Today’s healthcare patient journey is much different than it was just a few decades ago. Individuals now begin their patient care journey online, gathering information from multiple digital sources. At every step, patients experience touchpoints, from their first encounter with your website to reading online reviews and on to their experiences as a new patient. Knowing that these digital interactions influence patient choice, your online presence and engagement strategy must clearly tell patients how you are different from competitors and why they should choose your practice.
What is the Patient Journey and Why Is It Important
Because patients have become savvy healthcare consumers, they now choose their doctors much like they would a product or service. The success of modern medical practices is now intertwined with a robust digital strategy and presence and includes patient journey mapping.
Since most patients begin their search for a provider online, your practice will not exist in their world when you do not appear anywhere online. If you wish to attract and retain patients in a digitally-dominated – and increasingly competitive – landscape, understanding the patient journey is necessary. Improving the patient journey online is integral for your digital strategy, but to know where to make changes, it helps to look at this experience from the patient’s point of view.
Examples of Where the Digital Experience and Patient Journey Intersect
Like any journey, the patient journey begins with a single step. Usually, that entails online research. The following are common steps along the patient’s journey:
- “Googling” symptoms—Patients often search online for health information before consulting with a doctor
- Choosing a new provider— Patients seek information in order to choose a new provider and gather that information online
- Engaging with providers— Patients frequently rely on website content and social media to get to know a practice
- Online reviews— Existing patient reviews help new patients choose a doctor
- Ongoing communication— When patients provide contact information, providers can begin communications for next steps in the patient journey and encourage patient retention
As you can see, technology – especially the mobile experience – dominates the modern patient journey and is an important part of the patient healthcare experience. That means your online presence should meet patients at every step of the journey.
Tips to Make the Best First Impression in the Patient Journey
A friendly, informative, and trustworthy online presence is essential if you wish to engage patients during the early steps on their journey. That means the content on your website should be about helping patients along their care journey.
Assess your website from the perspective of patients getting to know your medical practice. They should be able to easily find the information they are seeking, including your “About Us” section, treatment information, preventive care services, and testimonials. User-friendly features that make a good first impression on patients include:
- Button for online bill pay
- Button for the patient portal
- Button for telehealth
- New patient appointment request form at the top
What also helps the patient journey is to have a website that everyone can use. Ways to promote inclusivity on your website include an ADA-accessibility tool for your website that gives access to site visitors with impairments. Also, if you serve a patient population that does not speak English as their primary language, provide translations to help them along on the journey as well.
Digital Tools that Enhance the Patient Journey
Since the patient journey is clearly intertwined with technology, it is important to have a robust digital strategy. To maximize medical practice visibility and enhance the patient journey, activate multiple marketing channels. Your digital “toolbox” should include the following:
- Social media— Your present and future patients are likely to be active social media users, so this is an essential channel for engagement.
- Website optimization— A medical website should be engaging and set up to convert site visitors into new patients with ease.
- Search visibility— Ensure your website, as well as other online sites such as Google My Business, are current and relevant to ensure your practice will be found in search by your ideal patients.
- Google Ads— If your goal is to quickly acquire new patients in a competitive healthcare market, use Google ads to build awareness and grow your practice.
- Online ratings and reviews management—This aspect of your online presence is important because healthcare consumers rely on the experiences of current patients to inform their decision-making.
Summary of the Online Patient Journey
The future of healthcare is largely based on engagement along the digital healthcare journey. Meeting patients at the beginning of their journey, and supporting them every step of the way, is the best way to nurture valuable relationships with new and existing patients. You know your patients better than anyone else, and by taking the time to trace their journey, you can create a model that will continually attract and retain happy patients.
Learn More About Digital Strategy for the Patient Journey
Effective communication is key when it comes to partnering with patients on their healthcare journey. When you understand the information that patients are seeking, you can provide online content that will help them find you. To learn more about building a strong online presence, read more about Four Website Features Patients Want from Their Doctors Office and reach out with any questions about how your practice can improve the patient experience.