6 Tough Questions: Content and Creative Services in Healthcare

2/3/2021 Nicole Williams

6 Tough Questions: Content and Creative Services in Healthcare

“Playing catch-up” — that might be the quickest way to describe the current state of content marketing in the healthcare industry.

From outdated clinical content to overstretched in-house teams to multichannel distribution, there’s a strong chance healthcare marketers feel like the odds are starting to stack against them. It may be time to seek out some help.

For a second opinion, here's our take on the current state of healthcare content as well as some useful insight into where it's heading. 

What trends are proving out as serious challenges for healthcare content?

There are three dominant trends in healthcare content. First, there are many pockets of content that haven’t been updated and refreshed, so there’s a need to modernize that content and make it more hip and relevant to readers. Second, there’s an overwhelming proliferation of content, and marketing teams are pressured to produce. There’s also a push toward personalization, and this is driving a demand for tailored, segmented content.

We live in a world where the consumer has multiple ways to consume content, and those methods of consumption continue to grow while distribution channels continue to widen. Content must be versatile and distributed in multiple formats, whether online, via email, through social channels or other digital elements. Not to mention, print plays into all of this. 

ON-DEMAND WEBINAR: 2021 Communication Trends Driving Higher Patient Engagement 

A full year into the pandemic, how can healthcare organizations adapt to remain a trusted resource for information?

When seeking information, patients have never had as many options as they do right now.  And with misinformation running rampant, a healthcare organization must compete to not only have its voice heard, but also be deemed trustworthy. Basic steps to achieving this can be as simple as clearly citing factual information from reputable sources, organizations, and federal agencies within the content and communications you produce. 

As we live through this pandemic, payer and provider organizations must never compromise their commitment to what it is the majority of their plan members and patients are seeking: content that is ethical, accurate, and reliable.

How can the content creation process better align with compliance requirements?

While larger entities struggle with the demand for content that speaks to individual members, they’re also wrestling with how to execute content efficiently across multiple platforms using different vendors and in-house teams. We’re seeing a number of small in-house teams challenged to generate on-brand content that is approved by CMS (The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services).

Version control is another struggle. These organizations are in a regulated, compliance-driven environment and their partners must be on track with the latest version. It sounds simple, but it’s not. One of the ways we’ve helped our clients is by providing them with content that we know is going to get through CMS compliance. Having a partner that gets it can help collapse turn times and accelerate materials to market.

What's the upside for healthcare organizations choosing to outsource their content and creative services work?

We need to be careful with the term outsource. Many times, in-house teams control the front end of processes. We look at how we can complement and plug in to existing infrastructure and teams. And, there are a few ways to do that. For larger organizations with infrastructure in place, they might need help implementing a process where a partner can create those versions and write copy, find the right imagery, and format files before handing them off to an in-house team.

An ability to resource-up so organizations can expand or contract based on their needs is a real benefit. In many ways, healthcare is highly seasonal. It’s easier for our clients to push overflow work to us rather than creating a posting for a full- or part-time employee.

Also, having a partner that is tightly connected to the industry is important. Oftentimes, pieces are designed by someone in a bubble, and while they might look great, they are not executed in an economical, efficient way. Working with a creative partner who understands what it takes to actually get these pieces into the communications stream is essential.

Regarding healthcare content, what do you see on the horizon?

Healthcare and related organizations are looking to be more proactive. For example, when they recognize their constituents speak another language, a translated version of the content is created. However, we’re seeing this go beyond just translating the words on the page, but actually designing a piece that aligns with different cultures’ constituents. We refer to that as transcreation.

They are trying to create more material for more channels. There are regulated printed pieces, but there’s complimentary material placed on a member portal or distributed and linked out through email. So, it’s about being proactive by giving end-users multiple ways to look at materials, and taking a layered approach with print, digital and video.

More organizations are embracing that content marketing needs to be part of the upfront thought process. They’re focusing more on how material is going to be distributed and presented to align with different member profiles and cultures.

For example, one health plan we work with is engaging with expectant mothers based on scenarios they can relate to. The team is reaching out to members individually via text to alert them of events and information. So, while most of what we are talking about is program-focused, there is also a sporadic, ad-hoc kind of approach where plans are trying to be flexible and really talk to members — have a conversation with them about what matters in their lives.

At what point do most clients begin outsourcing their content and creative services?

There’s a mix that’s often dictated by size or need. We’ve had clients who are having a code red. They are dealing with compliance issues and it’s all hands on deck. We can step in and provide scale and resources quickly for those clients. But more often than not, clients have projects that need updating and there is a desperate need for fresh content. 

A lot of this can be very tactical and process-driven. With the volume and demand for content today, we must remember that healthcare organizations are dealing with specific, intricate information related to individuals and specific scenarios. They have tight timelines. Fundamentally, healthcare content needs a sound, tactical workflow process and approach in place paired with the resources that can deploy projects effectively.


Nicole Williams is Director of the Healthcare Practice for RRD Healthcare Solutions and Patrick Karker drives business development for RRD GO Creative.


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