By Ahava Leibtag published October 22, 2012

How Hospitals Are Hustling as Health Content Creators

hospitals as content creatorsToday’s health care consumers — baby boomers in particular — are hungry for reliable health content, and more than ever they are using the web to educate themselves. The Pew Research Center reports that nearly 80 percent of internet users go online for answers to health questions.

Perhaps more surprising is the rising role social media plays in consumer health education. According to PwC’s Health Research Institute (HRI), 42 percent of consumers have used social media to access health-related consumer reviews (e.g., specific treatment therapies or physician reviews), and 20 percent have joined a health forum or community seeking health content. Younger consumers in particular tend to trust social media as a credible source of information — 90 percent of individuals age 18 to 24 would engage in health activities or trust health information found via social media.

Consumers also are demanding tools to help them take charge of their own health care decisions. Currently, more than 40,000 health-related apps are marketed to consumers — covering everything from diet counters to smartphone-enabled blood-pressure monitors and glucometers.

This change in consumer behavior represents a huge opportunity for fast-moving hospitals to become content creators and provide an alternative to Google search, Everyday Health, and any of the thousands of health-centered sites and apps available today. Let’s take a look at which hospitals are moving fast, launching marketing news portals, community sites, videos and mobile apps to satisfy their customers’ appetite for health content. 

A hub for health info 

The Cleveland Clinic’s Health Hub is a one-stop shop for health tips and news, videos, physician blogs, expert Q&As and live online chats — and has been popular since its official launch on May 1. The site drew about 100,000 visitors in August and was expected to surpass that figure in September, said Scott Linabarger, the clinic’s director of digital marketing.

Cleveland Clinic health hub, content creators

All of the health content is written or approved by the hospital’s doctors and nurses, and many of the health articles feature Cleveland Clinic providers who are recognized experts in their fields. The site is fairly unique in the hospital arena and is being watched closely by industry experts.

Condition-specific content

What about patients looking for more in-depth knowledge about their particular condition? Some creative hospitals are using video to offer a richer perspective. Miami Children’s Hospital launched a YouTube channel to spotlight complex surgeries routinely performed on infants and children with congenital heart defects. While the videos are graphic, each has generated tens of thousands of views. The video series does far more to boost the hospital’s reputation as a leader in pediatric surgery than any list of awards or quality indicators. And it appeals directly to the parents who would love to take the child’s place on the operating table by easing their anxiety.

content creators, Miami Children's Hospital

A big part of any hospital’s reputation — and the patient experience — is access to convenient care. Several hospitals have launched mobile applications that offer directions and parking information, tools to book appointments and emergency room wait times.

Patient care goes social and mobile

In April, Children’s Hospital in Boston combined most of those features and more with its MyWay app, designed to make visiting a huge urban hospital less daunting for local and out-of-state families alike. It helps patients navigate the hospital and satellite locations, find local restaurants and hotels, and even locate activities to entertain siblings during a child’s hospital stay.

content creators, Boston Children's Hospital app

Boston’s Children’s Hospital is also a social media standout. The hospital not only hosts a primary Facebook page — with more than 700,000 “likes” — but also hosts disease- and disorder-specific pages with health content, as well as online support groups (e.g., a Facebook page for the Down Syndrome Program at Boston Children’s Hospital). “Our patient support groups serve as a real-time referral network, which is very different than giving people a list of quotes regarding our patient care,” says Ryan Paul, social media specialist at the hospital. “This serves as the best type of validation for new patients looking for a hospital and for people to connect with others like them.”

Want to learn more about health content marketing? Join Ahava Leibtag, Scott Linabarger and other healthcare marketers at Content Marketing Health Summit on November 7 – 8 in Cleveland, Ohio. 

Author: Ahava Leibtag

Based in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, Ahava Leibtag is a Web content strategist and writer. She leads AHA Media Group, a Web and content consulting firm, and authors the blog Online it ALL Matters. She thinks 60 words is way too few to communicate why she’s interesting. You can connect with Ahava on Twitter at @ahaval.

Other posts by Ahava Leibtag

  • Tenisha Mercer

    These are great examples for health care content marketers. Outside of news sites, health care as a whole has not “gotten” it when it comes to content marketing. I think they finally see the light, though, and these examples are great case studies. Health care (hospitals, practioners, clinics, etc.) have to look outside of the health care bubble and utilize the tools their patients use. As the Pew studies clearly point out, social media/forums/Internet are what customers use. So why not create content for their customers? It’s a no-brainer.

    • ahaval

      I agree. I think the most important thing to remember is that you don’t need to create a sophisticated content marketing program right off the bat. You can experiment with one or two patient blogs to see if it works well for your audience.

  • http://smallbizdiamonds.com/ Ashley Neal

    Great post!

  • http://www.thedsmgroup.com/ Jason Diller

    I feel like this industry is 4 years behind others. Worse than blue collar stuff like landscaping, etc.

  • http://twitter.com/erichberger Erich William Berger

    Patient Education companies have been marketing their content for years to hospitals in the form of disease and condition-specific brochures, etc. Now they are providing the same type of content in different forms, almost exclusively as enterprise solutions within the hospital environment. While the average hospital has been placing this and similar content on their websites, in patient-information portals it is not reaching a wider potential audience simply because most hospital marketing departments don’t “get” social media. With the ACA, and its provisos for reaching out to communities, especially underserved communities, they now have the motivation to start looking harder at how the concepts of “patient education” and “content marketing” can be combined to improve outcomes.

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