By Steven Jacobs
If anyone still harbors doubts about the momentous—and mostly positive—influence of the Internet in healthcare, you can now apply the question marks of life to other things. (Lunar landing conspiracy theories and the whereabouts of Waldo still need some careful consideration.)
But the convergence of patient/consumers and healthcare delivery is complete, and the pathway to virtually every medical office begins online. The computer screen—via smartphone, tablet, laptop or desktop—is now everyone’s picture window to your practice.
Consequently, healthcare marketing recognizes that patients (or prospective patients, or caregivers, or family) are nearly certain to look online first for doctors, hospitals and medical information. To add to the confusion, change in healthcare is turbulent, not only due to the Affordable Care Act, but due to larger market forces as well.
Practices are merging into groups, and groups merge into super groups, and hospitals buy practices and groups, hospitals merge to become systems, and hospitals and insurers acquire each other. And competition to become the provider of choice is fierce.
And given that busy environment, here are a few more reasons to break through the clutter:
- In the consumer world, 60 percent of the buyer journey is complete before reaching vendors. (Corporate Executive Board).
- Almost 80 percent of patients used [online] search prior to booking an appointment. (Google)
- About one-third of patients used tablets or mobile devices on a daily basis for research and/or to book [medical] appointments. (Google)
- Nearly all (94 percent) of prospective patients value the reputation of a facility as important in hospital selection. (Google)
And the 2015 Healthcare Consumer Trends report from National Research Corporation says that:
- The digital experience is driving purchase decisions
- Reputation matters more for healthcare than any other industry
- 43 percent of consumers in need of a doctor plan to use online reviews to find one
- 30 percent of patients say viewing ratings online was their first step in finding a physician
- 32 percent of consumers avoid a physician, based on a negative review
- Less than half (45 percent) of consumers feel only ‘somewhat loyal’ to their current physician
These and similar data point unquestionably to the fact that patients begin their journey online. To be sure, there are exceptions. And traditional media, such as print or broadcast, continue to play an important role—usually working in concert with Internet marketing and advertising—in attracting new patients to the practice.
And for healthcare marketers, the secret is to fish where the fish are swimming. You need a strong online presence, one that clearly differentiates and allows you to stand out from the crowd.