In September 2012, a Pew Internet Project research study showed that 72% of Internet users said they looked online for health information in the past year. Think of your own experience – when you or a loved one has some type of ailment, it’s very likely you turn to your computer to get some type of clue about what’s going on.

When consumers have a health issue, concern or question, no doubt, they turn to the Internet. In a WebMD world, where all kinds of information is readily available at our fingertips, healthcare providers everywhere are vying to compete- to be the first place you look when you need help. For health systems, this is a logical extension of their mission to keep their communities healthy.

It all comes down to creating useful content that converts curious consumers into satisfied patients and customers.

Let’s take a look at how three leading healthcare providers tackle content.

Mayo Clinic. With major campuses in four U.S. cities and more than one million patients, the Mayo Clinic is a well-known integrated clinical practice, education and research institution.

The amount of content on Mayo Clinic’s website is staggering: general health information, several different blogs, user-generated content, recipes, a comprehensive guide to drugs and supplements and more can be found on Mayo’s various online properties.

Mayo Clinic is ahead of the curve when it comes to user-generated content and hasa special microsite, Sharing Mayo Clinic, where patients, family, friends and staff can share stories about their Mayo experience. Clear instructions and guidelines are provided to make sharing a seamless process. This microsite is especially impactful as research from Ipsos MediaCT shows that user-generated content is 35 percent more memorable and 50 percent more trusted than other media.

Mayo also has several different blogs, including a podcast blog, an advancing the science blog, a news blog  and more. The news blog is especially interesting, updated daily with articles from multiple contributors. A weekly content roundup, Housecall, links out to other relevant Mayo-created content, including recipes, articles and videos. The roundup is also part of an email subscription, being delivered straight to the inboxes of those who choose to subscribe.

The health system is super active on social media, building an engaged community, sharing content on Facebook, Twitter and an especially impressive and updated Pinterest account, visually representing their brand and content in a way other health institutions aren’t.

Crozer-Keystone Health System. Based in Delaware County in the Philadelphia suburbs, Crozer-Keystone Health System comprises five hospitals, outpatient centers, a sports club and a comprehensive physician network [disclosure: Crozer-Keystone is a Scribewise client]. 

Some of Crozer-Keystone’’s best content is found on its detailed Health Resources page, broken into various sections like online health library, women’s health, men’s health, quitting smoking, managing blood pressure and more. Each section opens the door for even more content. Take the health library, for example. Within the health library, consumers can explore 15+ pages of topics and articles. These articles are repurposed and promoted on Crozer’s social platforms, including Facebook and Twitter, and a number of email newsletters.

More content is housed in the “News” section of the website. There, along with standard press releases, Crozer is creating useful timely content. For example, February is American Heart Month and the Crozer team recently published an informative list-based article titled “7 Ways to Improve Your Heart Health” with links throughout the piece leading back to the health system’s services and health resources pages. But Crozer isn’t only linking back to their content- at the beginning of the year, they published a list of “6 Fitness Apps to Reboot Your New Year’s Resolutions” with links out to various apps and tools. This approach shows that yes, they want to keep consumers on their site, but also understand the importance of sharing outside expert content from time to time.

Key articles from the News section are pulled out and featured as a sidebar on the main Health Resources page. It’s clear that Crozer does a great job directing and redirecting consumers to other sections of their website, keeping them on the page for longer as they find new information to explore.

Cancer Treatment Centers of America. A national network of cancer hospitals throughout the U.S. Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA) prides themselves on using advanced technology and a personalized approach to cancer treatment.

CTCA’s website is easy to navigate, first and foremost drawing users to an “About Your Cancer” section, detailing an A-Z list of dozens of different types of cancers, leading to pages with statistics, treatment options, patient stories and more. When someone comes to CTCA’s website, likely this is the information they are looking for and CTCA makes it easy to navigate.

The bulk of CTCA’s content can be found under the Community & Support tab, featuring patient stories, recent blog posts, community questions about cancer, newsletters, social media links and more. CTCA highlights more than 70 patient and survivor stories, utilizing that all-important user-generated content approach leading with the patient’s perspective. In addition, CTCA has an extreme focus on caregivers, creating unique content specifically for those taking care of their loved ones.

CTCA’s regularly updated blog features expert content from the hospital’s medical and clinical professionals with topics ranging from meaningful gifts for cancer patients to recent research studies to nutrition tips and tricks.

Trends and Takeaways:

In exploring these three healthcare institutions, some clear trends about healthcare content marketing emerged.

  • Evergreen content reigns supreme. For each of these healthcare institutions, useful and non-timely content seem to play a key role in content strategy. These types of pieces are especially useful to patients looking for information about their specific ailment.
  • Blogs are still popular. In other industries, it seems like blogs are becoming less and less popular (perhaps because companies struggle to keep them updated), but in the healthcare world, blogs still seem to hold importance. All of the companies included here had some type of updated blog on their website. Within a blog, brands should consider featuring lots of different types of experts (i.e. doctor, surgeon, nutrition expert, physical therapist) to introduce a variety of voices and subject matters.
  • Patient stories are key in the healthcare world. It’s all about user-generated content! In the healthcare world, potential patients want to hear directly from other patients who have been in their shoes, so personal stories are important to set your brand apart.
  • Developing a community can help keep patients satisfied and loyal. Whether it’s through social media, a patient portal, a blog or an online/offline support group, creating a strong community of satisfied patients and caregivers helps to build brand loyalty and develop new brand ambassadors.