Sharing Health News with Your Clients

Are you sharing health news with your clients and patients at your website? Probably not.

Here are the three main reasons that you are probably not sharing medical news with your patients:

  • You don’t have a blog. While we have not been able to determine how many health and wellness professionals have blogs, we know it’s the minority. We can therefore assume that most of our readers don’t have a blog. They should.
  • If you have a blog, you may hesitate to share medical news with your readers because you want to wait until the controversy on the subject is settled. There is pretty much always controversy over medical news.
  • You think of medical news as useful for professionals, not for your patients or clients.

But your patients or clients are getting medical news online, and they want more.

Your patients want medical news.

According to a study of the kind of news American adults find most interesting by Pew Research, 52% of American women list medical news and information among their top three interests. 66% of American adults overall  list health and medical news as a subject they find interesting. This is actually the #1 topic, beating out local events, politics, celebrities, and sports for the highest level of interest.

But, according to the same report, less than 10% of the content in major online news sources is related to health.

Reporters aren’t always good at medical news.

Major online news sources don’t always do a good job of reporting medical news. One of our favorite examples is “The Perfect Human is Puerto Rican” in “Bits of DNA: Reviews and Commentary on Computational Biology.” The post is a discussion of a mathematical model of human DNA which excluded “bad” alleles — genes associated with genetic disorders or characteristics generally considered negative. The point being made is actually about racial bias in research.

Look at some of the headlines reporters used to discuss this article:

  • Biologist Says Puerto Rican Women Possess Ideal Genotype
  • Berkeley Biologist: Puerto Ricans Are Closest To Perfect Physical Specimens
  • New Study Reveals The Perfect Human Genetically Speaking
  • Puerto Ricans are perfect, says a Berkeley biologist
  • Science Proves Jennifer Lopez to Be a Near Perfect Human

When your patients come in saying they’re eating chia seed pudding to combat inflammation or giving up flossing their teeth because a headline told them they didn’t need to, don’t you wish they were reading what you have to say about health news instead?

Social media is a major news source, especially for millennials.

Your young patients are highly likely to get most of their news through social media. They often don’t click through and read the full story (in fact, the Washington Post says 60% of us are guilty of that). If they see “Is It Time to Toss the Floss?” they may just go with it. And share it with all their friends.

Clicking through might tell them that the actual study found a need for better research rather than proof that people don’t need to floss their teeth. But they’re more likely to click through their dentist’s blog post clearly announcing in the excerpt that they should not give up the flossing habit. Especially if they have an appointment coming up.

You are their most trusted source of medical advice. You should also be their most trusted source of medical news.

Sharing medical news: how to

When you’re sharing medical news at your blog, follow these practical tips:

  • Be clear about controversy. When there’s less than full agreement on what a new study means or what a new drug can do, your blog should provide clear, balanced coverage of the arguments. That doesn’t mean that you have to stay neutral. You do need to present counter arguments fairly before you debunk them.
  • Share your sources. Link to the original report of the study, or the best source of available data. Your readers may not click through, but they’ll have the opportunity to do so.
  • Give your views. Your readers may appreciate being given enough information to make up their own minds. If you have a position, though, you should say it clearly. Skimmers will still get the message if you state “We follow the vaccination guidelines of the CDC” or “We follow the guidelines of the American Cancer Society” with a link to those sources.
  • Stay HIPAA compliant. Share your experience, but make sure that you don’t tell a story that lets readers identify any of your patients or clients. “We saw a young man who doesn’t floss just this morning and he’s scheduled for a root canal next week” is too much information.

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