The patient journey has certainly changed over the past several years. More importantly to you as a medical practice leader, however, you must note that the traditional model of attracting and retaining patients through healthcare marketing has been completely upended. Today’s patients have access to all the information they could possibly need about their conditions and their next steps right there, at their fingertips. The internet has made that information so widely available, in fact, that most patients take it for granted.

Not only that, but patients are able to conduct extensive research to clearly identify the care providers they want to use for all of their needs.

Who has the “best” ratings online? Does the doctor have the reputation patients are looking for, including a reputation for listening, providing a high standard of care, or even addressing issues that patients might not even have known they have? Patients care about all of those key details and more, and they have the ability to seek out that information before selecting a care provider to handle their case.

Patient Self-Referral: What to Expect

According to a study performed by National Ambulatory Medical Care, today’s patients are highly likely to self-refer to a medical care provider. As many as 66.3% of dermatology patients will research the information they need online, choose a dermatologist, and contact the care provider to set up an appointment, often without any need to discuss symptoms or needs with a primary care provider. In fields like gastroenterology, that number may be much lower, with just 24.2% of patients self-referring.

According to a survey by Doctor.com, patients rely on online resources two times more than they do active referrals from another care provider. This may occur for a number of key reasons:

  • Patients have more choices. There are more care providers available in many specializations. Furthermore, patients are better positioned to find the care providers they need for their unique problems.
  • Patients have become savvy consumers. They are aware that they need to put in the research to learn about their conditions, the care available to them, and their medical options, and they’re willing to do the research. Instead of being passive consumers of healthcare, they are active consumers who are highly focused on their unique needs.
  • Patients have higher expectations when it comes to healthcare than ever before. They expect to have a choice about how they are treated, they expect to receive immediate treatment when they need it, and they expect those treatments to be as convenient for them as possible. When a care provider cannot offer accommodations to those demands, they know that they can turn elsewhere—and they often do.

Patients, overall, expect the same high degree of care and convenience from their healthcare providers that they do from their other service providers. They receive a high standard of convenience and support from all the other providers they work with on a regular basis, from their banks to the delivery services bringing food straight to their doors—and they continue to have the same high expectations of their healthcare providers.

The 2023 Patient Acquisition Journey

The 2023 patient acquisition journey involves three distinct stages:

  • The Source stage: Patients generate potential providers through internet searches or recommendations from friends and family
  • The Evaluation stage: Patients look for more information about their candidates, including reviewing the information available online to choose the best care provider for their needs
  • The Choosing stage: Patients choose the provider they want to use and book the appointment

Imagine, for example, that a parent is looking for a new pediatrician. They might start by asking for referrals from friends and family members who already have small children and who live in their local area. They might then go online to research the options they have been given. The parent might start by looking at the recommended providers’ websites, reviews given by other patients, and the experience and education each care provider has.

Next, the parent might move forward with selecting a provider. Between the finalists, the patient notices that one pediatrician allows easy online scheduling while the other requires a call into the office. As a result, they select the care provider that makes the appointment experience easy.

Medicine is Local: The Importance of Local Omni-Channel Marketing for Medical Practices

Medicine remains a hyper-local practice. Each local area has its own unique dynamics and requirements, all of which must be taken into account as you develop your healthcare marketing strategy. Your local strategy must take into account:

  • 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 their 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 2023

In order to optimize your medical marketing efforts in 2023, you must make it easy for patients to find the information they’re looking for from your practice.

Be Easy to Find

Your website is the first interaction between the patient and your practice. If patients can’t find that website, chances are, they cannot find you as a provider, either. That means that your website must:

  • 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 must be designed to convert. According to Google, the average medical website has a conversion rate of 6%: that is, out of each 100 new visitors to the website, just 6 of them will schedule an appointment or fill out your contact form. The top 25% of medical practice websites, on the other hand, have a conversion rate of 20.4%.

ADA Compliance

ADA compliance is absolutely critical for your medical practice website. In 2017, Domino’s Pizza lost an appeal to a lawsuit brought in federal court when a man who was legally blind could not use either the website or the mobile app due to a lack of accessibility. Lack of ADA compliance can lead to significant lawsuits, which may average in the $5,000-$20,000 range.

Search Engine Marketing

Search engine marketing is one of the most powerful tools in your arsenal as a digital marketer. It’s fast, predictable, and a highly useful way to get your medical practice in front of the people who most need to know about everything you have to offer. At the same time, however, 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

Google notes that the average medical practice PPC campaign generates a click-through rate of 3.27%. Top performers, on the other hand, have a CTR of around 5.31%. The average cost per lead is $125, but top performers may have a cost per lead of less than $30.

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

When you have a high search ranking, it increases the odds that patients will see your practice when they’re looking for a provider that offers exactly what you do. A low search ranking, on the other hand, could send your practice spinning to the second page of Google or beyond, where patients who need your services may not be able to find you.

Social Media

Social media has become a critical part of most of today’s marketing strategies, and healthcare marketing companies are well aware of this. Paid social marketing is one of the most effective ways to make sure your ads are seen since Facebook’s current algorithms may not make your content visible even to people who have already liked your page most of the time. A paid social media ad, most often conducted across Facebook due to its advertising network of 1000s of websites and apps, can help you target the specific customers who are most likely to be looking for your practice.

Evaluation: Becoming the Authority in Your Field

In order 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 My Business

Google My Business allows you to claim your business listing on Google Maps and offer the information patients may need. This may be the first piece of information patients see about your practice, so it needs to include:

  • Hours of operation
  • Contact details
  • The link back to your website

Google My Business is also a great place for patients to take a look at reviews others might have left of your practice.

Content

The content on your website is an incredibly valuable tool for patients and for the evaluation process. You want to turn your website into a resource that patients can count on. Use blogs, videos, and other types of content to answer common patient questions, ease their concerns, and introduce them to your practice. Through your content, you can establish yourself as a trustworthy expert in your practice area. That, in turn, will encourage patients to choose you when they’re ready to start working with a provider.

Patient Reviews

According to the 2022 Healthcare Reputation report, 72% of healthcare consumers look for a rating of at least 4 out of 5 stars when deciding on a health facility or physician. 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 exactly what it is like to work with you as a provider.

Choosing: How to Make Your Practice the Ideal Choice

In order to encourage patients to choose your practice, you must make yourself easy to do business with. According to Care Sherpa, as many as 79% of medical practice leads fail to convert. Thirty percent of digital leads note that they never receive a response. For patients to choose you, you must streamline those interaction processes.

Connecting with Patients

If you want to make your practice the ideal choice, you have to make sure that you connect and communicate with patients effectively as they move through the funnel.

  • Use call overflow coverage solutions to ensure that patients always get to talk to someone when they call in.
  • Use 2-way SMS and secure chat options to make it easier for patients to connect with you from anywhere.
  • Use intelligent reminders to reduce no-shows and make it easier for patients to remember information about upcoming appointments.

Frictionless Forms

Frictionless forms help reduce the effort patients have to put in 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

In order 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 of the calls coming in or how many of the people who are 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 being answered
  • Close rate on leads
  • Cost per appointment
  • Marketing program ROI

By using the right measurements, you can better track the ongoing performance of your campaigns and ensure that you are better positioned to meet your goals.

Are You Ready for a Better Patient Acquisition Strategy?

Many medical care providers have seen a number of changes to their patient acquisition strategies in recent years. If you haven’t made similar changes to your own healthcare marketing efforts, you may be seeing 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.

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