Hospitals and physician practices need effective reputation management to create a positive image, attract patients, build sustainability and enhance revenue. As you know, reputation is everything for a healthcare practice. And this has to be built up online since most people use the Internet to find health-based information and services. For a physician clinic or hospital to be successful, a strong online presence and a credible image is essential. Conspicuousness online is essential to:
- Ensure you are visible to new patients
- Improve your online reputation
- Build trust
- Expand your practice through referrals
A Pew Research Center poll estimated that one in five users of the Internet consulted rankings and online reviews of healthcare practices and treatments. Therefore reputation management services to monitor and control the impact of negative reviews is critical for hospitals.
Rise in Online Shopping for Medical Care and Comparing Reviews
Research conducted by The Digital Journey to Wellness in 2012 showed that two-thirds of the surveyed patients searched online before booking an appointment, while over 40% of consumers felt that information through social media affected how they dealt with their health. Online search drove close to three times as many hospital website visitors as non-search visitors.
The survey also indicated that patients mainly conduct searches for conditions and symptoms just before the conversion moment. Hospitals need to target this audience.
Maintaining Online Presence and Managing Reputation
A strong and consistent online presence and reputation management are keys to doing that. A Google-Compete Inc. survey showed that 53% of patients who did not watch a hospital video did not even know they existed. So hospitals need to have a search engine optimization (SEO) strategy that includes podcast and video services to make their presence obvious to their targeted audience.
Mobile search is also much more common now than before, and in 2012 the survey reported that 44% of patients researching hospitals on mobile devices scheduled appointments. It is a clear indication that healthcare providers need to strengthen their mobile SEO.
A professional SEO strategy would have three distinct steps:
- Creating a website
- Social media engagement with patients
- Owning your listings, reviews and rankings
The focus should be on getting as many positive online reviews as possible. This will help build consumer trust and also get you higher rankings on search as search engines gives higher search result placement to listings with a higher number of positive reviews.
One way to simplify the entire task is to outsource it.
Healthcare website design needs a lot more care than other websites since HIPAA norms are strong and confidentiality of patient information needs to be maintained at all costs. Otherwise it could affect the reputation of your practice and undo all the hard work, not to mention the hefty legal penalties you would incur. Keeping that in mind, outsourcing to reliable website designing providers would ease the HIPAA concerns for you. Providers specializing in medical websites could be an added advantage since they have a deeper idea of what users expect.
- All health/patient related information should be encrypted when being transmitted online. Data should be stored on a HIPAA compliant hosting server.
- A content management system (CMS) is essential, and contributes to SEO by enabling you to add updates and fresh content. Content freshness and relevance is mighty important for improving SERP performance.
- The website interface also needs to be user-friendly and quick loading. Complicated designs must be avoided since the goal is to provide users with use health resources and information.
- Your website should also perform well on smartphones since, as weâ€™ve seen above, Americans do a lot of research on their mobile phones regarding a hospital or practice before they make the decision. A responsive website design performs well on laptops/desktops, tablets and mobile phones.
- Mobile services such as text reminders are useful too since they positively influence users and really help them. Patients must receive appointment reminders.
- Having a patient portal can incorporate many features for patients and help you to stay connected with them.
With the site done, it needs to be marketed, and professional SEO services can help here. Marketing involves adding your URL in social media posts, referral sources, vendors and patients. You must also double check that your landing pages on the social networks link to your website. Thatâ€™s how you build your online presence. It should also extend to review sites and local listings. These steps can drive precious traffic to your site.
Social Media Optimization
Social media optimization is equally important. A January 2014 survey by Pew Research Center revealed that 74% of adults browsing online use social networks. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Instagram are the most common platforms, and a hospital needs to have a strategy to attract users on these platforms.
- The social media platforms can be used for promoting and establishing your brand through consistent activity throughout all the social networks. This is important, as it helps build your reputation as a serious and reliable healthcare services provider.
- After creating your page or account in the respective networks, it is time to send email notifications to patients for liking or following you. Your consistent activity should include – apart from posting relevant content, videos or pictures on a regular basis – is following and liking influencers in your groups and community who are related to the field of medicine you specialize in.
- You must keep in mind that posting on social networks should be social or informal but also professional. This balance needs to be maintained to build up your firmâ€™s reputation. Make sure to reply to comments and posts of your followers and make it a point to not discuss any personal health information of patients. Your social network pages and posts should be a reservoir on relevant and practical information for patients.
Checking Listings, Reviews and Rankings
You must look out for and own your listings – this will help you ensure the information out there about your practice is true. This can be done by conducting Google searches regularly. A spreadsheet will help you to track the websites, their links, rankings, reviews, etc. If you find any negative reviews about yourself or your services, overwhelm them with positive content.
Professional handling of these services is absolutely essential. Outsourcing reputation management not only contributes to efficient handling of your online presence but also saves resources and gives you more time to care for your patients.