Dating apps, like Match.com and Tinder, are the most popular way that couples meet these days. People start their search for a romantic partner and spouse — our most significant personal relationship — online.
What about the most personal professional relationship — your doctor? The search for a health provider most often begins with Google.
Why your doctors’ online presence needs to move up the marketing priority list
According to doctor.com, over 80% of patients will read reviews about a provider even after they’ve been referred. That survey was from 2018. With telehealth visits getting a big shot in the arm from the pandemic, searching, selecting and then seeing a doctor digitally is the new reality.
With the availability of virtual doctor visits, consumers are no longer bound by which doctor offices are conveniently located within their local health system’s geographic footprint. The competition is growing for quick, accessible physician appointments. Maybe an individual’s insurance plan offers a lower cost virtual visit for routine conditions like a sinus infection. Or perhaps a teenager can see a dermatologist via video today using an online service rather than wait weeks for an in-person appointment. Googling “see a dermatologist today” offers 71 million results!
With the importance of online physician reviews, convenience and competition for accessible appointments and consumer demand for telehealth, marketers have plenty of reasons to pay close attention to their doctors’ online presence.
What makes up a doctor’s online presence?
Back in the day, a doctor could hang out their shingle, mount the medical degree on the wall, and the patients would find them. Now attracting patients is a bit more complex.
A doctor’s overall online presence includes a few components. You’ll want to consider:
- The provider bio on your health system website
- The bio on any physician practice sites
- Search results — including the doctor’s Google My Business listing
- Third-party sites with physician information and reviews like Healthgrades, WebMD Care and Zocdoc
- Social media presence — or lack thereof
- Telehealth visit experience for patients — their virtual bedside manner, if you will
Consider auditing these areas to determine if the provider’s information is accurate, available in the right locations, and reflects positively on their care.
5 ways to enhance a doctor’s online presence
How can you help prospective patients find and connect online with your physicians? Think of the components of a doctor’s overall impression online as a wheel:
- The bio in your health system’s provider database is the hub, and that’s an excellent place to start.
- The spokes of the wheel are the other channels on the web that consumers use to research providers along with other results that can show up when you search the physician’s name.
- Consider the patient’s experience online and during a virtual visit as the rim of the wheel.
Here are some ideas for how healthcare marketers can contribute to a doctor’s success in the digital world:
Build the hub
Start with your owned media — those platforms you have content control over. In this case, get your doctors’ online bios as robust as you can. Incorporate the five elements of success for physician bios: a nice photo, patient reviews, personal story, care philosophy — all in SEO-friendly style.
The credentials that appear in the physician listings, like education and certification, are usually pulled from a database maintained outside of marketing. Be sure you understand where those details come from and have confidence they are accurate and up to date.
Consumers count on reviews before they buy an appliance or download a movie. They expect the same when deciding on a healthcare provider. You need a plan to respond to negative reviews. But it’s good strategy (and more fun) to build up participation and encourage patients to review their doctors. You could work with the physician office staff to ask patients to leave a review and make it super simple with a handout of instructions or an email with links after a visit.
Correct free listings
If you find mistakes or outdated information on third-party physician listings, reach out to correct or update them. These platforms lose their credibility if they don’t have accurate information and usually provide a way to claim the free listing. If a consumer finds the doctor’s basic info is consistent across many sources, they will be reassured that this provider is trustworthy and established.
Get more healthcare marketing tips and best practices. Subscribe to the WriterGirl newsletter!
Don’t forget about the power of public relations
Connect the online dots to your PR efforts:
- What are your doctors doing in the community? Whether it’s coaching a youth baseball team or publishing a life-saving research report, promote their activities and accomplishments with your social media channels.
- Create opportunities for physicians to share their expertise in education sessions. Many hospitals set up online webinars during the pandemic where physicians can speak to audiences interested in learning more about a new procedure or wellness topic. Participants can register and join the video conference for free. And here’s the beauty of it: You can easily record these sessions to replay, edit clips for social media or create a blog post. Best of all, no chairs to set up or refreshments to order!
- Repurpose your earned media by sharing positive news reports where your physicians appear or are quoted. After a story runs on TV or in print, media outlets may keep the story available on their websites for much longer. That adds a nice dimension to your physician’s search results.
Capitalize on camera opportunities
As a marketer, you understand a lot about looking good and communicating well on camera. Whether it’s an audience of one patient for a telemedicine appointment or a webinar, support your physicians with tips and tools so they look and sound their best. Send them a checklist or a video with easy-to-implement suggestions on camera position, lighting, audio and background.
Also, remember your physicians are your brand ambassadors. Consider providing them a virtual background or a logo item for their bookshelf, so patients connect their doctor with the health system brand.
The digital tools available to patients today can go a long way in improving access to healthcare. For marketers, it means we need to make sure our doctors digital online presence is just as welcoming as it would be meeting them in person.
Need support to prepare compelling bios for your physicians? WriterGirl’s healthcare writing team has created thousands! We’ll help you get the project off the ground and over the finish line, so you can focus on other marketing goals. Reach out anytime to learn more about our services.