As per the United States Census Bureau, 78.9% of all households in the country owned a personal computer at home in 2012. Of which, 74.8% actively used internet everyday. The percentage was just 18% in 1997. From news to products, we turn to internet for everything. The landscape is not very different with your patients. Before scheduling that visit at your center, patients look for the licensing information, board certifications, the specialties a particular doctor caters to, her affiliations with hospitals and medical communities, years in practice and patient reviews.
Internet has the potential to attract new patients and build trust amongst existing patients. Hence, it is extremely important for doctors, centers and administrators to build a strong web presence. The idea should be to make it easier for the patients to find you.
Here are four recommendations that can help you build a solid online presence foundation.
1. Build a website.
A website is the single most important digital extension of you/your center. Build a simple yet resource worthy website that explains who you are, what you do. Choose an appropriate website name (e.g. www.nameofyourcenter.com). To determine the website that is best suited for your business, think from your patients’ point of view. Question yourself, if you were the patient, what kind of information you would be interested in while visiting a center’s website. Clearly explain the types of services you provide, the insurances you accept, have downloadable patient resources (forms, educational material), physician/s profile and contact information. You can also integrate payment gateways on your website, making it easier for patients to pay co-pays and past balances. Giving an option to schedule an appointment online also increases patient engagement online and save time for front desk.
2. Be Social.
Consider building your presence on social media channels- Facebook, Twitter, Google+, YouTube, etc. According tostatistics, Facebook had over 1B active users in January 2014. Twitter and Google+ attracts around 232M and 300M active users. These are big numbers. People are spending a significant amount of time on social media. This population also includes your patients. Many business are actively using social media to attract new customers and build relationships. Consider signing up for Google Local to attract patients within your locality. When your practice is omnipresent over the web, your chances of getting found increases.
3. Be Mobile.
Smartphones and mobile tablets are replacing traditional computers to become the go-to device for accessing internet. Most users carry their mobile device wherever they go. But the mobile experience is significantly different from a PC experience. Your entire digital presence has to be optimized for mobile devices. For websites, use responsive design (this type of design optimizes your website for screens of all sizes automatically) or use a separate mobile website. Mobile ready websites should load quickly and provide the same robustness as their web counterparts.
4. Grow patient engagement.
Digital mediums if used smartly can serve as excellent platforms for increasing patient engagement. Integrate a patient portal with your website or EHR. Patients can just go to the website and review/update their medical information. For all scheduled visits, send registration forms as weblinks which patients can open on mobile or PC and fill prior to the visit. Encourage patient recommendations on physician forums such as vitals.com andhealthgrades.com. This will establish your center as a trustworthy and experienced source of healthcare service enabler. Publish the new procedures the center has started, the new insurances accepted on your website and push it through social media. Send health related weekly newsletters to patients to further drive the engagement.
Digital and social platforms, if maintained actively, can go a long way in getting new patients. It is not a build once and forget concept. Build a consistent experience throughout- your social media accounts should have some essential elements like color, images, similar to those on your website. This makes it easier for patients to relate. To get the most, make a point to update your channels regularly. Consider writing blogs, posting videos and initiating conversations with patients and peers on digital channels. It takes time to create digital presence so “Keep Calm and Carry On”.