Ahava Leibtag is passionate about content and prides herself on tackling the toughest content projects - from healthcare to higher education to hip-hop (seriously). With more than 15 years of experience in writing, messaging, and marketing, we were excited to welcome her insight into healthcare content and the patient decision process in our latest webinar, “Improving the Patient Experience (PX) through Content.”

Ahava guided us through four aspects of creating and understanding patient experience through content. She explained not only how to create engaging content, but how to engage people by talking to them about what they want to talk about. The key isn’t to just tell your audience what you want them to hear – it’s telling them what they need to hear as well. This can be accomplished by keeping the following in mind:

  • People move through a buying process. Support those multiple touchpoints with strategic content.
  • Content has three basic parts.
  • Support the patient experience through different types of engagement
  • Use feedback to create better content.

1) People move through a buying process. Support those multiple touchpoints with strategic content.

In order to provide strategic customer content, you must first understand customer behaviour on your website. Sketch out a “customer journey” to explore how potential patients navigate your website. What are they looking for? What information should be presented first? Do they already have a physician in mind, or do they want to learn more about your entire team?


Webinar_Chart2Customer journeys should mirror a four-step process: need (what’s wrong), awareness (what questions they have, where they can find answers), engagement (they read or consume your content), and decision (saying, “Yes, this is the place I belong, I will call and make an appointment.”)

This decision-making/buying process actually reflects the learning process we all experience. John Hopkins uncovered the learning process when they noticed experienced surgeons were having difficulty translating their expertise to younger surgeons – a rather critical issue at a teaching hospital. After years with the scalpel, the experienced surgeons’ knowledge was second nature, a sixth sense that was challenging to articulate. John Hopkins discovered that in order to gain this intuitive knowledge, we all must move through a similar sequence:


Webinar_Chart1Most people start off as unconsciously incompetent. They don’t even know what they don’t know. They aren’t aware that they’re missing information. As we realize there’s something not quite right, we transition to conscious incompetence, awareness of what we don’t know. Once we’re aware of lack of information or skills, we correct it by conscious competence, actually learning what we don’t know. Finally, after practice and experience, we arrive at unconscious competence, when the information we didn’t even realize we were missing in the beginning becomes second nature.

As potential patients start their customer journeys and move from unconscious incompetence to competence, we have to provide different content at different stages in order to empower them to make a final decision. They have to feel educated enough by website content to make potentially life-altering healthcare choices.

So, what does that content look like?

2) Content has three basic parts.

The three parts of content are information, format, and distribution. We start with the basics: what information are we trying to relay? Who are we talking to? Once we have the details, we can consider which format is best for our audience and information. Would a blog post be the best avenue, a checklist, or a video? What format is our audience most likely to engage with? Format directly influences distribution. Should we disseminate the content through a video hosted on Youtube, maybe a patient interview, or should we embed the video directly on our website?

The answers to these questions all come from knowing your audience and their journey. As a healthcare marketer/provider, the vast amount of available content can feel overwhelming. However, by knowing your audience, you can repurpose content in multiple ways. A patient interview can be hosted on Youtube, but also shared via an e-mail newsletter or as a quote in a social media graphic. The possibilities are endless.

3) Support the patient experience through different types of engagement.

All three parts of content are dictated by how you want your audience to be engaged. In order to decide what information your content should contain, the format, and the distribution method, you must also decide whether you want to encourage audience development, or relationship building.

Content aimed at audience development attracts, validates, and retains patients. Once you have your audience, you can build a relationship with them through communication, education, and interaction. But the key to both is

inspiration - inspire patients and customers throughout the entire process. Inspiring your audience activates their limbus system, igniting their flight or fight response. It doesn’t have to be a viral video, but people want to be validated by their feelings to buy. After you’ve developed your audience and built a relationship with them, keep communicating! Keep patients engaged in the process. This can be done through educational and awareness efforts, whether it’s a Health 101 checklist on Pinterest or a social media post asking patients how to best support loved ones with cancer.

4) Use feedback to create better content.

Even with a stable, engaged audience, content creation is an ongoing process. Incorporating patient feedback can help you continue to create successful content, and possibly reveal some potholes in your current strategy. The first stop for feedback is analytics. Examine your website traffic and see which pages users are visiting more. Do a user journey to find out why, then revise your content based on what people are doing. In many cases, what you might think is working may not be engaging for patients at all. As Ahava cautioned in the beginning of the webinar, we must engage people by talking to them about what they want to talk about.

For example, Ahava’s team gathered common phrases found on the top 50 cancer websites. During a project at Seattle Children’s Hospital, the team surveyed patients to see which terms would actually persuade them to make an appointment at said hospital. Interestingly, terms like “world-class” and “advanced” and “cutting-edge” only influenced roughly a quarter of patient decisions. In contrast, only 17 of the top websites used “compassionate,” while 47% of users said that the term influenced their decision. Even more eye-opening is the fact that only a single top 50 cancer website used the term “patient-focused,” but 70% of users said that seeing “patient-focused” would persuade them to book an appointment.

There’s a disparity between what we think patients want to hear and what they actually want to hear. In order to create content that improves the patient experience, we must have conversations with patients that the patients themselves want to have, about things that matter to them. To learn more, visit Ahava Leibtag at

ahamediagroup.com or watch the on-demand webinar recording via the link below.


Watch the Webinar: