Blogging, in whatever form you choose, often sets you up as the expert on a particular subject or specialty - making you the "go-to" person for patients looking for information on the subject.
For many physicians, the idea of adding one more thing to their to-do list is overwhelming. Blogging, viewed by many physicians as nonrevenue-producing, is not something that most providers would willingly entertain. But for others, the idea of sharing their thoughts, insight, and wisdom is appealing - at least in principle.
However, when I ask the question "Does your practice need a blog?" I am not asking as a way to encourage the talents of physicians who simply like to write. Rather, I am suggesting that adding a blog to your practice's market collateral may be worth considering for business reasons.
Blogging has morphed over time from long form to short form. Micro-blogging, Twitter, and Facebook posts are very popular, and often are the most that busy practices can manage. But why even blog at all? Having your say is not just simply about voicing an opinion. Blogging, in whatever form you choose, often sets you up as the expert on a particular subject or specialty - making you the "go-to" person for patients looking for information on the subject. And that means exposure for your practice.
Think of it this way: What differentiates you from your competition in the mind of the patient? Websites may vary in terms of their look and feel, and certainly they are very important tools in conveying a practice's personality and style, but how do you convey your expertise to the public so that patients will gravitate to you rather than the next doctor in their healthcare directory? The answer: by blogging.
You do not need to post on a daily or weekly basis in order to have a successful blog. Content matters far more than frequency and good posts rarely age or become redundant. To convey your expertise, it is enough that you post some thoughtful material where patients can find it, on topics that will both interest and inform them. The posts do not need to be long and wordy - if you can succinctly convey, say, the nature and considerations for a procedure that patients should be aware of, then you will have created a successful post. Patients appreciate reading about procedures from the providers that perform them. They want to hear firsthand rather than reading through endless marketing material designed to sell them on the concept.
In addition to differentiating yourself from your competitors, blogs also help you get picked up on search engines. Google ranks websites on a variety of measures and having a blog, Twitter account, Facebook feed and so on, helps to move you up on the search results.
"But I don't have time for all that!" I hear you say. Realize that you do not need to craft new material in each place. Write once, post in many places. For example, let's say you use WordPress for your blog. There is a tool there (Publicize) that allows you publish your blog to social networks (Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, LinkedIn, and Yahoo) instantly. In addition, your posts end up in WordPress.com's topic pages, are sent out to many search engines via Ping-o-Matic!, and sitemap pings notify search engines of new updates. Blogs can also be embedded into your existing website, enriching the content that patients find there, which will bring them back for more.
WordPress is just one of the many blog apps out there. I encourage you to take a look. At the least it will afford you an opportunity to better connect with your patients and improve your ability to be found on the Web. And you never know, perhaps you will write a great blog that ends up going viral!
Susanne Madden, MBA, is founder and CEO of The Verden Group, a consulting and business intelligence firm that specializes in practice management, physician education, and healthcare policy. She is also COO, National Breastfeeding Center, and cofounder, Patient Centered Solutions. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by visiting www.theverdengroup.com.