Among Forum One’s mission-driven partners, healthcare providers face some of the biggest challenges in crafting digital strategies, because the need is so vast—all Americans need healthcare, and they increasingly turn to the internet to find information. But privacy concerns, misinformation, and overwhelming amounts of competing information challenge consumers and their providers. There is an opportunity for healthcare systems to build trust and provide useful information directly to their patients, but it takes strategy. Here are some lessons we’ve learned in supporting major healthcare organizations to boost their presence online.
What are some things you can do to improve your digital presence?
Know your audience and learn the digital trends in healthcare
Electronic medical records (EMRs) are what many providers initially think of as digital health care. But, you are losing opportunities to provide better care to your patients without considering digital strategy beyond the EMR.. Patients increasingly use the internet to find information related to their care. Among other things, they use it to find providers, book appointments and get information on their conditions.
Don’t discount the need for a digital strategy if you work with pediatric or geriatric patients. Patients across all age spectrums use technology—if not themselves, then via care providers or family members. (Members of the “sandwich generation” may find themselves booking pediatrician appointments and researching elder care on the same day!)
Finally, trends show decreasing loyalty from patients to particular healthcare organizations. Even if they are “tied” to you by their insurance company, patients increasingly shop around online.
Use Search Engine Optimization (SEO) to increase your visibility in search engines
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) can help users find their online presence in organic search results. Research shows that over 90% of searchers do not click beyond the first page of results. This means that if you’re not listed in the first few pages, your website is most likely not going to be found or seen. Improving your organization’s SEO helps bring patients to your website, which can increase the likelihood they will seek care with you.
SEO can also help you provide your patients with the basic information they seek without needing to call your office, reducing the call burden on front desk offices. Providing patients with information about what to expect can make them feel more comfortable as they come to their appointments.
Develop a resource library of trustworthy information
Create an online resource library that leverages your subject matter expertise. Develop content that would benefit patients beyond the in-office or virtual visit—like videos, podcasts, and care guides.
There’s already a wealth of information on the web that you can tap into. HHS, CDC, and WHO, as they are all reputable sources of information that can help provide context to discussions you had in your office, or allow patients to seek further information on recommendations you gave them.
If you’re concerned that patients will explore information contrary to your care plan, you can offer a way for them to talk to you about what they’ve found—encouraging them to set up a follow-up appointment or to create a list of questions to share at the next visit.
Taking the time to curate trusted resources can help provide patients a pathway to find information relevant to their needs safely. As a bonus, a robust online resource library will help patients beyond your network see you as a reputable source of information, with the potential to increase your patient base.
Create blog posts to address common patient questions
While there is always nuance to each patient’s care, some recommendations span across all patients. Things like fall-risk prevention or post-surgical wound care are great examples of information that are already provided to patients on paper that can easily be adapted to a digital format. Using keywords and setting up solid search functionality can help people locate information easily, even if they lose their paper copy.
Different patients may need information in different formats, so providing guidance about common questions or care guidance in a digital format gives patients the opportunity to seek out the medium that works best for them. This makes care more accessible for everyone.
What else can you include in your blogs?
Health systems can use blogs to share information with their patients that they weren’t able to address in their appointments, and prepare them for future visits. Think through the patient experience—what questions come up frequently?. Here are some starting points that may help you think about what topics to cover:
- What will a first visit be like? This can help address fears about seeing a doctor or provider. Should patients bring anything to the appointment? How long will it take? Are there any special clothing considerations?
- What happens after the visit? What should they expect after a treatment or procedure? Will they be in pain? Are there some warning signs to keep an eye out for?
- What is an annual wellness visit? Why is it important to seek preventative care?
For specialists or care coordination programs like Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) consider posts on information that might be new to your patients:
- How is patient care managed through an ACO?
- What types of care are covered under your specialty? What should patients consider when seeking a specialist?
These ideas are a great start for healthcare providers thinking seriously about online engagement and may include things you’re already doing. When you’re ready to take the next step, reach out to Forum One to discuss how to take your digital strategy beyond the basics and focus on the unique populations you serve.