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Mission Control / Healthcare

How to Tackle Sensitive Topics in Healthcare Content

Is your hospital or healthcare organization shying away from discussing certain subjects? Here’s how to (tactfully) create the delicate content consumers are actually searching for.

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By Ellen Ranta Olson


Broaching topics like substance abuse, sexual health and end-of-life care is never easy. But when done well, it can provide an opportunity for healthcare organizations to foster a stronger connection with current and prospective patients alike. Discover how Vanderbilt Health creates content that positions their organization as a trusted resource for patients’ most difficult questions.

Embrace authenticity.

Euphemisms and vague language have no place in healthcare content. When patients are searching for information about difficult topics like female sexual dysfunction, they want actual answers — these may be the questions that they’re too embarrassed to ask in person. By creating honest, direct content that doesn’t shy away from tough topics, you’ll begin to build deeper relationships with patients long before they come in for a visit.

By creating honest, direct content that doesn’t shy away from tough topics, you’ll begin to build deeper relationships with patients long before they come in for a visit.

Rely on source authority.

When it comes to the trickiest topics, let your physicians do the talking by crafting Q-and-As or bylining your content with physician names. Leading with a more medical tone can help take the awkwardness out of some of the uncomfortable conversations that parents have with teens. Highlighting the physician’s expertise also provides an opportunity to position your organization as an authority and trusted resource.

Share patient stories.

There may be no piece of content more compelling than a patient story, and when it comes to taboo topics, a patient profile can serve to make others feel less alone. By sharing inspirational success stories and first-person accounts of trying times, hospitals and organizations can highlight the personal side of healthcare and foster a deeper connection with both current and prospective patients.

Answer common questions.

If coming up with content ideas that tackle sensitive topics feels like a struggle, let your strategy be guided by patients’ frequently Googled but rarely discussed questions on topics like pregnancy loss. About 15-20% of known pregnancies end in a miscarriage — but it’s largely still considered a taboo topic to discuss. This piece from My Southern Health tactfully answers some of the concerns and feelings that women deal with after a miscarriage.

Practice compassion.

Whether it’s drug and alcohol addiction, lung cancer or obesity, for many patients, the shame associated with their illness often keeps them from seeking help. Strive to create nonjudgmental content that offers hope and solutions, recognizing that it often takes people many attempts to get healthy. Remind readers that it’s never too late to make a change.

Author ellen ranta olson
Ellen Ranta Olson Senior Editor

Ellen has created content for a plethora of brands, publications and websites, ranging from The Ritz-Carlton to UT Southwestern Simmons Cancer Center. A former editor of Southwest travel magazine Dorado, she has managed content marketing programs for various destinations, including Visit Tucson, Visit Charlotte and Discover Gilbert. At C/A, she also oversees content and website design for her alma mater, the University of Arizona.

As a mom of two toddlers, Ellen’s weekends are typically spent at the park or the Phoenix Children’s Museum. In her rare solo time, she’s on a mission to run an 8-minute mile and can often be found pounding the pavement of downtown Phoenix.

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