As a patient, choosing a provider can be a daunting task. Yet, in some ways, the decision-making process is simple: as patients search for care options online, they will almost always select the provider that’s most compelling and aligned with their preferences. According to Consumer Reports, more than half of Americans focus on personality and relationship when choosing a physician.
This means providers and health systems need to connect strongly with their audience at key consumer touchpoints across the online patient journey, enabling seamless and convenient access to their services. This is especially true for top-of-the-funnel touchpoints, where patients first become aware of your online brand.
Here’s how your organization can attract more patients at the most crucial moments in the journey.
Become an active online participant
It’s not enough to “set and forget” your online presence. As patients become increasingly digital, they routinely check online sources as the first step in their journey to care. For that reason, it’s imperative that health organizations become active participants in online conversations. In fact, a majority of consumers will choose physicians who have Twitter activity and receive “likes” on Facebook, but with fewer review site ratings, over ones with more ratings but no social media presence, according to research from The Academy. This is especially true for patients under 55.
To attract patients in these online conversations — through social media and a robust content marketing strategy — healthcare marketers need to publish material that’s highly relevant and specific to their target consumers. Ask: what matters to your particular patients? For instance, if a provider treats arthritis, they might post helpful guides on managing joint pain, tips on finding treatment options for rheumatoid arthritis (or any other kind of arthritis), or showcase a touching video of a patient describing how your health system helped turned their debilitating condition into an enjoyable, manageable life. In other words, become the go-to care expert and resource for patients online.
Demonstrate your (personal and technological) commitment to patients
Of course, patients want to know that providers are committed to delivering the best, most comprehensive treatment. In this digital age, that commitment is increasingly reflected through technology. Deloitte notes that a rapidly increasing portion of consumers (a growing third) are drawn to using digital tools and resources to help connect them to their care.
To account for changing consumer behavior, health systems should showcase the tools and services that set them apart. Does your health system offer an app that helps patients to manage their care, find medical resources, view their health records, or take charge of their health? Can patients schedule appointments anytime through convenient online scheduling? Does your organization offer virtual care, telehealth, or online care management? Is there an after-hours call line for patients to consult with a nurse? Do you provide webinars for navigating treatment? Other tools, like at-home diagnostic and genetic testing, are also becoming popular with consumers. Any tool or service — from the above or not — that helps patients receive more connected, seamless, comprehensive care should be a highlight in any top-of-funnel marketing channel.
Of course, patients still require a human touch — and elements like reputation, personality, and bedside manner are all priorities in choosing a provider, Deloitte reports. In helping to steer patients in your direction, be sure to call out how your organization is committed to providing a personalized experience. Detail the personal approach and reputation of providers in their Healthgrades profiles, promote your organization’s patient-centered care and successes on your website, and publish the personal stories of your patients (in their words, ideally) through engaging articles and videos. Any content that helps bring your care home — addressing the patient as an individual — will help sway their decision in your favor.
For patients, the journey to care can be difficult and complicated. With these strategies, your organization can help make that process simple. By becoming patients’ go-to care expert in online conversations, targeting the touch-points that drive value, and showcasing the tools, services, and personal approach that set your organization apart, you can begin to master the patient journey to care.