The internet serves as a primary resource for health care information for people from every generation. More than 80 percent of Americans (about 280 million),  have searched for a health related topic online, according to the Pew Research Center. Of that 80 percent, more than 20 percent reported investigating specific doctors, hospitals and practices online. That being said, it is more important than ever for doctors to develop a strong web presence.

In addition to providing a fruitful way to attract patients, a website helps doctors appear professional and aware of their patients’ needs. The medical field highlights the importance of building positive patient relationships, but without establishing trust, recognizing and addressing preferences, and opening a line of communication, these relationships will fall short.

Millennials outnumber the Baby Boomer generation by 11 million people, and have a completely different view of healthcare than their predecessors. Slightly more than 50 percent of Millennials visited a doctor’s office in the past year compared to nearly 75 percent of other generations, according to a report by Healthcare without Borders. More and more people admit to self-diagnosing, and the millennial generation considers their healthcare with an attitude of consumerism.

In an atmosphere where so many Americans look to the internet for medical information, doctors must be present and discoverable online to maintain a competitive edge. A handful of “must-haves” provides medical professionals with the latest trends in doctor websites to shed light on what elements are important to have and how they work to benefit doctors in particular.

1. Appointment Scheduling

The fact is that people do not want to talk over the phone anymore. That being said, it is important to provide patients with an option to schedule their appointments online. Offices that provide this option to patients report that over half of the appointments scheduled online were done so after hours. This not only lets patients schedule when it is most convenient for them, but lightens the load for office staff. On top of that, doctors utilizing online appointment scheduling reported having less no-shows.

New patients will seek this feature out. People prefer to do virtually everything online. Providing an online appointment scheduling feature shows patients that their doctor understands their needs and are up-to-date with current practices in the medical field. It is an important step to making a positive impression on patients.

2. A Way to Pay the Bills

An online way to pay goes hand in hand with having an online appointment scheduling feature in the sense that it shows an understanding and concern for their needs. A Fiserv Consumer Trend Survey reported that online bills account for more than 50 percent of consumer bill payments, after all.

Beyond the relationship-building aspect, however, an online payment process has important benefits for doctors themselves. Accepting payments online streamlines and accelerates the process. On top of that, administrative costs will drop substantially. Introducing online payment systems historically increases payments themselves as doctors rely on patients for an increasing part of their revenue.

3. Content

Engaging, fresh and informative content is essential for doctor websites. Patients want to know that their doctor is not only an expert in the medicine they practice, but that they are willing to share their knowledge and are up-to-date with the most recent advances. On-site content serves as a platform for doctors to communicate all of these insights to patients.

People look to the web to understand medicine, and providing them with content helps make a given doctor’s website become the go-to resource for medical information. Providing this content builds trust and maintains relationships with patients, even when they are not in the office.

In addition to the personal benefits, content will enhance a website’s SEO greatly. This means that when people search for specific keywords, the content on a doctor’s website will help it appear at the top of the results. Google ranks websites highly that provide solutions to problems, and content helps websites do just that.

4. CRM System

CRM stands for customer relationship management and refers to the strategies used to manage and analyze customer interactions in order to improve business relationships with customers. CRM software tracks where people find a website, how people interact with it, where the highest quality leads come from, and what the best ways to reach out to leads are. This powerful tool helps to hone in lead capturing efforts and create the most efficient marketing mix.

Many doctors today make the mistake of thinking that they do not need to think like a business and can survive off of referrals and word-of-mouth alone. In reality, however, more and more people are viewing health care like any other product or service. This means that leads will come from social media, web traffic, email marketing, and other web-related sources.That being said, doctors must adapt to this new attitude by taking advantage of marketing tools like CRM that will help them to understand exactly where new patients are coming from and what the most effective ways to find them are.

5. Clear Messages

On average, users will leave a webpage after 10-20 seconds, according to a study by the Nielsen Norman Group report. The same study, however, reported that websites with a clear value proposition could hold people’s attention for much longer.

Doctors must remember to include clear messages that distinguish their practice and explain what they have to offer to patients. The medical field is oftentimes confusing and intimidating to patients, so a doctor website should offer a user-friendly, easily understood way to step into the world of medicine. Patients should be able to understand a doctor’s personal brand within seconds of entering their website. This will be achieved by delivering messages with clear calls-to-action and visual messages.

6. Mobile-Friendliness

The Pew Research Center’s most recent study reports that 77 percent of Americans now own a smartphone. People are accustomed to doing just about everything on these devices, whether it be shopping for groceries or even buying a new property. Doctors must keep up with this demand for mobile-friendliness to appeal to patients. All features on a doctor’s website should work seamlessly, no matter the device they are viewed on.

This will not only increase patient satisfaction, but will support SEO. In order to maintain its position as the most popular search engine, Google strongly considers mobile-friendliness when ranking websites in order to meet the demands of consumers. If a doctor website does not work well on a smartphone, for example, Google will not put it at the top of the search results in an effort to keep the mobile-dominated consumers happy.

7. Ranking High is Search Engines

Appearing at the top of the search results is essential for any website to generate the highest volume of quality leads. People place a lot of trust in Google as a place to find quality information. This means that if Google favors a website by generating it at the top of search results, people will place more trust in that website.

Building this trust is essential in the medical field. As mentioned before, 80 percent of Americans have utilized the internet in some way to satisfy a medically-related need. If a number of competitors come up in the search results ahead of a certain doctor’s website, patients will likely figure that these competitors are more popular, and they are oftentimes right. Showing up high in Google search results is often due to backlinks, positive reviews and high traffic to the given website. That being said, putting in the effort to create shareable content, prompt patient reviews, and attract traffic is essential in edging out competitors and appearing at the top of search results.

8. An Up-to-Date Interface

People want to interact with a doctor with the most current information available. Going to the doctor can be scary for patients, as they are trusting in another person to help them achieve the highest quality of life possible. If a potential patient searches a given doctor’s website and finds it to be dysfunctional, outdated and sloppy, this will be a red flag, regardless of that doctor’s medical abilities.

Making sure that every page works correctly, every link is hot, and that your interface appears modern and up-to-date are essential factors in making  good first impressions on patients. It will show them that their doctor is in-tune with current standards and puts care into providing their patients with the most powerful, user-friendly resource available.

In Conclusion

As the patients they work with turn to the internet to interact with the products and services they want and need, doctors must put in the effort to make a website with these “must-haves” to keep up. The use of the internet and smartphones only increases each year, demanding a new school of thought from the medical field when it comes to acquiring new patients. Providing patients with an online interface to interact with their doctor is the perfect way to show them that you not only understand their needs, but are willing to accommodate them.

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