7 tips for working from home during COVID-19
As a freelance healthcare writer, I’ve worked from home for the last decade. I love it. I work at an antique roll top desk surrounded by objects that inspire me. I light my favorite candle—a holiday bayberry scent from Yankee Candle—to put me in the ‘writing mood.’ I even have an ergonomic footstool and a laptop stand for added comfort. However, this ideal work setting isn’t a reality for so many people who suddenly find themselves in a makeshift home office due to COVID-19. With that said, working from home during the pandemic is hard for all of us. I conduct most interviews against the backdrop of two screaming 17-month-old twins who are normally at daycare five days a week. I’m cramming 40 hours’ worth of work into three days so my wife and I can both continue to make money. I’m exhausted and running purely on adrenaline most days. I get it. If you truly want to be productive while working from home during COVID-19 (or any time for that matter), you need to be mindful about it. Here are seven tips to ease the transition:
- Set your alarm. Working from home does not mean you can wake up whenever you want. If you normally start your day at 9am, start your day at 9am. Structure is key during this time.
- Create a to-do list. Write down specific daily goals. Then consider working in blocks of time on each of those projects, and don’t forget to make time for lunch. For example, I’ll spend an hour from 9 to 10 working on story A, an hour from 10 to 11 working on story B, lunch from 11 to 11:30, conduct interviews from 11:30 to 3, and then respond to emails from 3 to 5. (Note: My day usually isn’t this straightforward, but the idea is to be deliberate with your time and how you’re spending it.)
- Use a white noise machine. If you’re like me, your kids are probably making a bunch of noise in the background as you try to work. A white noise machine, space heater, or even a small fan can help block that out to help keep you productive.
- Rethink your workspace. Luckily for me, I have a dedicated office space in a room where I can close the door. However, not everyone is that fortunate. If you need quiet while you work (which most of us do), you may need to consider setting up a space in your basement, walk-in closet, garage, back deck, front porch, or even in your car. It’s not ideal, but nothing about our current situation is ideal.
- Take breaks. I definitely need to take my own advice on this. I’m guilty of working through the entire day without every getting up from my desk. However, it’s a good mental break to walk around the house for a bit or go for a short walk outside. Even stepping out to get the mail or put laundry in the washer/dryer counts.
- Set boundaries. It’s okay to chat or go out to lunch with family and friends once in a while during your workday, but try not to make a habit of it. Your workday is your day of work, so the fewer interruptions, the better.
- Drink lots of coffee. You’re going to need it. It will keep you energized, awake, and focused on your work so you don’t feel tempted to go take a nap or binge on Netflix.
Stay healthy out there—both mentally and physically. One day down, many more to go.
7 tips to create a revenue-generating white paper
In the world of HIM, white papers are content marketing ‘gems’ that serve as informative reports or guides on oftentimes complex topics. They provide practical tips and strategies while subtly promoting a company’s products and services. White papers don’t overtly sell products–they covertly raise awareness of your company’s expertise. Following are seven tips to help you compose a white paper that educates, informs, and invites action that *hopefully* leads to a sale or two (or more) along the way.
1. Choose the right topic. Although a white paper shouldn’t overtly promote your products, it’s perfectly ok (and appropriate) to choose a topic that aligns with your sales goals. For example, if you’re launching a telemedicine platform, choose a topic that allows you to showcase your expertise (e.g., how to navigate telemedicine parity laws). If possible, ensure that your topic has a timely angle. For example, if you’re trying to expand your outsource coding business, consider a topic such as how outsource coders can help hospitals navigate value-based payment changes. Your white paper topic should be general enough to fill at least a couple of pages but not so general that reader walks away without any real practical information. It should also be a topic that will immediately gain a reader’s attention–especially if you’re hoping that they’ll provide contact information prior to downloading the content.
2. Know your audience. Brainstorm specific titles to target so you can write content with these individuals in mind. For example, a white paper on how to address common coding errors in ICD-10 will be very different depending on whether you’re targeting HIM directors vs. chief financial officers (CFO). HIM professionals may want a deeper dive into ICD-10 denials (and necessary coder education) while CFOs will want a higher-level discussion of how these denials affect the bottom line and what they can do about it.
3. Include a summary. Not everyone has time to read the entire white paper, so it’s always a good idea to include a short summary of the content. This is usually a short paragraph (5-6 sentences) that provides an overview of the topic and practical solutions.
4. Don’t overtly promote your products and services. As I mentioned, white papers are not sales sheets. With the exception of a call-to-action at the end of the white paper, they shouldn’t really even reference your specific products. The idea is that by sharing valuable information with potential customers, you’re building trust. That trust opens the door for potential sales in the future.
5. Give practical tips. After you provide some context for the issue at hand, switch gears into practical information that readers can use in their daily work. For example, when writing a white paper on how Medicare payment reform may affect small practices, provide tips on how physicians can choose MIPS quality measures that will most favorably affect their revenue. This should be the ‘meat’ of the white paper because it’s what readers tend to want the most — and it’s also what tends to inspire readers to reach out to you for more information about your products and services. The white paper should give them a taste of what you have to offer–not drown them in background information.
6. Use visuals and graphics. Visual elements add dimension to your white paper and can break up the text for ease of reading. For example, if you’re sharing CMS data, consider including it as a graph. Sidebars also work well — particularly for quick tips, at-a-glance statistics, or resources.
