Attracting patients these days can look a lot like speed dating for doctors. How do you look to your prospective patients?
To attract patients you must first understand the steps a patient goes through to find the medical care they need. When finding a doctor, healthcare consumers tend to spend some time researching online to find the best fit for them. They look for a doctor who is conveniently close—or they want someone who is so good they’re worth traveling for. They also want to see what other patients have to say about the care they received.
As they search online for medical care, consumers will most likely see a doctor’s Google My Business (GMB) listing first. (They may not even know they’re on a Google owned GMB listing.) They’re looking for a doctor they can trust to get them back in good health, and they use the information they find to help them make an informed decision.
Let’s take a peek at the process of finding a doctor from the patient’s perspective.
Finding a New Doctor
Margo hurt her shoulder and neck pitching, and it hasn’t gotten any better since the game last night. She wants to find a really good doctor who specializes in shoulder repair because she plays cello and is not ready to give that up. A messed up shoulder would kill that hobby.
She turns to the internet to find an orthopedic surgeon and reads through the reviews for several doctors. When she finds a doctor she likes, she also makes sure to read a couple of negative reviews to see if any consistent issues with the doctor show up. In addition, she pays attention to any responses the doctor’s office provides.
The reviews Margo finds are on doctors’ Google My Business (GMB) listings, but she doesn’t care about that. She just wants to know what patients are saying. And when she can see the doctor’s face and what the building looks like, she is able to form a more clear first impression of the doctor.
Dr. Wellington has a lot of experience repairing shoulders, but Margo never sees him as an option because he has not paid attention to his online reputation and he doesn’t show up in her search results.
Dr. Carey also repairs shoulders, but she has neglected to take care of her online reputation as well. As a result, she only has a few reviews, and several of them were posted by angry patients who were not pleased with their results. Her many happy patients never thought to go leave her a review saying how pleased they were. Her GMB listing does show up in search results, but Margo doesn’t like the look of those reviews or that 3.8 star rating. She doesn’t realize that the reputation she’s looking at does not accurately reflect the doctor’s level of service.
Dr. Watt specializes in shoulder repair and has quite a bit of experience. He shows up in the top three search results when Margo searches for a new doctor, has dozens of reviews, and his star rating is 4.7. His patients are invited to leave a review with a personalized text, and several have left really nice comments detailing the excellent care they received. He has a couple of negative reviews, and his staff responded, asking the patients to call the office to resolve their issues. His GMB listing has several pictures that show him, his staff, and the office.
Dr. James is also a great candidate to be Margo’s doctor. He has plenty of experience, and his office is nearby. He has 4.8 stars and plenty of positive reviews, just like Dr. Watt. Unlike Dr. Watt, however, he has not responded to any reviews, and he only has a picture of the outside of his office up.
Who do you think Margo chose to make an appointment with? In this scenario, Margo chose Dr. Watt because she felt like she got to know him a little from his GMB listing.
Dr. Watt won the dating game.
Attracting Patients in an Online Environment
You could think of attracting patients—getting patients to choose you as their doctor—kind of like speed dating. In speed dating, people move from candidate to candidate to determine if they can find a connection. When patients are choosing a doctor, they move online from doctor to doctor to read reviews and find a doctor they are comfortable with. They want to know everything they can about each doctor before they choose one, and they will use whatever resources they know about to vet the doctor before they trust their health to him or her.
Very often, their search starts online, and since Google has over 92% of the market share for search engine use worldwide, they often land on GMB listings. Some healthcare consumers expand their search and look at Healthgrades, Facebook, a doctor’s website, or other locations. But no matter where they go for information, what patients are looking for is a doctor they can trust. Ninety percent of patients read reviews to evaluate physicians when they look for a new doctor, and for 71% of patients, reviews are their first step in the process.
It may seem like the power is all in the hands of the patients, but as a doctor, you can take important steps to get seen and get chosen. You can take a hands-on approach that guides patients directly to you in ways that are very focused and deliberate on your end and organic and authentic from the perspective of your patients.
Step 1: Show up. (Get your listing in order.)
If you don’t have an online presence, you won’t show up when patients search online for care. Since a majority of searches are done on Google, it’s best to start with your Google My Business listing. Own and optimize your GMB listing and then start collecting reviews so you show up when patients search online for medical care.
Step 2: Put on a suit. (Make a great first impression.)
That first impression is important. Healthcare consumers who land on your GMB listing will be able to see your star rating and how many reviews you have right off the bat. They’ll also see pictures, the address of your office, the phone number to call to make an appointment, Google posts, the services you provide, and anything else you add to your listing.
We have found that the best way to increase your number of reviews is to send your patients a personalized text inviting them to leave a review. Don’t worry, you can find a platform that will auto send the texts so it doesn’t add to your staff’s workload. About 10% of patients will leave a review when asked, and your star rating will go up around 1.2 stars on average. Asking for reviews is a great way to get your silent majority of happy patients to spread the word about the excellent care you provide.
It’s a good idea to include your picture and a picture of your office and/or staff as well. Some patients will feel more comfortable as they are able to see what to expect when they come in for a visit. You probably have a great bedside manner. Think of this as your online bedside manner. Use your online presence to give your future patients a better feel for who you are and nail that first impression.
Step 3: Don’t do all the talking. (Read your reviews—especially the bad ones.)
Listen, you need to understand where your patients are coming from. You’ve got public reviews out there, and you need to know what they are saying. Every doctor gets a couple of outlier reviews, but watch for patterns. If you are constantly getting reviews complaining about someone on your staff, maybe a little training is in order. If you have a lot of comments about long wait times, maybe it’s time to revise your scheduling protocol.
Read your reviews and make adjustments that make sense based on what your patients are saying. It will improve patient experience, and it may even improve your rating.
Step 4: Don’t leave them hanging. (Respond to reviews.)
It may feel strange to have a conversation online, but in a way, that’s what you’re doing when you respond to your reviews. When you respond to a review, you’re showing your patients—and anyone else who reads your reviews—that you care. A simple acknowledgement should do the trick.
It’s especially important to respond to negative reviews. You cannot say anything that would violate HIPAA regulations, unlike your patients, but you can respond. Generally, the best response is to have them call the office to discuss the issue further. Responding shows that care and that you want to resolve the issue.
Step 5: Spice it up. (Fully optimize your listing.)
When you set up your online image, whether it’s through your GMB listing, your personal website, your Healthgrades profile, your Facebook page, or any other platform, make sure you take full advantage of your optimization options.
For your GMB listing, that means making sure all your information is accurate (address, hours, phone number) and adding in a few extras:
- Use Google posts to share important information or upcoming events.
- List the services you provide so your listing shows up as patients search for specific care.
- Fill out the Questions and Answers section when patients ask you a question. And consider adding in a FAQ section for commonly asked questions.
- Check your GMB listing to see if it checks all the boxes as a well-optimized listing.
- Create some short videos that provide health tips or wellness education. (These can be shared on your Google posts.)
You have more influence on attracting patients than you realize. The “dating game” may be mostly virtual these days, but how you present your online image will impact how healthcare consumers see you. Those online reviews are a great way to showcase the excellent care you provide.
If you need any help getting your online self spruced up, give us a call at 801-998-2830. Our team can show you how reputation management alone attracts patients to your practice. And if you want to take a step into predictive analytics, targeting the exact patients you need to build your practice, and knowing your patient acquisition cost, we’ll also show you the future of digital marketing.