What You Should Know About Jargon’s Effect on Your Healthcare Marketing

When you’re entrenched in the business of healthcare, it feels natural to use medical terminology in your healthcare marketing materials. To consumers, though, you might as well be speaking a different language, sparking frustration or disinterest that turns them away from your brand.

Your marketing strategy is designed to connect with people across many channels and keep them engaged with your brand. But hospital jargon can interfere with that strategy at best and make your brand seem superior, detached, or out of touch at worst. Using clear, accessible language will help you connect with consumers, keeping them engaged and making your marketing more effective.

5 Common Mistakes To Watch For

In order to connect with patients, you need to use language that shows your brand is conscious of your audience. This means avoiding excessive medical references or focuses. Healthcare marketing materials become bogged down with jargon by:

  1. Focusing on Procedures, Not How They Help: When discussing treatment options, highlight how they’ll improve quality of life, not what the treatment consists of. Patients won’t always understand medical procedures, and descriptions can exacerbate fears or sound unsettling.
    For instance, if you’re marketing a laparoscopic surgery, avoid discussing incision sites or the steps involved. Instead, focus on how the procedure is minimally invasive, has a fast recovery time, and doesn’t sacrifice being a beneficial solution to achieve good results.
  2. Repurposing Content That Addresses Medical Professionals: Repurposing content can save time, but avoid repurposing content originally aimed at medical professionals (such as for a conference or training). Content like this uses high-level medical jargon, like procedure or anatomy descriptions, that won’t connect with patients. When used on websites or blogs, it can make patients click away, dismissing your organization.
  3. Using Vague Terms With Different Connotations in the Medical Field: Some terms may not be medical jargon – like “diet” and “exercise” – but may still have different connotations for patients. You may use diet to refer to their general food intake, but patients can perceive it as a restrictive or limited eating plan. When you say exercise, you could mean low-impact activities like swimming or biking, but it may evoke images of treadmills and dumbbells in patients’ minds. Consider how patients will interpret your language, and be specific.
  4. Relying on Titles to Convey Information or Authority: Your organization and its providers might have impressive reputations in the medical community, but this doesn’t always translate to patient recognition. Instead of just using a name and title (like “Dr. Smith, pulmonary specialist”), be descriptive. Mention credentials and experience, and briefly list conditions or symptoms they treat (like COPD or shortness of breath). This will help patients understand if your organization is the right provider for them.
  5. Using Keywords That Won’t Reach Prospective Patients: If you’re using SEO practices, use keywords and terms that patients would use. Focusing on medical terms as your keywords may keep patients from finding your content. For example, most people would search “heart doctor,” not “cardiologist.”

What You Can Do to Provide Clear Messaging

To write clear, effective healthcare marketing materials that connect with patients, keep in mind the following:

  1. Use a Conversational Tone: Write as if you’re talking to a friend who isn’t a medical expert. Rather than formal and academic, it should sound relaxed and friendly. Aim for a sixth-grade reading level, which will connect with most average consumers.
  2. Be Short and Direct: Use short, succinct sentences and short, common words. Break content up into digestible paragraphs, using bullet points, tables, or numbered lists where needed. When giving instructions or recommendations, use an active voice. “Walk half an hour daily” will carry more weight than “It’s recommended to walk for at least half an hour each day.”
  3. Explain Where Necessary: Sometimes medical terminology is unavoidable, such as when naming a procedure or illness. When you use medical jargon, provide a brief explanation to go with it. For example, if you refer to a benign polyp, explain that it means a noncancerous growth.
  4. Use Reference Texts: If you’re struggling to eliminate hospital jargon, keep a plain language reference book at hand. Several plain-language dictionaries offer alternatives to medical terminology, which can help you connect with patients. The CDC has helpful resources on this, including a checklist for accessible materials.
  5. Get Feedback: If you aren’t working with sensitive or confidential materials, ask a friend or colleague (such as an administrative assistant) with limited medical knowledge to read over your piece. Have them highlight confusing or lengthy sections. For formal feedback, employ these testing processes.

Because you want to make the most of your content throughout various channels to gain marketing share, you need to make that content just as accessible in its messaging. For help crafting clear content and an effective healthcare marketing strategy, contact LIGHTSTREAM today.