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Why doctors need a strong online presence

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by Jennifer Bridges  @JenBridgesRD

Businessman's hand videoconferencing with happy doctor on laptop

Potential patients can’t schedule an appointment with you if they don’t know about you. Therefore, you need to be visible where people are looking for doctors—and today, this means you need to be online. 

According to a 2018 Doctor.com study, a doctor’s online presence plays a vital role in attracting new patients. In fact, 63% of respondents reported choosing a provider based on the strength of his or her online presence. For people over 60, this number rises to 67%. But what makes a doctor’s online presence so important?

Your online presence can improve patient outcomes by: 

  • Empowering patients to be actively engaged with their healthcare
  • Establishing a trusting relationship between you and your patients
  • Ensuring that patients have easy access to your practice’s resources

How your online presence can improve your patients’ health

Your patients’ health depends on how much they are invested in their treatment, how much they trust you, and whether they have access to the tools and information they need. Here’s how having a robust online presence can help you achieve these things.

Giving patients information

Nine out of 10 patients want to partner with their provider when it comes to making healthcare decisions, and 24% want total control of their own health. This is good news because engaged patients have better health outcomes

“People that are actively engaged in their healthcare are more likely to stay healthy and manage their conditions, follow treatment plans, eat right, exercise and receive health screenings and immunizations.”—University of Oregon health policy researcher Judith Hibbard

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Your online presence can empower your patients if you share medical information via a patient portal, blog posts, a newsletter, or an online health library. This enables individuals to make better-informed decisions regarding their health issues and can encourage greater dialog between doctors and patients. 

Displaying your social proof

Having a robust online presence can help people develop a human connection with you, which leads to increased feelings of trust. You can add to your trustworthiness by asking your patients for feedback and prominently displaying patient testimonials and positive reviews on your website and on social media. 

Giving website and social media visitors the review data they are looking for keeps them on sites you control and prevents them from searching for you on online review sites like Yelp or RateMDs, which might feature negative content. This is vital because a bad online reputation is what prevent 60% of patients from doing business with you.

Providing convenience

A robust online presence makes it easier to satisfy your patients. For example, if your website is in the top Google results for your name, patients will easily be able to find it and gain access to all the information it contains. In contrast, a website that is lost somewhere at the bottom of page 16 of the search results will remain invisible to 95% of people. 

Ideally, once a visitor reaches your site, he or she can take advantage of convenient, online tools to make healthcare tasks easier. Nearly half of patients, for example, want to schedule appointments electronically (e.g. via an app, your website, or email). 

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And because most patients consider customer service the most important factor in determining their loyalty to a provider, your website should include a way to handle customer service requests (e.g. online chat, a FAQ page, or a secure messaging program). 

Ways to improve your online presence

Don’t worry if you haven’t yet established an online presence—or if your online image isn’t all that impressive—there are several things you can do to increase your visibility and your online reputation. 

Use an app

A UnitedHealthcare survey shows that people are increasingly using technology to access healthcare information. Therefore, a good way to increase your online reach is through an app. Here are two to try:

  • First Opinion: First Opinion is the gig economy’s solution for medical advice. Patients just type their questions into the app, which then matches their query with a doctor who responds in 5 minutes or less. Doctors who sign up with First Opinion can garner significant public exposure and earn the trust of their online patients. However, it’s not easy to become a First Opinion doctor; only 1 in 10 who apply are accepted.
  • ZocDoc: This free app makes it easy for patients to find verified patient reviews, as well as view and book available appointment slots online. By listing their practice on ZocDoc, doctors not only gain new patients, but they also strengthen their reputation. In fact, providers average 40 new reviews after being on the service for a single year. 

Other ways to increase your exposure

In addition to healthcare apps, there are numerous other ways you can boost your online presence, including:

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  • Creating a compelling website: An informative and easy-to-use website is a great relationship-building tool that can help you earn the trust of your patients and potential patients. While you probably don’t have much control over your practice’s website if you belong to a large medical group, you can always make a personal website (built using SEO best practices) that lets you showcase your healthcare philosophy, your areas of focus, your hobbies, and any charitable organizations you support. 
  • Starting a blog: One of the most effective ways to strengthen your online presence is to start a blog. Regularly publishing blog posts on your website not only boosts your site’s ranking in search engines, but it also highlights your medical expertise, which increases patient trust and positions you as a leader in your field. 
  • Claiming your profiles on review sites: Over 80% of patients still read a doctor’s online reviews even if someone has referred them to that physician. By claiming these profiles, you can make sure your information is correct and customize them to present a caring and respected professional image.
  • Making sure your local business listings are accurate: Consumers expect complete, accurate, and detailed content in local business listings. If your profiles contain little information, or worse, conflicting information, then potential patients will form a negative opinion of your practice.
  • Posting on social media: Being active on social media is a great way to promote yourself and your practice online. In your posts, you can discuss conditions you treat, unveil new medical research, and offer general medical advice. This will help you build an online reputation as an expert who cares about educating his or her patients.

For more information

Whether you’re constructing an entire online presence from scratch, or you’re just improving an established online reputation, there are several ways to get the information you need.

You can give us a call. We offer free consultations 24/7 to discuss your unique situation. You can also read our many articles about improving how you look online. For example: