Your Patients Are Online: Has Your Practice Gone Digital?

MDNG Primary Care, May 2009, Volume 11, Issue 5

Having only a basic website for your practice isn’t enough anymore; unless your site helps your patients find you, you could be missing out on potential revenue.

Many of your current patients and patient candidates have grown up online and interact with the Internet differently than when the Web was new. Having only a basic website for your practice isn’t enough anymore; unless your site helps your patients find you, you could be missing out on potential revenue.

If you’re going to connect with the Web generation, your practice must reach out to them in a way in which they are likely to respond. Even if your website provides valuable information about yourself, your practice, the procedures in which you specialize, news, and more, you may still not reach many prospective patients. One of the primary reasons for this is because your website is competing with medical directories like WebMD, BoardCertified.com, Healthgrades, and others. These sites have a huge database of physicians within their digital infrastructure, with hundreds of thousands of pages of content. How can you compete with such sites? The answer: you don’t. Instead, you should utilize these online resources to drive traffic to your site.

Board-certified plastic surgeon and BoardCertified.com advisory board member Benjamin Schlechter, MD, FACS, experienced firsthand varying degrees of success with online marketing. “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,” he said. Schlechter began exploring alternative means to promote himself online. “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.”

To effectively reach Web-savvy patients, you must use more than just static Web pages. One of the most effective ways of attracting and keeping a captive online audience is through online video. Using video to market your practice lets you build a foundation of trust with patients before they ever walk through your office door. They can learn about your personality, your approach to treatment, and your quality of care. Three factors make online video so powerful:

Connection. Study after study shows that most Web users do not read large blocks of text, preferring to skim text and graphics. They demand a deeper connection—a faster, more direct way to absorb information. Video provides a solution. From Hulu to YouTube, online video is exploding, and you should make every effort to include this on any website on which you promote your practice. Embedding customized video programming provides the chance to make a personal and emotional connection with potential patients.

Communication. It’s often difficult to communicate complex medical information to patients. Details of surgical procedures, the anatomy and function of the body’s organs, the effects of treatments—all can be sources of confusion and frustration for doctors and patients. Video communication helps cut through the confusion; one short animated segment showing a patient exactly what his or her treatment will entail is worth a 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 patients’ anxiety prior to surgery by showing them exactly what’s going to happen to them while they’re in your care, from admissions to the surgery itself to the recovery room.

The unique BoardCertified.com network provides member physicians with an increased and more credible online presence, offering the ability to enhance their profile and practice information. The multi-tier membership offers a broad range of benefits to doctors, hospitals, and associations, including microsite profile pages, comprehensive physician profile pages, and even website design and hosting. The user-friendly BoardCertified.com platform also empowers patients with not only the ability to locate doctors in their area of medical interest, but also with knowledge and information about procedures and treatments. Patients can utilize the search functions on an unlimited and cost-free basis.

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 online medical directories and other websites. In planning for the future of your practice, you must remember it is better to be proactive, not reactive.

Mr. Fox is the president of BoardCertified.com.