Have you ever wondered how patients are finding you on the internet? Understanding how patients are finding your healthcare website will help you better understand the process of searching for healthcare services, the significance of digital marketing, and ways you can better user experience for patients.
More than half of today’s searches are healthcare-related. The internet is the number one resource for patients that are searching for a healthcare professional for their medical concerns and needs. According to The National Library of Medicine, there are over 6.75 million healthcare-related searches per day.
Ultimately, the patient experience begins when they conduct their healthcare-related search. It’s important to understand the patient journey search process to fully understand their decision-making processes, what drives their choices, and what contributes to their overall experience. Regardless of the type of healthcare facility you are running, it is important to understand these processes.
How Patients Begin their Online Search
Most searches begin with a question or keywords regarding the healthcare services they are interested in. Who is the best cosmetic surgeon near me? Why do I have red bumps on my arms? Is there an emergency room in the city I am currently in? What are the symptoms of an autoimmune disease?
Healthcare businesses that have a good understanding of the patient search journey can answer common questions that are relevant to their targeted audiences’ searches. This can lead patients to your healthcare website and grow your healthcare business.
The Patient Search Journey
Patients’ search journey begins when requesting information, resources, healthcare professionals, and answers to specific questioning regarding their healthcare concerns or interests. When prospective patients don’t know which healthcare professional to contact, they turn to Google, the most powerful search engine. This is where a majority of your prospective clients are when searching for healthcare-related answers.
When prospective patients are searching the internet for answers and healthcare professionals, there are two important stages in the process. These two stages are research and evaluation. Healthcare facilities that are knowledgeable in the search process and succeed at reeling in new patients are those that can provide web searchers with relevant, valuable content by answering questions and influencing prospective clients to take action.
Now that we have a better understanding of the patient search journey, let’s go into further detail about the process itself.
Step 1: Research
The first step of each prospective patient’s search journey is research. It’s important to keep in mind that not all patients are searching for a healthcare professional just yet. Though there will be some patients that are searching for answers and not healthcare professionals, there is still a chance you can convert them from prospective patients to actual patients. If you answer their question in a blog or article post on your healthcare website, this can introduce your healthcare facility to prospective patients.
On the other hand, there will be prospective patients who are searching for a specific doctor, provider, or a specific medical specialty. These individuals are either seeking a healthcare professional that can determine a specific diagnosis, or a healthcare professional that offers services pertaining to a medical condition that has been identified.
So there are two different types of healthcare research that prospective patients can be conducting. These research types are either one of the following:
- Healthcare information regarding symptoms, conditions, or treatments
- Healthcare professional or specialty
When prospective patients are researching either one of the above-mentioned, chances are they are researching it because it is a medical concern they want to be examined immediately or they are ready to make an appointment within the next few days.
Let’s take a closer look at the two different types of patient research.
Healthcare Professional Specific Searches
In a healthcare provider-specific search, patients are looking for a specific type of healthcare professional that offers a specific service. If the patient already has a healthcare professional in mind that they have been referred to they will just type in the provider’s name. Alternatively, if the patient has not yet chosen a healthcare professional, but is searching for one, their search will be similar to the following:
- Fertility clinic near me
- Acne treatment in Los Angeles
- Local doctors that accept Medicare
- Botox specialist near me
- Endodontist in Houston
- A dentist that whitens teeth
While reading this list, I’m sure you started to consider how prospective patients search for healthcare professionals in your practice area. This greatly matters because the content throughout your website can attract new patients. In order to attract new patients and catch their attention, you will need the following:
- Effective local marketing strategies
- A well-developed website
- A strong web presence
There are many ways you can attract new patients. However, you will need to begin with your digital marketing strategies to get your healthcare website to reach the top pages of search engines. This will include SEO, website, web presence, reviews, and content.
This will allow your website to generate on search engines for prospective patients and offer valuable information while establishing credibility for your healthcare facility.
Healthcare Questions Searches and Conditions
You can also benefit from the type of search patients initiate when seeking answers and information. Prospective patients might be researching specific procedures and treatments or asking health-related questions regarding their symptoms or needs. Their search might be as follows:
- Is there a recovery period for fertility treatment?
- What is tretinoin?
- How long does botox last?
- Root canal symptoms
- How to whiten teeth
In cases like such, prospective patients aren’t searching for a particular healthcare professional or specialist. They are searching for information that can direct them right to your healthcare website. That is if your website is full of content that is relevant to the conditions you treat and the services you offer.
Step 2: Evaluation
Searching the internet plays a role in the patient search journey, however, it is just the beginning of their decision-making process. Once prospective patients show interest in a healthcare professional, they will evaluate them prior to making a final decision. This is when patients will begin to dig deep into any information they can find regarding you and your healthcare facility.
Patients will consider the following throughout the patient search process:
If patients are seeking medical care regarding a medical concern, they will check which healthcare facilities in their area offer the services they need and if it is covered by their insurance. If patients are searching for a cosmetic service, they most likely won’t consider insurance.
Regardless of if patients will be using insurance, once they are introduced to your services, they will go to your website to evaluate your facility and what it has to offer. Even if patients are using insurance, and they have discovered which healthcare facilities are accessible to them, they will then go straight to the medical professionals’ websites to get a better understanding of your facility, where they will form their own opinion about you, based on what your website represents.
This is why it is important to have an easy-to-navigate, informative, and aesthetically pleasing website. The more information you have on your healthcare website, the better. Include a bio, blogs, videos, reviews and testimonials, practice areas, and contact information. If your website is easy to use and provides prospective patients with what they are looking for, they will feel more inclined to contact you for their cosmetic wants and medical needs.
Online reviews have a huge impact on the performance of your website. Nearly 80% of medical and cosmetic patients conduct review research prior to making a decision. Ultimately, reviews are what validate your claims and provide patients with evidence. Prospective patients will use review websites such as Yelp, Google, and WebMD.
Additionally, reviews play a role in your SEO. The more positive reviews you receive on Google, the faster it will be recognized by search engines.
Similar to reviews, there are websites that list healthcare professionals based on their expertise, specialties, and locations to make it easy for patients to find them. Ensure you are claiming your profiles on online directories to increase your visibility and spread awareness about your healthcare business.
Prospective patients have most likely made a decision by the time they evaluate your healthcare facility. Prospective patients have run into your healthcare website and are impressed with the website and the services you offer. They make an appointment after finding you on the internet, however, their patient search process does not stop there. You need to ensure you are providing them with excellent services so that they too will submit a positive review and enhance your online presence for the next online healthcare prospective patient who is searching the web for a healthcare facility like yours. If you have found it challenging to attract new patients online, consider a marketing agency that can do the work for you.