Understanding when patients and potential patients are searching is key to creating a strong digital presence and leveraging your website to create a consistent flow of appointment bookings. We’ve discussed the patient journey and what patients are searching for in previous posts. We continue our focus on search here with 5 times patients turn to search engines.
- When they have an issue, but no information
The rise of WebMD and similar sites is often decried within the medical community for supporting a culture of self diagnosis, but the motivation behind these sites is to simply provide a resource for people searching for information on medical topics. The fact is, many people only talk to a doctor when they are having a problem. Some of the most common medical searches, for example “leg pain” or “rash on face and neck” are symptom-based searches. The bottom line here is would you rather your potential patients were relying on WebMD for information on the conditions you treat or you, a medical professional capable of properly diagnosing and actually treating the conditions? Every doctor should be publishing great content on the conditions they see and treat; not only is this going to draw attention via searches from new patients, but it provides a great resource for existing patients, too.
- When they have a diagnosis, but are making treatment decisions
Depending on the severity of the condition, being diagnosed can be pretty shocking for patients. Furthermore, some conditions have many treatments with their own benefits and risks. In short, a diagnosis opens the floodgates on whole new sets of questions and concerns. Addressing these questions and concerns is the key to a solid content plan for your site. This will provide your existing patients something to refer to later, but it also provides a medically-sound resource for potential patients who are trying to understand their condition and make a treatment decision.
- When they are looking for a specific treatment or specialist
As patients transition from a diagnosis to a treatment decision, their searching habits also typically transition more specifically toward engaging a specialist in their condition or treatment. They’ve likely consumed a lot of general information about the condition and treatments, but now they want to know who’s the best. They want to find their city’s best glaucoma specialist or an oral surgeon specializing in wisdom teeth extraction. They want to know what makes you special and how to hire you.
- When Patients are seeking a healthcare professional near them
In general, people will travel further for conditions requiring specialist treatment; patients want to know they are seeing the best. With more common medical situations (e.g., dental cleanings, physicals, etc.) convenience plays a huge role. Most people aren’t going to travel 300 miles to see a dentist for a routine cleaning or a doctor for a prescription for allergy medicine. The more common the condition or treatment, the more likely location is to be a differentiator. People want to see a doctor who is nearby and can see them quickly; this is the motivation behind the many quick service clinics that are popping up in drug stores and big box stores. Your location and contact information should be easily available throughout your site and you should be maintaining correct and consistent listings on local search platforms like Google Maps and Apple Maps.
- When they are trying to make an appointment
The eventual goal for every other interaction you have with potential patients and something existing patients will most typically make use of search engines to complete is making an appointment. From finding your practice’s phone number to getting directions to the office and everything in between, you need to make sure your contact information is correct, consistent and widely available.
These five situations basically cover the entire patient journey from beginning to end. Creating content for each situation is highly recommended, but we understand time and budgets aren’t unlimited—you don’t have to do it all at once. When you’re starting out, start with the low hanging fruit: make sure your location, contact information, and hours are easily accessible everywhere. Then work on targeting a few different searches each month from the other areas.