As talk of healthcare reform dominates the news, I’m going to tell another story: one about how Americans search for healthcare online. A new study from the Pew Internet and American Life Project in partnership with the California HealthCare Foundation reveals 61% of American adults look online for health information. Among this majority group, people access online healthcare information in a range of ways. What follows is my look at some excerpts from the study about online behavior followed by an online marketing prescription.
Pew: 41% have read someone else’s commentary or experience about health or medical issues on an online news group, website, or blog
Prescription: Offer a way for patients to share their stories about health or give feedback about hospital experiences. Is there a blog or other forum for patients to leave comments? Do you offer personal testimonials or case studies (written, audio or video) from real patients at your hospital? Make this information easy to find on your site.
Pew: 24% have consulted rankings or reviews online of doctors or other providers
Prescription: How do you stack up? See how well your hospital name or the names of your doctors stand up to Google scrutiny. Check the first couple pages of results for your hospital/practice/healthcare organization’s name in Google, as well as its better-known doctors or other personalities. Do you like what you see? If you don’t, there are ways to change this very public profile. This is one major facet of what is known as reputation monitoring or reputation management.
Pew: 24% have consulted rankings or reviews online of hospitals or other medical facilities
Prescription: Again, offer online feedback mechanisms for your patients/visitors. Actively refer them to popular general ratings sites or doctor ratings sites like Vitals.com and RateMDs.com to share their experiences with the broader health public.
Pew: 19% have signed up to receive updates about health or medical issues
Prescription: Do you offer opt-in email newsletters with information about your hospital’s latest events? Does your site contain visible RSS feeds of your latest news or specialty health news by topic (e.g. spine surgery news, Lasik news, chiropractic news)? Give people a chance to subscribe to content that originates from you or to get the information they seek about a particular condition.
Pew: 13% have listened to a podcast about health or medical issues
Prescription: Simple: have you ever made an audio or video recording of one of your doctors or other health experts speaking about their areas of expertise? Do it more than once and you have a podcast. Audio podcasts (or vodcasts, video podcasts) are easy to set up. The only required equipment is a computer, a microphone, and basic audio-/video-production software. Get yourself in iTunes. With some time and a little luck, you can find a whole new audience eager to learn from your considerable authority … and trust your name/brand for years to come
How does your healthcare organization gain an edge in digital marketing?
For some more thoughts—and case studies—about how we can help you, please visit our healthcare portfolio.
Photo courtesy of neoliminal via Flickr.
Check out Fathom’s white paper on Healthcare SEM. Learn the basics of PPC, common challenges hospitals face, and strategies for increasing ROI.