Healthcare is a key area of internet study with 6 in 10 Americans going online for health information. Many patients are well-educated on their problem BEFORE they visit the doctor.
On a recent visit to my doctor’s office I shared with my primary care doc that I thought I had plantar fasciitis because I had studied my symptoms on the web. He quickly commented to the accompanying medical student that so many patients know their diagnoses before they come in-especially in a well-educated, high-tech market such that we live.
Research from Pew Internet & American Life Project confirms that patients are going online and refers to them as e-patients. The results from the study say that:
- 59% of e-patients have consulted blog comments, hospital reviews, doctor reviews and podcasts about health and health care.
- 20% of e-patients have posted comments, reviews, photos, audio, video or tags related to health care.
- The internet comes in 3rd place behind (1) asking a health professional and (2) talking to friends and family members when asked where they turn for health care advise.
- 60% say they or someone they know has been helped by following medical advise found on the internet. That’s an increase from 31% in 2006.
- 3% of e-patients say they or someone they know have been harmed by following medical advice found on the web-a number that has remained constant since 2006.
While the medical professional is still the number one choice for patients to turn, patients do come to their doctor visits with more knowledge and are better prepared to discuss treatment options.
What does this mean for those of us in hospital and healthcare marketing? Consumers are searching and using online health info. Provide it to them on your hospital website through third party sources such as A.D.A.M, links to the CDC, American Cancer Society, etc. Use social media and internet ads on other websites to drive traffic to your own site. Offer something of value with a compelling headline and entice the reader to click thru. (i.e. “What does your body type tell you about your future health?”) Then you have the opportunity to sell other aspects of your hospital while they are on your website.