Talk to nearly any healthcare marketer today and the topic of “healthcare consumerism” almost always comes up. Patients know they have choices when it comes to selecting the right primary care physician, specialist or inpatient/outpatient facility. Armed with powerful search engines, ratings and reviews, and dozens of targeted articles and blogs, they’re more likely to shop around for a provider who meets their specific needs.
To meet that demand for selecting a doctor, most providers we meet with have added, or are in the process of adding “Find a Doc” search functionality to their provider pages that feature: a physician’s credentials, where he or she did their residency, special areas of study, published papers and more. We’ve found the most effective approach to giving consumers the insights they are looking for, however, is by tailoring that search experience to meet patient concerns, not simply highlighting the doctor’s bona fides.
A doctor’s credentials are essential, of course, but a wide range of questions are left unaddressed in that silo of information. For instance, what’s the perceived quality of care from one person to the next? Convenient parking might be a must-have for one person, but it’s irrelevant to a patient taking public transportation. A doctor’s bedside manner is relevant to everyone, but how does that compare to whether the treatment was effective or not? The range of customer-relevant data points are expanding rather than contracting, increasing the challenge of engaging patients in the consumer space. There is hope in addressing these challenges, however.
With Star Ratings, for example, a patient can quickly and easily sort through ratings and peer reviews on a practice’s own website to help them make a more informed decision about selecting a doctor. Having a consumer-focused web presence with features like online scheduling, star ratings, and comments, for instance, is becoming increasingly important. Ahead we’ll give you a look at critical areas where you need to improve efforts to manage one of the most precious commodities healthcare providers have: their reputation.
Important Marketing Trends for 2017
1. Adopt a full transparency review. This goes along with controlling the content on your website and guiding the digital patient journey. Publishing both positive and negative comments and ratings — most of which are positive – helps you build trust with your patients and can sway decisions in your favor. But remember, in addition to your own site, you also have to manage a positive online reputation across all third-party sites like Yelp , Vitals and others.
2. Pay attention to consumerism in healthcare. Health systems are becoming more comfortable engaging with their patients on social media platforms, many who are posting comments and feedback on their patient experience. In fact, patients – as informed healthcare decision makers – are starting to expect the same kind of interaction they receive from hotels or their favorite retail account. For instance, if a patient tweets a negative comment from your waiting room, you may have the opportunity to resolve the issue immediately. Again, this helps create online and on-site service recovery and ultimately helps build loyalty with your brand.
3. Focus on marketing your physicians. Patients want a doctor they can trust. I’d argue that physicians are starting to represent their practice’s brand more than the practice itself. The stats tell the story: 76% of patients searching online for a provider focus on physicians, compared to only 30% for facilities.
4. Engage in standardized ratings. Publishing ratings is important, but there are as many rating systems out there as there are third-party rating sites. Establishing standardized rating methods will become increasingly important, alongside the growth of tools like Star Ratings.
5. Keep an eye on bonuses tied to online feedback. We’re starting to see healthcare providers use online feedback and scoring as a component of physician bonuses. This is validating the importance of online feedback. Healthcare organizations know it can impact patient acquisition and loyalty so it’s being taken seriously.
6. The amount of online feedback will only continue to grow. At Binary Fountain, we’ve seen a 50 percent increase in online reviews just in the last year for our clients. When selecting a provider, patients often value a peer review more than, say, a physician who is mentioned in a recent article. Consumers have already become more accustomed to searching for feedback and ratings on provider and third-party sites, and they will start leaving more of their own comments moving forward.
Interested in finding out how to optimize – or initialize – your online reputation management program for 2017? Contact Binary Fountain today to request a personalized demonstration of our comprehensive reputation management platform.
About the Author
EVP of Strategy & Corporate Development