Google's latest algorithm update could stunt hospital revenue

In the midst of juggling financial challenges, healthcare reform and governmental mandates, why would you EVER need advice from a digital marketing guy about hospital revenue?

Well, because on April 21st, Google implemented a massive change to their search engine algorithm, which could soon remove your website from the mobile search results if it isn't designed for mobile devices. Here's why that matters: 1/3 of your patients search and book appointments from their mobile devices.

Have you ever landed on a website while using your smartphone, and the text is so small that you need to pinch the screen to zoom in and read it? That means the website isn't mobile-friendly.
Google and patients agree, your website needs to be mobile-friendly.

The Mobile Journey to Wellness
Even as smartphone usage recently overtook desktop usage for the first time in history, very few hospitals are adequately effective healthcare marketing strategies to meet patients halfway in their search for information and services online.

- 46% of smartphone users report difficulty interacting with a web page
- 44% complain that navigation was difficult
- 49% of people have a poor opinion of businesses when they don't offer a good mobile experience.

So if that's you, and your website isn't optimized for mobile, what happens to those 33% of patients who used to find you and book appointments from their mobile phones? Soon, your website will not be displayed in mobile search results for those users.

Add Mobile to the Healthcare Digital Marketing Mix

In 2012, Google hired Compete, a third-party research vendor, to study how inbound marketing influences hospital choice, healthcare research and appointments. Compete tracked hospital researchers' activity across online platforms, analyzed online behavior of users from start of research to point of conversion, and surveyed 533 hospital researchers to gain behavioral insights.

Here's what they found:

1. Online search plays significant role in hospital selection process.

77% of patients used search prior to booking an appointment. Mobile devices account for 37% of that search volume. Top sources for patient research were: search engines, hospital websites, and health information websites.

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2. Digital content is key to patient decision-making

Users tapped into the following resources when researching:

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3. Patients who used a mobile device to research are also more likely to schedule an appointment

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Next questions to answer as a hospital executive

With the explosion of patient smartphone usage, the ever-increasing volume of patient research online, and the coinciding of Google's mobile-friendly update, there are a few questions to consider as an executive responsible for growth and revenue.

1. Are you active online where patients are now searching for information? Blogs, search engines, social media, review websites, podcasts, email.
2. How much of your revenue can be tied to your marketing efforts? Can you currently measure every marketing channel? With digital mediums, you are now able to tie each marketing action to revenue.
3. Is your website mobile-friendly? Check here to test it.

If your website doesn't measure up, consider whether you can afford to lose the website traffic, patients and revenue that comes from mobile devices and tablets.

Adam McConnell is the Founder and CEO of Pulse Digital Marketing, a healthcare marketing agency helping businesses attract customers and get found online with web design, mobile marketing, search engine optimization (SEO), social media, and inbound marketing for healthcare and medical companies. Clients include leading biotech and medical device companies, hospitals, and healthcare professionals in private practice.

The views, opinions and positions expressed within these guest posts are those of the author alone and do not represent those of Becker's Hospital Review/Becker's Healthcare. The accuracy, completeness and validity of any statements made within this article are not guaranteed. We accept no liability for any errors, omissions or representations. The copyright of this content belongs to the author and any liability with regards to infringement of intellectual property rights remains with them.

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