Delight, Not Dread: Changing the Way Doctors Feel About Online Health Information

a framed sign on a wall that reads "Please DO NOT Confuse Your Google Search with my Medical Degree"

Here’s a meme making the social rounds among healthcare professionals: “Please don’t confuse your Google search with my medical degree.” Instead, Healthline wants doctors to say: “Thank you for coming in prepared and informed.”


Doctors have historically hated it when patients come in convinced that the internet has given them all the answers. Consumers on the other hand, feel like they’ve benefited tremendously. Despite some of the misinformation out there, the internet has enabled consumers to feel empowered to be in better control of their health. And there’s no turning back.

Clearly, health professionals and digital health content need to find a way to co-exist in far better harmony. And it is critical that media buyers, planners, and pharma marketers align their advertising with digital health content providers that have found that harmonious balance with health professionals.

Healthline’s Senior Director, Medical Affairs, Hanh Le, is on a mission to change doctors’ negative perception of digital health information by creating healthcare content that doctors welcome, not worry about. She shares her philosophy and approach, and takes you behind the scenes to see how the team at Healthline is dedicated to ensuring medical accuracy.

The Role of Medical Affairs

Medical Affairs teams are tasked with ensuring that their organizations’ content, products, and services uphold the highest standards of medical integrity in order to be acceptable to the medical professions they serve. Medical Affairs in most organizations tends to include an internal, dedicated staff, which is supplemented by an external clinician network representing functions and specialties across the medical spectrum.

At most organizations, including Healthline, Medical Affairs is an ongoing process, because:

  • New content (or products or services) is constantly being created and requires review.
  • Ongoing updates to clinical guidelines, drug approvals or recalls, and practice recommendations prompt ongoing reviews of existing content.
  • The standards of care for some conditions, like cancer and diabetes, change very quickly, requiring more frequent rounds of review.

Four Principles That Guide the Medical Affairs Approach at Healthline

A screenshot of the Healthline website. The heading on the page reads "Allergies and Depression: The Surprising Connection" and next to the heading is a information block explaining the medical professional that review the article and their photo.

To be consumers’ ally in their pursuit of health and well-being, Healthline needs to secure the buy-in of the physicians who treat them. Here are four guiding principles that are altering the shape of content at Healthline and evoking physician appreciation.

1.  Digital Health Content Is an Integral Part of the Clinical Care Paradigm

Digital health content isn’t a separate industry or vertical; it’s a big and growing part of the actual care experience. When patients bring in health content, treatment recommendations, or discussion guides during their office visits, they’re meant to kickstart a frank discourse between the patient and clinician. That content needs to work in a way that’s seamlessly integrated into that doctor-patient relationship and should build bridges between patient and provider without any disruptions.

2.  Medical Accuracy Is Crucial… But We Need to Go Further

False information is being disseminated in all areas of media. But in healthcare, this can have grave consequences: Wrong information can lead to medical waste, negative outcomes, emotional turmoil, and increased risk for the organization. While being medically accurate has to be a requirement when you’re providing health information, you need to go further, to prevent panic at one end and passivity at the other. Health content needs to be comprehensive, balanced, internally consistent, and sensitive to the reader. 

3.  Medical Credibility Has Two Audiences: Professional and Consumer

One obvious aspect of medical credibility represents the field of medicine. But the other less obvious one has to do with building trust among consumers and patients. Your content must include the science and evidence needed to be seen as useful and actionable for non-medical readers. It should also reflect the best language to use to be in line with what the clinical and patient advocacy organizations would support.

4.  Even Non-Medical Content Needs a Medical Review

With the concept of health exploding, from genome to biome and all things in between, a big portion of the online health content being consumed falls into the “wellness” bucket. Most of the wellness content today comes from the personal perspective of health influencers. Even though it’s not technically medical content, consumers consume it in the same way, so it needs to be reviewed thoroughly, and all claims need to be validated. 

At Healthline, we work hard to represent the field of medicine with dignity and professionalism in order to establish Healthline as a trusted, authoritative brand. Hanh Le, our Senior Director of Medical Affairs, shares that she knows we’ve done our job when clinicians say, “Healthline? Yes, my patients read it all the time, and I send them there when I want them to understand something that I don’t have the time to cover in our office visits.” Come talk to us about why that’s important for your brand — and how you can benefit.

If you’d like to share your thoughts, or learn more about our standards of medical integrity and content review process, please email us at corpmarketing@healthline.com.

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