Digital Profile: Healthcare’s Dynamic Consumer Today

[Emerging consumerism series article] Forward-thinking hospitals and progressive providers recognize that nearly every aspect of healthcare marketing and traditional delivery systems have changed. Some of this transformation process is for the better. While other elements—maybe not so much. Fundamentally, however, consumers expect to see a tired-and-traditional industry delivering a new level of consumerism.

digital consumerThe predictable and compliant patient that we knew yesterday has turned the corner. Today, the nation’s health care delivery system serves customers with a completely new profile. Old-school marketing that previously attracted “patients,” is increasingly ineffective.

Dynamic and empowered consumers now expect a retail-like shopping and customer service experience. Plus, to make this a more challenging, marketing executives must engage buyers today for products and services that they may need in the future.

When today’s consumer has an interest in buying, they begin online. The buying-decision process begins with Google search. And, according to HubSpot, “Today’s empowered buyers don’t want to talk on the phone until they’ve already decided that you might be able to help them.” Some of the change agents that connect healthcare to online search include:

  • Patients are waking up to rising costs. Affordability and control of healthcare expenses are important issues in their household budget. How can your organization deliver higher value, more evidence-based data, and greater transparency?
  • Healthcare consumers shop online first. The Internet provides an instantly available source of information. According to Pew Internet and American Life research, “searching for online health information was the third most popular Web activity for Internet users behind e-mail and using a search engine.”
  • Digital channels drive shopping decisions. In the retail world, “better than 70 percent of consumers turn to digital channels when they are ready to buy,” according to a Local Search Association (LSA) study.
  • The purchase decision is an informed process. Consumers who are ready or nearly ready to buy products or services search online for data, buyer reviews, provider ratings and other decision-support details.
  • The top four Google search engine results are critical. Studies of click-through rates confirm how we (meaning everyone) respond to Google search engine results pages (SERPs). Statistically, the first search result listing attracts about 30 percent of the click-through traffic. And the first three SERP listings typically get 50 percent of the business.
  • Consumers capture vital particulars online. The Internet provides a link to a landing page, business address, phone number, contact form and other details needed to fulfill their purchase decisions.
  • Proactively controlling online reputation is a new requirement. All too often, the digital presence of a hospital, professional or practice is neglected. Web pages, business directories, ratings, resource listings and review pages require regular monitoring. This is a fundamental requirement of reputation management.
  • Local search means business. Although service areas and drawing power will vary, the statistics (and the results) for local search are dramatic. For retailers, nearly 80 percent of local/mobile searches produce a near-term purchase. A large, but distant, audience is unlikely to buy. What’s more, individuals who search locally, buy locally.

Patients have become sophisticated consumers. Increasingly, they expect a retail customer experience with a high quality of service and satisfaction. And the simple fact is that when they don’t find the convenience and support of healthcare consumerism, the Internet empowers them to instantly move to another provider or resource.

Additional articles in this series follow. In the meantime, connect with us today and let’s discuss how your online presence can match the digital profile of healthcare’s new and dynamic consumer.

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Stewart Gandolf

Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder at Healthcare Success
Stewart Gandolf, MBA, is CEO of Healthcare Success, a medical marketing and health care advertising agency. He is also a frequent writer and speaker. Most importantly, he is happily married and a "rock-n-roll daddy" to two wonderful girls.

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