How to Start a Health or Medical Blog

Introduction - Starting a Health or Medical Blog

Health and Medical blogging
Starting a health or medical blog can help you help others.. Microsoft Image Gallery

So many of the people who find their way to the Patient Empowerment site here do so because they have had a health challenge themselves, or challenges as caregivers. Devastating diagnoses, medical mistakes, difficult doctors, health insurance nightmares and more... They seek a way to share their experiences. I often recommend they start a blog to help others who share their health challenges, because (as my grandmother use to tell me) "Trouble shared is trouble halved."

Starting a blog doesn't have to be difficult. In fact, it can offer a huge sense of accomplishment. No matter what your experience with the health system - good, bad, improving or getting worse - writing a blog can be a very positive experience for you. It can help you sort through your medical information, work through anger, share good news, teach others, invite ideas and more.

Click through these steps to setting up a successful health or medical blog.

Next up: Understanding what a blog is will help you be successful with your blog.

Understand What a Blog Is and What Blogging Means

A blog is a "web log" - a record of thoughts, events, feelings, experiences and more over a period of time, revolving around any subject. The best blogs improve the quality of life for both the writer and the reader. Blogs are a form of social media.

The word "blog" is both a noun and a verb. A blog is an entire body of writing, like a diary, at one web address. As a verb, "to blog" means to write one entry in one's blog. A blogger is the person who writes a blog.

A health or medical blog is simply a blog that focuses on any sort of medical, preventive, experiential, political or other health-related topic.

Some blogs are written by formal organizations like businesses, non-profits or even governments. Others are written by individuals. A blog may be shared by two or more people with a common interest. Or a blog may be an individual's effort - one blogger's thoughts, experiences and advice.

To find examples of health blogs and bloggers, do a quick search using a handful of keywords in a topic you're interested in, plus the word "blog." You'll find hundreds, maybe thousands on any given topic. 

Next up: Determine your blog's topic and goals.

Determine Your Blog's Topic and Goals

What is the basis for your interest in starting a blog? Are you looking for a way to share your experience? Do you want to promote a certain type of exercise or nutritional approach to a healthy life? Do you need a catharsis for a bad medical outcome? Do you have opinions about healthcare reform or other more political health topics?

As you define your topic, be sure to keep it broad enough that you can blog about topics that support yours. For example, a blog about having the flu would be limited - you would run out of things to say about the experience. However, blogging about a pandemic, and your experience as one of its victims could encompass many aspects of public health, illness, vaccines, contagion and more.

Your goals will reflect your topic and what you want the outcomes to be from your writing. Your goals might be to make sure others understand the perils of tick bites or to be a central place where people who share a rare disease with you can find new information about possible treatments. Your goal can also be personal - to promote your expertise as a fundraiser for a disease-related organization or to help sell the book you've written about a health topic.

Examples of good health blog topics:

  • A disease or condition, and your experience with it as a patient or a caregiver.
  • Your experience with unexplained symptoms and getting them diagnosed and treated.
  • A medical mistake you or a loved one experienced. (My experience is a good example.)
  • Your approach to wellness.
  • How you help others with their medical challenges (perhaps as a patient advocate or navigator)
  • Government policy and your opinion.
  • Money saving ideas for patients.

Next up: Name your blog.

Name Your Health or Medical Blog

Name your blog something that will give readers a taste of what you'll be writing about, and will reflect your goals for writing it. Naming a blog "Heart Disease Blog" is very descriptive and people with interest in heart disease will read it. If your name is Fred, and you had a heart attack you want to blog about, then naming it "Fred's Blog" won't bring readers as readily because readers won't realize your topic is heart disease. You might choose to name it "Fred's Heart Disease Blog instead.

However, don't name your blog something too specific, either. Just like choosing your topic, you'll want a little wiggle room for writing, too. If it's too specific, you'll run out of things to write about.

Good name ideas:

Next up: Choosing your platform, getting registered and choosing a template.

Choose Your Platform, Register Your Blog and Choose a Template

Your platform is the software you use for putting your blog online. You don't need anything special on your computer. There are many web applications for creating blogs, and many of them are low or no cost.

Either or are good choices- they are both free, and easy to set up. There are dozens more blogging platforms - choose what you like. I focus on these two only because they are so easy to use.


I use Wordpress for my personal blog. It's intuitive, easy to use, and has good documentation if you ever need it.

Your platform decision might be based on the availability of your name. Say you've decided to name your blog "Marcia's Colon Cancer Blog." You might find that title is available at Blogger, but not Wordpress, or vice-versa.

Once you've chosen your platform, you'll sign up for that service by registering your blog's name. You'll end up with a login and password that will let you in to the administrative area where you will control all aspects of your blog.

In the administrative area, you'll be provided many options for choosing everything from colors to page heads to widgets. 

Next up: Get started with your writing.

Get Started with Your Writing

Once you've got some of the administrative details taken care of, just start writing!

As you write, you'll want to remember a few basics for determining the content of your blog:

Focus on your goals. If your goal is to become the most highly trusted and regarded patient advocate who works one-on-one with patients in Timbuktu, you will write about some very different topics than someone who wants to be known as THE pharmaceutical police. Not that you wouldn't choose some similar topics - you might - but overall your blogs will have a very different tone and content.

