Healthcare Practice Website: Patient Attraction Magnet

Research shows a high number of small businesses still don’t have websites. Can your healthcare practice afford to be one of them? #HealthCareMktg

Business website: patient attraction magnet for healthcare practices; skyrockets marketing efforts! Image: Public domain.
Harnessing the web as a business tool is important, even for businesses that may consider themselves as primarily offline. … So no matter how established your businesses is offline, it’s crucial to get the basics of online in place. — Glenn Shoosmith, The Guardian

A business website is a patient attraction magnet for smart healthcare practices. But far too many are still vacillating and ignoring the Internet Doctor’s advice: get on board now or risk watching your patients walk through your competitors’ door.

Here’s your shot in the arm.

Moving Towards The Web: Anemic and Lethargic

Some surprising results came out of studies performed over the past few years. In a nutshell, many small businesses didn’t feel the need to have a website. They had myriad reasons, including fear of becoming overwhelmed with orders and customers, lack of technical know-how, and the usual suspect — not enough time to focus on it.

I get it. For super-busy medical practice managers, having a website can seem almostunimportant. At the very least, it’s so far down the to-do list it’s little more than an afterthought.

You’ve got a lot of balls in the air, yet you don’t treat your office management or charge capture process as afterthoughts, do you? Marketing is no less important.

So can your healthcare practice really afford to be one of those businesses?

State of Affairs

More than a decade ago, Doug Desatnik had the foresight to list 50 reasons why your business needs to develop a website in the new economy. Number 4 on his list, “Think of a Web site as a virtual extension of your traditional business and use the Web to help transform your company to meet and anticipate new industry demands.”is a virtual twin to the advice shared by Glenn Shoosmith 7 years later.

(Unfortunately, the situation in the U.K. appears to be as dismal as that in the U.S. Shoosmith noted, “a massive 60% of small businesses in the UK still have no online presence at all.”)

That was the state of affairs a few years ago, but from my own experience and talking to colleagues who do web development and content marketing, small businesses of all stripes are still slow to develop an online presence.

Your Clients Are Online

Don’t think for a moment that your customers aren’t already online. I always ask, “How many of you have used a search engine within the past seven days to research a product or service that you were considering purchasing?” The hands raised in response have never been less than 85 to 90 percent of the crowd. — Roy H. Williams, Entrepreneur Magazine

From grocery delivery to poodle grooming to specs on the latest medical laser technology, the internet has become the first stop for researching all things personal and business related.

The reality for today’s small business is that the web serves to enhance advertising and marketing efforts for every business. This includes private healthcare firms — making it easier and cost-effective to dispense information needed by prospective patients while increasing their comfort levels about doing business with you.

Consumers expect to find your healthcare practice in all the right places when they begin researching their healthcare concerns.

Whether they look for medical professionals by their formal discipline (podiatrist, ophthalmologists) or by the more familiar representation of the services they perform (foot doctor, eye doctor), they expect a basic online presence.

Are these observations and truths compelling enough to light a fire under independent healthcare providers? (I’m hoping the answer is yes.)

Compelling Reasons To Create A Health Practice Business Website

Take a look at these three patient-centered reasons to swiftly move your practice online: gaining trust, patient education and convenience, and being a good neighbor.

#1: Gaining Trust

It’s hard to gain trust online.

Although ophthalmologists, dentists, podiatrists and chiropractors will inevitably meet their clients, making a first impression through your business website goes a long way towards gaining that initial trust.

Prior to a face-to-face appointment, your practice must showcase the expertise and professionalism of the business, create an inviting atmosphere, answer questions and reduce discomforts.

That’s a tall order before the client even walks through your door!

Having a patient education center as part of your website helps you gain the trust of potential patients.

#2: Patient Education and Convenience

As a healthcare professional, you know better than anyone the huge role patient education plays in the healthcare system.

In “Better Patient Education for Improved Engagement and Compliance” (an article written for Patient Safety & Quality Healthcare), Wayne Neal (BSN/FCP) provides a case study detailing the patient education strategy implemented by Children’s National Health System in Washington, DC.

