The Digital Patient Journey

Ben Lund
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Find New Patients by Being Present within the Digital Patient Journey

Being in the health services industry at Google from 2014 – 2018, I learned a wealth of information pertaining to understanding the patient journey and how health systems can be present at key moments of the patient journey to drive more patients.

Since leaving Google, I’ve stayed current in the healthcare space by servicing several health care clients at our ad agency, Rise Marketing Group. 

Google Search is the New Doctor

In a 2012 Compete study, it was found that 77% of patients used search engines for healthcare research. This was over 7 years ago and has continued to proliferate to the point where 7 percent of all Google searches are health related, reported by Google Health Vice President, David Feinbert, MD. With this extreme amount of health queries, Google has updated it’s search engine to display answers to users questions, from reputable sources, to give expert information to avoid ill advice from less reputable sites. See sample below for “whooping cough”.

Google Knowledge Panel - Health

 

 

What this Means for Healthcare Providers?

What this means for healthcare providers is they need to be where their prospective patients are, which is online. In the digital age we live in, they need to be online, at all stages of the journey.  If the provider isn’t part of the online journey, the chances are they won’t work with that patient.

How to be Present within the Patient Journey?

 As we can imagine, the digital journey is complex, as users will search and research on a variety of sites. Not only that, but the research is conducted from both the patient as well as their caregivers (parents, significant others, friends, health providers, etc.). It is the healthcare providers role to be present at all stages to share valuable information, which will earn their trust, to then earn their business.  With that, here are several tactical approaches healthcare providers should take to be there in the moments that matter. 

  • Search engines: Be present on search engines for relevant searches. This covers both advertising on search engines, and optimizing websites to organically rank higher for relevant searches. When advertising on search engines, it’s important to not just focus on Google. Google is great and has the lion-share of traffic, but Bing is another great player to be present within, to ensure full coverage.  By advertising on Microsoft Bing, advertisers can access other engines such as Yahoo!, AOL and smaller search engines like DuckDuckGo. Additionally, it’s important to consider a SEO strategy to rank for questions prospective patients might be asking.  In this approach, content will be king, to provide authoritative and in-depth resources to help answer users queries.
  • Advertising on health sites:  Part of the user journey is researching conditions on relevant sites (i.e. webmd). As users are on relevant sites, it’s encouraged to place banner ads on relevant sites to be present where the users are. This can be achieved through a variety of means, including contextual targeting on the Google Display Network. On the Google Display Network, advertisers can target sites that are contextually relevant to specific keywords, or even target specific sites to advertise on. 
  • Have a mobile first strategy: Health issues are not planned and will spawn at any hour and any place. With that, make sure your strategy is mobile first. Speaking from experience, whenever health concerns pop in our household (i.e. sick children), I’m not sitting at my desk prepared to open the laptop, rather I’m mobile and turn to my phone  to quickly research the condition, find answers and likely identify the nearest physician who can support.
  • Measure appropriately: The key pillar of a successful and profitable advertising campaign is solid measurement. This includes tracking all conversion events, including online lead forms, and most importantly calls driven from advertising. Without proper measurement, advertisers can be spending blind without understanding the true impact of their advertising campaigns. 
  •  By the nature of healthcare, users are more likely to call the healthcare provider than submit a lead form. Because healthcare issues are urgent and complex, which require a conversation than communicating via online lead forms.  With that, advertisers need to have an ironclad call measurement approach. At our agency, Rise Marketing Group, we leverage CallRail for all advertisers who value calls driven from our advertising.
  • Through CallRail we can track calls, seeded from our paid efforts, and record the calls to understand how qualified they are. This feedback loop is critical, which we can then optimize our campaigns against.

To Recap the Digital Patient Journey

For health systems to grow in the digital age, it’s important to understand where their prospective patients are, deliver value and accessibility at all points of the patient journey, and cap off the experience with appropriate measurement. 

By Ben Lund

Ben Lund is a 14+ year digital advertising vet who founded Rise Marketing Group. Outside of managing his agency, he offers advertising courses on SkillShare and routinely shares his best practices on DIYDigitalStrategy.com

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