Patient Acquisition in a Competitive Market: Patients are asking questions — are you providing the right answers?

Questions about healthcare are becoming more complex, and people want to be able to find information in more places.

At the same time, ownership over answers has become less clear — have you ever wondered, “Where did Google get the phone number for that doctor?” As an organization, you want to own the experience people have with your brand so that you can provide answers to the questions healthcare consumers are asking.

The patient journey starts with a question. Healthcare revenue follows.

Here’s what healthcare organizations need to know about the patient journey today.

The new patient journey is changing patient acquisition strategies

The patient journey now starts with a question — any question — related to a symptom, doctor recommendation, et cetera. The question is often asked via a search engine, which then channels the searching consumer to different resources (e.g., blog posts, videos), before the searcher returns to the search engine to ask another question. The process repeats until the searcher finds her answer.

This is an evolution from how patients once sought care. In the past, a primary care provider would make a referral, and the patient would likely make an appointment with that doctor. Today, the patient seeks convenience and wants to know as much about her provider as possible. Just as she would search for a product on Amazon, she researches and compares providers, and then makes a decision based on many factors, including types of insurance accepted, proximity,  and provider ratings. She is an ever-connected consumer looking for the right provider to treat her condition or need.

Patients ask more questions than ever on search engines: You’re at risk if your answers aren’t there

Almost 80% of patients start their healthcare journey by asking questions in search, and 68% of these searches are performed on mobile devices. And the older they are, the more they search for healthcare — even on voice devices. Yext’s findings show that for patients who have asked a healthcare-related question using voice (Siri, Alexa, Google Assistant, et al.) in the last 12 months, there was more than a 12% increase in searches for healthcare from the 65+ age group, and a 22% increase from the 35–44 age group — a trend that’s important for healthcare organizations to note.

What kinds of questions could a healthcare consumer be asking?

Depending on where the consumer is along the patient journey, the questions are vast. Someone might be searching for the cause of certain symptoms:

“Upset stomach and headache cause”

Or they could have recently moved and are searching to find a primary care provider:

“Who is the best primary care provider near me?”

Compared to 2018’s research, Yext's Patient Voice Search Behavior Survey, 2019, found a 9% decrease in people who had a doctor in mind before searching. In 2018, 54% of people had already selected a doctor before conducting a search. But in 2019, more than half of the respondents (50.5% to be precise) did not have a doctor in mind before searching. This suggests that patients are increasingly relying on search to guide them to the right provider.

Is your website an Answers Engine to drive patient acquisition?

We’re seeing fewer patients visit a healthcare organization’s website before making a decision. Only about 23% of Yext survey respondents indicated that they visited a health system website before taking a healthcare action. So it’s incredibly important to ensure that you can answer the questions patients are asking about their healthcare directly on third-party sites. You don’t want to leave that experience up to third-parties to own.

But for the almost one in four who do visit a health system website, it’s important to provide the exact same brand experience on your site as you would off of it. These patients exhibit certain behaviors and have certain expectations about how they want to find information on your website. Yext research indicates that only 18% of people wanted to click on links without searching, while 46% of people said they want to use search to find what they are looking for on a health system’s website.

If and when a consumer reaches your website, it’s more important than ever to make the patient experience easy and convenient, so that you can match the right patient to the right doctor for the right condition — every time.

Learn how to make your website an answers engine with our whitepaper.

 

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