Here's How Patients Actually Search for Physicians Online

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Learn how to optimize your medical practice or hospital’s online presence in accordance with emerging patient preferences.

The fact that the massive proliferation of mobile devices and internet connectivity has completely reshaped the traditional path to treatment over the past ten years is no longer breaking news; however, many medical practices and hospitals remain unclear on how to most effectively capture the attention of these newly empowered patients.

As the level of online competition in local healthcare markets continues to increase, understanding the “hows” and “whys” of how patients use the internet to seek out care has become more important than ever before. Here’s what you need to know.

What Patients Want

By now, every medical organizations knows that the first step to attracting new patients online is brand visibility — unless you’re investing heavily (and intelligently) in digital advertising, social media, and search engine optimization, you’re putting yourself at a serious competitive disadvantage.

But getting a patient’s attention is only half the battle — now you’ve got to convince them to choose you over another option, which requires a comprehensive understanding of how patients actually use the internet to make decisions about providers.

When a patient discovers they are sick or injured, they typically turn to a search engine, like Google or Bing, for answers. Their search typically leads them to a hospital or doctor’s office website, where they’ll find information on practicing physicians, surgeons, specialists, etc. However, instead of booking an appointment right then and there, the vast majority of patients will then head back to a search engine or a third-party review site to conduct a second round of research on specific providers.

According to a recent study conducted by Yext, approximately 76% of patients reported going online to seek out in-depth information on an individual provider (i.e., dentist, doctor, surgeon), versus 29% who searched for more information about a specific facility. What this means is that for today’s healthcare consumers, simply listing your facilities online may longer be enough — in fact, failing to list individual providers could mean you’re missing out on as much as 75% of your potential new customer base.

Adopt a Multi-Layered Approach

For many, this emerging trend may seem like cause for alarm — as Yext aptly points out, of the three primary ingredients involved in the patient path to treatment, only the information on your own website is completely under your control.

But that doesn’t mean search engines and third-party review sites (Healthgrades, Yelp, ZocDoc) can’t be leveraged as a competitive advantage. By claiming official listings on as many of these sites as possible and keeping them up-to-date, you’ll not only be providing patients with the information they need to make an informed decision — you’ll be driving more traffic to your website, more calls to your practice or hospital, and ultimately, more new appointments.

Medical Practice Marketing, Digital Marketing, Physician Marketing