Great physician website content saves and changes lives. It is the cornerstone of practice building and patient retention in today’s very competitive climate.
Great content on a physician’s website saved my son’s failing eyesight in 2007 when he was diagnosed with a rare degenerative cornea disorder. After delivering the diagnosis, a local specialist told us that a double cornea transplant was the only available treatment. Transplants would most likely need to be repeated every 15 or 20 years.
As his sight continued to deteriorate, we searched desperately for alternatives. A new procedure, not yet approved by the FDA, was showing great promise in Europe. Thanks to good SEO on one doctor’s part, we were able to find the only US location where our son received this procedure under informed consent.
At that time, most physician’s websites were still lean on content, offering little more than static lists of procedures and brief professional bios. The following factors set this doctor’s content apart, making it easy for patients all over the world to understand his technical approach and his dedication to giving patients a better alternative to transplants:
- Easy to understand technical information on the disease and all of the treatment options, including his unique modification of the European approach to strengthening the cornea
- Full disclosure of the parameters that would eliminate the innovative treatment option for a particular patient
- Text and video testimonials from patients
- A credible personal statement from the doctor that summarized why he was offering the new option to patients without FDA approval
- Liberal use of video – so important to a patient audience with compromised vision
- Chat and email capability for initial questions – this was rare on physician websites a decade ago
- Recently updated news articles that evolved over time into a blog for the practice, where the doctor also shares stories about his family, creating a genuine personal connection
Great content can make a life enhancing difference to patients with serious rare diseases, but all physicians need to optimize their online content in light of the many disruptive forces that continue to buffet the medical industry. These include:
- FDA relaxation of regulations about pharmaceutical advertising bombards patients with ads in print, on television, and online
- The Affordable Care Act (ACA) caused many patients to switch insurance plans and find new primary care and specialty practices
- Medical practice consolidation in the wake of the ACA gives the larger practices more marketing dollars to spend on patient acquisition and retention
- Young adult patients seek physicians that offer patient portals, online appointment booking and telemedicine coupled with unique up-to-date multimedia content.
- A 2014 survey by the Pew Research Center revealed that 72 percent of adult internet users in the U.S. have researched medical information online
To develop great content for a physician, the first step is to understand the personas or patient segments that the site needs to attract, persuade, inform, and retain. There are several major categories common to all practices:
- New arrivals to the area or those newly insured by a participating plan are looking for credentials, office hours, online appointment booking, patient access portals, and up-to-date information
- Symptomatic existing patients need to quickly locate information that will help them determine when it’s time to seek an appointment
- Symptomatic prospective patients or their proxies want to know about the treatment options for a specific condition
- Returning patients rely on their physicians for easy to understand up-to-date information and timely reminders about their health
While each persona has unique needs that govern how they find, consume and act on medical information, most patients now expect the following from their physicians’ websites;
- Fresh content: regular blog posts or updates show that a physician proactively seeks new information and shares it with patients
- Seasonally and locally appropriate news about flu season, allergy season, insect borne illnesses, or any local infectious disease outbreaks
- Clear and unbiased explanation of risks and benefits of treatment options
- Information debunking health related scams
- Patient testimonials
- Content that they can digest in mobile micro-moments
- Personal news about families, pets, and hobbies help strengthen the doctor-patient connection
These content requirements are a tall order for practices to handle internally. Some physicians turn to subscriptions for syndicated content, but this will not differentiate them from their local competition. Physicians themselves rarely have the time to take on regular blogging so they may rely on a knowledgeable staff member to draft content for their final edits and approval. Many practices now rely on outside agencies that can optimize a content strategy and work closely with the doctor to produce engaging content quickly on a regular schedule.
Great physician website content saves and changes lives. It is the cornerstone of practice building and patient retention in today’s very competitive climate. Great content is no longer optional for physicians. Dr. Jay Khanna, a John Hopkins Medicine orthopedic spinal surgeon said, “A strong online footprint is just as important as providing good-quality care, communicating with referring doctors, and being nice to patients by giving them proper time and attention.”
5-Star Writer Joanne W recently retired from two decades of management consulting, leaving the thrills of travel behind but retaining the part of her job she always loved best: researching, distilling information, and writing.