Your Patients Are All Online: Has Your Practice Gone Digital?

So your medical practice has a website. That's great! But the web is already more than 25-years old, and just being "on the web" isn't enough anymore.

So your medical practice has a website. That's great! But the web is already more than 25-years old, and just being "on the web" isn't enough anymore. New advancements are made every day on the Web, just like in medicine, and it’s vital to the health of any practice to stay on top of patients’ ever-changing needs.

In fact, were you aware that:

• 93% of consumers worldwide use search engines (Google, Yahoo!, MSN) to find and access websites.

• Search engines play a vital role in the optimization of your website traffic.

• More than 70% of the search engine users never scroll past the first page results.

• Search engines can attract more visitors than other marketing mediums like print or television.

By limiting your practice to a basic website, you could be missing out on a whole world of clients who need your help. Many of your current patients and patient-candidates have grown up online and interact with the Internet in a different way than they did back when the web was new. You have your medical practice website online, but does it help your patients find you? Are your clients gaining from the information provided by your website? How popular is your website in your medical industry? Where does it rank in Google search results? Does your site’s functionality streamline your administrative tasks?

If you're going to connect with the web generation, your practice is going to need to reach out to them in a way they can't ignore. How? While your own practice website is vital, it is limited by the amount of content you can incorporate. Content is information about yourself, your practice, the procedures in which you specialize, news and more. Even if your website is loaded with relevant content, you may still not reach many prospective patients. One of the primary reasons for this is because your website and its “content” is competing with Medical Directories like WebMD, BoardCertified.com, Healthgrades and others. These sites have hundreds of thousands of pages of content primarily because they have a huge database of physicians within their digital infrastructure. How many physicians are in your practice and how can you compete with sites that list hundreds of thousands of them?

The good news is you don't compete. You utilize these online resources to drive traffic to your own site. Depending on the website, presenting this information may be free, or it may include a nominal annual “membership” fee. In either case, inclusion is not only highly worthwhile, it is VITAL. You may have spent thousands of dollars getting your site up and running, and you also have ongoing fees you pay to have your site hosted somewhere. However, these related websites allow you to list a wide array of information about yourself, your practice, and your particular area of medical specialty which can make your OWN website much more valuable, effective, and recognizable. The most important way to be included in these sites is to include a link to your own practice's website. Now you are utilizing the search engine optimization of larger sites to boost your own website's awareness in a highly cost-effective manner.

Some physicians will spend several thousand dollars per year on “Enhanced Listings” in other medically related websites and find this expense miniscule compared to the revenues that the increased practice patient volume creates. Board certified plastic surgeon, and BoardCertified.com Advisory Board member, Benjamin Schlechter, MD, F.A.C.S, has had first hand experience at online marketing with varying degrees of success. “What I have come to understand about Internet marketing is that even though my website is very detailed and is referred to in search engine terms as 'optimized' , I am primarily reaching patients who are looking for me by name.” Dr, Schlechter began exploring alternative means to promote himself online beyond his own website. “Ironically, the cost for me to maintain a membership in an Online Directory such as BoardCertified.com is fractional compared to the investment I made in my own website. Yet the returns are greater:”

Additionally, reaching today's Web audience effectively means using more than just static information on Web pages. One of the most effective ways of attracting and KEEPING a captive online audience is through online video. Marketing a medical practice with video lets you build a foundation of trust with a patient before they ever walk through your office door. They can learn about your personality, your approach to treatment, and your quality of care. Consider these three factors that make online video so powerful:

Connection. Web audiences of today don't read; they skim. Study after study shows that most Web users simply will not read large blocks of text, preferring instead to skim the text and graphics on websites. Internet users today demand a deeper connection, a faster, more direct way to absorb information - and that way is video. From Hulu to YouTube, online video is exploding across the Web - and you should make every effort to include this in your own website or any medical site on which you promote yourself and your practice. Otherwise, you may be missing out on the explosion. By embedding your own customized video programming into your website, or by utilizing these features on other medical websites where you retain a presence, you become a part of this growing new medium, giving your practice a chance to make a personal and emotional connection with today's Web user.

Communication. It's often difficult to communicate complex medical information to patients and potential patients. Much of this information is also intimidating to prospective patients. Details of surgical procedures, the arrangement of the body's organs, the shape and function of surgical instruments all can be sources of confusion and frustration for doctors and clients. Video communication cuts through the confusion; one short animated segment showing a patient or potential patient exactly what his or her treatment will entail is worth ten thousand words of clumsy text explanation.

Comfort. Let's face it: surgery can be scary. Not to mention, the clinical environment most people experience - a world of harsh glare, beeping machinery, strange noises, and intrusive strangers - isn't exactly comforting. Online video can help minimize a patient's anxiety prior to surgery. Using online video, you can show your patients exactly what's going to happen to them while they're in your care, from admissions to the surgery itself to the recovery room to the cashier.

By introducing your practice and staff to the patient with pictures, words, and music, you can comfort your patients and provide them peace of mind, making them feel more at ease with you and your team.

Along with the economy, the medical industry has changed exponentially over the past several years. You can no longer sit back and wait for patients to come to you. Patients are demanding quality care, timely service and most importantly customer satisfaction. They are also utilizing evolving means to research procedures and physicians including medical directories and medical websites on the Internet. In planning for the future of your practice, you must remember it is better to proactive, not reactive.

For more information on Marketing Your Medical Practice Online contact Mr. Stephen Fox (info@boardcertified.com), President of BoardCertified.com, the largest global online community of certified physicians connecting more patients with doctors than any other network.