Talk about your experience, share others' experiences - focus on your topic and pull in aspects that are just outside your topic so you can draw in additional readers (for example, even though I deal specifically with patient empowerment, sometimes I also talk about wider health insurance issues, even healthcare reform and politics).

Next up: Get found by search engines, and get found by readers, too.

Get Found By and In Search Engines

The point of writing your blog will probably be so that the right people can find it, and read it. To be found, you have to show up in search engines. If you have chosen one of the more popular blogging platforms like Wordpress or Blogger, then Google, Yahoo, Bing and others will begin to find your blog automatically.

If you don't use a better known blogging platform, then you may have to submit your blog to search engines to be found.

The other important step is to pepper your blog posts with keywords. Keywords are those words people might type into a search engine to learn more about your topic. The best way to determine what the best keywords are is to put yourself in your readers' shoes. So, for example, if you want to write about diabetes, you might use terms like insulin, blood glucose, pancreas and others.

Expand on your keywords, too. For example, if you are a patient advocate working in a certain location, be sure to use the name of your location if that's important to your work. If you had an experience with a local hospital or doctor, then your location might be important, too. (See the warning in Step #10 about using specific names.)

Next up: Promote your blog to be found by more readers.

Promote Your Blog

Once you've got a few weeks and many posts for your blog under your belt, then there are three ways to begin promoting your blog:

  • Go to other online forums and message boards (, IVillage, Huffington Post, news and media sites, etc) and respond to other's posts. Use a signature with your name and blog address (which creates links TO your blog), and soon you'll find others are checking you out. You'll begin to build a readership.
  • Consider doing the same at Twitter and Facebook, too. If you go to Twitter, then follow me – when I can return the favor, I will follow back. Become a Facebook friend/fan at EveryPatientsAdvocate -- and let me know how to become one of your friends/fans, too.
  • Submit your blog address to some of the blog directories and search engines like or

Next up: Some health blog "do's" - tips for making your health or medical blog more readable and findable.

Some Health Blog Do's: Tips for Making Your Health or Medical Blog More Readable

If you decide to share private information, just remember it will no longer be private once you share it.

As much as you can, keep your posts useful and positive. I don't mean turn your bad experiences into good ones. Instead, create useful information from your experience. In my case, I could dwell on my misdiagnosis (not useful to anyone), or I could provide useful advice to help others avoid misdiagnosis - certainly more useful.

Keep your posts short. I’ve heard the pros say that the ideal post is 300 words, and I’ve heard them say the ideal post is 500 words. I violate this rule all the time – but I want you to know what the pros say.

It’s important to have as many links coming in TO your blog as possible. That’s not the same as the number of links that go from your blog to other sites. The more links TO your blog, the more the search engines consider you to be an “authority,” the higher your blog will rise in the search engines, and the more chances your potential clients will find you. See the blog promotion ideas for ways to create these links.

Write regularly. The more frequently you write, the more frequently your work will be "crawled" (discovered) by search engines, and the quicker new readers will find you.

Be authentic - be yourself. When you are genuine, and write from your heart, your readers will sense that and will be more likely to engage with you.

Don't be afraid to be controversial. It's a great way to grab readers' attention and when they respond, you might learn something from them. (This happens to me all the time!)

If you want to be humorous, go for it! But be sure the reader knows it's your sense of humor shining through. A sarcastic comment is easily misconstrued when the reader can't read your tone of voice.

Engage your audience. Ask for your readers' input. Ask them to comment, or email you or share their opinions. The best bloggers learn as much from responses as they share with their readers.

Next up: Some health blog "don'ts" - things to avoid.

Some Health Blog Don'ts - Aspects of Blogging to Avoid

Unless you are a medical professional, don't give medical advice. Talking about your own experience is a good idea. But recommending medical treatments, or trying to diagnose someone else can be dangerous.

Don't execute a vendetta by focusing anger on one healthcare professional or facility in your blog. Avoid using specific doctor's, hospital's or other names when you are angry, even if your purpose is to expose them. It's too easy to cross the line to libel or slander and you could get yourself into legal problems. It could even get you blacklisted.

Don't pretend to know things you don't know. And don't pretend to be someone you aren't. Remember, real human beings will be reading your blog, and if you state something as a fact that is really only your opinion, they may act on it, even if that's foolish and dangerous.

Don't be afraid to respond to a comment by saying "I don't know" or "I'm sorry." As bloggers, we are also human beings. We can't know everything! We also make mistakes and should be open minded enough to learn from others and change our opinions, if that makes sense.

Don't pretend to be someone or something you aren't. This is more difficult to quantify, but claiming to have knowledge you don't have, or pretending you have had an experience you haven't had will get you into trouble in the long run. Your readers will sense that you don't know what you are talking about.

Don't preach. There's a difference sharing experiences and advice - vs - preaching. An approach that sounds like "this is what I have learned and it might work for you, too" is far more readable and acceptable than "do it this way or else!" If you preach, you'll likely lose your audience, or you won't develop one to begin with.


There are some great resources for you to use as you develop your blog, listed below.

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