Healthcare Search Trends
Giant billboards, the Yellow Pages, and singing your praises from the rooftops just doesn’t cut it nowadays for attracting new patients to your office. The digital age has transformed how prospective patients find and interact with their doctors and how medical practices market themselves. The state of healthcare marketing has changed along with what is important to the patient.
According to Google, last year alone, 77% of patients searched their physician online before booking an appointment. In fact, searching for healthcare related information is the third most popular activity on the web.
In this age of self-referrals, you have to be found when and where prospective patients seek you out. Once they discover you, you have about five seconds or less to establish trust, authority, and expertise to convert them from digital searcher into a patient.
So how can you differentiate yourself from the competition? By using your most valuable assets – your patients, your online reputation and your management of the two. In the digital marketplace, patient testimonials and physician reviews drive appointments like never before.
Below we’ll outline 5 ways patient testimonials and online reputation management can bring more people through your front door and keep them loyal to your practice.
The Future is Now
A great part of a patient’s journey now happens when your doors are closed and often beyond the care you administer. A patient’s experience is increasingly influenced by the content and data readily available online, combined with the way they find information and how they share their health experience with others in their social networks.
As a healthcare provider, this involves more than the treatment the patient receives; it entails how patients found you, the ease with which they scheduled their appointment, how they researched treatment options to share with those closest to them, and how they provided feedback after their visit. The patient experience is what they remember and what is important when they are referring to their healthcare provider.
In a 2016 health industry analysis ROCK Health reported that 46% of Americans are now regarded as digital health adopters, having used three or more digital health tools. If your practice isn’t maximizing a digital marketing gameplan through patient testimonials and online review management, the ship may already have sailed forcing you to play catch-up.
All else being equal, today’s medical practitioners need to understand why a patient would favor one practice over the next one down the street. In the past it was a physician’s credentials; doctors’ traditional efforts to bring in new patients focused on the physicians themselves, their experience, and the standard of technology they offered.
However, those conventional methods have become outdated. The internet and social media have revolutionized the way people communicate, and have transformed how patients now search for and choose, their doctors.
1. Your Patients Are Your Greatest Marketing Resource
Today’s leading healthcare practices in the U.S. are driving success by revitalizing their marketing efforts through a patient-first marketing strategy which incorporates patient testimonials as a key component of the plan. Patient testimonials enhance customer engagement, boost patient interest and loyalty, and substantially improve search rankings.
Patients are the most underutilized resource in healthcare. Yet they can provide the biggest marketing bang for your practice’s buck. Every medical clinic, including yours, has patients raving about the work you do, and sing your praises for how your practice enabled them to regain their health and quality of life. These shared first-hand experiences, personal referrals, are invaluable digital marketing currency that can produce significant dividends, establish you as a respected authority in your field, and help take your practice to the next level.
How can you stand out in a crowd of qualified physicians? Most people browsing doctors online generally assume the doctor is already board-certified. What will put you heads above the rest is the quality of experience you provide.
It can be tough medicine for the ego to swallow, but in today’s medical marketing landscape, your doctor’s credentials are not patients’ prime motivators. Patient stories create connection, trust, credibility, and interest to motivate potential patients to book an appointment. At the end of the day, your patients will lead your marketing efforts, through word of mouth, from friend to friend, and from network to network.
2. Patient Testimonials Drive Traffic to Your Office
According to industry experts Software Advice, three out of four patients consult patient reviews as their first step in choosing a new doctor, and almost 20% use online reviews to justify their choice of a physician before booking an appointment.
From the doctor’s point of view, testimonials are an excellent way to leverage past successes and increase comfort with prospective patients. They give an unbiased look that can’t be conveyed via traditional advertisements or marketing efforts (ie: billboards, yellow pages, and print ads).
A key component of patient-first marketing involves the patient telling their own success story, either by video or in writing, or both. Personalized patient storytelling is the most effective way you can communicate with new patients and deliver a powerful message about your practice.
When your patient makes a declaration at large that you helped them change their life, you now possess a true story of great influence and potential. Your patient’s experience will create an instant connection with potential patients, will make your practice stand out, and allow you to reap considerable dividends long-term.
Moreover, positive testimonials equip you with a potent tool to manage your online reputation. It is almost inevitable that at some point a negative review will crop up somewhere about you, but you can attack that head-on by flooding Google with positive reviews.
Written testimonials will undoubtedly add value to your practice, but what will differentiate you from the rest is turning the written word into a video testimonial. More than 500 million people watch videos on Facebook every day, and YouTube gets over 30 million visitors per day making it the second largest search engine in the world. With modern improvements in video technology, online consumers prefer to watch a one or two-minute video over reading a five to ten-minute text review.
