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From the Trenches

Don’t Let Doctors Create Content: 3 Reasons to Hire a Healthcare Writer

Yvonne Lyons | July 10, 2023
Let doctor or healthcare writer create content?

In today’s increasingly competitive healthcare marketplace, high-quality marketing content is crucial, allowing you to generate awareness, build thought leadership, and engage audiences. When done well, strong content marketing enables you to establish your doctors as authoritative, go-to experts. Their expertise, opinions, and perspective on complicated health-related subjects allows your organization to stand out as a trusted and knowledgeable provider of healthcare.

Doctors are undoubtedly the experts when it comes to healthcare-related subjects. After all, in addition to attaining a bachelor’s degree, there are four years of medical school and three (or more) years of residency, with many going on to complete fellowships and other specialty training. And all good doctors stay current with the latest trends and treatments in medicine by reading medical journals, pursuing continuing medical education, and attending conferences. Clearly, you need your organization’s medical professionals to contribute to your content in order to engage your audience. Unfortunately, too many healthcare organizations confuse “contribute” with “write.” We’ve worked with many clients who initially come to us saying that their doctors will have to do all of the writing because they are the experts — and health-related topics are just too complex to trust with a lay writer.

Healthcare writing doesn’t always require doctors to be authors

I get it. I know that it truly is challenging to find a knowledgeable healthcare writer, especially for complex medical topics. Part of the argument from clients is fair. You can’t “fake” quality. And your doctors and other clinicians absolutely should be including their viewpoints and expertise, garnered over years of practice, in your content — otherwise you end up with generic medical information that anyone with the ability to Google could publish.

But I don’t buy the idea that your doctors need to actually do the writing because there is no writer out there who can write knowledgeably about healthcare. Our healthcare writers do it, day in and day out. I can assure you that you can find specialists to write in-depth healthcare content; writing specialists who use input from your in-house clinician experts to lend expertise and build your organization’s brand. It’s all about finding the right healthcare writer (or writers) — a true specialist in science and medical writing — to work with your doctors as subject matter experts to generate that content.

Beyond just the quality of the end product, there are important business reasons that you should outsource your content creation instead of relying on your doctors to write it. Here are what I would consider the top three:

1. Your content writing needs to generate results.

It’s marketing content, not a scientific paper. To generate results, your content needs to be well-crafted and engaging, and use the tone and voice that reflects your brand. It also needs to use appropriate SEO keywords so that it shows up in searches and should offer advice appropriate for your reader’s needs.

Quality, engaging content is hard to write. Your doctors are highly trained specialists, and many even have experience writing for scholarly publications. But writing for other clinicians in a peer-reviewed journal is night-and-day different from writing a white paper for a general audience. As marketers, we are trying to educate and engage, but also (albeit discreetly) sell your healthcare organization’s services as the most appropriate solution.

Professional healthcare writers have spent years honing their ability to comb the latest medical literature and boil that complex scientific information down into understandable, engaging content. And as marketers, they know how to structure educational content to build your brand and entice readers to click for more information or the next piece of content. These are critical writing skills not taught in medical school.

2. Doctors are very busy people.

Ask most any doctor these days what one change would improve their professional lives most dramatically and nearly all would answer: getting more time with patients. Studies show that today’s physicians spend only about one quarter of their time talking directly with patients; by contrast roughly half their day is spent on electronic health records and other desk work. The time crunch is a big factor behind rising rates of physician burnout. Many doctors are also expected to conduct research, serve on committees, and lead education efforts. Plain and simple, these people do not have time to write your content. And even the doctors who have the best of intentions — those who are eager to write and take on a content assignment — will always prioritize patient care over meeting your deadline (which is what you’d want from your doctors)! If you were counting on that content to publish this week or next, you have a problem that might leave you scrambling for a replacement or not publishing at all. Now you’ve impacted your engaged audience, your marketing — and the organization.

3. Writing takes longer than you think.

Even a seasoned health writer needs time to create content. Frequently, when someone in management decides the best idea is for doctors to do the writing, it’s assumed that this is some kind of 60-minute commitment. I can tell you that unless what’s being written is a social media post, good content doesn’t take an hour to hammer out. It typically takes three or four hours to get a decent draft written and that piece still isn’t ready for prime time. With profit margins in the healthcare sector so razor-thin these days, can you really afford to have your doctors spend half a day writing? And once the first draft is finished, it needs to be edited both for clarity, professional polish, grammar, and search engine optimization. Now in addition to your doctor being away from patients (and not generating revenue for you), someone on your team needs to function as their second set of eyes. If your doctor is a standout writer, maybe the time suck isn’t huge here. But if the piece he or she created doesn’t tell the story as well as it should or there’s not a viable keyword to be found, then you have a second person who is probably spending a few hours rewriting portions of that content. Or, more likely, you’re hiring a freelance writer to handle editing and SEO. And that brings me to the overall cost.

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How much is that blog post or white paper, or LinkedIn article really costing you?

Now you are realizing it’s not just the mythical hour that your doctor takes to write a blog post or tape a new video. A lot goes into producing that content: The time the copywriting really takes (and the amount of revenue you are not generating while that’s happening), the additional editing time (or freelance costs), and that intangible: the lost potential revenue from posting content that’s maybe not so great and doesn’t get any traction because your doctor wrote it. It can add up really quickly.

The answer? Outsource either to a seasoned marketing firm that has proven experience creating compelling content for the healthcare industry or a freelance healthcare content writer (if you have internal folks who can adeptly manage the process and the editing). But regardless, by outsourcing the actual writing of your health and medical content, you get more ROI from your doctors and stronger content that is still informed by their expertise and that positions your organization as a trusted healthcare provider. Perhaps most importantly, you’re much more likely to cut through the clutter of online information and engage your target audience of potential patients.

Need help creating great content for your healthcare technology organization? Get the tips you need in our interactive eBook, “Creating Remarkable Content: The Definitive Guide for HealthTech Companies”.

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About Yvonne Lyons:

Yvonne Lyons is Right Source’s vice president of creative services, overseeing content and design for all of our clients. She ensures that all creative produced at Right Source is of the highest quality and is aligned with our clients’ business strategy and goals. Yvonne received a bachelor’s degree from the Johns Hopkins University in writing and literature and has more than 20 years of experience in marketing, branding, and communications.