Why do you need a blog?
We live in a paradoxical age. Physicians say they’re busier than ever just keeping up with the pressures of medical practice, yet more and more doctors are stepping forward to ask, “I want to be a blogger. How do I get started?”
Crazy, huh? Writing a regular blog can be both a creative struggle and a serious time suck, a mental and physical drain on energy needed for growing clinical duties. Doctors seem to know this instinctively. Yet it’s clear that health providers are warming to the blogging medium for several reasons.
First, from a practical standpoint, there are actually time efficiencies to be gained from blogging. A well written, frequently updated blog can save time answering the same three or four exam-room questions hundreds of times each month.
Secondly, the 24/7 news media gives physicians a lot to talk about, including asserting counter-opinions to what they believe is an abundance of misinformation in news reports. (For examples, just look up anything on breast cancer and PSA tests in regard to the U.S. Preventative ServicesTask Force.)
Thirdly, lots of doctors are plainly warming up to the notion of having more online conversations with health care consumers. After all, the Internet gives each of us a chance to shine as an opinion columnist, a truly dream vocation.
So, with the blogging gold rush on, physicians are asking for easy pointers. Here are three indispensable tips:
1. Pick a hot topic
Patients don’t read and don’t care about scientific literature. Ninety percent have never heard of the specialty journals their sub-specialty doctors read. All that gobbledy-gook is snooze-ola to them – by and large they can’t understand it and don’t want to be bothered.
Rather, patients search the web, watch TV, listen to the radio and read newspapers and magazines. That’s where their attention goes and ideas come from.
A simple short cut for picking a blog topic: search Google News or one of the other search engines or news websites for what’s making headlines. Google terms relevant to your specialty on any of these sites and see what comes up. It’s guaranteed you’ll find some button-pushing topic on which you can barely refrain from commenting.
Chances are good a movie star or sports celebrity may be involved in the news making. All the better. A show business connection generates patient buzz, and you want to opine about what’s hot. Which leads us to the next point…
2. Keep it short, simple & opinionated
Blogging is counter intuitive to medical disciplines. It’s about opinions, not data. You the blogger should take chances, not play it safe.
Of course, a good blogger’s opinions ideally should be based on data and clinical or research evidence. But the idea is to stake out a position. Don’t hold back on what you really think about the newest study or a purported miracle cure or the latest pop-health trend. Tell ’em exactly what you think, and don’t candy-coat it.
Keep your focus on one main point and don’t stray to side issues. Six hundred words is about the limit on what you should say, and four hundred words or less can be even better.
3. Offer a call to action
Patients don’t just want information. They want to know what to do with information. Give them a loose plan, a course of action, some kind of a response to the question, “Well, what do I do now?”
Mind you, this isn’t to say to dispense personalized medical advice in your blog. Let’s certainly steer way clear of ethical and legal liabilities and all the complexities of individual symptoms and circumstances.
Nonetheless, you can make broad but quite useful suggestions, which often fall into the simple advice of something like: “Find a specialist and then ask him or her these kinds of questions…” You can also give them the three or four most common options for a certain condition or set of symptoms while closing with the time-proven qualifier: “Of course, it’s imperative to see a specialist before you do anything.”
Lastly, remember that writer’s block is a common disease, affecting even the world’s greatest authors. Don’t be intimidated by the notion of writing for public consumption. Apply these three guidelines and chances are quite good that your literary stage fright will give way to unbridled expression – and, if you’re lucky, a devoted and regular readership.
Not sure where to start?
We can help! Vanguard’s staff of medical writers are experts at writing blogs about complex medical or ethical issues, taking care to write in the individual “voice” of each of our doctors. You can also watch the video link below to learn how to set up your own blog.