Managing Your Practice

Starting a blog


 

Blogging is a great way to capture the attention of new patients and anyone interested in the diagnoses and procedures you specialize in. Health information is one of the most popular topics people search for online. Starting a physician blog can provide your practice with promotional and marketing benefits that you may have a difficult time finding elsewhere. A blog can be an effective way to drive traffic to your website, establish yourself as an authority or expert in a particular area, and stay on the radar with your patients. However, there are a few things you should think about before you start.

Start by determining what you want to accomplish. Do you want to reach quantitative milestones, like a certain number of followers, or are you looking to increase your website traffic from potential patients? One goal will probably be to augment the health knowledge of your patients. Decide early on what your benchmarks will be and how you will track them.

Dr. Joseph S. Eastern, a dermatologist in Belleville, N.J.

Dr. Joseph S. Eastern

Next, determine who your potential readers are. Initially, most will probably be local (your existing patient base and their family and friends), but your audience may expand geographically as your blog gains in popularity.

By now, you probably realize that blogging will require a significant commitment, over and above the time needed to write the content. Decide whether you have the time and energy to take this on yourself, or whether help will be needed. Ideally, you should have one person in charge of all your social media efforts, so that everything is consistent and has the same voice. That person can be in-house, or you can outsource to any of the many companies that administer blogs and other media functions. (As always, I have no financial interest in any company or service mentioned in this column.)

The advantage of hiring an outside administrator is that a professionally designed blog will be far more attractive and polished than anything you could build yourself. Furthermore, an experienced designer will employ “search engine optimization” (SEO), meaning that content will be created using key words and phrases that will make it readily visible to search engine users.

You can leave design and SEO to the pros, but don’t delegate the content itself; as captain of the ship you are responsible for all the facts and opinions on your blog. You may not be up to writing everything yourself, but anything you don’t write personally needs to be scrutinized by you personally to make sure that it is factually accurate and reflects your personal view. And remember that, once it’s online, it’s online forever; consider the ramifications of anything you post on any site – yours or others – before hitting the “send” button. “The most damaging item about you,” one consultant told me, “could well be something you post yourself.” Just ask any of several prominent politicians who have famously sabotaged their own careers online.

That said, don’t be shy about creating content. Patients appreciate factual information, but they value your opinions too. Give people content that will be of interest or benefit to them. This can include health-related tips, reminders, suggestions, whatever. If they are interested in it, they will keep reading and may even share it with others. You should also write about subjects – medical and otherwise – that interest you personally. If you have expertise in a particular field, be sure to write about that.

Your practice is a local business, so localize your blog to attract people from your area. Be sure to include local city keywords in your writing. You may also want to post about local events in which your practice is involved.

Try to avoid political diatribes. While most physicians have strong political opinions, and some are not shy about expressing them, there are many venues that are more appropriate for those discussions than medical blogs. Also avoid outright sales pitches. It’s fine to describe procedures that you offer, but aggressive solicitation will only turn readers off.

Keep any medical advice in general terms; don’t use any specific examples that might make a patient identifiable and generate a HIPAA violation.

If you are having trouble growing your readership, use your practice’s Facebook page to push blog updates into patients’ feeds. Additionally, track Twitter hashtags that are relevant to your practice, and use them to find existing online communities with an interest in your blog’s topics.

Dr. Eastern practices dermatology and dermatologic surgery in Belleville, N.J. He is the author of numerous articles and textbook chapters, and is a longtime monthly columnist for Dermatology News. Write to him at dermnews@mdedge.com.

*This article was updated 10/17/2022.

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