Consumers are loyal to brands that offer high-quality products and services, exemplary user experiences, and value. It’s true in retail, dining, and yes—even in healthcare.   

Just as consumer experiences in daily life increasingly have gone digital, so has the healthcare experience for patients. Think: telehealth, find-a-provider directories, and online appointment setting, to name a few instances.  

For provider organizations unaccustomed to cultivating their brand in an increasingly digital world, it’s crucial to maintain a strong digital presence and provide patients (and potential new patients) with positive experiences.    

In short, if you’re a healthcare provider or payer organization, your brand is the sum of your patients’ or members’ interactions with your organization, which are increasingly occurring online. Here’s how to ensure your organization is keeping up with the digital transformation of healthcare. 

Maintain a singular, strong digital presence

 Brand loyalty begins with brand recognition. And brand recognition? That begins with data access. When potential patients search for “primary care doctor near me,” you want your health system or health plan to be the first result to appear.   

For a health system, that means saying goodbye to maintaining multiple websites, which confuses search engine algorithms and hurts your health system’s online ranking (i.e., search engine optimization, or SEO).   

Start by consolidating any standalone websites currently maintained for individual medical groups, practices, specialty lines of service, or hospitals within the system. Instead, display all providers and all of their information on a single, central website. This enables patients to easily search for and find the appropriate provider.   

Give consumers a positive digital experience 

Once an individual becomes a patient/member within your health system or health plan, it goes without saying that you want to keep them. An important element in achieving that goal is creating positive digital experiences that will make individuals want to return to your site as their primary resource for access to care.    

While traditional paths (e.g., word of mouth, print directories, etc.) for provider search still exist, it’s estimated that nearly 77% of patients use online search prior to requesting an appointment.   

But don’t count older healthcare consumers out when it comes to the desire for easy online experiences. While younger generations do hold an incredible amount of spending power to influence healthcare marketing models, our ever-evolving digital world is flexing its muscles, creating digital expectations that transcend generations. One survey cited that 76% of respondents over the age of 60 said they made a healthcare-related search online between 2018 and 2019.  

 It's estimated a whopping 77% of patients use online search prior to booking an appointment. 

So, what are patients/members looking for during their digital healthcare experiences? The following are sample requirements to build into your refreshed digital patient experience.  

Simplicity and ease

Create Google-like, intuitive search on your website to help consumers quickly find what they want. They should be able to type their goal for their online session (find a provider, question, medical complaint, etc.) into a text field and be offered possible solutions. This shouldn’t be required to scroll through a plethora of FAQs, medical issues, or services that may not apply to them.   

Personalization

Use filtered search capabilities. Consumers should have the ability to type in their medical complaint, their healthcare provider, and their zip code, and be served up a list of all providers that fit their requirements. If your organization makes finding a provider or plan difficult and overwhelming, you’ll lose potential patients/members from the start. Your website should offer a search that easily guides individuals to a provider that is personalized to their needs.    

Accessibility

Today patients/members want to skip the phone calls, recordings, and being placed on hold. Instead, they want to schedule and book an appointment online and find the data they need, on their time. Likewise, your website must be more than a passive provider directory. If you have an online directory but consumers still need to call in to book an appointment after finding the appropriate provider online, your website is nothing more than a glorified phone book.  

Such hurdles unnecessarily frustrate patients/members, discourage brand loyalty, and may put your healthcare organization at a disadvantage compared to a competitor. In fact, 59% of healthcare consumers say they’re frustrated by waiting on hold and by the necessity to schedule appointments by phone. Give consumers the instant access that they expect and eliminate cumbersome administrative tasks to drive patient acquisition and satisfaction.    

Health systems and health plans that achieve website consolidation and satisfy increasingly high digital consumer experience expectations will be well on their way to strengthening their brand, and ultimately gaining market share. 

Greet patients who have a shopper’s mentality  

Notably, a large percentage of healthcare consumers still have yet to find a regular “healthcare home.” Fewer than 60% report having a primary care provider that they use for all of their healthcare needs.   

Because preventive, urgent, and emergency care are delivered in so many settings today (e.g., practices, retail, ambulatory, hospitals, etc.) many patients have adopted a shopper’s mentality for their healthcare needs.   

For your organization, this translates to ample opportunities to reach new consumers and increase your market share. But succeeding in growing your patient/member population and strengthening your brand requires the realization that for patients, the process of finding care is nearly as critical as the actual care and customer support they receive.  

How provider data fits into brand-building 

Your providers are your brand, and thus your provider data assets are foundational to the consumer experience. As a result, your provider data platform must serve as a central hub, supporting location directory and location data management that helps improve your SEO score.   

A sound provider data platform turns provider search into an asset, which in turn delights consumers, drives up on-line appointments, and reduces call volumes. The key takeaway? The quality of the consumer experience is only as good as the quality of provider data.   

Take it a step further and enhance your “digital front door.” For example, symplr partners with WebMD to deliver the latest and most robust solution to power health systems’ and health plans’ digital front doors, with Care Finder Direct.  

Care Finder Direct combines the power of symplr Directory’s advanced provider search data and patient scheduling with WebMD’s trusted consumer content. It reaches more than 80 million monthly unique visitors to offer a comprehensive scheduling and patient acquisition solution. Further, it integrates with your EHR to enhance your digital front door and support your patient acquisition initiatives.  

Give your patients or members a simple, personalized, and accessible digital healthcare experience. The result will be satisfied consumers who feel valued and who will be more likely to use your organization’s services in the future. 

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