How Do Patients Search for Physicians Online?

For many consumers, the search for the right physician-or physicians-to meet their healthcare needs can be both stressful and challenging.
Most families, at some point or another, will need more than just a primary care physician to manage illness or injury. At times, they will need to expand their circle of health professionals, whether temporarily or long-term, to include a specialist, dentist, or mental health provider. Their search might also be the result of a recent move or a new addition.

As these situations arise, the first place a large number of your patients will go for recommendations is online. A recent survey indicated that roughly 54 percent of millennials will check the web before they make a choice about their physician. Even more, the same survey found that the global average for reliance on internet-based health information and physician ratings was 39 percent, and more than 70 percent of patients between the ages of 18 and 24 rely on the recommendations of family members to choose their physicians-recommendations that can often be found on personal social media accounts.

The reality is that healthcare practices, like so many businesses, require a healthy online presence to achieve success. Consumers who are finding physicians online are often reading through online practice reviews and conducting internet searches to find out more about a practice before they to call to ask questions or schedule an appointment. Your job, as a practice, is to convince them that scheduling an appointment with your team will not be a waste of their time.

So, how are you going to do that?
Below are some recommendation to build a better online presence and increase your draw to internet-searching patients.

Create a brand and push for visibility.

Finding physicians online, for many consumers, starts with visibility. They have to be able to see and recognize your company's name and/or practice logo or symbol. While brand recognition will take time, it starts with basic digital advertising, building a social media presence, and playing by the rules of search engine optimization (SEO) within your practice's website. Combined, these three elements are key to online visibility and even a level of respectability, since few businesses or practices are taken seriously today if they do not have a strong online presence.

Stand out from the crowd.
According to a 2015 survey from Software Advice, a whopping 84 percent of the patients they surveyed relied on information from online review sites to evaluate their physician choices. With statistics like that, practices can no longer afford to ignore the impact that online reviews and internet chatter can have on both patient satisfaction and general practice numbers.

While you cannot necessarily directly impact the feedback you might receive from some patients, you can offset any lower scores by being proactive in your approach. Sign up for sites, discuss reviewing with your patients so your satisfied patients will also seek out your profile to write a review-instead of only those who may have caught your team on a bad day-and do your best to provide the best quality of care possible. Stand out in their minds for being uniquely friendly, helpful, and available-even online.

Know the tools and use them to your advantage.
Right now, there are patients out there seeking and finding physicians online. If you want to be a part of their search options, you have to know how the search engines work and how to use them to your advantage. Your potential future patients could be regular facebook users, YouTube fans, or simply seeking out information through a general internet search. Are you aware of how to increase your presence so that you can appeal to them through these sites and more? Digital advertising tools like Google AdWords are amazing for cost-effective digital advertising and branding. If you don't feel comfortable enough just yet to manage your advertising on your own, the right media and advertising company can also help you set up a plan and build something simple and easy to maintain.

The tools are there-and they're even relatively inexpensive-but you have to get started soon if you want to keep up with the competition. The internet is a big, wide world where patients are constantly looking for useful information about their health-and finding physicians online to help them maintain their well-being. It's a different world for healthcare providers, and if you want to end up on their list of options, you've got to be fully present online with a site that features strong SEO content--or they might never even know you exist.

About the Author - Ashley Choate is a native of Jacksonville, FL where she lives with her son, dog, and three cats. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Jacksonville University with a BA in English and holds an MAED in Adult Education and Training. She lives for reading and writing, learning and teaching, and figuring out the day-to-day traumas and joys of mommyhood.