The rivalry between eCommerce and traditional brick-and-mortar merchants not only changed the way we shop but also influenced how we function in everyday life. The instrumental role of mobile technology must also be acknowledged for its part in this transformation. Many industries outside of the retail market experienced the effects of these shifts, including the world of healthcare.
What is Healthcare Consumerism and How Does it Affect My Medical Practice?
Healthcare consumerism is a term that acknowledges how patients approach healthcare. Industry disruptors – Amazon especially – shifted to personalized shopping experiences that are more efficient, convenient, and cost-effective for consumers. This has changed the way patients choose a doctor.
In the past, patients would rely on insurance companies and directories to find a doctor and health care services were a separate territory from shopping in a store. That all changed when retailers added in-store clinics. Though the program is now discontinued, the introduction of AmazonCare was another indicator of how far healthcare consumerism has evolved.
Years ago, a provider would have never dreamed that they would be competing with retailers, but this is today’s reality. Traditional medical practices are faced with patients who behave like consumers and new competitors who entice by the benefit of convenience.
The Role of Mobile Technology in Healthcare Consumerism
The best way to explain the role of mobile experience in shaping how consumers behave is to look at Google as an example. Mobile devices – especially smartphones – offer on-demand assistance in making consumer decisions. With the same interface they use to find products and services, patients also can find a doctor, so now they tend to treat doctor choice as any other consumer choice.
How Should My Medical Practice Respond to Consumerism Influence in Healthcare Choice?
Traditional medical practices may not be able to offer the same conveniences as retail clinics or web-based care, but this does not necessarily mean that these competitors have an iron grip on the market share. Healthcare consumerism means that patients are considering several options at once depending on their preferences, and your practice can attract patients by presenting what value you have to offer.
To stay competitive and provide the experience medical patients look for, a provider’s response to healthcare consumerism must consist of two things – having a strong online presence and providing an excellent user experience on your website.
How Can My Medical Practice Provide a Better Patient Experience?
The best way to be proactive about the patient experience online is to evaluate your medical website. Is your website easy to use? Does it list all your healthcare services? Does it offer all the modern conveniences such as online bill pay? Before becoming a new patient, having these conveniences featured prominently displayed on your website communicates to prospective patients that your practice is intent on patient-centered care.
Consumers expect to do most things online, and patients as consumers would like the option of making appointments online. When your website is set up to accept new patient requests, it doesn’t matter if your office is closed. Patients can start the new patient process virtually.
The key to improving the online experience on your website is to view your current setup from the patient’s perspective. Does anything stand out about your website? Have your current patients given any feedback about the website? Is the most frequently sought information easy to find?
What Is Needed to Build a Strong Online Presence?
For patients reliant on mobile devices to carry out daily tasks and make everyday decisions, a practice does not exist when it isn’t found online – even if it is located right around the corner. A strong online presence means that when a patient is looking for healthcare services, the odds of your medical practice being seen during the search are in your favor.
Digital marketing strategy is the vehicle to build an online presence for your medical practice. The core components of a medical practice marketing strategy include:
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO) – Google only wants to put the best and most relevant websites in search results. To be considered a quality website, it must:
- Be easy for Google’s automated bots to scan
- Be mobile-friendly
- Contain keywords that indicate whom your website is relevant to
- Publish regular blog posts
- Pay-Per-Click (PPC) – Some local markets are more competitive than others. PPC can be expensive, but it also can be very effective at putting your practice at the very top of search results where the competition is.
- Google Business Profile (and other directories) – Localized search results in Google will pull up three businesses initially, then users can view the whole list when they click to expand. To ensure that your medical practice is found in this directory built into Google’s search results page, you must set up your Google Business Profile completely. It also helps to make sure your medical practice listings are updated on directories such as Healthgrades, Vitals, Doctorfinder, etc.
- Online reputation – Gaining positive reviews is perhaps the most powerful way to boost your medical practice’s image online. Potential patients want to hear what other patients have to say about medical practices so they know what to expect. Having positive reviews on your Google Business Profile can help boost your visibility as Google tends to list the businesses with the highest ratings first.
Summary of Consumerism and the Patient Journey
The market for products and services competes for consumers by offering more convenience. As patients grow to approach healthcare as consumers, they will increasingly expect a more efficient, convenient, cost-effective, and seamless experience.
At the same time, the mobile experience is where the healthcare consumerism journey usually begins as all the resources a patient needs to find and book with a doctor are in a handheld device. To ensure your medical practice can compete in this modern healthcare landscape, you need a strong online presence and a plan to optimize the patient experience.
Learn More About the Patient Journey
The patient journey has been transformed by internet-driven consumerism, and for that reason, medical practices must improve their online presence to attract new patients. To learn more about how to modernize your medical practice website read our blog, 8 Important Website Redesign Elements for Your Medical Practice. If you have any questions about how your medical practice can best compete online, feel free to reach out to us.