As in film, video testimonials provide immediate impact, connection, emotion, and authenticity for prospective patients. Patient videos also garner more attention on your website and social media.
3. Online Review Management (ORM): Crucial to Success
It continues to amaze us how many doctors and practice managers we serve have never heard of online review management (ORM). The reality is that your medical practice can no longer afford to ignore this crucial element of online marketing.
Patients are paying the most attention to the highest-rated doctors in the neighborhood. Online industry analysts report that more than 90% of consumers will consult an online review before deciding to buy (or buy-in).
ORM includes anything that relates to your business image online including your website, patient reviews, and customer service. How you manage what people say about your practice online will be vital to attracting future patients through the front door. Long story short…online reviews matter!
Today’s consumers of medical care are more savvy and astute than ever before. A billboard plastered with headshots of a practice’s physicians and their credentials doesn’t impress them. Potential patients now seek emotional connections with their doctors, and they want to hear what their peers have to say not just about the physician, but the practice as a whole.
Google.com, Vitals.com, Healthgrade.com, Yelp.com as well as social media are the first thing many patients consult to make an informed decision about their healthcare provider. To today’s discerning consumers, online reviews are important, whether it’s for purchasing a dishwasher, checking out a new restaurant, or for knee replacement surgery.
Search engines like Google love content written by the end user, such as patient reviews. The weight given to them means that reviews, more often than not, will be the first thing prospective patients come across when searching for a doctor. Therefore, it’s even more important to make sure your physician rating sites are up to date and correct. You should also have a process in place to continually monitor them for negative and false reviews.
Proactively managing your reputation online is more important than ever to ensure accuracy, respond to patient complaints, and use online feedback to influence future marketing and business decisions. There’s a real possibility that an incorrect phone number or an innocuous two-sentence review from a stranger will stand in the way of you and a new patient.
4. Becoming a Trusted Expert
Establishing credibility as a trusted go-to expert in your field is another vital component of a patient-first marketing strategy. Through sharing relevant expertise and providing free online educational content, you’ll become a reliable, trusted authority in your subspecialty, and not only because you’re board certified.
The patient-first approach still provides room for doctors to promote themselves. In fact, when creating personal connections with new patients, it’s important for you to open up and share personal stories, why you got into medicine, where you studied, and the things you love to do. All this will add to your stature as a friendly, honest, and credible physician.
You’d be amazed how easy it is to tie content to your patients commonly asked questions or concerns. You know what they are already. A patient testimonial can be combined with relevant information about your practice, giving you a one-two punch for boosting your online reputation.
Another way to leverage a patient testimonial involves creating additional content describing the procedure that one of your patients went through. This combines an inspirational testimonial complemented by a separate video of you describing that procedure. It all boils down to relevant content that Google will love you for.
5. Social Media
Did you know that social media now drives 31% of referral traffic on average?
In the information age, people more than ever, want to connect with those around them. And Facebook has given medical practitioners a great opportunity to do so. Patients value what their friends reveal on social media, give credibility to others’ recommendations and are more likely to act based on those opinions.
Your Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Pinterest pages are an online extension of your practice’s identity and personality. Through these social outlets, you can create a personal connection with current and potential patients before they even set foot in your office.
Social media allows you to create a virtual community, where members are naturally interested in what you have to say and will spontaneously share any updates, stories or testimonials that you post. It’s some of the best organic advertising traffic that you can pick up without spending a nickel.
Nothing creates a personal connection like watching a video of someone who has suffered exactly what you are experiencing and has had a positive outcome under a doctor’s care. Let’s say your bum hip prevents you from walking correctly without pain. Through an online search, you come across a testimonial video from someone who had hip replacement surgery and is now living life to the fullest again. You’re going to say to yourself ‘maybe that doctor could help me, too.’
What that means for your practice is that your social media presence (or lack thereof) will influence where you rank on Google. Social media empowers you to create your own news, be your own publisher, and use those tools to your advantage. The bottom line is that your patients are social, and that means you should be too.
Sink or Swim
Today’s patients have empowered consumers, and they are playing the part to perfection. To tap the potential of this market, physicians need to swim with the tide and put their patients first.
A patient-first marketing strategy promotes connection, trust, and community, and brings down barriers to entry. Your patients are your biggest fans and are instrumental in driving others to your practice. Properly leveraging your patients’ stories can enable you to develop a practice that promotes trust, strengthens your credibility, and does the heavy marketing lifting for you.