The patient journey has significantly changed over the past several years. Patients now have access to crucial information about their conditions and their next steps at their fingertips. Not only that, but patients can conduct extensive research on care providers.
Who has the “best” ratings online? Do they have a good reputation? Are they known for listening, providing a high standard of care, or addressing issues that patients might not have known they have?
Read on to learn more about this new framework and make sure your practice’s patient acquisition marketing is up to date.
Patient Self-Referral: What to Expect
According to a report by Doctor.com, patients rely on online resources two times more than they do referrals from another care provider. In the age of internet accessibility, this may occur for several reasons:
- Patients have more choices. More care providers are available in many specializations, and due to Google Search, it’s quick and easy for patients to find them. If a provider cannot accommodate their demands or standards, they know they can turn elsewhere.
- Patients have become savvy consumers. Patients today are active healthcare consumers. With endless data a quick search away, they can learn about their conditions, the care available to them, and their medical options.
- Patients are picky. Patients now have more options than ever before and can use their resources to find a care provider who serves their wants. Common patient expectations are to receive immediate treatment when needed and that those treatments be as convenient for them as possible.
With convenience from other services rising, from banks providing mobile apps for on-the-go access to grocery stores delivering food, expectations for the healthcare industry have risen.
The 2024 Patient Acquisition Journey
The 2024 patient acquisition journey involves three stages:
- The Source Stage: Patients find potential providers through internet searches or recommendations from friends and family.
- The Evaluation Stage: Patients look for information about their candidates, usually by reviewing online information, such as previous patients’ reviews.
- The Choosing Stage: Patients choose a provider and book an appointment.
Imagine a parent looking for a pediatrician. They may start by asking for referrals from friends and family members in their area who have small children. They then go online to research the referred providers. The parent may look at the recommended providers’ websites, reviews, their experience and education. The parent uses this to decide their top picks.
Between the finalists, the parent notices that one pediatrician allows easy online scheduling while the other requires a call into the office. As a result, they select the provider that makes appointment setting more convenient.
Medicine is Local: The Importance of Local Omni-Channel Marketing for Medical Practices
A majority of patients will choose between practices local to them. Each area has unique dynamics and requirements, which you should consider as you develop your healthcare marketing strategy. Your local strategy should consider the following:
- Population density and demographics
- Payer environment
- Competitive landscape
- Major employers in the area
Top-performing practices don’t use a one-size-fits-all approach to patient acquisition marketing efforts. Instead, with the help of a healthcare marketing firm, they invest in an omnichannel strategy that optimizes each step of the patient journey.
Sourcing: How to Optimize Your Marketing in 2024
To optimize your medical marketing efforts in 2024, you must make it easy for patients to find the information they need to convert.
Your website is normally the first interaction between the patient and your practice. That means that your website must:
- Be easy-to-find
- Look professional
- Work across devices and browsers
- Provide a good user experience
- Offer supportive content needed for the patient decision-making process
Ultimately, your website should be designed to convert. According to Unbounce’s 2021 Conversion Benchmark report, the median conversion rate for a medical website is 3.6%, while the average is 7.4%: that is, out of each 100 new visitors to the website, perhaps 7 of them will schedule an appointment or fill out your contact form.
ChatGPT, a chatbot developed by OpenAI, launched on November 30, 2022. It exploded in popularity in 2023, generating over 1.5 billion total visits in September. Since then, it’s proven to be the tip of the iceberg.
Beyond just answering questions and generating ideas, artificial intelligence (AI) has the potential to significantly enhance patient engagement, patient experience and operational effectiveness as it develops. AI tools can help healthcare providers create relevant, SEO-optimized blogs, facilitate A/B testing optimization to ensure the effectiveness of a campaign and even act as chatbots on your website. This way, AI streamlines your visitors’ experience by responding immediately to questions and even scheduling appointments.
Keeping a finger on the pulse of AI’s advancements is essential for leveraging its benefits. However, it’s crucial to stay responsible by verifying information, preserving a human connection with patients and upholding HIPAA compliance standards.
HIPAA has evolved since the rise of digital technology. On December 1, 2022, CMS issued new guidelines stating that when health information is collected with tracking tech vendors, rules must be followed to prevent the unauthorized sharing of patient data.
To be HIPAA-compliant, a website and a practice’s digital marketing must ensure that all protected health information (ePHI) is addressed in the following ways:
- Transport Encryption is always encrypted.
- Backup is never lost; i.e., should be backed up and can be recovered.
- Authorization is only accessible by authorized personnel using unique, audited access controls.
- Integrity is not tampered with or altered.
- Storage Encryption is encrypted when it is being stored or archived.
- Disposal can be permanently disposed of when no longer needed.
- Omnibus/HITECH is located on the web servers of a company with whom you have a HIPAA Business Associate Agreement.
- IP Address Collection is considered PHI in Google Analytics templated structure.
- Symptom and treatment-specific ads and page tracking in Google Analytics, Google Ads, Facebook Ads, etc., are considered PHI in templated structures.
