Editor’s note: this post was originally published in March 2019 but has been updated to reflect and include current trends and helpful resources in medical content writing.
Creating good content is hard in any vertical, and creating solid content focused around healthcare and medical topics is among the toughest nut to crack. From getting client buy-in to meeting regulatory issues and navigating algorithm updates like Medic, top-notch medical content writing brings its own unique sets of challenges and frustrations.
If health-centric or hospital content writing is a headache for you, you’re not alone. We asked a slew of content creators and digital marketers in the medical space, or the agencies who do their marketing, from across the globe what their biggest challenges were.
Unsurprisingly, there were quite a few common themes that rose to the surface:
- Ensuring high quality of writing, especially across large volumes and processes
- Lack of writers with specific expertise
- Navigating algorithm changes like Medic, issues inherent in modern SEO
- Reaching audiences by creating content that’s useful & helpful (but not boring) to the reader
- Price concerns
- Difficulty getting stakeholder buy-in on digital marketing methods, usually resulting in endless rounds of edits
…and about a million shades in between. We’ve grouped these by theme in the conversations below, but you’ll see quickly that they can co-occur and manifest in different ways.
Why do we explore these challenges as a content creation company? That’s a no-brainer. We at Verblio intimately care about the content creation challenges our clients in industries from medical/healthcare sectors to accounting and all the way to cannabis experience.
With this knowledge comes power, as we are continually seeking out ways we can serve our clientele better, regardless of industry, type of content need, or whether they’re a marketing agency or running their own business.
Conversations with 19 Content Pros on the Challenges of Medical Content Writing
1. Quality of Writing
“I’ve encountered two recurring frustrations:
The first challenge is getting healthcare organizations to buy into producing keyword-rich content that provides basic healthcare tips. This is understandable from their end because of compliance concerns and the challenge of producing one-size-fits-all content related to medical conditions. Also, it’s a challenge getting the doctors to contribute to these types of articles because of their very busy schedules. The unfortunate result is typically a blog feed that’s filled with news items and company announcements that have a very short shelf-life.
The second challenge is creating helpful medical content that’s both easy to understand and authoritative. The reality is that most medical content for healthcare organizations is produced by marketing people and not medical professionals. And this poses a significant challenge in terms of content authority.”
“With more scrutiny placed on the accuracy of online medical content as well as the reputation of its author/source, greater attention is having to be paid to the quality of the final output—especially for smaller businesses that are trying to compete with well-established authorities like WebMD or Mayo Clinic. This has translated to challenges for TheraSpecs in finding the right resources (both internally and externally) to create our content, particularly those that can:
1) Identify and gather the appropriate research references with minimal guidance 2) holistically understand the topic and explain it in a user-friendly way AND 3) carry our brand voice in a way that is consistent with other articles on our site. We’ve definitely closed this gap over time through continued experimentation with different vendors and communication approaches, but there is still a good distance to go.”
2. Difficulty Finding Writers with Specific Expertise
“Creating medical content has a few fundamental challenges. It’s tough to corral the expertise required to get meaningful expert input; plus, it’s a high stakes game. What if you do all the research and still get it wrong? What if your expert got it wrong? This isn’t high-fashion or fitness information, this is a regulated industry. With any productive content marketing capability, scale matters. The more challenging the subject matter and scarcity of expertise, the more scale can be limited. This is why conducting expert interviews to create and validate concepts and the all-important substance review of the work product are essential. Finding a way to do this at scale is where the real treasure exists.”
“The main challenge we have faced in getting content written for clients in the medical sector is finding someone qualified and knowledgeable enough to outsource to. While our in-house team can write more simple and generic pieces, the articles that were more technical needed to be outsourced to ensure they met our client’s standards. We had to look outside of the existing freelancers we used to find a content writer with the medical knowledge to satisfy our client for more in-depth pieces.”
Andrew King—SEO Analyst, Klood Digital
“I work as the primary content creator for a mid-sized HR tech company. Surprisingly, our main pain point for creating great content is not time or resources, but rather demystifying and simplifying the complexities of modern health care and technology.
