Asking the expert: how we work with health professionals to create content

Peter Dineen - Senior Content Designer

Image with white background and colourful illustrations showing a doctor with a speech bubble emerging from a laptop surrounded by medical items like pill boxes, a thermometer and a first aid box.

When you work in the HSE, your family and friends think you know everything about health and health services... I don’t.

I don’t know what dizziness is a symptom of, or if you had chickenpox can you get it again, or even why coffee makes you bloated.

But I do know people who know all these things and so much more. They are our experts, our fact-checkers, our go-to-people when we need our content to be checked for accuracy.

Working with our experts, our job is to make this content easy to read, trustworthy and relevant to the end user. Our experts and fact checkers are a vital part of our mission to transform the way we provide information online.

Our subject matter experts

Our experts come from across the Irish health system. Some of them work in cardiology, general practice, gynaecology, surgery, nutrition and other specific health-related areas.

They know the symptoms and causes of all the conditions and diseases out there.They know how treatments work and what you and I need to do to prevent many of the everyday conditions we get. They just know things. Because they have years of experience in their chosen fields.

Others are experts in non-clinical areas. They may know the medical card application system inside out. They may have years of experience and vast knowledge of the Fair Deal scheme or understand the inner workings of the births, deaths and marriage registration process.

All our experts are vital in making sure the content we publish is accurate, factually correct, up-to-date and trustworthy. This is why it’s important that we work together.

We ask our experts to check all our content before we publish it.They’re not content design or UX experts (that’s us). But they absolutely make sure what we publish is bang on correct.

How we work with experts


What we publish must meet a user need so before we work on creating content we carry out research to find out if people really need it, and what specifically they need.  We work with experts to understand their objectives and to inform what kind of research we do.


We then take insights from research to create our content plan and finalise this with expert input too before we start producing content. It’s also important that we have experts on board who will agree to fact check our content once it’s ready. We meet with them and explain what we need them to do, how long it should take and when we will have content ready for them.

Creating content

We then prepare the first draft of content in line with what our users need. We structure the content, apply our ‘Plain English’ guidelines and style guide to it and get a review from another content designer.

Fact checking

Then, we’re ready to ask our experts to fact check it. During fact check, experts let us know if we should add, reword or delete anything that will ensure the content is useful and accurate. We then incorporate their comments, ensuring additions fit with the content and are consistent with our style and standards.

Plain English

It’s not always plain sailing. Although we both agree on the need for accuracy, we don’t always see eye-to-eye on how information should be presented. For example, our experts sometimes use words and descriptions that they use everyday but that our users may find difficult to understand.

Health topics can be full of unusual words and difficult to understand. Everyone from time to time can be found scratching their head wondering what words like mononucleosis or microcephaly mean and how it might affect them. It’s our job to make sure that the content is easy to read and understand.

Sometimes we will go back and forth to the experts a few times to make sure we’ve made things as plain as possible while still accurate.

Pair writing

On some pieces of content the expert will work with us, during a workshop or meeting, as we write and rewrite the content together. This is known as pair writing.

Working together helps understanding that the fact checkers are experts on the facts while us content designers are the experts on the layout and presentation and accessibility of the information.


We also work with experts after the content has been approved and published. For example, if we get feedback that someone is having difficulty understanding a medical term or there is new information on a procedure or scheme. This means review is needed where we work with the expert on updating or iterating the content.

Working well together

We know that having good relationships with experts and stakeholders, and having effective and efficient processes in place, is crucial to the success of our projects. That’s why we’re working on new ‘ways of working’ guides and processes to optimise the expert and stakeholder experience of working with us.

Without these experts working with us, we wouldn’t be able to do our job.