A key component of effectively marketing your practice is understanding what your patients are looking for.
Often, we see practices that are fixated on telling patients the message they want them to hear, whether that’s showing off awards, new technology, research studies, etc. However, that doesn’t always align with the information potential patients want to know before making an appointment. And when practices don’t consider what patients want to know, we’ve found that those marketing efforts aren’t as fruitful as practices would like them to be.
That isn’t to say that you can’t ever share the information you want to share with patients, but we recommend leading in with the information they are seeking. How do your practice’s values, services, and expertise align with what patients are seeking out? How can you better highlight these things online?
Every patient will have slightly different priorities, but there are definitely some common trends in patient behavior. This is one area where statistics can help us out, so let’s take a look.
What do the stats say that patients want?
There have been several surveys over the years to determine what patients want from their providers. After reviewing several, these are some of the common themes.
Compassion / Feeling They Are Heard
When assessing what patients are seeking from a provider, compassion and feeling like they are heard are almost always near the top of the list. A HealthTap survey found that 85% of patients value compassion in a provider. A survey by the Society for Participatory Medicine echoed similar sentiments, finding that 85% of patients value having a doctor that listens to them, and 71% value a doctor who is caring and compassionate.
It makes sense–when you’re not feeling well, you want to feel like your concerns are really being heard. It can be scary and stressful for a patient to not know what is causing their symptoms. When a doctor listens closely and asks a lot of questions, patients feel more confident that their doctor cares and will do what is needed to address the issue.
Technology & Convenience
If your practice deals with younger patient populations, it may be no surprise that an increasing number of patients are wanting technology and more convenient options. A Patient-Provider Relationship Study by SolutionReach found that:
- 73% of patients want to be able to text their doctors’ office
- 79% of patients would like to receive texts from their doctor, particularly related to appointments
- A significant portion of the “baby boomer” population is also interested in receiving text and online communications about appointments, with about half wanting those kinds of services
According to an Experian Health survey, other technologies and conveniences that are important to patients include the ability to book appointments online (76% of patients wanted this), online payment options (72%), and the ability to manage their care online (56%).
At the same time, though, patients don’t want technology to overtake the appointment. A report by JAMA Internal Medicine indicated that patients reported higher satisfaction after appointments with low computer usage, so it is important to balance the use of technology with making that human connection.
Thorough Explanations & Understanding Costs
In the Society for Participatory Medicine survey, 69% of patients said they wanted a doctor who gives thorough explanations, and 29% said they wanted to be able to talk openly about the cost of care.
In a way, these two stats go hand-in-hand. Some of the patients in the study indicated that it wasn’t necessarily the cost of care that was the issue, but the lack of understanding of why they needed to undergo certain treatments or tests. If their doctor explained why they needed something, they were much happier with the process. Some even indicated that they would be willing to pay out-of-pocket if they really liked the doctor. So, while the actual cost is a factor for some patients, more than anything, your patients just want to be able to understand why you recommend what you do.
How do you incorporate that information into your practice’s marketing?
A lot of times, medical practices will lean heavily into providers’ experience, training, and expertise in their marketing because it’s easy to talk about those things. It’s easy to show off an award, a publication, or what institutions they trained at. And while those things are still important to patients, the statistics have shown us that those aren’t necessarily the things they connect with.
However, some of the things that patients are looking for aren’t always the easiest to convey on a website, in marketing content, etc. Here are some of our tips for incorporating these qualities into your marketing.
Conveying Compassion Online
The quality that patients want most in a doctor is also one of the harder things to show before you’ve ever met the patient, but it isn’t impossible.
Saying “I’m compassionate” isn’t going to give the effect you want because compassion is somewhat subjective and has to be experienced to fully be felt. However, you can talk about things like your treatment philosophies, your values, and your processes in a way that conveys compassion. For example, phrases like “I evaluate and treat each patient like a member of my own family,” or, “Our evaluation process begins with a thorough discussion to understand what patients are feeling and when symptoms are occurring.” Video content can work well here too, because it gives patients a chance to “meet” you before they make an appointment.
This is an area where social proof works well. It’s much more impactful for actual patients to talk about how compassionate you are, how you listen to their concerns, etc. If patients are already saying those things about you online, then all you really need to do is make sure you’re highlighting those good reviews and testimonials in your marketing.
Highlighting Technology & Convenient Options
Technology and convenience is one of the easier qualities to showcase online because patients are already having to go online to use those services.
That said, you can make sure that you are highlighting these things on your website so that they are easy to find:
- Have a call to action (CTA) on every page with a link to your appointment request/booking form. Make sure it stands out from the rest of the content on the page by making the link a button, adding a different-colored background, etc.
- Add your patient portal link to the header (top section) of your website.
- If online or virtual care options are available for certain conditions, make sure you highlight that on relevant pages of your website.
- We’ve even worked with practices who mentioned their online appointment request option in their phone waiting message as an option for patients who didn’t have time to wait on hold during busy times. It was a simple (and successful) way to highlight a convenient option and keep patients happy.
Providing Thorough Explanations Around Costs & Recommendations
Most medical practices shy away from talking about costs online, and for good reason–they can vary too much depending on the patient’s insurance and how they are paying, among other factors. We aren’t suggesting that your practice immediately come up with set pricing and post that online.
What you can do instead is provide more information about the insurance process so that patients can better understand how payment works. You can also provide as much information as possible about your treatment options so that patients understand why and when you recommend them.
Patients just want to feel that they are able to make informed decisions about their healthcare. They don’t want to be left in the dark or surprised about what is happening with their own care. If you can provide information online, that helps give patients a resource they can reference as they consider their options.
Why It’s Important to Provide the Right Information in Your Marketing
As we all know, patients are behaving more and more like consumers in other industries. They are no longer going to stick with a healthcare provider that does not meet their needs, because in most cases there are other options out there. It’s important to recognize that what you want to tell patients about your practice may not be the things they actually care about. You have to bridge that gap between what patients want to know and what you think they should know if you want to get (and keep) their attention.
Yes, patients want to know that you are experienced and good at what you do, but above all else, they just want to know that you care enough to hear them out, have a conversation, and provide options that fit their needs.