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Why Medical Practices Must Embrace Digital Marketing to Bring in More Patients From self-diagnosing to looking up reviews, more patients use the internet to make health care decisions today. Successful medical practices must embrace digital marketing to bring in more patients — here's how.

By Sergio Alvarez

entrepreneur daily

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

There was a time when medical practitioners didn't need to market themselves. New patients would choose doctors or other medical professionals based on location, availability, and most commonly, referrals. But unless you live in a small town, there's a good chance this is no longer the case.

Healthcare customers are more empowered than ever before. They have access to digital channels, which can be used in innumerable ways to decide how and where they will receive their healthcare. And if you're not yet utilizing these digital channels, you're undoubtedly missing out.

Related: How to Improve Your Practice Management and Deliver a Better Patient Experience

It's a funnel, not a waiting room

Medical practitioners often focus on the waiting room to indicate their success. If all the seats are full, that must mean your business is doing just fine, right? Sure — but what about the long term?

The danger in using booked appointments as an indicator of successful marketing is that you lose sight of the bulk of the customer journey. If you can't answer the question, "How did my customer end up in my waiting room?" you won't be able to replicate that level of success in the future. You may enjoy a surge of initial bookings or annual visits, but if nothing fills up the rest of the funnel, those will eventually dry up.

Today, the rest of the funnel is digital. Thanks to the internet, healthcare customers are more comfortable than ever researching their ailments before even consulting a practitioner. By the time a patient arrives at your doorstep, they have already spent significant time assessing their options. Your job is to ensure that their path always leads back to you. If you aren't leveraging digital platforms, you're missing out.

Become a source of information

With prospective patients using the internet to search for information about their conditions more now than ever before, it's essential to become the source of that information. For medical practices and practitioners, content has now become the most valuable form of marketing you can include in your strategy.

Patients are choosing practitioners based on the level of their perceived knowledge, so by creating content that answers their questions and gives them the information they're seeking, you will instantly increase your credibility. If prospective patients feel you have the knowledge they seek, there is a far better chance they'll book an appointment with you.

Your prospects will seek out information on various channels, including social media and Google searches — so you need to ensure that your practice utilizes each of these channels.

Your focus should depend on your company's needs. If you're just starting out, you'll want to focus on ranking in search engine results. That entails optimizing your content, website and social media pages for search engine optimization (SEO). Once you've achieved that, you can start to spread your focus onto other digital channels.

Related: Here's How Healthcare Companies Have Embraced Digitalization

Know your audience

Marketing strategies in the healthcare sector need to be structured around the audience. Not all specialties are the same — and neither are the patients seeking treatment. Your marketing efforts and strategies should reflect that.

A chiropractor, for instance, might limit the reach of their marketing efforts to about a 30-mile radius, as it's unlikely their customers are going to travel for this type of care. A specialist cardiologist, on the other hand, may well see customers traveling to their practice from across the country, so their marketing reach should be far wider.

Understanding the makeup of your customers from a geographical perspective will help you craft a digital and social media strategy that ensures you get in front of the prospective patients who will most likely make appointments with you.

The landscape of healthcare has irrevocably changed. The balance of power through knowledge has shifted, and prospective patients are capable of gaining a wealth of information before they even step foot inside your practice. This very change needs to be leveraged by the healthcare industry to ensure that the funnel of patients continues to be filled, credibility is established through knowledge sharing, and providers are meeting patients at each touchpoint in their digital journey to the waiting room.

Sergio Alvarez

CEO and Founder of Ai Media Group/ Atrilyx

Sergio Alvarez is a performance-marketing expert, digital-attribution leader and CEO and founder of Ai Media Group.

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