SEO, Patient Experts and the Hybrid Specialist

This is a post where I will be talking about a few things. The concept of being a “hybrid” specialist, the magical, mystical world of search engine optimisation (SEO), and the need for open communications between doctors and patients.

Sounds exhausting, right?

Actually, it’s my world. I saw this tweet shared on social media this week and just about fell off my chair at how seen I felt!

Find the original tweet here. Full credit to Jack Appelby for making me feel validated in my strange mashup of career choice

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) And Patient Experts

“Googling symptoms only tells you which diseases have the best SEO”

Never a truer word was spoken. Search Engine Optimization, or SEO is an important tool for anyone working with online content. You can write brilliant articles, or have amazing insights, but the reality is, unless people can find your content, your manifesto can lurk around in the dark depths of the internet (or page 3 of Google).

Google does prioritze pages from hospitals, and reputable sources like research centers and medical journals. This isn’t always guaranteed though, and any SEO specialist can capitalize on short and long tail keywords, and direct traffic to a less reputable source, or even outdated information.

stephanie ernst what have you googled

Patients are told not to Google. It can lead to further anxiety and worries and even bad information. This particular tweet we’re talking about does actually reinforce this. The information you find can also be not relevant to your situation. It may not be within the scope of your national guidelines, or worse, the wrong diagnosis. But as humans, we will ignore the best advice and go against this. It’s to satisfy our curiousity and sometimes, our worries about what’s wrong with us.

What’s the perfect balance? For doctors, this can be as simple as asking a patient “What have you Googled recently?”. For patients, this can be openly admitting what you found online and having a conversation about this. You can discuss rationally and calmly the pros and cons of any online information.

Don’t Be Afraid Of Google

Googling a diagnosis can be problematic, and as we’ve already seen above, it does actually show that the information is reliant on the searches and keywords that are performed. However, building a good relationship with patients is where they feel comfortable discussing their searches and findings with care providers. It means taking on board their findings, which can help patients more than you realise.

As a patient expert, this is based on my own experience and that of what I see within the community. We do actively seek answers for questions, and that will mean that we go to the nearest point of convenience – search engines and social media. Patients seek their peers and easy to access information so they can wrap their minds around what is in front of them. The easier and faster the information is to find, the better they feel about taking charge of what can be a very unknown situation.

“You treat a disease, you win, you lose. You treat a person, I guarantee you, you’ll win, no matter what the outcome.”

— Patch Adams

SEO is fascinating, and it’s something that I love to talk about and work with, especially when it comes to writing. It really comes down to acknowledging that not all information online is reliable. That’s why it’s important to have open conversations in the world of medicine – patients benefit from the insights that both online and in-person experts can provide. Experts can benefit from helping patients understand what they’re reading online, but how this information fits into their diagnosis. This particular tweet was written for me – a hybrid specialist in SEO and a patient expert.

The Hybrid Specialist

Finally, this post has a partial credit to Dr Suzy Edge. I saw her earlier this week speaking about being a hybrid specialist on TikTok. She’s a medical doctor/historian and sometimes struggles to find credibility in both fields. (PS. Read her book, Mortal Monarchs. I recommend it if you’re into factual history!)

I definitely have some interesting niches I’m combining here – content and digital marketing specialisations, along with talking about twins. It’s a bit easier to assert myself in my content and SEO niche, but having your voice heard as a parent in the world of twins is tough.

SEO, Patient Experts and the Hybrid Specialist stephanie ernst
Not quite the hybrid specialist I claim to be. But still a cool picture.

I find it hard to be taken seriously, even when I’ve publications to my name and have started a charity for twin-specific diseases. Many patient experts report how difficult it’s for them to make their voices heard in their niches. This is despite the fact that many of them are active in their particular field. They publish research papers, speak about their experiences, and are consulted on clinical trials and research.

I wish I could give a reason as to why. I simply don’t know. Perhaps it’s from past experiences, but there’s been times where I’ve felt like I’m “just another mummy blogger” when talking with doctors. (and a deep dive could probably expose some imposter syndrome, and probably some insecurities, but that’s a me thing.) I don’t profess to be an expert, but I do bring a valuable point of view. The patient perspective is becoming increasingly important in the field of research.

It All Comes Down To This

I’m not out to tell experts how to do their jobs, but rather bring to them the views of the general patient population. In return, I can help bring back the right information to patients, via research updates.

I’m a hybrid specialist. I’m here to help you and foster better relationships with care professionals and research, and also here to create amazing content that will take you to the top of the Google searches. But most importantly, I’m here to support patients, researchers and clients through the challenges of a complicated diagnosis.

Take advantage of my diverse skillset. This is true of all patient experts out there – we want to work with you to improve outcomes for our communities.

So, yeah, it IS a bit of a strange hybrid to be a content specialist AND a twin patient expert. But I’d love to work with you to share my experiences and get fantastic outcomes together. It doesn’t matter if it’s content or patient experiences. That bit we can work on ;).