Neal says, “Solid patient education strategies are foundational to improved compliance and success with national patient engagement initiatives…”

… Laying the best technological foundation meant not only addressing the need for content based on the latest evidence but also providing a wide array of formats for presenting information — from paper-based literature to a variety of digital formats.

Online patient education centers are popular within the healthcare industry. Why? Because do-it-yourself transcends every known industry. Recipes, gardening, building a basic birdhouse or fancy doghouse, tiling the bathroom, laying wood flooring …

Everything short of heart surgery and realigning the spine.

Whoa! Your patients will not access your online patient education center in a “do it yourself” mode — they don’t really want to know how to set their own wrist or remove their appendix.

But they are interested in finding as much information as possible about any procedures affecting them or their families. They will expect you to make tons of information available to them.. . . With diagrams, charts, and videos!

This is your chance to make sure that your practice’s message comes through loud and clear while giving prospects exactly what they need to become — and remain — loyal customers.

Convenience …

Are there forms to fill out upon arrival for their appointment with your practice?

They’ll expect those forms to be available to download in advance of their appointment so they can print them out, make a copy for themselves, and shave off a bit of time when they arrive for their appointment. (Hey, this is the age of the internet and things move lightening fast!)

#3: Being A Good Neighbor

Chiropractor Steve Tullius (D.C., ACP) recognizes the marketing boost gained from having a business website. On his blog, he shares another insight: when a potential client found his chiropractic practice online (through search engines or a review site), she chose him because not only did he have a suitable, trustworthy website but he was “in the neighborhood.

“In the neighborhood” means a lot to your community-oriented and family-oriented pool of potential patients.

Social signals tracked by Twitter, Google+, Facebook, LinkedIn and other networking venues incorporate geo-tagging, geo-location, and #hashtags . . . All of these contribute to drilling down to who and what is nearby.

Geography no longer limits us in ways of old. What was once too far away to make a difference is now as near as the few presses of a button or a voice command. Just saying “Go Google” within earshot of your phone brings back location-specific results in mere seconds!

Data-enabled smartphones, tablets, iPads, Blackberry’s and wearable tech gadgets galore make sure your business’ front door is close enough to, metaphorically, “reach out and touch.” If you are not on the internet, if you do not have a business website, you might as well be a million miles away!

Get Around The Challenges

You’re convinced your practice needs a website, a strong, patient-centered online presence. Now there are only two challenges to overcome.

Challenge: Avoid being side-swiped by technical difficulties.

The safest route? Find yourself a full-fledged digital marketing agency to build and manage your online effort. Let them handle all the technical aspects.

Don’t expect to do this on the cheap. $500 will buy you headaches. Go ahead and earmark the budget to fund the investment. (Your website is an asset, not an expense.)

Success is more likely when working with a firm experienced in healthcare marketing.

Challenge: Consistently craft the content potential clients and existing patients will voraciously consume.

You’ll need a content writer who can help you plan a complete content marketing strategy (including social media), craft your message, and communicate effectively with patients.

Find yourself one and hire them. (Tip: Do a search on LinkedIn for “healthcare freelance writer” or “content marketing strategist”.)

You have the best of both worlds if you select a digital marketing agency that handles everything, including assigning writers for you.

Next Steps

Whether your practice is dental, chiropractic, physical therapy, orthodontics, orthopedics, or ophthalmology, patients will be looking to your medical practice website for information on location, fees, staff qualifications, explanations of ailments, procedures, appointments, treatments and more.

By the time they actually get to you, they’ll be well informed, feel like they know and can trust you, and be ready to explore options and accept the medical advice they’ve come to receive.

All because you have a website that empowers them to come to you that way.

Get out ahead of the pack. Add a web site to your marketing and customer service mix; businesses that don’t (in whatever industry) risk losing important exposure to new clients.

Thanks for reading, commenting (and sharing)!

Vernessa Taylor is a small business technology consultant and freelance writer. She specializes in making tech easier to understand. Get in touch on LinkedIn or Twitter @VernessaTaylor.

Portions of this article first appeared on LocalBusinessCoachOnline, 2014.