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Your Healthcare Content Should Never Use This Word: 4 Reasons Why

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Writing good healthcare content that motivates users to convert isn’t easy. It takes time and effort to build trust with a consumer and help them feel comfortable taking the next step with your organization. And there’s one word that will never help you in those efforts. That word should never appear on your consumer-facing website or outreach materials.

This word isn’t foul, dirty or crass. It’s not rude or vulgar. But it is an omen of a poor user experience. And it may be on your website right now. It’s a red flag for hard-to-understand content. It’s a signal that this content is not patient-centric. In short, you should never write this word on anything a potential patient or caregiver would see.

This word is: “multidisciplinary.”

You may be thinking that the word isn’t so bad. It’s a mouthful, but it’s nothing harmful. But, in fact, this word is a sign that your healthcare organization’s content is in desperate need of an overhaul for four key reasons.

1. No one knows what it means

Patient-facing healthcare content should be as simple and frictionless for consumers as possible. I’d prefer if consumers read every single word I put on a page, but I know they don’t and won’t. Researchers consistently find that users read the first few lines and then scan down the page for the information they want.

That means your content has to be simple and straightforward so users can understand it while only devoting a fraction of their attention to it. This has translated to a few rules (written and unwritten) of the internet:

  • Choose short words when possible
  • Use the simplest terms possible to convey your meaning
  • Write to about a middle school reading level (seventh or eighth grade, though some organizations aim for lower)

“Multidisciplinary” violates all three of those rules. Just using a seven-syllable word means the sentence is going to be longer than normal. There are many options that users will understand more easily (“team-based,” “working together,” etc. — even “collaborative,” at five syllables, is an improvement). And longer words and longer sentences translate to higher reading levels.

For the average healthcare consumer, encountering “multidisciplinary” means they must stop and think. That interrupts the scanning process and delays them from reaching their goal. Perhaps they have to parse it out or glean its meaning from context. Oftentimes, that’s effort the consumer is unable or unwilling to spend — so they’ll find some other organization that better meets their needs.

2. But everyone keeps using the word anyway

We see a lot of healthcare content as part of our healthcare content auditing process. And “multidisciplinary” pops up all the time. It’s usually part of an organization’s value proposition — the area of their content where they showcase what makes them special or describe why they’re different from their competitors. It can take varied forms:

  • “As part of our unique multidisciplinary approach …”
  • “Our unmatched multidisciplinary team …”
  • “This multidisciplinary clinic …”

Physicians we speak to in subject-matter-expert (SME) interviews routinely suggest that their organizations’ multidisciplinary methodology sets them apart from the competition. It’s so groundbreaking that they simply must include it in their content.

If everyone’s doing the same thing, why is it so special? It’s not something users expect to find when they browse your site, like online forms, phone numbers or provider listings. All it does is perpetuate the false notion that there’s nothing that sets your organization apart from other providers. Truly standing apart means finding a different, better way to shine the spotlight on your providers and their expertise. That could mean showcasing your team-based approach to care through a case study or a patient profile, rather than simply saying you’re different and expecting the user to take your word for it.

3. ‘Multidisciplinary’ signals content by physicians and for physicians

On one level, healthcare consumers expect your digital content to come from your providers. That’s why we emphasize a caring, personal tone in your content. You should use first-person and second-person references (“we,” “you,” etc.) to write to the user as though you’re sitting and talking with them in the same room. You want users to feel like they’re hearing directly from the doctor who’s going to care for them.

When we see “multidisciplinary” in healthcare content, it often appears alongside content written in the cold, clinical style of a journal article — third-person references to “the patient” and “the physician,” with little emotional validation.

That style of writing makes total sense for its intended audience — other physicians. But it’s not appropriate for a consumer, who’s seeking understanding and reassurance that someone is there to help them in what’s possibly the scariest point in their lives. That’s why writing for a healthcare persona is so critical and why physicians often need help crafting content for their patients.

Physicians are great at what they do. But effectively writing to the patient experience often needs a different mindset. Word choice and tone help set the stage for your users’ experience and can help smooth the process of these users becoming patients.

4. It promotes the organization at the expense of the patient

Inherently, “multidisciplinary” is a word that applies only to your organization and its providers. It’s important to help healthcare consumers understand what they can expect when they seek care from your providers. There should be simple, easy-to-understand information about:

  • What sets your providers apart from competitors
  • What your team does differently or more of than others
  • Why the care you provide is better than the care available elsewhere

But your content has to thread the needle between focusing on “we” and focusing on “you.” Users want you to speak to the experience they’ll have as patients. They want to discuss what they can expect from the diagnostic and treatment process. They want you to show them what support services are available, both for patients and caregivers. And they want to read and view stories from patients who have been where they are and have had positive outcomes.

In short, they need to be able to see themselves as your organization’s patients. And if you’re too busy talking about how “multidisciplinary” your team is to address the experience your users can expect, they’ll seek out someone who’s more willing to speak to them.

Share a better story with your consumers

Banishing “multidisciplinary” to the thesaurus is only one step your organization can take to improve your digital experience. We work with clients across the country who want to streamline their healthcare content and help users find the care they need. Contact us to learn more about our comprehensive healthcare content solutions.

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Michael Adkins, Senior Content Strategist, Digital Health Strategy

As part of Perficient's Digital Health Strategy team, Michael partners with healthcare organizations to create informative, conversion-centered content for a variety of applications, including websites and blogs. Michael writes content that highlights clients’ service-line offerings, expertise in unique treatments, differentiators in competitive markets and additional factors that are important to patients.

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