There’s a lot of talk lately about potential patients being healthcare consumers. No longer passive observers, people are increasingly adept at researching procedures and providers and making decisions about what’s right for them.
Not surprisingly, some medical providers have resisted the patient-as-shopper idea. Of course, shopping for healthcare is different than searching online for apparel, but the fact remains that what’s happening in other industries is exactly what’s empowering today’s patient/consumer.
Here are five trends behind the trend:
From reordering household supplies to binge-watching Netflix, people expect almost everything to be on-demand these days. Add in intelligent devices like Amazon Echo and Google Home, and it’s clear that traditional shopping methods are giving way to a system in which consumers have more control. It also means they have less patience for businesses that don’t accommodate them.
On-demand services are about convenience, and potential patients are being conditioned to expect it in all aspects. From the ability to schedule appointments to video consults, they’re more likely to gravitate toward providers who respect their time, desires, and lifestyle.
Voice takes on text
The days of typing a keyboard for info are numbered. It started with Apple’s Siri and thanks to the aforementioned intelligent devices, voice search is approaching mass acceptance. According to this CNBC article, “more than one in four people (21.6 percent) use voice search on their devices at least once a day, while 26.7 percent use it at least once a week,” according to a January survey by website consultancy firm HigherVisibility.
Using a smartphone or tablet, today’s tech-savvy consumer is more likely to tap a device and say, “Who offers Botox near me?” or “How long is the recovery time for liposuction?” than to physically type a request. Practices that hope to rank well in those searches need to rethink their SEO and create content that mirrors such natural-language inquiries.
Community breeds confidence
Electronics, appliances, contractor services — does anybody make a major purchase without going online to read reviews? It’s only natural that people are more likely to trust the comments and reviews posted by other people with no agenda, and to share their experiences and “pay it forward.”
Nearly eight in 10 aesthetic consumers (78%) say that others’ reviews are a critical factor in their research before selecting a doctor to contact, and 87% say they won’t even consider one who doesn’t have visible reviews.
Encouraging patients to post reviews can be awkward, but for many patients, chronicling their every experience is second nature. Practices that generate a steady stream of new, detailed reviews build trust, gain exposure (via improved search rank), and are more likely to click with the larger community.
Comparison shopping impacts perceived value
Whether it’s comparing plane tickets on Kayak or fashion accessories at NexTag, the ability to compare prices from multiple sellers on a single site has made consumers extremely sensitive to what is a fair price. That doesn’t always mean the lowest price, however, as other elements — great images, special offers, seller ratings — can give the edge to sellers who pair their higher prices with better value.
Whether to post prices for procedures or not remains a matter of personal preference, interest in price transparency in healthcare is on the rise, especially for the majority of aesthetic consumers who pay out of pocket. Average costs for many procedures are available online, and while no one wants to promote price-shopping, doctors should be ready to answer cost questions by emphasizing their training, expertise, and quality work.
Proliferating platforms diversify discovery
Consider your last vacation. If you’re like most travelers, you probably chose your hotel after checking out an online travel site or two to see what others said about the places you’re considering. Marketers call it “omnichannel discovery,” and it means that people use multiple channels to research options and get exposed to other alternatives they might not have considered.
The path to care is no longer linear as potential patients access a wealth of resources while researching options, any of which may expose them to practices they weren’t initially considering. Maintaining an active presence on the social platforms where aesthetic consumers congregate, implementing appropriate strategies to rank well in search, sharing regular and relevant content via a blog or newsletter: In an age where potential patients have more choices than ever, being present is the key to being found.
Put it all together and the irony is inescapable. Today’s patient/consumers have access to more information than ever, more control along the way, and so many options at their disposal that it can be overwhelming. The more search power they have, the more they need doctors who can help them find what they want.
Reviews matter more than ever. Join us for our latest webinar “How to Ask for Reviews” on May 10.