Everybody knows that “word of mouth” is the most reliable form of advertising. And when choosing health care providers, patients rely on recommendations from family and friends.
A developing trend is that the famous notion of word of “mouth” advertising is being replaced with word of “mouse” as the most reliable form of advertising. As part of a connected world, every practitioner needs to be smart about Internet use when recruiting patients.
According to surveys conducted by the Bennett Group, roughly 60% of consumers access information online to help them make decisions about healthcare, but far fewer – an average of only 25% - access information online to help them choose a particular practitioner.
Things are not all equal in the information age. Consumers are processing a lot of healthcare information, but only one in four ever access your professional information.
With this in mind, what are the best online practices for patient recruitment?
First, do not underestimate the power of writing a blog. Next to satisfied clients, it's your best strategy for getting more people on your rooster.
The numbers are there. If 60% of patients are looking online for healthcare information and you provide that information in your blog, you will attract them. The benefits are that as you become a credible source of information you raise your profile in the consumers mind. By creating a resource legacy that patients can return to time and time again, you strengthen your market position.
You make consumers confident that you ought to be his or her provider of choice.
As a bonus, your blog will not only attract patients, but when you regularly update it, will also attract search engines like Google and Bing. That, in turn improves your ranking on search engine results pages, leading to more visibility in the marketplace.
Second, people go where they feel comfortable. A practitioner’s reputation for communication skills and willingness to listen is a key reason for selection. That reputation and experience are going to be deciding factors.
A great social media profile portrays an authentic, caring, capable practitioner with strong communication abilities.
Social media spaces are for sharing topics that are interesting to your patients, sharing your original blog posts, sharing light-hearted humor, and for driving traffic to your website and blog.
Remember that your patients also want to know the person under the lab coat.
Don't be afraid let your authentic personality be seen in your social media posts. Keep it professional at all times of course, but allowing patients to have a glimpse of who you are will help create long lasting bonds. A good rule of thumb is one, off-topic post for every four healthcare posts.
Finally, when patients are letting their mouse clicks lead them around the web, they are going to come across review sites. It is very important to understand which review sites are being seen by your patients, and to have a strategy for populating the sites with positive reviews.
Be sure to include a link to a review site in any follow up communications with a patient and actively solicit their participation in reviewing you. You may even prompt them with a few ideas about what to write.
Ideas like “Did you feel you were being listened to?” and “Were you able to easily understand me?”
The big question you want answered is “Would you recommend my services to a family member or friend?
Building only a dozen or so positive, 5-star reviews will make your prospective patients confident that they are making the right choice.
Don’t wait until you get a poor review to act. Setting up your strategy now will pay dividends. When a poor review eventually shows up and you have a strategy for obtaining positive ones, it will only be a matter of time before your good ones push the bad one so far down the list that it has very little impact. Ignoring poor reviews is not an option: Online recommendations are the currency with which your reputation may be bought and sold.
Invest in your online personality. According to the same study, patients rarely switch practitioners even after mistakes and errors are made because they understand that the ongoing uncovering of needs or conditions are a key reason for not switching.
Remember only 25% of patients access practitioner information online to make a choice but far more are accessing general healthcare information online.
You want to be that information provider.
About Dan Willis
Dan is a multimedia solutions provider. His clients are small businesses in start up or newly established phases; product managers; and new media developers. As such, clients often require business consulting as well as marketing. Sometimes requests are unique, but seldom outside his wheelhouse. Dan answers client needs prepared to do whatever it takes to ensure success.
Source: Bennett Group Agency 2015, How Patients Choose Docs