Healthcare is Innovating Value-Based Content, and the Rest of the World Should Pay Attention
Marketing Content Strategy

Healthcare Marketing Is Pioneering Value-Based Content, and the Rest of the World Should Pay Attention

6 Minute Read

I’m a healthcare native.

That native status is powerful as a value-based content creator because it means I’ve got an insider’s perspective on the culture and needs of healthcare organizations. It also means that on the few occasions I do step out of my (not so) little corner of the universe, I get a look at a world that approaches content and communication a lot differently than I’m used to.

Take one of my earliest clients. They came to me for help building out content for their startup incubator. We walked through my standard interview process, and I eventually ended up hearing a response that stuck with me.

“So…if you could emulate any content presence you like, who would it be?”

“…I think Kissmetrics.”

“Interesting choice…why is that?”

“They get a ton of engagement. I always see people sharing their articles.”

This was strange to hear because this client’s business had little to nothing in common with Kissmetrics. I learned, though, that outside my world of very precise, purposeful content, this kind of strategic disconnect is pretty common.

Drowning in Options

It seems to be a general truth that the further a business drifts from pure healthcare (i.e., the clinical side), the easier it is to stray from deliberate, valuable content. This makes sense. The less a product, service, or brand connects with life-or-death issues, the easier it is to get pulled off in any direction when it’s time to create content.

Think about it. If you sell MRI machines that improve cancer-detection rates, you probably won’t try to find a way to tie your next blog to Met Gala fashion. But if you’re selling an insurance plan in a new market, you just might. This is why, as exciting as it is to have an ocean full of options in front of you, it’s crucial to start with the purpose of creating value for your readers.

Let’s take a step back and look at what gets organizations jumping into content waters in the first place. The most common reason I see organizations moving to create meaningful content is that the competition is moving on to content first. All it takes is a CEO running across a great blog being tossed around on LinkedIn to get managers moving and demanding the creation of a strategic, valuable content strategy. Unfortunately, aside from a few visionary first-movers, most sectors (healthcare marketing included) are filled with organizations sitting on their content-creating hands and consequently getting passed by their competition.

These organizations are quickly waking up to the fact that they have to play catch-up, and too often they’re waking up in a panic.

Potential Behind the Panic

The thing about panic is that usually, if you look just past it, you’ll find a world of opportunity.

Let’s say you’re in charge of marketing at a community hospital and you’ve been hemorrhaging patients to the ambulatory care service providers down the street. You’ve been tasked with coming up with a content strategy for the next year to prove to your patient community exactly how valuable your facility is to them and their families. You’ve got options here for sure, but I can almost guarantee your content is going to be directly based on the medical conditions your patients deal with.

That’s the thing about healthcare content: it’s always life-changing, value-based content. That’s even true on the B2B side. Our concept of value lives by incredibly high standards, and we really have no choice but to meet those standards in everything we do, content included.

Anatomical model of the head and neck

Image attribution: Jesse Orrico

An Amazing Content Model

I know a lot of people would disagree with me, but I believe healthcare marketing presents a great model for content creation—everybody should be emulating us!

You might be thinking, “But you’re one of the last verticals to really dive into the power of content.”

True, but remember that value I mentioned? The thing that slows us down is the same trait that forces us to focus on meaningful, transformative content—content that connects with our patients (who are consumers just like everybody else, after all) in ways that some industries could only dream of. Case in point? WebMD.

Even in the corners of my life that are outside my work in healthcare content, WebMD is there.

It gets referenced in emails from friends, articles that pop up on Twitter, and even TED talks. WebMD is a force of its own in the diagnosis process (even contributing to the rampant rise of “cyberchondria”), and that’s largely because they have no choice but to create content that connects with patients’ most pressing concerns and needs. Even in the B2B space, industry leaders like GE and Samsung have built out content presences that go beyond simple information, loop in the power of healthcare, and create content that’s grounded and, most importantly, valuable.

Healthcare is a paradox, and it’s one you should be paying attention to.

We’re grounded because we have no choice but to stay connected to what makes content matter. You can harness the power of that connection, regardless of whether you’re deep in the healthcare trenches or as far away from needles and surgery as you can get.

Four surgeons around an operating table

Image attribution: Sasin Tipchai

Value-Based Content, the Healthcare Way

If you know anybody in the healthcare space, they’ll know all about value-based care.

I’m not going to burden you with the details, but essentially, the US government looked at healthcare and saw that it was being moved by quantity instead of quality: healthcare providers were evaluated (and compensated) on providing more treatment versus actually improving patients’ health outcomes. This is where value-based care comes in.

The issue that healthcare leaders face (a need to move away from “fragmented” to “comprehensive, coordinated care“) is pretty similar to what many content strategists and healthcare marketing directors are working through. It’s a relatively straightforward goal on both ends, and that’s to provide patients with value. The way the industry’s gone about building out that value provides a few lessons that translate directly to the content arena.

Applying these lessons to your own content presence will help you get past being just another company with an obviously low-effort, meandering blog. So I want to share with you five guiding principles of value-based content.

  1. Centered on patients or customers. The goal isn’t to showcase internal knowledge, catch up with a competitor, or keep up with trends; it’s to serve readers.
  2. Need-based and precise. Feed your readers what they need in a way that connects to what you can provide. Do this in clear-cut, specific ways.
  3. Outcome-based. The results of your content should be measurable (and keeping up with that measurement should be an active priority).
  4. Comprehensive and coordinated. Those metrics you establish should align with organizational goals.
  5. Transitional. Get past fragmented interactions. Everything you create should fit a larger plan that moves your readers deeper into a lifetime relationship.

This is the beauty of healthcare content. It’s a clear roadmap to building out a content presence that your readers not only take seriously but also need in their lives. We might not be as sophisticated as other industries yet, but even companies just getting started have amazing opportunities to get past building out just another corporate blog and instead create refreshing, grounded, valuable content for an audience that needs their guidance more than ever.

Subscribe to the Content Standard

Featured image attribution: Samuel Zeller

Register for Forward 2019!

I'm a freelance business writer with 10 years' experience in healthcare (hospital consulting), over a decade's work in online content creation, and an MBA. I create engaging, informative content on general B2B topics, healthcare B2B, mobile healthcare, dental, and freelancing as a career. I have created content for clients including Samsung, Cintas, and Business Solutions Magazine. While I specialize in healthcare, my education and experience also give me the ability to create interesting and effective content on almost any business topic. I create thought leadership articles, blogs, news stories, case studies, and website content for emerging and established B2B healthcare brands. I have a unique mix of style, industry experience, and education that brings a signature tone and competence to my work. I believe B2B content in healthcare will benefit from a shift in tone...a shift to one that is rooted in the seriousness and formality of the industry, but that still understands the need for humanity and a more editorial feel.

Recommended for you