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Finding Patients Online
Written by Amy Jorgensen   
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Finding Patients Online
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In the past, medical practices acquired new patients mainly through referrals and insurance provider directories. The physicians behind those medical practices essentially just had to sit back and wait for patients to come to them. Today, the story is a little different. More and more physicians and medical practices are recognizing the need for marketing in order to attract new patients. The main avenue for this new wave of medical marketing has been the Internet.

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Why You Should Look For Patients Online

The reason many physicians are recognizing the need for online medical practice marketing is simple: competition. If a potential patient is browsing through an insurance provider directory in order to select a new physician or specialist that patient is probably going to find several options in your area. Before making a final decision, most patients will want to do some research and where do they go for that research? They go to the Internet. If you have an online method of marketing to those potential patients and your competition does not, then you have the advantage.

Plus, a growing number of patients do not have insurance coverage and have to find physicians without using those handy directories. Where are they likely to look first? Well, they will probably first check their local phone book, then go to the Internet to search for more detailed information. If you are ready for them, then you have the advantage again.

What You Need to Find Patients Online

The main online marketing tool of your practice is its web site. You may already have a web site, possibly something free you were given from the hospital you are affiliated with or from a member organization. While those sites are a start, they are not enough. They do provide important information – usually your name, location, phone number, and brief info about your career – but they really don't tell the potential patient anything they couldn't learn in the phone book or insurance directory.

You'll need to set up a separate web site. Because you want a site that looks professional, you need to hire a professional. Start by looking locally. If you know other physicians who have web sites, ask them for a referral (if you like the look of their site, of course). Otherwise, you can begin looking for possibilities in the Yellow Pages. Searching the Internet for web designers is another option.You should not hire a web designer until you see samples of their work. Most web designers can easily point you to examples of their work. However, ask to see sites done for professionals – other physicians, lawyers, etc. Sites for professionals should not look like e-commerce sites.

Once you select a web designer, you'll want to discuss your needs. Starting off, you'll want a fairly small site which will be easy to maintain. Five pages should be sufficient initially. These five pages should include your home page, your professional profile (and possibly profiles for the other members of your staff), information on your medical specialty or practice, contact information and directions, and your newsletter (we'll talk about this in more detail later).

The Key to a Successful Web Site

When potential patients come to your site, they are going to be looking for information. They want to “get a feel” for your practice so they can make a decision. For this reason, your web site should include as much information as possible.Your professional profile should not just be a posted resume or CV, for example. Instead, you should write a couple of paragraphs about your background but make it sound personal. Don't just include the basic professional details like “In 1997, I graduated from . . . “ Instead, you should add personal details, such as why you chose medicine, that you have a family, or which community organizations you are active in. These details make you seem more down-to-earth and are more likely to earn the trust of potential patients.


 
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