If you're a healthcare marketer, you know there are certain words we use repeatedly that are overused. If the goal of content--print, Web, podcasting or video--is to be powerful and engage people, then using stale words will negate our desired impact.
I'm not saying NEVER use these words. Instead, as the healthcare marketing community, we should be willing to use new phrases to say what we mean to say. Writing so we sound smart, brilliant and academic just turns people off from our content. Instead, our goal should be to communicate complicated subjects in a way that readers feel comfortable consuming.
10 Healthcare Words to Use Sparingly10. State-of-the-art: What does this even mean really? When consumers are looking for healthcare technologies, they want to know you have every technology they need to fight their disease. Of course your technology should be the most advanced.
9. Innovative: I hope so. I don't want to see doctors who do the same thing again and again, with no attention to results or outcomes.
8. Comprehensive: The second cousin to the most dreaded word in healthcare marketing (#1), this word doesn't resonate the way you think it does. Say instead "We provide the full spectrum of care, so that no matter what specialty you may need, we can provide it." This message carries more power for consumers.
7. Experts: I would hope my doctor is an expert. I'm really sick and I need a cure. How about: "Our physicians have written widely-used texts for both physicians and patients about thyroid cancers, and are considered internationally-renowned experts in the treatment of thyroid-related disease." Back up the facts.
6. Unparalleled: Really? I doubt it. There are very few centers who can claim that level of care.
5. Board-certified: I have no problem with this term. Just explain what it means, which very few healthcare marketers do. Say instead, "Our doctors undergo in-depth training to understand the complex anatomy of congenital heart patients. This level of specialized training is unusual in the medical field. However, for our patients, it is critical to ensure our experts know exactly how to manage complex cases and anticipate future complications."
See how Fletcher Allen Health Care manages this issue? It's brilliant--they explain to the consumer why academic medicine can help.
3. World-class: I want to vomit when I hear or read this phrase. Most patients in the world are not going to fly to the United States for medical care. How about galaxy-class? Or universe-class? Maybe the Martians are looking for the latest in radiation technologies?
Cite your U.S.News & World Report ranking, or accreditations you've amassed. Let the consumer make the decision about your class. Or instead say what you really mean to say:
"Our patients come to us from around the region and surrounding states. Many are from the greater Washington, D.C., metropolitan area, the surrounding states of the mid-Atlantic region, and the East coast."
2. Personalized: This is a tricky one, because people do want to hear it. However, it's so overused, as is the word individualized. Instead, I urge my writers to describe the process--"Your doctors will evaluate all the information they have--biopsies, imaging studies, your clinical exams, and most importantly, listening to your symptoms--and create a treatment plan that is best for you."
1. Multidisciplinary: Was there ever any doubt this word was #1? Just STOP saying it. Nobody knows what it means. And, I hate to be the bearer of bad tidings--most centers who claim they are multi-d are not. Consumers realize this quickly when they only meet with one doctor. So stop using this dreaded word and instead explain the process of diagnosis and treatment at your institution.
"At our Center, a multidisciplinary tumor board meets each week to discuss new cases and diagnostic and treatment options. Endocrinologists, radiologists, pathologists, medical oncologists, nuclear medicine physicians and radiation oncologists attend this tumor board, and their combined experience results in optimal diagnostic and treatment options for patients."
If you're a healthcare marketer, your writing will sparkle again as you dust away these overused, trite phrases. More than ever, with a wealth of complex health information available, we need to be clear. That is truly a distinction important to patients.
After all, if they can't even understand your Web content, why on earth would they come to your center as a patient?