What to Look for in Healthcare Technology Subject Matter Experts


It's no secret that subject matter experts are necessary when writing from an outside-in perspective about healthcare IT. It is nearly impossible to understand the rate of change occurring within the healthcare industry at any given moment without being a member of that professional community. For someone trying to produce content for healthcare IT readers, they need insight into the people, process, technology and policy changes to get it right. Subject matter experts in healthcare technology (SMEs) can be the lighthouse on your otherwise dark and stormy search for quality information, shining light over what is important to focus on and illuminating a path forward to your end destination — which in this case is quality content that converts. Here, we've outlined what you should look for in healthcare technology SMEs to get the best information.

The Ability to Maneuver Legal Obstacles

It can be a challenge to find SMEs who are able to speak openly about the successes they have experienced with certain technology. More often than not, there are legal issues that prevent SMEs from promoting a vendor. A natural enemy to anyone trying to create quality content fueled by SME information is the legal review. Even if you do get an exceptional quote from the top doctor on a new technology, lawyers will need to review that copy before it can go live or be used at all. All this red tape can really get in the way of your content creation process.

A subject matter expert in healthcare technology who can speak relatively freely and is aware of compliance and quality is a hot commodity. They will enable you to produce better content at a higher rate, ultimately producing better results. When evaluating SMEs in the healthcare IT space, be sure to scope out not only what such experts know, but what they can freely show and tell without legal red tape as well.


Often, content creators lean toward subject matter experts in healthcare who only speak positively about products, but take caution — uniform positivity isn't always a good sign. There's a reason people call reality TV shows their "guilty pleasures." They know the content they're watching resembles a car crash, but they just can't look away. A similar tactic can work for healthcare IT content. People are just as (if not more) interested in stories of failure as they are in successes. This might seem like a dig at human nature, but there is an upside that resonates with an unshakeable piece of our humanity. People who learn from the failure of others in order to navigate away from similar mistakes are often able to better themselves and their spheres of influence. For healthcare IT professionals and organizations at large, case studies of calamities offer both insight and intrigue. People are going to read a piece like, "The Top 10 Worst Hospitals in America" and make sure they avoid replicating the mistakes that hospitals X, Y and Z made to land themselves on that list.

Beyond garnering attention with the same appeal that prompts people to slow down and stare at a car crash, these cautionary tales also give a more balanced level of credibility to your brand. People don't trust sources that are only positive or only promoting a certain product. Why? How can you see the fine lines between black, white, and gray areas when there's no contrast? Maybe an SME and a product owner are friends. Maybe an SME was treated to a nice dinner and felt obligated to spread positive information about a product or brand as a result of such a pleasant experience. If that's the case, such shining reviews should be framed with distinct, context-defining disclosures. This isn't to say you should hold the feet of all subject matter experts in healthcare to the fire to flush out any biases or hidden agendas. Instead, simply look for honesty in how they describe their perspectives. If there's bias, they'll tell you. If there's negative critiques of your offering or your organization, they'll share them with you either on the record or as a courtesy. An honest account from an SME shouldn't be limited to just the facts you want to hear; it should be all the facts you and your buyers need to know. 

From the buyer's perspective, an SME is apt to be much more believable if they are able to speak to how successes or desired outcomes were achieved, despite common risks, past failures, or other ugly-but-need-to-know truths, compared to simply articulating a cleaner, more pleasant account that there was success or a desired outcome.

Validation of Persona Knowledge in Data & Performance

Along with legal oversight and honestly articulated perspectives, another quality to look for in an SME is someone who understands your personas and how to speak to them. If an SME is able to understand the depth of a persona's daily struggles, they can speak to those accurately and will be backed by the data to do so. This level of understanding requires acquiring or executing quantitative and qualitative persona research. You want SMEs to have data to support their understanding of your personas to ensure you're on the same page. A good SME may actually have insights on your personas that you don't. If these insights are backed by data, it's not a disagreement or a difference of opinion; it's a discovery. You want SMEs who can provide valuable information to your audience, but some of the best SMEs can also educate you or your organization too!  

Beyond quality insights, you should also look for quantitatively measurable success from SME authored or influenced content. Vanity metrics like unique views, page visits and time spent on page are actually fairly healthy and substantive starting points for evaluating SME content. In fact, some SMEs may even offer up benchmarks for the kind of traffic or outcomes they've delivered in the past. Whether it's for their own vanity, or just objective confidence, it never hurts to have an SME who keeps score of their performance.  With simple, measurable conversion metrics as a baseline for performance, you take your analysis deeper and look at who is downloading your content and consider the possible interconnectivity of each view, download or content metric success. Is the CIO sharing that piece with the CFO? The nursing staff? You'll get a clearer picture of who the SME is effectively appealing to, and how that interest connects to where accounts or organizations at large are in the general flow of the marketing and sales funnel.

The right subject matter expert in healthcare will be the one who offers you the clarity of a light in the darkness, pointing out the rocks jutting out into the ocean that you should avoid or address, while guiding you to the mythical port of Quality Content that Converts in the Healthcare IT Space. So, when deciding on the SME or SMEs you plan to use, consider their knowledge and skill as it applies to maneuvering legal issues, honest or impartial perspectives, and an understanding of your personas at a deep level. Your content will thrive with the right guidance, so be choosy before diving in.


For more on how to include healthcare IT subject matter experts in your content marketing efforts, you can contact us for a strategic content marketing conversation here.