December is a time for celebrating the holidays – and also a time for thinking about the year ahead. For healthcare providers, taking stock of the future is exciting yet complicated. Dramatic issues such as the battle over healthcare reform create constant uncertainty. But amid the uncertainty, healthcare providers can count on more patients using digital to find. Being more effective with patient acquisition and care in the digital age comes down to managing some fundamentals that remain the same year after year. For example, you still need to publish accurate data about your providers to be found. Your physician directory needs to be user friendly and useful. To prepare yourself for a successful 2018, ask these five questions about how well you manage the fundamentals of providing patient access and engagement:

  • Being found: Am I making my digital front door findable with data? With nine out of ten patients using Google to search for healthcare, healthcare providers need to publish and share accurate data about your physicians and locations in order to be found. Now is the time to review the accuracy and completeness of your data, starting with your physicians. Have you accounted for all the physicians in your network? Are their names, addresses, phone numbers, and office hours up to date? Of course, your location data needs to be accurate for patients to know how to navigate your facility and find the care they need, especially if you operate a campus where specialty care resides in different buildings. Review, correct, and share your data with the publishers such as Apple and Google that distribute data wherever people conduct searches for care.
  • Being considered: is my content helping patients choose me? Most patients visit your website before they choose their provider. Descriptive content — the in-depth information that goes beyond basic physician and location data – improves your chances of being chosen. How well do your physicians distinguish their areas of specialty through the narrative they share on their pages – with their words and images? Successful healthcare systems are publishing frequent content to help patients keep abreast of topical issues such as wellness care. How well do you provide useful, resourceful information? Your ability to help patients become better informed gives people a better sense of what it’s like to become your patient.  
  • Converting: do I provide the right tools to create patient conversions? Tools such as online scheduling widgets and click-to-call functionality encourage the next moment of patient onboarding. Do all your pages contain the tools that encourage onboarding? How user friendly are those tools? Try them yourself to make sure they do what you want them to do – and use both your desktop and phone to test how consistent they are across devices.
  • Engaging: how well does my physician directory help new and repeat patients find access to the right care? Physician directories suffer from poor user uptake – and the culprits are usually lack of findability, a poor user experience, and the publication of bad physician data. And yet, when managed well, physician directories help patients find care. They also perform two other important roles: encourage retention when patients come back to your site and search for new physicians; and encourage physicians to refer each other. One of the most important improvements you can make to your directory is to ensure your search functionality works well. For instance, do you offer the filters patients need to narrow their search, such as insurance accepted by your physicians? The best way to test the user friendliness of your directory is to put yourself in the shoes of your patient and search for care. What kind of experience do you encounter, and how would you improve it?
  • Being mobile: how mobile-centric am I? Mobile underpins the entire patient discovery, onboarding, and care journey. As we have discussed on our blog, Google continues to push all businesses to a mobile-first world by favoring in search results content that is optimized for mobile search. In other words, if your content isn’t created with a mobile search in mind, you’re going to get penalized in search results. To assess how mobile-centric your pages are, take this test – and act on any changes recommended when you see the results. Mobile is a show stopper: if you fail to be mobile, you will fail at onboarding and engagement.

By asking the above five questions, you will strengthen your digital front door to care and keep your patients engaged when they return for care. No matter what happens to the healthcare industry in 2018, I can assure you that the need to manage patient access and engagement with digital will remain acute.

To learn more about how you can attract and retain patients with digital, contact SIM Partners. We provide the technology, business intelligence, and consulting you need to improve your operations at a local level.