These updates render many practices noncompliant with website hosting, website forms, Google Analytics and more. Paired with AI’s rapid emergence, it’s more important than ever that healthcare organizations review and stay on top of emerging HIPAA guidelines.
Domino’s Pizza lost an appeal in 2017 to a lawsuit when a man who was legally blind could not use the website due to a lack of accessibility. Since then, digital accessibility lawsuits have continued to rise. Accessibility.works predicts a record high of around 4220 lawsuits filed by the end of 2023 in federal court or state court in New York and California. These lawsuits may average in the $5,000-$20,000 range. The healthcare industry is already litigious, so ensuring ADA compliance is critical for medical practice websites.
Search Engine Marketing
Search engine marketing is one of the most powerful tools in your arsenal as a digital marketer. It’s a fast, predictable, and useful way to get your medical practice in front of the people who need your expertise. At the same time, you must ensure that you have a high-quality search engine marketing strategy, including:
- A solid understanding of your target audience
- Campaign development strategies
- Knowledgeable execution of those strategies
- Tracking and measurement of your ultimate success
Search Engine Optimization
If you want to give your medical practice a strong advantage, SEO is critical. That means:
- On-site SEO optimization: Optimizing your website to Google and Bing search algorithms
- Local SEO: Optimizing your website for better overall visibility in your local area
- Off-page SEO: Link-building generates links back to your website from other sites, which helps increase your authority and improve your overall SEO
A high search ranking increases the odds that patients will see your practice when looking for a provider that offers what you do. On the other hand, a low search ranking could send your practice spinning to the second page of Google or beyond, so patients who need your services may not find you.
Social media has become a critical part of most of today’s marketing strategies, and healthcare marketing companies are aware of this. Paid social marketing is one of the most effective ways to ensure potential patients will see your ads. For example, Facebook has an advertising network of 1000s of websites and apps and can help you target the specific customers who are most likely to be looking for your practice. And due to Facebook’s current algorithm, unpaid, or “organic,” content may not be visible even to people who have already liked your page.
Evaluation: Becoming the Authority in Your Field
For patients to select your practice, they need to believe that you are the authority: the one they should come to with their needs in your specific industry.
Google Business Profile
Google Business Profile allows you to list your business on Google Maps and offer information about your practice. That may be the first piece of information patients see about your practice, so it should include the following:
- Hours of operation
- Contact details
- The link back to your website
If your business is already listed, then you can claim it. Google Business Profile is also excellent for people to look at your patient reviews.
According to the 2023 Healthcare Reputation report, 73% of healthcare consumers look for a rating of at least 4 out of 5 stars when deciding whether to engage with a provider. You want to post clear reviews that showcase who you are. Encourage satisfied patients to share that information with others, and make sure, when possible, that your reviews share insights about precisely what it’s like to work with you as a provider.
The content on your website is a valuable tool for patients in their evaluation process. Use blogs, videos, and other types of content to answer common patient questions, ease their concerns, and introduce them to your practice. By establishing yourself as a trustworthy expert in your practice area, you’ll encourage patients to choose you when they’re ready to start working with a provider.
Choosing: How to Make Your Practice the Ideal Choice
To encourage patient conversion, you must make yourself easy to do business with. According to Care Sherpa, as many as 79% of medical practice leads fail to convert. According to their survey, 30% of digital leads noted that they never received a response. For patients to choose you, you must streamline the interactions as they move through the sales funnel.
Connecting with Patients
To acquire and retain patients, you must make sure you connect and communicate with them effectively.
- Use call overflow coverage solutions to ensure that patients always get to talk to someone when they call in.
- Use intelligent reminders to reduce no-shows and make it easier for patients to remember information about upcoming appointments.
- Use 2-way SMS and secure chat options to make it easier for patients to connect with you from anywhere.
Frictionless forms help reduce patients’ effort to schedule an appointment. The harder you make appointment scheduling, the greater the likelihood that patients will choose not to schedule that appointment or work with your practice.
Measuring Overall Performance
To determine the effectiveness of your healthcare marketing campaigns, you must have information about key metrics related to that campaign. You need to know, for example, how many calls are coming in or how many people visiting your website are doing so for the first time. There are a variety of factors that can help determine overall campaign success, including:
- Website conversion rate
- Unique users
- Ad conversion rates based on channel, campaign, and location
- Cost per conversion
- First-time callers
- How many calls aren’t answered
- Close rate on leads
- Cost per appointment
- Marketing program ROI
By using the proper measurements, you can better track the ongoing performance of your campaigns and ensure that you have positioned yourself to meet your goals.
Are You Ready for a Better Patient Acquisition Strategy?
Many medical care providers have seen several changes to their patient acquisition strategies in recent years. If you have yet to make similar changes to your own healthcare marketing efforts, you may see decreased leads, decreases in new patients, and other common struggles. Are you ready for a better patient acquisition strategy? Contact Evolve Healthcare Marketing today to learn more about how we can help.