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How the internet changed how patients choose a doctor

Successful physician marketing requires knowing how patients are looking for providers online.

patient is online choosing a doctor

Healthcare providers seeking new patients must focus their marketing efforts online. Why? Simply because when patients choose a doctor, the majority of people begin their search online. In fact, three of four people have searched online to find out about a doctor, a dentist, or medical care, according to PatientPop research. Sixty-one percent do so either sometimes or often.

Healthcare practices that embrace digital marketing opportunities will be better poised to attract and retain patients. 

Online searches complement traditional approaches

In the past, patients looking for a new doctor may have solely relied on word-of-mouth referrals from family and friends. They may have also chosen a healthcare provider affiliated with their healthcare plan. While these remain common approaches, patients will still often go online to conduct their own research when choosing a doctor. 

In fact, two out of three patients who access their insurance company’s directory also read online reviews of the providers elsewhere. Even when receiving a referral from a healthcare professional, 92 percent of patients said they always or sometimes conducted their own research to validate that recommendation, according to Kyruus

Where patients today search for a healthcare provider

Today, patients have countless online avenues to research potential healthcare providers. Widely used options are listed below.

1. Your practice website

According to our 3rd annual patient perspective survey, more than half (54.8 percent) of patients said the healthcare practice website is very or extremely important when they’re choosing a doctor.

Not only should your website be beautifully designed, but it should also be optimized for search.

Related: What is an optimized medical practice website?

Your website should contain all critical business information and include information about the services you offer and conditions you treat. Your website should also be mobile-friendly, e.g, it should be easy to navigate on mobile screens, and it should load quickly. Including important calls-to-action including your phone number and online scheduling can further entice patients to choose you as their doctor.

2. Online patient reviews

When choosing a healthcare provider, 74 percent of patients find online reviews very or extremely important. According to Software Advice, 71 percent of patients begin their search for their doctors by reading online reviews.

While online reviews have long been the most influential decision-making factor, patients are becoming even more selective in their provider search: 69 percent say they will not consider a healthcare provider with an average star rating lower than 4.0 out of 5 stars.

Thus, it’s important for doctors to monitor reviews on prominent healthcare and business reviews sites, including Google My Business, Yelp, and others. To mitigate damage to your online reputation, it is also critical to address any negative reviews immediately. 

Check out: 4 steps to improve your Google reviews star rating

3. Healthcare and business directory listings

More than one in every three patients looks at provider information on Facebook, Yelp, WebMD to choose a doctor. Creating profiles on popular healthcare and local business directors is often free advertising for healthcare providers.

Even if you haven’t created profiles on some of these websites, it’s possible one already exists for you personally or for your practice. If you haven’t kept a pulse on how you appear on these websites, it’s impossible that the information listed is incorrect. Not only does this confuse potential patients, but it can also impact your website’s search rankings, as Google may not be able to reconcile which information is accurate. 

Learn more: Why local business directories matter for healthcare marketing 

4. Social media

According to the Pew Research Center, roughly seven-in-ten Americans say they use at least  one social media site. If your practice has a presence of social media, it can help you attract new patients, especially if your current ones are posting about their experience.

More than just a place to share photos and opinions, social media sites are now functioning like an online business directory. For example, on Instagram, healthcare practices can make a business account, which features your address and location prominently on the page, and allows users to contact you via phone or email right from the Instagram app. In addition, social media advertising can help you reach patients in your area who are unaware of your practice.

5. Top doctor roundups

Special “best doctor” features in regional magazines have become a popular resource for patients who put stock in nominations from a provider’s peers. Since these listings don’t offer much context for how a provider landed on the list, patients may use this kind of information as a jumping off point to do more research.

Choosing a healthcare provider is an important decision. Because patients rely on online resources to make their care decisions, healthcare practices that prioritize their online presence, as well as, offer patients convenience and ease of access, will be the most poised for success.

What do patients see when they search for you online? Use our practice scanner to assess the success of your practice’s online marketing, visibility, and website.

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PatientPop
PatientPop is the leader in practice growth with the only all-in-one solution that empowers healthcare providers to improve every digital touchpoint of the patient journey. As experts in the healthcare technology space, PatientPop makes it easy for providers to thrive in the consumerization of healthcare and promote their practice online, attract patients, and retain them for life.

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