The Hard Truth About Boosting Patient Acquisition: 4 Ways to Attract and Convert Today’s Healthcare Consumer

January 30, 2020 | Stericycle Communication Solutions

As innovative disrupters enter the healthcare market, today's average consumer has many options for where and how to obtain healthcare services. In a report from KaufmanHall, 88 percent of surveyed healthcare providers agree or strongly agree that "… hospitals and health systems are vulnerable to consumer-friendly offerings from non-hospital competitors."
Unless you're a specialized health system in a geography with limited competition, chances are good that you're seeing a shift in how consumers find your services and providers and whether or not they proceed to set up an appointment.

That's because today's healthcare consumers shop for providers in ways very similar to how they shop for other products and services. They begin their search online, creating a list of potential providers and then working through the list to choose one based on criteria that often includes whether the provider accepts their health insurance, recommendations from others, ratings, convenience, location, availability and more.

To make sure that your health system not only makes consumers' short list, but also converts these shoppers into new patients, you need a strong digital marketing strategy. While many health systems have a digital strategy already, it often falls short in four key areas:   

  1. Winning organic search: The hardest part of acquiring patients today is getting found in the first place. This requires far more than simply being included on the approved provider list for health insurance companies. When consumers use a search engine to find a service or provider for their needs, does your health system show up under the first few results? Winning the organic search game requires consistent efforts that help your brand show up in one of the top spots on the page. Check out our blog post, "5 Best Practices to Acquire and Retain More Patients," for some ideas for improving your organic search ranking.
  2. Increasing the number of reviews: When a consumer searches for the "best" anything near them in Google, the search engine looks at the Google My Business listing and excludes any business with less than four stars from the results. Not only do poor ratings affect your search success, they are also likely to affect a consumer's choice of provider. According to NRC Health research, six out of ten people have selected or rejected a doctor based on reviews. To win the search game and to rise to the top of the short list based on ratings, automate sending invitations to patients to review their experience. This helps you collect more online reviews, which, in turn, helps consumers find and choose your services and providers.  
  3. Making it easy for consumers to take the next step: To make sure you're converting as many consumers as possible, i.e., getting them to make an appointment, optimize what Google displays in your health system's profile on the right-hand side of the results page. Aside from making sure that all the information there is correct, add a link for appointments to create an immediate call to action. Ideally that link lets a consumer make an appointment online if that's their contact preference.
  4. Offering online scheduling: A survey by KaufmanHall reports that 33% of healthcare organizations offer online self-scheduling for existing patients, with only 16% offering self-scheduling for new patients. These health systems are forgetting that consumers want and expect greater convenience when it comes to healthcare access, so much so that they may choose new providers based on convenience over other criteria. In its "Healthcare 2030: The consumer at the center" report, KPMG states that 58% of millennials and 64% of Gen Xers value online booking of appointments to the extent that they would switch providers in order to do so. Offering online scheduling, among other self-service options, makes it easy for consumers to choose your health system over those that don't offer online convenience.
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