Everything a patient needs to connect with care can now be accessed through a smartphone: information about medical issues, healthcare directories, and more. Consequently, digital marketing tools are needed to engage patients online. Because the patient journey is now driven by the digital experience, the online presence of medical practices has been put into focus in the healthcare industry.
6 Essential Ingredients for Medical Practice Online Presence
When a practice is hard to find online, measures can be taken to improve their online presence. Becoming more visible to today’s digitally savvy patient is just a matter of putting effort into a suite of channels. Now we go into the specifics of each improvement opportunity.
Being Listed Everywhere, Starting with Google
In the past, patients would rely on a directory from their insurance carrier to find a doctor. Now patients can turn to many different online directories to select a doctor. These include Healthgrades, WebMD, ZocDoc, Doctorfinder (managed by the American Medical Association), and many more.
Do medical directories manage listing accuracy?
Unfortunately, the responsibility of listings management falls on the medical practice. One or more directories may display incorrect information about a practice or may not have listed it at all. Medical practice management must verify listings in each relevant directory.
Why Does a Medical Practice Need a Google Business Profile?
For medical practices who see patients in person, being listed on Google Business Profiles – formerly known as Google My Business – is vitally important. When the Google business listings feature appears, it appears at the top of the search results page. Profiles include contact information, hours of operation, consumer reviews, and more.
How would a medical practice not be included in Google business listings?
Like the other directories, the medical practice must be proactive to ensure they are listed and that the information in the listing is up to date. Claiming a Google Business Profile is free, but each “business” must be proactive. Having an active Google Business Profile goes a long way toward maximizing a medical practice’s online presence.
Provide a Dynamic Website
Medical practice websites are a central part of the online presence because it is where patients ultimately land when considering a new provider. Websites serve dual purposes as a resource of information for patients, and a tool to convince patients to choose you, making the website a prime example of how the patient journey and digital marketing have converged.
What the patient sees once they visit the website is just as important as the patient finding the provider in the first place. Is the website easy to use? Does it provide all the information that most patients seek? Is it easy for a patient to contact you? Is it clear what steps there are toward becoming a new patient?
How can a medical practice website best support the patient journey?
A medical practice website that clearly communicates your practice personality, values, options, and compassionate care makes the best introduction. Then to help patients progress through the patient journey, it is best practice to include click-to-call phone number functionality, plus a new patient request form integrated into the homepage.
Be Discoverable in Google Search Through Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
As healthcare consumers, patients often turn to Google to find care. This search typically begins by Googling symptoms, then deciding which provider is appropriate for the problem such as an urgent care center versus a primary care provider.
Space is limited in search engine results display, so patients will only see the websites Google has decided are the most relevant and high quality. Medical practice leadership will wonder why they don’t appear in searches, while sometimes noticing that competitors do turn up.
Is it left to chance which medical practices will appear in search results?
Through SEO, a medical practice website signals to Google that it is the best match for key search terms. SEO involves best practices that align with Google’s assessment process. A website that is optimized for search is:
- Readable by AI – Google uses automation to assess websites
- Easy to use – Google can determine if a site loads slowly, isn’t mobile-friendly, or other factors that would make people leave the site
- Reputable – Google downranks sites that are unsafe or link to questionable content
- Descriptive – Google absorbs all of a website’s content to determine who it is relevant to, so it must include location, services, plus search terms the potential patient searches for
- User-serving – Google notices when a website regularly publishes helpful blog content that is high-quality, meaning it is written well and original
SEO for medical practices is complex as it has many components and is a moving target because Google routinely updates its criteria. To further illustrate how involved SEO is, digital marketers work full-time to analyze how to improve pages that are not ranking well.
Take Advantage of Paid Placement in Google Search
Because Google is both a research tool and an advertising platform, this perfectly illustrates how the patient journey and digital marketing have merged. Patients don’t intend to be solicited during a search concerning their medical issues, but it happens. Ranking with SEO takes time, but with pay-per-click (PPC) medical practices can leverage PPC to attract patients.
If PPC is so effective for being seen in search results, then do most medical practices use it?
PPC can be difficult and expensive, but medical practices in highly competitive markets are compelled to activate campaigns. High visibility of competitors in search results or a brand-new clinic needing to fast-track online visibility are a few instances where PPC is the ideal way for a medical practice to build an online presence quickly.
Monitor Online Reputation
Patient ratings and reviews published online are highly influential. In the digital patient journey, people rely on online reviews to learn what to expect from a new provider. The sentiment of existing patients also helps other patients choose between two or more providers.
Patients can find reviews on directory websites like Healthgrades, Vitals, ZocDoc, and more. Patients see reviews even when they are not actively looking because reviews are featured in Google’s local search results, attached to Google Business Profiles.
What can a medical practice really do about patient reviews?
Medical practices cannot control what patients share online, but this does not mean that nothing can be done about online reputation. Here are proactive ways to get involved:
- Claim listings – As mentioned before, medical practices cannot rely on listings websites to list correctly, and by going through all the directories, management is then aware of all places where reviews could be published. The most notable listing platform is Google Business Profiles
- Monitor – Check in on all directories periodically to read new reviews
- Respond to reviews – A medical practice representative may not be able to change the patient’s mind, but they can help restore consumer confidence by showing that they care about the quality of service provided and take responsibility for what occurred
- Request for review removal – In some cases, a practice can request for a review to be removed – either it violates the platform’s terms of services (abusive language, sensitive personal information) or details indicate that they are reviewing an entirely different medical practice
- Encourage patients to leave new reviews – Getting more positive reviews published online can be as simple as just asking – especially from happy patients
Connect with Patients on Social Media
Because patients – as healthcare consumers – spend much of their “screentime” on social media, for medical practices this is another opportunity to nurture a medical practice’s online presence. Channels like Facebook and Twitter also reinforce a medical practice’s brand by displaying logos, and content that communicates values, compassion, and mission.
What do medical practices do on social media?
Social media platforms – like Facebook – are known for entertaining users, but they are also used to inform the public about significant events. Medical practices can use social media to share what patients need to know, as well as bond and interact with patients. To get the most out of social media:
- Look sharp – Fill out the business profile in full and use quality graphics to display the logo and banner.
- Post regularly – Content should be relevant to the practice or patients and should be a mix of fun, informative, and educational posts.
- Post videos – Video content dominates social media, and users respond positively to content that features familiar faces. Medical practices should consider posting videos with physicians and staff.
- Build followers – Creative content geared toward introducing a practice to potential patients can be “boosted” for a fee to make a post more visible on Facebook.
- Respond – As more patients become aware of a medical practice’s presence on social media, the more likely they are to comment on posts or send direct messages, and responding to these messages improves the patient experience.
Summary of Online Presence for a Medical Practice
The patient journey and digital marketing are no longer separate experiences now that patients turn to platforms like Google to find a new provider. To meet potential patients where they are, medical practices must be proactive in building an online presence. Improvement opportunities include:
- Online directories
- Dynamic website enhanced with SEO
- PPC ads
- Online reputation management
- Social media
Patients behave as consumers, and loyalty is now harder to come by. The better a medical practice presents itself online, the more consumers will have confidence in the practice.
Make Medical Practice Online Presence a Priority
Caring for patients day in and day out, those running a medical practice usually don’t have the time to think about their online presence. But once a medical practice implements a digital marketing strategy, it can become a natural part of office operations. If you have questions about how to best take advantage of digital marketing to improve your online presence, our practice marketing experts are here to answer them.