illustration of someone with a magnifying glass looking at different doctor profilesBack in the dark ages, before the world was at our fingertips, the task of finding a new doctor might look a bit like this:

You: Do you know a good orthopedic surgeon?

Friend: Try mine; she’s great. Here is her office phone number.

Today, how patients choose doctors goes far beyond seeking recommendations from friends. The internet allows us to customize our search in granular, glorious detail. With just a few clicks, we can find a doctor who accepts our insurance, treats our ailment, provides video visits, is located nearby and speaks our language (literally).

That’s progress for patients. But what does it mean for healthcare organizations seeking to improve access to care and create an exceptional experience for the people they serve? What does it mean for marketers who are on a mission to help physicians attract new patients?

These are the questions we’re asking ourselves at WriterGirl, too, which is why we were excited to discover a survey of 1,000 healthcare consumers about how patients choose doctors. Conducted by Wakefield Research on behalf of Kyruus in August 2020, the survey yielded a treasure trove of data that can help healthcare organizations attract, engage and serve consumers who are seeking care.

What follows is a summary of key research findings about how patients choose doctors, along with our own insights to help your marketing team put these discoveries into practice.

No surprise here: People are using the internet

57% of consumers use the internet when searching for a new provider, up slightly from previous surveys. For people seeking a primary care provider:

  • The No. 1 resource is the internet
  • 2 is their insurance company
  • 3 is a personal referral

When it comes to finding a specialist:

  • Provider recommendations are No. 1
  • Internet searches are No. 2
  • Going through insurance is No. 3

Check your doctor’s online presence

As reliance on the internet grows, so too does consumer choice. Google, Yelp and Facebook are popular business listing platforms, but check your doctor’s online presence by taking a look at whether they appear on sites like Top Doctors and WebMD Care. These platforms allow users to search for doctors using criteria such as specialty, disease condition and medical procedures. If you find mistakes or outdated information on third-party physician listings, reach out to correct or update them.

Update Google My Business profiles

Compared to Google, other listing platforms are all the little guys. And Google My Business is the king when it comes to local searches. So it’s essential your hospital and individual physician practices follow best practices to optimize your Google My Business profile. Be sure to claim, verify and update each listing.

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More people are using hospital websites to find a doctor

The research shows 45% of online consumers use hospital websites to find a doctor, up from 38% in 2017. About 20% of consumers start their journey on a hospital site.

Highlight the options your audience wants

Make sure your site features the choices patients say they are looking for. According to the study, that includes:

  • Virtual care: 40% say that virtual care access is now a highly important factor when selecting a provider — half of millennials and Gen Xers would switch providers for it.
  • Online booking: 48% of respondents said they prefer to schedule appointments by phone, but a rising number (43%) prefer to book online.
  • COVID-19 care: Close to one-third of consumers want to know which providers treat COVID-19.

A Google site search can help you see the extent to which site visitors used your search function, how they used it and how effectively the search results helped them engage with your organization.

Read more: How to retain more patients with better communication and stronger relationships

Physician bios are crucial to your marketing strategy

Consumers are looking for a wide variety of information on doctor bios. For example, about half of patients surveyed said they are seeking a physician’s educational background, biographical information and patient reviews.

Prioritize your organization’s doctor bios

Make sure your provider bios possess these essential elements:

  • An updated headshot — bonus points for doctors who are smiling
  • The physician’s personal story and philosophy of care
  • Patient reviews (be sure to use a system that guarantees their authenticity)
  • SEO-friendly content and a search-friendly URL structure to ensure patients can find the provider they’re looking for

Consumers are leaning on virtual assistants to find a doctor

Patients are relying more on virtual assistants to find care and health information. Of those who used one on a health system website, nearly 75% found it helpful for identifying a provider or service.

Create website content that lends itself well to voice search

Include the necessary back-end code that will help potential patients use voice search and virtual assistants (like Alexa) to find your content.

As the role of digital access continues to grow and change in the healthcare marketplace, organizations need in-depth research and marketing insights to guide their way. We hope these actionable steps help your team attract, engage and serve consumers as you venture into this brave new world.

We can help you navigate the road ahead. Does all this information make you long for the days when people just asked their next-door neighbor for a physician referral? Maybe it’s time to find a partner who can help you reach your audience with custom content solutions, from doctor bios to website pages. Reach out to WriterGirl to get started.

We’d love to learn other insights about how patients choose doctors. Please share yours with us on FacebookTwitter or LinkedIn.