For healthcare providers, managing physician data should be an ongoing process of keeping names, addresses, office hours, location, and other details up to date. But too often, healthcare providers publish physician data once without keeping their details up to date. As a result, patients seeking care online encounter roadblocks, as I recently did when I needed medical care.

Earlier this year, I fractured my ankle while running across Wacker Drive downtown Chicago in an attempt to make my Metra train. It was a dumb thing but there I was. When I woke up the following morning I knew my ankle was in bad shape and was going to require medical attention. Going to the ER was no biggie since I had gone there for another issue last year however what followed was the real nightmare.

After I was released from the hospital, I began the journey to find an orthopedic specialist for more thorough examination and long-term treatment. If you have ever suffered a broken bone, you know how complicated this process can be. You cannot go to just any orthopedic provider. You need to find someone who specializes in your specific kind of injury, such as back & spine, hip & knee or, in my case, foot & ankle. And, of course, your provider needs to be in your insurance network. Plus a referral from your primary care physician is usually required as it was for me.

Getting from the ER to the right specialist can take many twists and turns. For instance, my hospital’s ER referred me to a provider who was outside my insurance company’s approved network, creating a search on my part that led to a dead end. My primary care physician left it up to me to find my own provider so I did a search on my phone for an orthopedic doctor. Results were too general so I narrowed it to ankle specialists. Naturally I wanted to find a provider nearest to my home. Here is where my problems intensified. My search resulted in a mish-mash of doctors whose profile pages were riddled with flaws such as:

  • Vague information about their areas of specialty, making it difficult for me to know whether they were truly ankle specialists.
  • Lack of insurance information about whether they were affiliated with the in-network healthcare system I wanted to use.
  • Unclaimed physician pages in Google, meaning the pages lacked information that was verified and kept up to date by the provider, which eroded my trust.
  • Poor or no mobile optimization on most of the provider pages also made the experience a real pain.

I found one orthopedic doctor who had really good reviews on Google (which mattered a lot to me). His hours and location seemed convenient based on his listing, but there was no ability to schedule an appointment, which was frustrating because I wanted to proceed from search to care as quickly as possible. When I called his office, I learned that he kept multiple locations and had no availability for at least 10 days, which seemed like an unacceptable wait time. I was in a bit of a panic having never broken a bone and unsure of the process for treatment. 

His assistant did refer me to another in-network physician who was available sooner. So I rushed over to his office only to be told that this doctor was actually out of network after all. Here was another case of my receiving bad data – this time over the phone. Eventually, I found a provider at the desired facility, which triggered a long process of treatment then physical therapy that continues today.

Now that I’ve had time to reflect on the experience, I advise the following to any healthcare system:

Make Your Physicians Findable

Set a foundation of findability with location and physician data. Deep content such as a provider’s history and mission are important, but what’s the point of creating great descriptive content if your provider fails to show up in search results – or show up with incomplete, unhelpful information? In my case, unhelpful information created a frustrating patient onboarding experience and tarnished the reputation of the providers whose data was wrong. If a healthcare provider cannot publish an accurate address, why should I trust my personal care to them? If a healthcare provider lacks a scheduling tool, they are sending me a message: take my needs elsewhere.

Distribute Your Data

Unleash your data by sharing it with the publishers such as Google and aggregators such as Neustar that distribute your information throughout the digital world where people like me conduct searches for care nearby. Doing so means forming relationships with these data amplifiers and learning how to format your data according to their own requirements. Data amplifiers are powerful. For instance, when Apple and Google possess accurate information about your providers, users of Apple Maps and Google Maps will be able to find you more easily.

Keep Your Data Up to Date

You need to manage data, not set it and forget it. At SIM Partners, we talk about fresh data in context of data health. When you have accurate data shared properly across your ecosystem, you possess location data health. In other words, healthy location data is accurate data with reach. Keeping your data healthy requires ongoing management, publishing, and verification. Monitoring your location data health will also identify steps you need to take to respond to changes that occur constantly with any healthcare organization. When you make accurate location data accessible, you make location marketing more valuable.

[clickToTweet tweet=”When your foundational assets are healthy, you will remove a barrier for potential patients. ” quote=”When your foundational assets are healthy, you will remove a barrier for potential patients. ” theme=”style2″]

According to proprietary research conducted by SIM Partners, for brands that improved their location data health by 20 percent, traffic to their location pages increased up to 450 percent and on-page action conversion rates increased by 216 percent. Within 60 days of submitting its location data through the Velocity Health platform, a major healthcare system increased the accuracy of the data on its physician pages by 74 percent. The same organization saw 64 percent increase in new patient form submissions.

When your foundational assets are healthy, you will remove a barrier for potential patients – and help people like me in our moment of need.

For more information on managing healthcare data, check out our Healthcare Marketer’s Guide to Location Data Management. If you have any specific questions about data scrubbing and location data management, feel free to contact me.

Jay Hawkinson

Author Jay Hawkinson

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