Should your practice have a blog?

November 23, 2016

Most physicians have incredibly hectic work lives filled with people (the sheer number of patients seen daily), conditions (the vast amount of diagnoses made per week), and stories (the close calls, exciting cases and thrills of practicing medicine), so it seems only natural physicians have a lot to blog about.

Most physicians have incredibly hectic work lives filled with people (the sheer number of patients seen daily), conditions (the vast amount of diagnoses made per week), and stories (the close calls, exciting cases and thrills of practicing medicine), so it seems only natural physicians  have a lot to blog about.

 

Further reading: 7 tips to stop technology from damaging the patient experience

 

If you’re not yet among the estimated 12.9% of physicians writing a blog (numbers according to a 2009 Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association (JAMIA) study, here’s why you should be.

Blogging Creates Trust

Probably the No. 1 reason to begin a blog is because patients consume health information, and seek advice from people, not nameless, faceless physician practices.

Prospective and established patients prefer to know who you are, what you think and learn medical information directly from you. In essence, blogging offers your patients one more way in which they can trust and rely on you, their doctor.

 

Related: Are educated patients good for medicine?

 

“I think it is very valuable for physicians to have their own blog. I am allowed to go into much more detail on various topics that I may not have the time for during the office visit,” says Berry Pierre, DO, MPH, a board certified internal medicine physician in private practice in south Florida, who blogs at http://www.drpierresblog.com/

“A lot of my patients print out three or four sheets [from the Internet] and say what about this [condition] or that, and I spend so much of the appointment saying, ‘no you don’t have this, no you don’t have that,’” Pierre says. Being able to refer patients to his blog has helped them find a source of valuable information from someone they trust.

“I recommend all physicians have a blog-or at least a website,” Pierre continued. “I think it conveys a level of expertise.” 

Keeping Patients informed

Pierre started blogging during his residency more than five years ago and says it was the perfect outlet to convey additional information. He blogs about issues related to his practice in internal medicine including high blood pressure, gout, cholesterol, mental health issues and diabetes.  He also makes notes about topics he wants to write about and keeps a calendar of topics scheduled months in advance. Now his patients request topics, too.

Today, patients are smarter than ever before whether it is because of WebMD or “Dr. Google,” they often have read up on their condition long before they walk into the doctor’s office. One 2016 study reports that 87% of U.S. adults use the internet and 72% of internet users look for health information online. 

But they might also come across wrong or questionable information there, too. “I want them to be able to know they can go to my blog and understand what they are reading,” says Pierre.

Next: But how do I find time to blog?

 

“The blog is a method to help the doctor to create community and allow those that do not know you to understand you as a thought expert,” says Drew Stevens, Ph.D., author of Practice Management for Healthcare Professionals and Little Book of Healthcare Marketing. “Sharing provocative ideas and creating community is how physicians fill a pipeline, and most importantly, the waiting room.”

 

Hot topic: EHRs are ruining the physician-patient relationship

 

It also helps patients feel connected. Pierre says there are a lot of concierge practices in south Florida, and many patients may not be able to afford joining one, but they want to feel connected to their physician. They may not think they can call the doctor 24/7 like some concierge practices support, but they can read your blog, comment on it, keep in touch via social media, and follow your practice’s Facebook or Twitter.

Search Results

One of the best reasons a doctor should blog is for search engine optimization (SEO) purposes. SEO is the method or strategy used to increase the number of visitors who find your website via a search engine.

“Sure, patients may read a doctor's blog, but chances are the content on the doctor's blog is similar to content around the web,” says Jonathan Kaplan MD, MPH, a board certified plastic surgeon at Pacific Heights Plastic Surgery in San Francisco who blogs at https://www.pacificheightsplasticsurgery.com/blog/

“Simply by adding fresh content to your website multiple times each week in the form of a blog, you rise higher in the organic search results on Google, Bing and Yahoo,” he says.

Finding the time to blog

Both Pierre and Kaplan blog two to three times per week. But if you feel you’d rather outsource the task, many practices call on staff or share the task with other doctors in the practice. You can also hire a writer or a digital marketing agency.

Hiring a writer or ghostwriter is one way to outsource your blogging tasks says Chase Buckner, vice president of operations at CustomerBloom, www.customerbloom.com,

a company that specializes in the healthcare field and produces hundreds of pieces of blog content for their physician clients each month.

Digital marketing agencies and even individual writers take on physician clients who want a blog but simply don’t have the time to devote to it or feel that their academic style of writing won’t lend well to the type of blog they need to reach patients. You can also find companies that can have your content written by an MD.

 

In case you missed it: Is outsourcing the key to solving physician burnout?

 

Pierre finds time to write his blog posts for the week on Sundays and asks his wife to read them for clarity. Many physicians have to realize that patients may be reading at the high school level and content has to be easily understood. It’s not academic writing.

“Maybe because I’m young, I just assume blogging is something that you have to do,” says Pierre. “The majority of my older colleagues don’t have a website to even put a blog on. But where you have so many doctors to choose from, you need a blog to separate yourself from the rest.”

Next: Easy tips for starting your blog

 

Tips for Starting a Blog

1.     Write articles about topics you care about or that you think patients care about. There is not a medical specialty without a treasure trove of topics to write about.

2.     Put out fresh content at least one to two times per week to keep readers coming back and boost SEO.

3.     Position yourself as an expert by providing stories and interesting anecdotes from your expertise.

4.      Write how you speak; use your own distinctive voice.

5.     Share your content on social media. What better way to get your blog post read then to post it on Twitter and Facebook?

6.     Make content timeless. Because you’ll want you your blog to be read years into the future, content should focus on the basics of disease, wellness and prevention so that it will seem relevant years from now.

7.     Answer reader comments.

8.     Have a trusted spouse, friend or practice manager read over the content before posting.