How to Acquire & Retain More Patients Through Your Digital Front Door

April 21, 2022 | Stericycle Communication Solutions

The Patient Journey and the Emerging Digital Age

If we’ve learned one thing from COVID-19, it’s that technology helped everyone cope with virtual living—tremendously. Every single industry had to lean on technology to survive. Industries tiptoeing around technology before the pandemic were forced to tap dance to succeed. Now, the digital advances relied upon during the pandemic are finding their way into every instance of successful business operations. More and more websites are learning to acquire users through a ‘digital front door’, with healthcare being no different.

Download Our Free Definitive Guide to Marketing Online Scheduling & Check-in.

Patients Seek Digital Prowess from their Healthcare Providers

Healthcare consumers today expect the same digital experience from their physicians and healthcare systems that they get from grocery stores, big box retailers, and even retail clinics. A recent study from Accenture backs this up. It found:

Let’s face it, health systems must step up. A surprising reality emerged from our webinar–Healthcare’s Digital Front Door: Increasing Conversions & Patient Satisfaction with a Rich Web Experience. Keith Belton, Vice President of Strategy and Partnerships at Symplr, noted that:

Patients are the driving force. Once again, Accenture proves the point. A COVID-19 Consumer Health Experience Survey from 2020 showed that 64 percent of patients are “highly likely” to switch to a new health system if their expectations around the digital experience of their current provider remains unmet. Key areas of concern include:

friction when accessing platforms

getting timely information

scheduling virtual care

The roughly 75 percent of health systems that have fallen behind risk losing consumer trust—and patients. A good place to start is at the “front door.”

What is a Digital Front Door in Healthcare?

A digital front door is a patient’s first point of entry into a relationship with their healthcare provider. For some, it can be their first Google search. Another user’s front door can be their patient portal, yet for others, it’s still just a phone call.

In our webinar, Healthcare’s Digital Front Door: Increasing Conversions & Patient Satisfaction with a Rich Web Experience, Daniel Ruyter, Corporate Director of Digital Strategy at Orlando Health, said:

Ruyter broke it down using the two ends of the generation scale:

Gen Z and Millennials

Most digitally savvy of the generations

Book everything from travel to food delivery and other services through their phones and prefer the same experience with healthcare

Rarely, if ever, make phone calls

Now making their own healthcare decisions—especially since the pandemic.

Use social media and online customer reviews to weigh their decisions as often as they use personal recommendations

Baby Boomers

Represent a large portion of healthcare users

A phone call is the communication tool of choice

For this generation, Daniel Ruyter cautioned,

So, why is this so important now for the healthcare industry? The research proves that it is imperative.

Knowing Your Patient Population and Their Preferences

Beyond better marketing of your online patient scheduling, it takes understanding patient preferences to improve your digital front door. Our U.S. Consumer Trends in Patient Engagement Survey highlights consumer preferences and their expectations from healthcare providers. Here are insights we uncovered:

For those that don’t use online scheduling, 55 percent of respondents said that they would use online scheduling in the next 12 months if the booking experience was easier.

Lack of technology (39 percent) and confusing experience (31 percent) were the top reasons cited for preventing respondents from using online scheduling.

40 percent of respondents still prefer to use the phone to schedule an appointment.

90 percent of respondents scheduled their COVID-19 vaccine appointment using online self-scheduling.

53 percent of respondents said that, since the onset of the pandemic, they used telehealth visits more than ever before.

If given the choice today, 64 percent of respondents would choose a virtual waiting room over a physical waiting room.

As for communication from healthcare providers:

33 percent of respondents prefer email

29 percent of respondents prefer a phone call

27 percent of respondents prefer a text message

New Players in the Healthcare Landscape

Healthcare is no longer an island unto itself. Big, non-traditional players have stepped into the ring, flexing their massive tech-savvy muscles. These corporations already have brand recognition and trust from consumers. So, for healthcare organizations, keeping pace is vital to keeping patients.

Opening your Digital Front Door—4 Best Practices for Online Scheduling

So how do health systems increase their digital acumen to attract and retain patients? One way is through online patient scheduling, but it takes more than just implementing new technology to be successful. Our new resource: “The Definitive Guide to Marketing Online Scheduling & Check-in” offers proven best practices for implementation.


Make Appointment Scheduling on Your Website Easy & Accessible Via Any Digital Device

When utilizing online patient scheduling, you can’t just “set it and forget it”. You must build it into your digital strategy to drive new visitors and conversions on your scheduling pages. You will also want to advertise your facility’s scheduling URL and the ability to conveniently schedule online. Here are some best practices for website placement and mobile:

Include links to online scheduling on every banner, in each scroll, on main menu, and in the footer

Test on mobile to make sure everything renders properly

Ensure CTA is above the fold on short pages and both above and below the fold on longer ones

Document where you place online scheduling on your website and revisit regularly


Offer Support for Patients that May Have Questions or Be Confused

It’s important to keep website copy and scheduling CTAs clear and concise. Even more, you should have FAQs on your website about online scheduling to support those patients that might experience difficulty and outline what new users should expect from online scheduling. Here are some best practices for website copy and FAQs:

Use clear and concise messaging

Alert patients about appointments not appropriate for online scheduling

Inform patients about what to expect

Include online scheduling FAQs

Consult your legal department on the use of appropriate disclaimers


Use Search Engine Marketing (SEM) to Bring Patients to Your Digital Front Door and Increase the Visibility of Your Online Scheduling

With many health systems out there all vying for the same patients, it’s never been more important to advertise online, especially if you aren’t on the first page of Google’s search results. Search engine marketing is the most effective way to promote your online scheduling and attract new patients. Here’s some SEM best practices:

Use clear and concise messaging

Set up branded vanity URLs

Leverage geotargeted paid advertising to drive traffic to your online schedules


Amplify Your Online Scheduling Landing Pages Through Search Engine Optimization (SEO):

Since so many healthcare consumers want to book an appointment online, there is a significant opportunity for healthcare organizations that employ search engine optimization (SEO) strategies to reach their target audiences. It also means that healthcare organizations who’s scheduling pages cannot be found in search engines are missing out on a huge opportunity to reach patients. Here are some SEO best practices:

Conduct keyword research

Incorporate scheduling keywords into your web copy

Sign up for Google My Business and monitor your Google business profile

Optimize your Google business profile with up to ten links per category including links to online scheduling

A Patient-Friendly Digital Front Door is a Vital Part of a Patient-Centric Health System

Research supports that patients are not only embracing online scheduling but expect the same kind of ease-of-ordering they get from their favorite e-commerce sites. However, with less than 25 percent of all healthcare systems fully up to speed, there’s clearly room for improvement. To gain further insight into all the latest best practices for marketing your online patient scheduling and FREE templates, download The Definitive Guide to Marketing Online Scheduling & Check-In.

Best practices your organization can use to promote online patient scheduling and online check-in. DOWNLOAD THE GUIDE

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