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How to Blog for Patients and Families

One of the common problems that many new physician and healthcare bloggers have is ‘shaky blog syndrome’. That means writing the kind of blog post that never gets read or does anything to benefit your organization.

If the purpose of your blog is to attract new patients and families here are some things you should include in all your blog posts.

Find out what appeals to patients and their families and blog about that.

Find out what appeals to patients and their families and blog about that.

#1. It starts with questions

In order to have a successful blog you have to help solve your readers’ problems by answering their most pressing questions. These would be the typical questions they ask during a routine check up such as, ‘How do I know if my cough is serious’ or ‘How do I know what my blood pressure readings mean.’

At first you might hesitate to write about a topic that sounds so basic and familiar to you. But remember that not everyone understands the basics of your trade. I should know because even at my age I still have to ask what my blood pressure readings mean each time I see my doctor. So find out what your patients’ basic questions are and blog about that. The results may surprise you.

#2. Attention grabbing headline

Your headline gets more attention than anything else you write on your website. That’s why it serves one, and only one goal: To grab your reader’s attention and persuade him or her to read the next part of the article.

Some of the best headlines I’ve seen on medical websites are so simple and refreshing they just beg to be read! I’m thinking of Kevin Pho’s blog with headlines such as: ‘Should families witness CPR?’ or ‘How to deliver bad news to patients’ or ‘How to know if your toddler has autism.’ The trick is to keep it simple and interesting.

#3. Great opening

If you can get people to read the first three or four lines of your article, there’s a good chance they will read the rest of it. Take a look at this compelling opening from a Boston Children’s Hospital blog post:

“It’s a common belief among female runners that the lighter you are, the faster you are.”

The purpose of your opening sentence is to get people curious about the rest of your content. Take the above sentence for example. My reaction when I first read it was, “Why, isn’t it true?” At that point I needed to know whether my beliefs about female runners were true or false. And for that reason I was compelled to read the rest of the article in order to find out.

#4. Stunning image

Words are great but images help to dress up your article, providing eye candy to your readers and encouraging them to stick around. Take a look at this enticing article from Cleveland Clinic’s Health Hub (blog), which uses six images in total: one to dress up the main headline and five to dress up the subsequent sub titles.

Here are some facts about blog posts that use images (hat tip to Jeff Bullas):

  • Articles with images get 94% more total page views
  • 60% of consumers are more likely to consider or contact a business when an image shows up in local search results

#5. Promising Sub title

The subtitle has one goal – to entice people to read your first paragraph. The way to do that is to make a promise to your readers (in the subtitle) and then keep the promise by telling them what they want to know (first paragraph).

Let’s say you write a list post titled, ‘12 Tips to Stay Safe in Hospitals‘ (again, hat tip to Kevin Pho – he writes the best headlines ever!). Each of your 12 subtitles represents a promise to tell readers how to stay safe in a hospital. If your first subtitle is ‘Never go alone’ then make sure the following paragraph stays on topic and tells readers why they shouldn’t go alone to the hospital. All this may sound simple and obvious, but it really works!

#6. Content that pulls an emotional trigger

With this first piece of content your goal is to pull an emotional trigger in your reader. Remember that when people get emotional about a topic, they pay attention. They’re also more likely to take action since they are already in an emotional state that compels them to act.

The best way to pull emotional triggers in a medical or healthcare blog is by telling a story that resonates with your readers. It might be about a patient overcoming an illness, or even about a patient who succumbed to an illness. One unique thing about the healthcare industry is there is no shortage of stories that trigger emotion.

 #7. Promising Sub title

Repeat #5 as many times as needed.

#8. Emotional Content

Repeat #6 as many times as needed.

#9. Call to Action

Here’s where you close out your article with a call to action. You can ask your readers to leave a comment saying what they thought about your article (this helps to increase engagement on your blog). Or you could ask them to subscribe to your email newsletter (this ensures that you capture names and emails of prospective patients).

And that’s about it!

Your Turn

What did I miss? What other tips can you share about writing interesting articles for patients and their families? Please leave your comments in the box below.


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