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3 Steps to Building Patient Personas for Content Marketing

In content marketing and social media you want to make sure you’re engaging with the right people.

So for example an OB-GYN practice using Facebook, Twitter, and a blog to bring in more patients should make sure they’re engaging with women of child-bearing age within their geographical area. They shouldn’t bother having conversations with young men, or people living across the country.

If you’re marketing this particular practice you’ll need to consider the different types of patients to target: pregnant and non-pregnant women; married and single mothers; middle aged women and teen-aged girls and so on.

The point is you want to have a crystal-clear understanding of your community in order to have relevant conversations with them, inform, educate and seek their trust.

That level of understanding comes from building patient personas.

patient persona

Patient personas help you create relevant content for your audience

Image source: Simon Blackley, Wikimedia, used under Creative Commons License

What is a patient persona?

A patient persona represents a cluster of patients within a particular service line, who have the same health needs, exhibit the same behavioral patterns, attitudes, lifestyle choices, motivations and even use of technology.

So for example a quick analysis of Type 2 diabetic patients at an inner-city hospital in Baltimore may show that they are typically over 45, obese or over-weight, do not exercise, have high-blood pressure, are members of certain racial or ethnic groups, and spend a lot of time on their smart phones.

How do you get such detailed information about patients?

Keep reading…

How patient personas are built (step-by-step)

#1. Conduct interviews

Conduct one-on-one interviews using a ‘large enough’ sample (based on your resources) of the targeted audience. Ideally the interview would be a frank and friendly conversation, lasting about 30 minutes, and aimed at gathering the following information:

  • Demographics (age, gender, marital status, ethnicity, education, and so on.)
  • Service line e.g. gynecology or obstetrics
  • Stage in patient life-cycle
  • Challenges or frustrations
  • Health needs and interests
  • Digital use frequency (i.e. how often a person uses search or social media)
  • Healthcare digital use frequency (i.e. how often a person uses search or social media to access healthcare content)
  • Preferred healthcare content delivery format (i.e. digital, print, audio, video etc.)
  • General narrative about the patient’s life circumstances
  • And more.

#2. Organize the data

Once you’ve gathered all this data, divide into 2 or 3  groups that display similar characteristics. For the OB-GYN practice one group might be for married, pregnant women planning for a C-section. Another group might be for young, single women who are sexually active, but do not want to get pregnant. Each of these groups is a persona.

Keep in mind though that the number of personas you build depends on the number of service lines. A cancer center may have more than eight personas to fit the different types of cancer patients (breast, lung, skin, colon etc.) and their care givers.

#3. Summarize personas

Summarize each persona in a worksheet. Give your persona a label such as ‘Teenaged Tina’ or ‘Expectant Elizabeth’ and stick a fictitious picture at the top of the worksheet. Labels and pictures are useful for characterization and clarity when communicating with your content marketing team. Remember that you cannot use real names or photos as this violates patient privacy according to HIPAA regulations.

So the next time you sit down to write an article about teenage pregnancy, ask yourself “What would Teenaged Tina want to know about this subject? Review ‘her’ persona and then write an article that addresses specific needs or frustrations without dispensing specific medical advice.

Over to you: Need help building patient personas for your content marketing program? Let’s talk. Shoot me an email at

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  2. […] that inform, educate and gradually build their trust in you. Here’s a guide to creating patient personas i.e. buyer personas for healthcare content […]

  3. […] outside consultant can certainly bring in their persona-building skills to the table and help you uncover the best content to create for your personas. But still. […]

  4. […] Building patient personas is a laborious exercise but the rewards are unbeatable. The insights and level of understanding that comes with developing personas not only helps you create relevant content, but also develops trust as patients come to rely on you for helpful information. By then they’re ready for… […]

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