Patient stories are one of the most underrated marketing tools for health professionals.
It is the ultimate opportunity to create a relatable experience for potential patients. Patient stories are sometimes also called case studies or success stories; however, do not confuse them with testimonials. Testimonials are quotes consisting of a few sentences by consumers about a product or service.
Patient stories are much deeper. It’s more about their journey. They provide background information about the patient’s problem and the solutions that helped them overcome their challenges.
To get started with running a successful patient stories program, you must have a participant consent and release form (or some type of similar waiver) signed by the patient. I would recommend contacting your attorney to obtain one. It’s literally a simple, one-page (sometimes even one-paragraph) document giving you permission to share their story, pictures, etc.
Now that we have the legal stuff out of the way, here is a step-by-step process to create and share patient stories.
Let’s make it easy for your patients to participate and share their information. Create an online form that can be filled out at their convenience. You will want to keep it short and simple.
Here is a sample template to help inspire your own:
Share Your Story to Help Others
Thank you for your willingness to share your story about your wellness journey. Please fill out the following form. The more details the better. Our team will review the information and create a draft patient story. We will share with you for final approval before we share online.
Alternatively, you could create a series of questions that are more conversational and schedule a call with the patient. Whatever works best for you and your practice.
Take the information provided by the patient and combine it with knowledge about the patient’s treatment to draft an initial patient story. You can execute this step in a couple of ways depending on your staff.
If you have a member of your team who is capable of writing, let them handle the entire process, allocating a dedicated four hours a week (or whatever is needed). If no one can write, hire a freelance writer (find on Upwork.com or Scripted.com) and have a staff member manage the process. Make sure to provide additional information not provided by the patient that would be useful to the story. Either way, it will pay dividends in the end.
Some details to consider:
I would suggest making the “tone” of the patient story more personal/human feeling and less robotic/academic.
The writer should also draft posts for social media. Make sure to customize accordingly based upon the text requirements and limitations for each platform. Twitter, Facebook and Instagram will be your top options.
Share the draft patient story with the patient to make sure there are not any misrepresentations. It is also a good idea for multiple people on the staff to read it as well. All feedback is welcomed and insightful. Edit and tweak accordingly.
You will want to create template graphics that can be customized for each patient story. For instance, if your patient story page is going to have a header graphic with a picture of the patient that includes their first name and last initial. You also could include their issue (Example: Jay R. — sciatica).
The same would apply to graphics to be used for social media posts. Create templates that fit the size requirements of each platform. Make sure to include your practice logo for branding in case the graphic is shared outside of your social media profile. One of the social media graphics could make use of the patient’s quote as well. Get creative and have fun with it.
At the end of the day, you want whoever reads the patient’s story to be able to relate to the journey and challenges faced. You want them to imagine themselves in that patient’s shoes. And most importantly, you want them to feel like you are the right health care partner to help them too.
I would aim to create and post 2-4 patient stories per month. Content is king. The more you share, the more opportunities to connect with potential new patients. Give the process some time as well. Don’t just do a couple of patient stories and give up. It will be worth it and provide ongoing value to your practice.
And lastly, remember to always be respectful of the patient and never share any personally identifiable information.
JAY RESIO, a Pittsburgh-based marketing and technology entrepreneur, founded SpineNation (digital health for back, neck and spine) due to his back-pain journey. He had two degenerative discs, which led to herniating the same disc (L4-5) four times over five years, resulting in five surgeries in six years, with two of them artificial disc replacements (L3-4, L4-5). Learn more about the Spine Nation community at spinenation.com.