Americans are turning to the Internet like never before to make their health decisions and to self-diagnose their medical conditions. A recent report by the National Research Corporation states, “Americans are “always on”: nearly nine in ten consumers (87 per cent) access the Internet regularly (PEW American Life, 2014). Within the context of healthcare, two in five consumers (39 per cent) (Market Insights consumer study, 2015) visited WebMD.com in the past year and one in five consumers (22 per cent) stopped at a local hospital or health system website”
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has had a profound impact on the healthcare industry in the last five years and will continue to do, according to a new report by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC). The act has empowered healthcare consumers to make better health decisions as they can now research and buy their healthcare plans just like they shop for a product on Amazon. The rapid evolution has resulted in a more patient-centric approach, for which the physicians have no other choice but to follow. The digital consumers now want more personalized healthcare services as they are paying more for the insurance plans.
Now, digital experience is prior to the physical experience
These changes are driving radical reforms in the way patients now choose their physicians. The Internet and social media are now the first stop for patients seeking information about a physician recommendation, service quality and patient experiences. Furthermore, the digital experiences have even driven the need for physicians to have a positive online reputation, as people now choose a physician based on the reviews posted by others. According to a survey by Google Think, about 26% of patients used consumer-generated reviews and 77% of patients used search prior to booking an appointment.
The numbers are soaring higher and higher. Patients or potential patients reverse-engineer the marketing strategies and conduct their own research, from the comfort and privacy of their screens or mobiles.
The impact of changing scenarios
Take the first step to protect your online reputation and request your Online Reputation Assessment.
The digital experience is driving purchasing decisions for all products and services, healthcare being no exception. This has resulted in the evolution of the healthcare industry toward digitalization to be competitive and efficient in the marketplace. It is the most startling metamorphosis over the last few years, which has accelerated the transformation of the healthcare industry to be more patient-centric than ever.
What choice do physicians have? It’s a clear decision of choosing between the two alternatives: You can either grow forward and evolve with the change or shrink backward.
For physicians, dentists and other healthcare practitioners, online marketing is now an essential “must have” in their marketing strategy. It plays an indispensible role in connecting with patients and potential patients and helps develop a relationship of trust and credibility. To cater to healthcare’s digital decision-makers, physicians should focus on developing a strategy with an umbrella approach, i.e. to have a versatile digital presence through a website, blogs and social networking platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and so on. The info-hungry consumers also check out patient reviews on various physician-review websites such as Yelp, RateMyMd, Healthgrades, Vitals, etc., so having an active profile on these will help build good relationships with patients and will also keep you aware of what is being said about you online.
By reaching out to the healthcare consumers online, physicians can create impactful communication channels that can drive patient decisions to their favor. Physicians now need to think like marketers to better understand and participate in digital conversations as these can directly impact their online brand perception and reputation. More than at any time in the past, marketing through digital channels is of utmost importance now.