Our primary audience is twofold: HR managers and benefits brokers. When creating a new piece—whether it be a blog, a white paper, or even a video—we have to do a great deal of research and then have to convey these complex ideas and concepts in a way that is easy to understand for readers of various HR experience levels. Health care and employee benefits aren’t getting any easier, so this is a challenge we anticipate to increase over time. We’re tackling this issue by tapping more internal subject matter experts as well as the sales team to ensure our messages are clear, concise, and, most importantly, correct.”
3. Navigating in a Post-Medic World & Modern SEO Challenges
“Creating content for medical organizations has become more challenging since Google’s Medic Update went into effect last August. Before, a talented writer with research chops could create meaningful medical content, but that led to health and wellness websites creating optimized content with unsubstantiated medical claims. This content could surpass less detailed but more accurate medical content from credible medical websites.
With this update, it became more important that content be authored by medical professionals with on-site bios detailing their experience. Those expectations make finding writers willing to write affordable content challenging, as those writers are sacrificing a byline and frequently charge more for ghostwriting. To maintain high search rankings, medical content should be detailed and heavily researched, with multiple internal and credible external links, to increase the likelihood of ranking.
Finding writers with the experience to write this content and taking the time to have each content piece reviewed for accuracy by a doctor or medical professional can be time-consuming, so content strategy must account for lengthier lead times than previously necessary.”
“Medical and healthcare sites fell into the category of YMYL sites. According to Google, a website or information that affects the user’s health, safety, or financial stability is considered a YMYL site (Your Money Your Life). These sites need to have a high E-A-T rating that stands for expertise, authority, and trustworthiness. So, the content needs to be factually correct and backed with proper scientific evidence.
At the same time, you cannot create something dull and bland like medical journals because you want your content to get social shares, mentions, and backlinks. The biggest challenge is to find people who are qualified enough to write on these topics and they can also create interesting and engaging content that will do the job.”
“A lot of my clients are in the health industry. The biggest challenge for me is getting content to pass Copyscape (and not because of actual plagiarism).
Medical language is often unique and quite long-winded. Plus, when you’re being asked to write on subjects like the opioid epidemic, it’s really tough to create genuinely unique content because most things have been said in every possible way. It’s a lot of tweaking to both get in the long-tail phrases while also pleasing Copyscape.“
4. Reaching Audiences & Creating Helpful, Accessible Content
“I have worked with pharmaceutical companies and media outlets in terms of writing blogs, creating content, and doing social media management and influencer work. Healthcare-specific content comes with many hurdles—most of which are legal, but some of which have to do with optics. Legally, there are a lot of (valid) concerns about disclaimers, fact-checking, being mindful of the scope of practice, etc.
Another hurdle with healthcare marketing content is mistrust amongst the consumer (patient) population towards pharma companies, healthcare marketers, insurance providers, and entities that deal with healthcare politics and legislation.
The entire industry has somehow been stigmatized and that, along with regulatory and legal restrictions, has made it really difficult to 1) get content approved for posting and 2) reach the audience you need to reach, using the types of words and techniques you want to reach them with.“
“For me, the biggest challenge with healthcare content is outreaching it. Without contacts, it’s difficult to get your content noticed—even if it’s genuinely authentic, written by experienced, well-known names in the industry. Private companies face the additional challenge that their content is often promotional, or they want it to be, so it’s tough to provide that value because people often think you’re just after the promotional benefits.”
“The biggest challenge for healthcare content marketing is creating enough content tailored to the needs of the consumers. Our clients from healthcare organizations often provide extremely complex technical requirements to the content, and there are a lot of limitations as well due to the high levels of regulation in the industry.
The biggest problem is the jargon that is used in the articles written by professionals. If we want to deliver information effectively, it’s important to speak about complex issues using the words that are familiar to consumers so that they can understand the message. It’s not easy to find a copywriter with medical background and experience to ensure that content is written professionally in a language that ordinary people can understand.
Another part of the challenge of creating content for the healthcare industry is that we often get stuck in the approvals process when waiting for sign-off by legal teams and administrators. Sometimes, the lengthy approval process makes creating content from scratch overwhelming because we often have to make changes in the content more than once.”
