Private Practices

Draw patients to your practice with the right digital footprint

Len Strazewski , Contributing News Writer

Don’t just look for patients in the waiting rooms of your physician private practice. Patients today are likelier to turn to the internet when they seek medical answers, and if you want to connect with them you will need to reach out online with advanced marketing strategies to create a bigger digital footprint.

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Rob Rosenberg, president of Springboard Brand and Creative Strategy in suburban Chicago, and Chris Boyer, senior digital strategist, presented a series of wide-ranging recommendations for how physician private practices can build advanced digital footprints to support their marketing in a recent AMA STEPS Forward® Innovation Academy webcast.

The brand gurus reported that patients gravitate to the web for information about physician qualifications, medical resources and individual physician reviews, and successful practices must communicate effectively online with state-of-the-art webpage design, active social media participation and creative digital content.

Recent research indicates that online resources are the go-to tools for patients and a sophisticated digital strategy is a must-have for private practices, they explained during the education session that is part of the AMA Private Practice Simple Solutions series of free, open-access rapid-learning cycles that provide opportunities to implement actionable changes that can immediately increase efficiency in private practices.

The session, “Advanced Marketing and Branding for Private Practices,” is available to view on demand, as are all previous sessions in the AMA Private Practice Simple Solutions series (registration required).

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According to research presented during the webcast, more than 60% of potential patients search for a physician or health professional before scheduling an appointment.

In addition, about:

  • 94% use online reviews to evaluate physicians or other health professionals.
  • 43% say they prefer making appointments online.
  • 41% say social media influenced their choice of doctors or other health professionals.

Boyer noted that patients have become much more active online since the COVID-19 pandemic first hit, and that to connect with these prospective patients, practices need to align their informational strategy with the internet tools these patients use. That includes web search engines, social media and digital content distributed to other websites.

“There’s a lot of digital places where you can promote yourselves,” Boyer said. “In the modern digital landscape, it’s about aligning those digital channels … to create a cohesive digital footprint.”

This footprint is an important component of your digital reputation which helps prospective patients find you and validates their decision and helps increase your referrals and showcases your expertise, he said.

The practice website is the center of the digital ecosystem, the experts said, and should include staff biographies, CVs and other information that showcases the practice’s competitive differentiators—what makes you special.

The website should also highlight various tools that patients can use to manage their relationship with the practices, such as online bill paying, appointments and forms. The practice should also check the website for compliance with accessibility standards for type and design.

It takes astute clinical judgment as well as a commitment to collaboration and solving challenging problems to succeed in independent settings that are often fluid, and the AMA offers the resources and support physicians need to both start and sustain success in private practice.

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Website content has become more important than ever, and physicians should develop content that not only identifies the practice and its resources, but also highlights the patient experience, they said.

Content can be multipurpose, created not only for the website but also for distribution on related web channels and social media. For example, blog posts—topical articles of 1,000 words or less about news, community engagement and industry developments—can be created for the practice website and then repurposed for other media including newsletters, brochures, text messages and presentations, Boyer said.

How can you guarantee that potential patients see and read the content? Search engine optimization (SEO) positions content to be delivered in front of an appropriate audience, based on their search history keywords and metatags built into web content. Other HTML features such as title tags and meta descriptions also are essential to influencing search outcomes.

A more advanced technique, search engine marketing (SEM), can also enhance practice visibility. SEM involves using paid digital media strategies to enable you to reach out to prospective patients based on their search behaviors, website usage and online targeting.

Physicians and staff are not likely to be experts in these techniques. Rosenberg and Boyer recommended that private practices partner with web tech vendors with training and experience that can direct web marketing.

Choosing the right vendor is essential, Rosenberg said, and he recommended that practices look carefully at credentials, particularly medical industry expertise and familiarity with industry regulations and standards. You should also establish goals and targets up front, defining the scope of your relationship and preparing for contingencies, he said.

Find out more about the AMA Private Practice Physicians Section, which seeks to preserve the freedom, independence and integrity of private practice.