Content development policy

By Mayo Clinic Staff

The Mayo Clinic team of Web professionals, medical reviewers, subject matter experts and other content contributors collaborate to ensure accurate, relevant and actionable information to provide site visitors with access to the knowledge, experiences and services of Mayo Clinic.

Content development criteria

All content is produced originally by Mayo Clinic, except for select material meeting strict standards, including drug and supplement databases, some social media contributions, and some licensed and third party images. We create original content and curate third party content to convey these attributes:

  • Meet site visitor needs. We create and provide content to meet the needs of site visitors, ranging from prospective patients and consumers seeking health information, to individuals exploring career, educational and research opportunities at Mayo Clinic. We tailor the reading level to appropriate audiences, and consistently prepare and format all content for an optimal Web experience.
  • Meet Mayo Clinic's commitment to excellence. We strive to provide easy-to-understand, data-supported, up-to-date and relevant information indicative of the high standards of Mayo Clinic. Content is updated on both a regularly scheduled basis and whenever necessary to reflect new or revised health policy guidelines, treatment protocols and critical research findings. We provide transparency into our content creation process by disclosing source materials through direct attribution, documented references or both, dating all original content, and responding swiftly to all reasonable requests for more information about published content. In rare cases where this occurs, the disclosure will be placed at the bottom of a piece of content.

Editorial team

Our editorial team consists of communication professionals who have academic training in journalism, creative writing, health education or related fields. Editors have at least five years of publishing experience. In addition to regular staff, we retain a team of experienced freelancers to supplement our staff. All freelance work adheres to the same content development policy. Other content contributors include academic, business and medical professionals who are highly engaged in Mayo Clinic's medical practice, research and education activities.

Medical editors dedicate time to work with us and include active and emeritus Mayo Clinic clinicians, researchers and faculty members of the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine at the associate professor or professor level. Medical editors review for medical accuracy all new and updated content as created by our editorial team. Institutional policy requires a staff person to disclose (in the publication/material created) if they participate in a published piece of content and they have financial interests related to any invention, technology, company or product referenced in the materials created.

Content development process

Original content is produced following a standardized process for research, writing, editing, proofing, annotation, visual design and Web conversion. Content managers schedule development of new content and maintenance of existing content in collaboration with Mayo Clinic colleagues. Original content development typically includes these five phases:

  1. Editorial research. After the team agrees on the topic of a content piece, our writers, assisted by editorial researchers, gather best-available source materials for the topic. Best-available source materials vary by topic and may include published medical literature, evidence-based guidelines, or a Mayo Clinic physician or scientist who has distinct interest, training and expertise in the topic. Often these individuals are leading authorities in their fields. The team follows a standardized procedure for selecting, documenting and verifying best-available medical literature, and storing references. Specific content verified includes statistics — incidence, volumes and outcomes — and other verifiable statements of fact.
  2. Editorial style. The editorial team adheres to these standardized best practices.
    • Editorial voice. Our writers use an inviting tone to present information in the most usable way.
    • Reading levels. Expectations for reading level vary by information type, ranging from eighth-grade or lower for all lay audiences to college or post-college reading level for professional audiences.
    • Formatting. Web users tend to first scan content online, looking for items or topics of interest before committing to reading full pages. Our best practices are designed to facilitate Web-based information gathering.
    • Style guide. The Associated Press Stylebook guidelines and standards serve as the core editorial style reference.
  3. Expert review. A team of board-certified Mayo Clinic physicians and other Mayo Clinic subject matter experts under the direction of the chief medical editor reviews all new and updated content for medical accuracy. Mayo Clinic experts in research, education and the clinical practice review for accuracy all original, clinical and scientific information published by the Web content team of communication professionals. When content reaches final-draft stage and is published under the "By Mayo Clinic staff" byline, it reflects the joint contributions and insights of Mayo Clinic writers, editors, and medical editors or other subject matter experts. No single individual authors content. Medical editors make final judgments on issues of medical accuracy. Third party and social media content is closely monitored for adherence to editorial standards.
  4. Metadata annotation. Content is reviewed by an ontology specialist (metadata librarian) and descriptive metadata, such as subject and audience, is added to the content. The descriptive metadata supports the management, organization, delivery and findability of the content. Annotation strategies are tailored to the different kinds of content and the role or job that it's intended to serve in the Web environment. The metadata used for annotations is aligned with standards when appropriate to support interoperability and exchange of content between systems.
  5. Web production. After content undergoes final editing and proofing, it moves to the production environment, where a Web production specialist enters the content into the applicable content management system, which involves:
    • Ensuring all required metadata fields are populated
    • Thoroughly checking content conversion in a preview environment
    • Ensuring content publishes in its entirety with full functionality

External links and social media guidelines

As a service to site visitors, the Web team provides links to a limited number of external websites and social media outlets. External links are identified and reviewed for relevancy and credibility as part of the content development process. Sites generally meet all of these criteria:

  • The site provides information that expands upon our content on the topic and isn't provided on another Mayo Clinic Internet property.
  • Each site's credibility, stability and content quality serve to reinforce the credibility of Mayo Clinic content, such as government sites, medical associations and medically related independent nonprofit sites.
Dec. 01, 2018