“One of the biggest challenges is staying up to date on the industry because healthcare policy and rulings on laws directly impact what companies offer consumers. As changes in health care laws and policy occur, it’s difficult to know exactly how these changes will manifest themselves in what companies provide.
The other challenge I have is striking a good balance between blog posts about health insurance and blog posts about health issues and staying healthy. Fewer people are interested in the intricacies of health insurance unless they are trying to purchase it. More people are interested in health and wellness tips, and these kinds of posts drive more traffic to our website.“
5. Price Concerns
“One of my frustrations with getting medical content written is the price.
To find someone who knows what they are talking about and can write an engaging, accurate article, the cost is much higher than normal content.“
6. Reluctance for Stakeholders to Trust Digital & Endless Edits
“Writing for clients in the medical and healthcare industries can be a nightmare. Usually, they already understand this and are willing to contribute the majority of the content they need. Otherwise, you have to do tons of research and get it approved by the client. You’ll have similar trouble writing for a lawyer. False statements, even if made by accident, can cause you to lose money in lawsuits and settlements.”
“Health-related content can be extremely difficult to create for customers because content teams simply aren’t made up of doctors or certified medical professionals who are qualified to give medical advice. It usually has to go through a number of revisions with the customer to make them happy.“
“Some healthcare professionals are highly skeptical about the whole concept of digital and content marketing. They seem to always want a definitive answer or guarantee that Digital Alpha Agency (and other trustable firms) wouldn’t be able to promise right off the bat. We can, however, explain to you what results we’ve gotten based on our strategies and how we would approach their situation. It’ll always be different for every business.”
“The healthcare business is still a business, and the people who run it are prone to all of the strengths and foibles endemic to managers and executives in any multi-million dollar company. They’re happy to crow about their accomplishments when they get something right and loath to admit when they’ve made any kind of mistake.
When you’re trying to promote a solution—even one that’s already had a successful implementation—it can be tricky to get a strong endorsement. The leadership is skeptical that a problem existed in the first place, and they ought to be. Like in any business, they can’t give away what they’re doing to make themselves better, faster, stronger, and more profitable. They’re protecting their interests. But that can make it hard to market to them and on their behalf.“
…But It’s Not All Bad
“When it comes to working with medical and healthcare organizations, one of the biggest challenges SEOs and content marketers face is ensuring that the content that’s written is accurate, unique, and informative.
These days anyone can go online, start a blog, and spew out ‘medical information’ to the public—but the danger of doing this is that it leads to users being misinformed. When optimizing a website for medical and healthcare organizations, you want to make sure that your client comes across as the expert in their field.
Generating healthcare-related content requires an extensive amount of research (often using peer-reviewed journals, government websites, and private organization websites) and a robust review and QA check—by the client—before being published. It is surprisingly difficult to sift through all of the nonsense medical literature on the internet these days, which can slow down the entire content generation effort.
If you know the specific healthcare or medical field that you’re generating content for, I always recommend bookmarking a handful of scholarly, trustworthy websites from which to pull information.“
“The greatest challenge for content marketing agencies working with healthcare organizations, in my experience, is storytelling. I can do the keyword strategy and hire a freelancer to write another high-funnel blog based on that keyword, but how do you make it stand out from the crowd? How do you take some of that coveted WebMD traffic?
The answer is storytelling, and that requires working with the client and their patients. To capture attention and keep it, you need exceptional, professional-journalism-level stories that contain organic keyword AND resonate with the reader.“
Any of this sound familiar? If you’re fighting an uphill battle in a quest to get high-quality, medical focused content created for your practice or client, give Verblio’s medical writing services a look.
While we can’t always recite negative drug interaction pairings by heart, or perform open-heart surgery, for that matter, we do have 120 writers with 5+ years of expertise in healthcare in our knowledgable community. Their expertise ranges from dozens of registered nurses to a director at an Alzheimers’ unit, physician assistants, professional counselors, and EMTs.
Ditch the headache, cut the cost, and get started with experienced expert writers from Verblio. Contact us today to see what solutions we can offer for your agency and your medical content creation challenges.