Before the global pandemic took the world by storm, healthcare was one of the last remaining industries that predominantly occurred offline. Patients would go in office to see their physicians for consultations, routine appointments, elective procedures, and all medical needs.
Telehealth appointments are becoming the new normal for healthcare providers and patients. According to Definitive Healthcare, over 41 million telehealth claims have been filed between April and July 2020, a 4000% year over year increase. When prospective or existing patients search for profiles in their local areas online, it is more critical than ever that physicians and clinics have a strong, accurate online presence that also highlight telehealth and virtual visit care options.
Patients Rely on Local Listings
In the 3.5 billion Google searches that occur each day, 1 out of 20 of those searches are health-related. That number has increased by 60% in the last decade. If more people are searching for doctors online, then it is critical to optimize your online listings and provide accurate information to local listing directories.
Google My Business, WebMD, and Vitals are three of the most important local listing and health review sites that need to be optimized and up-to-date. Managing your online presence and reputation affects the way you gain new patients and engage current patients. The push for transparency in the healthcare industry is something that physicians need to be aware of and proactively respond to. There are greater amounts of information available online regarding physicians, the healthcare industry, treatment types, and research. Patients are becoming more educated and their expectations are higher.
While transparency may be initially hard to adopt, it is crucial to physicians. Online reviews on local listing directories are a crucial ways physicians can showcase their transparency and manage their online reputation.
As COVID-19 restrictions are lifted in your area, listings need to be updated with your safety precautions and hours. Also include information on how your patients can be expected to receive their treatments.
How to Optimize your Local Listings
Local listings can help physicians stay ahead of the competition by providing information and content their competitors don’t provide.
Optimize your local listings with local keywords and phrases to help your practice get found by local patients. You may be familiar with the term SEO for your website and how to grow organic traffic to your website and practice. For local listings, it is important to also think of local SEO.
Local SEO focuses on a geographical component of your practice. Regardless of the size of your practice, the key is to focus on gaining exposure and the number of patients. In your local listing, use words that are specific to your region, area, neighborhood, and phrases. Google’s local search algorithm factors in a myriad of other variables but initially it’s key to establish a solid foundation in doing the basics correctly.
Google My Business
Google knows that when someone searches for a practice “near them,” they are looking within a specific, geographical area. Local SEO makes it easier to rank for keywords and to compete with other practices in your region.
When 46% of all Google searches are local, a local SEO strategy helps attract quality patients to your practice. This is why having an optimized Google My Business profile is so important to your practice.
Google knows how people search for things and can react quickly. When a practitioner or clinic have a complete Google My Business listing, Google finds information easily and shares it on top search result pages.
A few ways to optimize your Google My Business profile are:
- Accurate phone, email, address, and services
- High quality, images of staff, waiting room, specialized equipment, or anything that makes your practice stand out
- Utilize unique physician / practice profile review links
Increased Number of People Searching for Doctors
During COVID-19, website traffic has increased by 70% across all channels. Which means if more people are online, the chance of them looking for a healthcare provider has also increased. By optimizing your online profiles and digital footprint, you and your practice will stand out from the competition. Providing accurate, relevant, and trustworthy information regarding your practice, treatments, and specific industry-related news increases your visibility.
Staying ahead of trending news in your industry will establish you and your practice as leaders in the field. Sharing that content on your local listings can boost credibility. This includes healthcare information about COVID-19, scientific research, or clinical trials in your specialty.
Patients are Searching for Telemedicine
The trend that is disrupting the healthcare trend due to COVID-19 is the availability of telemedicine. Adopting telehealth into your practice and stating that your practice offers telehealth appointments can help attract patients who feel unsafe or uncomfortable going into a medical facility. Although telemedicine gained maximum popularity out of necessity when restrictions and the stay-at-home order was mandated, it is a lasting trend. Many practices are finding they can maximize their number of appointments by having both in-office and telehealth availability.
Perhaps not a trend, but a critical point that cannot go without mentioning is the importance of reputation management. Local listings are wonderful for getting your practice in front of the right patients. However, it also allows patients, satisfied or not, to leave public reviews. Again, patients rely on local listings to learn about physicians – and read reviews.
Physicians need to manage their online reputation because a few bad, unanswered reviews can make or break a practice. This is done by the practice or a reputation management company. But to maintain credibility, there needs to be communication and transparency when dealing with online reviews. Oftentimes, a response stating you understand a disgruntled patient and directing them to contact a specified liaison via phone or email is enough to offset a poor review. If a bad review is unanswered, your practice can look unprofessional and makes potential patients wary of your services and level of patient care.
Local listings are an excellent way to stay ahead of your competitors and in front of quality patients. Knowing how to optimize, maintain, and utilize them to your benefit will help your practice grow and acquire patients.
To learn more about your local listings and online reputation, the Valet Health team is here to help and answer any questions. One of our team members will walk you through a personalized demo and share local listings and online reputation insights for your practice via our Valet LaunchPad platform.