Technology giants and other non-traditional players are moving into the healthcare market, giving consumers a host of new options for how and where they obtain services. Everyone from Apple and Amazon to G.E. and Berkshire Hathaway are disrupting the market by introducing new delivery models that emphasize simplicity, transparency and positive digital experiences.
Traditional players will need to recalibrate how they build market share due to this new consumerism threat. In fact, a recent report from Kaufman Hall found that 88% of surveyed healthcare providers agree or strongly agree that “… hospitals and health systems are vulnerable to consumer-friendly offerings from non-hospital competitors.”
Unless a healthcare organization is a specialized health system in geography with limited competition, chances are they will experience a shift in how consumers find services and providers and whether or not they choose to consume services from those providers.
That’s because today’s healthcare consumer is more discerning of services. Recent trends in healthcare consumerization show that employers are shifting more of the burden for paying for healthcare services and coverage to their employees. As employees shoulder more of the cost, they want to make sure they’re getting the most value for their healthcare dollar.
Healthcare consumers are also shopping for providers the same way they shop for other products and services. They begin their search online, create a list of potential providers and then work through the list to choose one based on criteria that often include whether the provider accepts their health insurance, recommendations from others, ratings, convenience, location, availability and more.
To ensure that a health system makes a consumer’s shortlist and converts them into new patients, they need a strong digital marketing strategy. It’s true many health systems have a digital strategy already, but they tend to fall short in four key areas critical for attracting and converting today’s healthcare consumer:
– Winning organic search
– Increasing the number and timeliness of reviews
– Making it easy for consumers to take action
– Offering online scheduling
For organic search, the more challenging part of acquiring patients today for providers is getting found in the first place. Search strategies require far more than simply being included on the approved provider list for health insurance companies and are evolving past simple SEO strategies based on keywords.
When consumers use a search engine to find a service or provider, health systems need to determine if their organization is showing up under the first few results. Winning the organic search game requires consistent efforts that help a brand rise to one of the top spots on the page.
Increasing the number of reviews also boosts a healthcare organization’s discoverability. When a consumer searches for the “best” anything near them in Google, it looks at the Google My Business listing and excludes any business with less than four stars from the results. Often these reviews encompass a few patients whose typical motivation for leaving a review is a less than ideal experience. This could mean your entire organization’s digital reputation is being defined by a small number of vocal patients which isn’t reflective of the true level and value of the services you provide.
Not only do poor ratings affect a healthcare organization’s search ranking, they are also likely to affect a consumer’s choice of provider. According to NRC Health research, six out of 10 people will select or reject a doctor based on reviews. It’s critical to manage and respond to comments and reviews on social media and review sites.
Another good way to win the ratings game, and rise to the top of the short list, is to automate the sending of invitations to patients to leave reviews of their experience. This simple outreach effort can help providers collect more online reviews which, in turn, helps consumers find and choose them as well as ensures that your online reputation more closely aligns with the value and quality of services you provide.
Making it easy for consumers to engage with the health system is another critical step. To make sure they are converting as many consumers as possible – such as getting them to book an appointment – healthcare organizations should optimize what Google displays in their health system’s profile in the Google Knowledge Panel which displays on the right-hand side of the results page.
Beyond making sure that all the information is correct, health systems can add a link for appointments to create an immediate call to action. Ideally, that link will let a consumer make an appointment online if that’s their preferred method of interaction.
Offering online scheduling will soon become table stakes for health systems needing to attract an increasingly digital native demographic. The same survey by Kaufman Hall found that 33% of healthcare organizations offer online self-scheduling for existing patients, with only 16% offering self-scheduling for new patients.
These health systems are forgetting that consumers want and expect greater convenience when it comes to healthcare access; so much so that they may choose new providers based on convenience over other criteria. Similarly, in its report, Healthcare 2030: The consumer at the center, KPMG found that 58% of millennials and 64% of Gen Xers value online booking of appointments to the extent that they would switch providers in order to do so. Offering online scheduling, among other self-service options, makes it easy for consumers to choose a healthcare organization over those that don’t offer online convenience.
Given the shift in power to consumers, healthcare organizations need to compete with non-traditional companies by beating them at their own digital-centric game. As consumers increasingly choose their providers based on convenience and ratings, healthcare organizations must embrace new tools for attracting and retaining these discerning patients.
About Matt Dickson
Matt Dickson is a versatile leader with strong operational management experience and expertise providing IT, product, and process solutions in the healthcare industry for over 23 years. Prior to joining Stericycle, Matt served as Vice President of Data Analytics for Conduent Payment Integrity Solutions, a global business process outsourcing company with more than 85,000 employees in 40 countries. While at Conduent, Matt built predictive models to identify overpayments for healthcare payers leading to a 60% increase in identification rates.