The latest coronavirus to make the jump from animals to humans, COVID-19, has dominated recent news cycles. As a result, you may be getting a number of questions from patients who aren’t sure how serious the threat is or how it may affect them with regard to their specific health conditions.
This is an excellent opportunity for you to create a piggyback article or post for your medical practice website. A piggyback post is an article you write “on the back” of a highly publicized news item. Whenever there is a hot health topic in the news, it’s an opportunity for you to use your platform to share the most current, evidence-based information on that issue. The topics can come from a number of sources.
Current Events: The death of a celebrity may have people curious about the disease that caused the death. Providing factual information without focusing on the celebrity is a safe way to do it without seeming opportunistic. It’s even more effective if you provide resources for physical or mental health services.
Politics: Vaccines, health insurance, and Medicare are perennial favorites of politicians. You and your patients may be quite tired of politics, but there is no doubt that it offers a window into a variety of medical topics where you can add value. The key is you helping your patients understand how these subjects might affect them personally. There is no need for you to align with any political viewpoint in these articles (unless you really want to); you can simply provide the facts about the topic so your patients have a more evidence-based understanding of the issue than politicians typically provide.
Television shows and movies: Health issues make great plot devices, and you’ll find them used throughout pop culture. You can use their popularity to help patients separate fact from fiction – The Theory of Everything for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, for example, Atypical for autism, or This is Us for addiction. These are popular shows and issues you can address on your website. Pay close attention during award season when certain shows get a lot of media coverage, making them great choices for a piggyback post.
Seasons: Think about issues your neurology patients might face at a particular time of year. As summer approaches, for example, it’s a good time to talk about safe behaviors your patients should adopt. These could include having water for patients with seizure disorders, use of sunscreen for those whose medications might cause them to be photosensitive, or steps to avoid heat stroke. During the winter holidays, depression may be an issue that needs attention. Don’t limit yourself to the four seasons, either. Back-to-school season, for example, is a good time to talk about concussions as students resume athletic activities.
How can you find these topics? Note the questions your patients ask, monitor conversations on social media or in your own staff’s break room, or set up Google alerts for certain keywords. When you develop the habit of looking for these types of topics, you’ll find them everywhere.
Once you’ve chosen a topic that seems to be getting a lot of attention, figure out your angle. Is a health issue being misrepresented in the media in a way that you can correct in your post? Is there too much speculation and misinformation floating around that you want to address? Is there a specific neurological angle that applies specifically to your patients?
There are many ways you can approach the topic rather than a straight “here is the info about the disease” approach. That’s what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does, but you can tailor your info to your specific patient population.
Just remember that if you run across health news on TV or the internet, your patients probably see it, too. Become the friendly expert by writing about those topics you come across in an approachable but evidence-based way. This is a valuable resource for your patients, and a great way to build your reputation with your patients and the community.