With a majority of people going online to look for a healthcare provider--a general practitioner, dentist, specialist, or wellness clinic-private-practice healthcare providers should be thinking like small business owners in their digital marketing strategies if they want to thrive in the coming year. 

That's specific. But if you're not a doctor or own a practice, keep reading and think in reverse because you can also help provide these services for practices. 

Having an attractive website, keeping your blog packed with great content and staying active on social media platforms are a given in the digital landscape today, even for doctors. But for those healthcare providers who have been savvy enough to have these essential elements in place, 2019 will be the year to elevate marketing strategies to increase patient loyalty, increase visibility with profiles on industry directories and leverage online patient reviews to name a few. 

Here's a breakdown of a few tips to try out in the new year:

Local search and community-driven websites

Let's start where most people start to find healthcare providers-the online search. With 97 percent of people now using the Internet to search for local business (and that includes healthcare), if someone can't find your practice online, they're not going to find you at all. 

It is essential that healthcare providers understand the ways in which Google interprets and displays local search engine results. This aspect of today's digital marketing is often overlooked by practices, because they think they automatically just "show up." Not how it works. 

People look for practices not only in a general Google search but also on local business directories and healthcare-specific directories like Healthgrades, RateMDs, and Vitals. According to a blog from PatientPop, the key here is for healthcare professionals to know how and where people are searching for them and to know how to respond to what is being searched for. 

In Q1 of 2018, $1.62 billion was invested in the digital health space alone. Last month, PatientPop brought its total funding to $75 million. Healthcare marketing is a space we can expect to likely see big innovations coming from in 2019.

Chatbots

Providers should also be implementing chatbots into their digital marketing strategy in 2019. Chatbots are computer programs that simulate texting with a real person in a website textbox. They not only provide an alternative solution to an actual customer representative but also provide great value to patients in that they are available to chat 24/7 for people to schedule appointments and to order medication refills, for example.

Utilize chatbots for Facebook Messenger or the physician's website to reply directly to current and potential patients when they have a question-all the while promoting the practice. Using these tools opens up a personalized but automated line of communication that doctors can also use to remind patients to schedule appointments, share information about new services and offer promotional discounts. 

Chatbots are interactive, so healthcare professionals can also use them to nudge patients who might be interested in preventative care like flu shots -- another way to get them back in the door. 

Targeted advertising 

By using demographic or other data to reach a specific audience, targeted advertisements reach the exact people healthcare providers want to attract to the practice. Social media ads, like Facebook ads or promoted tweets on Twitter, offer one type of targeted advertisement that can be successful. An OB-GYN based in Oklahoma City, for example, can create a social media ad that will only be seen by women ages 18 to 45 who live in the city where their practice is located.

Leverage patient reviews

Paying attention to online reviews is a way for medical practices to stay healthy themselves-to embrace valuable, honest feedback. According to a Software Advice survey from last year, 72 percent of survey participants said they rely on online reviews to find a new provider, and when a patient is deciding between two providers, 91 percent of the time they will choose the one with better reviews.

Smart doctors will ask happy patients to post reviews as another way to spread the word of their professionalism. Digital healthcare marketing is a rapidly growing industry and investor's appetites don't seem to be diminishing. As more physicians venture out into private practices, the need for comprehensive patient marketing and management solutions is quickly becoming a priority.

Published on: Jan 16, 2019
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