7. Remember that less is more. In the HIM industry, we’re all busy. Very few of us have the time to read a 10-page white paper, and even if we do, how much of it do we actually absorb? Potential clients want succinct and useful information that they can read in a matter of minutes — usually 5-7 minutes total. Keep this in mind as you draft your content. Longer isn’t necessarily better.
Who you gonna call?! Ghostwriters
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve talked to HIM subject matter experts who say the same thing: ‘I don’t have time to write, and I just can’t get motivated!’
If you’re working in the world of HIM (especially if you’ve established yourself as a thought leader), you’re probably bombarded with requests for content. Editors ask you to write articles for trade publications, the company for which you work asks you to write blogs, and your professional associations ask you to contribute articles to their journals. Regardless of the opportunity, all requests for content have one thing in common: They require time — the most precious commodity!
Even if you haven’t been asked to contribute content, there are many reasons to start looking for opportunities to author articles. For example, well-written content can open doors to new customers or potential employers who are impressed by what you have to say. It can also draw the attention of journalists looking for experts to interview. Content can also pave the path to speaking engagements or invitations to serve as a guest on a podcast. With good content, the possibilities are truly endless.
Some HIM subject matter experts love writing articles because it gives them a chance to step outside of their daily routines. They aren’t daunted by deadlines, grammar, outlines, etc. But many are just the opposite, and the idea of writing a 1,000-word article is as overwhelming as a massive documentation request from a Recovery Auditor during ICD-10 go-live. Is there any way to make the entire process less painful?
Yes. Enter the ghostwriter.
Ghostwriters are individuals who write content on behalf of others. Yes, you read that correctly — the ghostwriter does ALL of the writing. Their job is to articulate the author’s thoughts, ideas, and tone–all while adhering to pesky rules of grammar, word count restrictions, requirements for search engine optimization, a demand for hyperlinks, and more. Ghostwriters also often perform any background research necessary to supplement the topic, saving authors considerable time tracking down that one vital statistic to support an argument, for example. It’s a tall order, but completely do-able for a skilled ghostwriter.
The best part is that you get to share your awesome ideas — and put your best foot forward to potential customers (and peers) — without any of the hassle of writing. It also means that you get to spend more time doing what you do best: Focusing on HIM-related tasks and projects.
When I ghostwrite for clients, I often start by asking this question: What do you hope this content conveys? I try to keep this in mind as I’m writing and asking questions. I do compile questions in advance, but I also think it’s important to remain flexible as the conversation progresses. After all, it’s not my byline — it’s yours. The content needs to reflect your perspective, experience, and opinions.
As an HIM ghostwriter, my job is to translate your subject matter expertise into interesting and relatable content that captures readers’ attention. It’s a challenge that I enjoy, and I’m constantly humbled by the knowledge of the authors for whom I ghostwrite. Talk to me — and let me tell your story!
7 tips to make your case studies shine
Before we dive into what your case studies need, perhaps a more fitting question is: Have you created any? If not, well, what are you waiting for? Chances are, you’ve helped countless clients achieve stellar results over the years. Why not share some of your successes in narrative form? When well-written, case studies convey several key pieces of information to potential clients:
- Insider knowledge of the challenges that customers face on a daily basis
- Why your company is uniquely positioned to address these challenges
- The type of results that customers can expect when they work with you
Think of a case study as an in-depth testimonial. It’s an opportunity to highlight your customer’s hard work and success. It also showcases your ability to help solve a problem, address a challenge, or improve a process — all with quantifiable results.
Here are some tips to help you create a compelling case study:
Tip #1: Pick the right customer. Not every customer is willing (or able) to share their thoughts for a case study. For example, a customer may be open to the opportunity but prohibited by their HR department to speak about internal processes. Another customer might speak highly of your services but not yet have meaningful results to share. Pick someone who had a positive experience with your company, who achieved quantifiable results, who has been cleared for participation, and who is willing to spend the time necessary to answer questions and review content once it’s written.
Tip #2: Include an ‘at a glance’ summary. Not everyone will have the time (or interest) to read the case study in its entirety. That’s why it’s important to ‘call out’ certain key takeaway points in two short sidebars: Challenges and results. Be concise — 10 words or fewer for each challenge and result.
Tip #3: Describe the customer so readers have context. This also often works well as a short sidebar. For example, when featuring a hospital client, include the type of hospital, number of beds, and location. For physician practices, include the specialty, monthly patient volume, and location.
Tip #4: Include real results. I can’t stress this enough. Don’t just say that you helped reduce readmissions or increase revenue. Provide specific numbers or percentages. This makes the case study more credible and impactful.
Tip #5: Seek empathy from the start. The best way to engage readers is to strike a nerve in the first sentence. Connect with readers emotionally by diving into the customer’s challenge and the effect it had on his or her business. In some ways, this is no different from a good fictional novel. If the first sentence catches your eye, you’ll read the next one…and the next one, and so on. Chances are, most readers will relate to your customer’s challenge and want to continue reading to learn more about how you helped solve the problem.
Tip #6: Include quotes, but be selective. No case study is complete without honest and insightful quotes from your customer. Quotes bring the story to life and insert a human element into the narrative. Choose quotes that express opinions, emotions, or unique expressions. Stay away from quotes that recap facts or that don’t add a new dimension to the content you’ve already written.
Tip #7: Conclude with a call to action. Don’t forget to prompt readers to contact your company for more information. Include your phone number, email address, and website at the end of the case study.