Increasingly, patients are turning to the internet to find information about their healthcare options. The corollary is that if patients cannot find reliable information about your practice online, it is likely they will select another practice. Further, a current patient not satisfied with their electronic options for accessing their health information or interacting with a provider may move on to a more digitally savvy practice. This trend makes improving your practice’s online presence a key marketing and patient engagement strategy, in order to keep existing patients and for acquiring new ones. Fortunately, there are many ways you can optimize the way you engage with patients digitally. These are our top tips to improve your medical practice’s online presence:
Review Your Current Online Presence
Do you know where your practice stands on Google search? Since Google is the primary way potential patients search for healthcare providers, a great place to start is to see what comes up when you search your specialty on Google. The practices you consider to be competition may or may not be your competition online. In 2018, a Doctors.com survey of 1,700 people found that 80% made a healthcare-related search on the internet and 63% of respondents would choose one healthcare provider over another based on online presence. Patients are looking for thorough, up-to-date information such as your practice location, hours, phone number, website, appointment booking tool, and a clear description of your practice. If your presence online is incomplete or inaccurate, take time to update it on your website and make sure you have claimed your Google My Business listing. You may also want to submit your practice and providers to popular online directories such as ZocDoc, WebMD, Healthgrades, and Yelp.
Encourage Patients to Leave Online Reviews
Your current and prospective patients also trust their peers. That is why they turn to word-of-mouth referrals and online reviews to choose a provider. In fact, 81% of patients will read online reviews while searching for a provider and will still consult online review sites, even if they have already been referred by a friend or family member. But what is the best way to motivate patients to leave reviews? Encourage them by simply asking in-person, or sending a post-appointment survey email or text with a link to leave a review (our PCG platform streamlines this process). Positive reviews will certainly boost your practice’s reputation online, and while negative reviews can be damaging, patients are also skeptical of a practice with only positive reviews online. The best way to avoid negative reviews is to make delivering a positive patient experience a priority in every aspect of a visit. However, if you do receive a negative review, don’t expend effort to get it taken down, but also don’t just ignore it. Instead, take the time to respond graciously and right the perceived wrong. This approach will also help build credibility for your practice.
Survey Your Patients
The key to getting five-star reviews is putting your patients front and center in everything you do. Great patient service will set you apart from your competitors. Today, patient service transcends what happens within the walls of your practice to include how you interact with your patients digitally. To learn more about how you can better serve your patients, go straight to the source and ask your patients directly! Conducting surveys will give you direct feedback as to whether your “customers” are satisfied with your electronic tools and overall service. Use a tool like our PCG platform which automates the survey process. Be sure to also ask your patients about their preferences for appointment scheduling, reminder delivery, and bill-pay, just to name a few. Almost 80% of patients consider it significantly important to have these services online.
Leverage Social Media
Andrei Zimiles, CEO of Doctor.com, says, “Patients depend on online sources of information more so than ever, and are using all of the digital tools available to inform themselves and make healthcare decisions.” Beyond your website and electronic communication tools, social media should also play a critical role in your overall online presence as a practice. As another opportunity to engage with your patients, Facebook helps to build awareness of your services, in addition to trust and loyalty. As the most widely used social networking site in the world, it is a great way to keep patients up to date about location changes, hours, phone numbers, new providers, and practice accomplishments. Facebook also provides another good channel for attracting new patients and soliciting reviews. When setting up your Facebook page, make sure to include your practice’s location, website, and photos so potential patients get a good feel for the practice, and try to post regularly.
Recognize the Limitations
With all of this, it is easy to get carried away with the potential of online engagement. But the reality is that a significant percent of patients will not engage with your practice electronically. So, temper your expectations, and offer non-online alternatives for your patients.
Your practice’s online presence is the most effective marketing and patient engagement tool available to you today. By increasing and optimizing your online presence, you showcase your credibility and make patient interaction with your practice more seamless. Of course, your patients’ experiences during their visits will be the true differentiator that sets your practice apart and helps you garner more positive reviews. However, as patients increasingly expect a thorough online presence when selecting a new provider, assessing your current presence, encouraging reviews, surveying your patients, and leveraging social media are all worthwhile investments to ensure you are putting your practice’s best face forward.