospital or Dr. Jones has a monthly clinic at your outpatient location. Instead of leaving me feeling helpless and unsure where to go next, show me you can help me by putting that information on your website.
At CareContent, we have worked with clients who have offered some pretty amazing and innovative services to their patients living in widespread areas through partnerships, satellite clinics, and telehealth. But their patients were unaware of these offerings because the information wasn’t on their website.
You may wonder why I put this as a second priority — after all, shouldn’t a patient want to know that the organization they are being treated at has the team and the tools needed to help them right from the get-go? In an ideal world, yes. In the real world, however, we’re just not there yet. Consider this:
- About ⅕ of all Americans live in rural areas
- On average, these Americans have to travel 20 miles for inpatient and other common services
- For less common services (like substance abuse treatment), that distance doubles to 40 miles
In other words, for many people, care is received wherever it’s available. My mom, fortunately, is one of the lucky ones. She lives in a big college town situated between two major cities and has two hospitals to choose from locally if she wants to avoid having to drive the hour or 2 for care in one of those cities.
Either way — whether you’re the big (or only) name in town or you’re competing against several other hospitals to bring patients through your doors — you need to make it clear that you can help them. And one of the very important places that clarity needs to be found is on your website, in your content. (There’s a reason most hospital department pages follow a pretty standard formula that includes elements like services offered, medical team, location/contact information/hours of operation, appointment scheduling, and insurance and billing information.)
But while all of this information is useful, there’s an additional ingredient that can also be conveyed through your content to put patients at ease: bedside manner.
3. Does Your Website Content Show Off Your Bedside Manner?
- Have medical bills that are about 50% lower
- Be less likely to use healthcare services excessively
- Recover more quickly from the initial ailment that first brought them to the office
- Be referred to specialists at a 59% lower rate
- Be referred for diagnostic testing at an 84% lower rate
But how can you convey bedside manner through your web content? Think about some of the key components of bedside manner:
- Introducing your providers and explaining their roles
- Setting expectations and timelines
- Being candid and nonjudgmental
- Avoiding stigmatizing language
- Providing an opportunity for patients to ask questions
All of these can be conveyed through website content.
When creating content, remember that you are creating it for another human, just like you. This is something CareContent’s founder and CEO, Kadesha Thomas Smith, makes sure everyone on our team understands.
Sometimes the content you’re putting on your site is meant to be lighthearted or amusing. Other times, it’s touching on serious topics that can bring up big feelings. Either way, that content is being consumed by a person who has sought out that specific page and that specific content for a reason. And that person has feelings that they bring to their content consumption experience.
While you may not be able to guess those feelings exactly, based on the topic of the content, there’s a good chance you can put yourself in their shoes and imagine what they may feel as they are reading, watching, or listening to what you put on the page.
Let your audience know through your words that you are ready to join them in whatever journey they are about to embark on.
As I wrap this post up now, in mid-September (it’s been … well, a journey), my mom finally received the results of her biopsy just a few days ago. Benign. One of my family members lost his battle with cancer. May his memory be a blessing. And in October, another family member will reach her 5-year survival mark. The other is still fighting, and frankly, is kicking cancer’s ass.