It is now more important than ever for medical professionals and physicians to keep up with online marketing. Having a presence online via a website, social media presence, and various online marketing initiatives is crucial, due to a recent program announced by Google.
Google is the most widely used search engine across the globe, and has announced that it will introduce a dedicated area of their site to provide “high-quality medical data” to its users based on search results. A staggering 20% of all Google searches are health-related, which has prompted Google to present medical and health-related information in a prominent way to its users. Per this initiative, Google is paying special attention to medical websites and the information contained within them.
In addition to a current, up-to-date, and informational website, medical professionals and physicians must realize how to increase their web presence. Internet marketing is key, and offers many benefits over traditional methods of advertising. This includes social media, Search Engine Optimization (SEO), and new content that keep a practice high on the list of solutions when someone searches for a health-related issue.
An individual seeking health advice can use whatever means they deem best in order to resolve a health concern for them or their family and children. If individuals become used to receiving all of their medical advice from Google, medicine as we know it will become obsolete!
Google Search Results for Medical Symptoms
Google’s “diagnosis” of a health condition is based on a user’s search query. The search engine mogul will show a side-bar at the upper-right hand corner of the site, when queried with various health or illness search terms, to include information as to what a person’s condition is, treatments, whether it is contagious, illustrations and graphs, links to medical sites, and much more.
The information is said to be provided by licensed medical providers. People that are looking for information about their health conditions or concerns will now find it easier to self-diagnose their own medical issues, in a manner that looks credible, and provides many answers.
Disclaimers dissolve Google’s responsibility for any misinformation, and are opening the door for incorrect self-diagnoses.
The Google Answer Box
Google has stated that upon searching for a medical condition on their website, a general description of the condition – again, based upon your search query – will appear containing information such as causes, symptoms, tests, treatments, prognosis, prevention, and links to the National Library of Medicine information having to do with that ailment.
Again, Google will supply a description of your ailment as it applies to your search. It is important to realize that, as with any search, one small variance in words used can make for varying search results. That is, if one’s description of their symptoms isn’t exactly what is occurring, or the incorrect terminology is used, one could generate a completely different ailment than what they actually have! The user would then receive facts for the diagnosis and treatment of a health issue that they are not actually experiencing. Let alone, not have diagnosed the actual health issue.
Of course, due to the fact that Google did not receive a PhD in medicine, the cautionary statement said to accompany these facts will be something to the effect of “Consult a doctor if you may have a medical concern”. But the basic idea is to receive information from your PC or smart phone, in lieu of consulting a medical professional.
The Credibility of Google’s Medical Information
The product manager of Google’s new initiative, Perm Ramswami, stated that a team of doctors led by Dr. Kapil Parahk comprised the search engine information. Dr. Parahk holds an M.D., MPH and PhD; taught at Johns Hopkins, and worked with the White House before joining Google. If you’re not convinced yet of the credentials of these “Google docs”, rest assure that these 2 individuals were “fact-checked by medical professionals” – one being Google.
The project manager himself, Ramaswami, warns that the information provided by Google’s new medical information side-bar is not meant to substitute for medical advice, and that, “What we [Google] present is intended for information purposes only – and you should always consult a healthcare professional if you have a medical concern.”
He even goes on to say that the intention of the feature presented by Google, as the Manager of the project, is to “empower you in your health decisions by helping you learn more about common conditions”.
Google’s Outsourcing of Health Facts
There is an increasingly high trend in regards to people searching regarding a health issue and their willingness to diagnose themselves via the Internet. In fact, close to one-fourth of all Google searches conducted online are related to obtaining health or medical information.
Per the search terms a user enters, Google will display a snapshot of medical “facts” right on the search results page. Where will they get this information? Medical websites! If your website contains factual information and content, you could be a resource for information for Google.
Why is it Important for Healthcare Professionals to Utilize Online Marketing?
Any medical practitioner or professional should agree that a Google diagnosis, in lieu of a doctor visit or consultation, is not recommended. This could be very dangerous to the individual, in the case of a complete misdiagnosis or misinformation.
This movement will absolutely affect medical practices of all kind. People will be less inclined to visit a doctor, dentist, chiropractor, hospital, or surgeon to obtain the necessary advice, care, and treatment they need.
Due to the Affordable Health Care Act, requiring that all Americans hold health insurance, more people have access to medical care than ever before. As a result, medical professionals are in higher demand, as the cost becomes more affordable for those people who weren’t enrolled in a health care plan prior.
Because of the increasingly competitive market within the medical field, it is even more important for medical professionals to not only market their services, but more specifically to market them well, and with accuracy.
This means utilizing your website, social media, and any other online marketing initiatives you engage in to define exactly what your practice offers, how it will benefit patients, and let people know you exist! You can even show off your great employees, share accolades and accomplishments, and simultaneously advertise your area of expertise to new patients!
Take Control of Your Medical Practice Before Google Does
With websites like WebMD, home remedy solutions, product-sponsored sites, and more, along with Google’s addition of medical data popping up in seconds, medical professionals must take their web presence more seriously.
In an effort to keep your practice full of healthy, happy patients – and to obtain new patients – it is important to maintain fresh, rich content specific to your practice.
Online marketing can take time. Normally there is not a marketing team associated with a doctor’s office, which are often understaffed as it is. This is where SEO companies, internet marketing experts, and social media professionals come in.
Use Technology to Your Advantage
The business of being in medicine has seen changes due to technology. People don’t flip through the phonebook to find a doctor anymore – they utilize the web. Personal referrals have turned into online searches and patient reviews.
44% of patients who research hospitals on a mobile device scheduled an appointment. (source)
If you control your web presence, keep it up-to-date and informative, utilize SEO services, and engage patients and potential patients via social media, you will reap great benefits! You can be an informational resource – one that’s even better than Google! And therefore, your reach and profitability will increase.
Improve and Add Valuable Content
In order to improve your presence on the web, it is crucial that you invest some time and attention in online marketing. This can be done via content, search engine optimization, social media, and more! What happens if Google eliminates your entire practice, simply because they devised a way of establishing themselves as the go-to medical authority?
Which Physicians Should Utilize Online Marketing Strategy?
In order to provide advice, treatment, and diagnoses in regards to something as important as a person’s health issues, it is more important than ever to realize the need for your medical practice to maintain a web presence and implement a strong online marketing strategy. ALL physicians need to take their marketing strategy and web presence very seriously. Internet marketing for dentists and surgeons is just as important as SEO for chiropractors and general physicians.
Hiring a Professional to Assist With Online Marketing
There are some common myths and perceptions of online marketing and SEO companies that exist. Fears of a high cost, not seeing results from a firm, the lack of a visible return on investment, or simply the belief that internet marketing is not important or relevant to a business are some of the top reasons people don’t seek professionals to maintain and improve their web presence.
Search drives nearly 3x as many visitors to hospital sites compared to non-search visitors. (source)
There are many reputable SEO companies that can suggest and perform simple and inexpensive solutions to improve your business! Businesses within medical and health-related fields are no exception.
Researching the right company is important. When a company offering online marketing, search engine optimization (SEO), social media, and website services has a proven track record and a multitude of happy clients and references, these fears can be safely assuaged.
There are an overwhelming number of overseas companies offering these services. These companies often ask for money up-front, before completing any actual work, and overall leave a majority of customers and businesses upset due to a lack of results. After all, a non-domestic company often cannot realize the market in the U.S., and also has an easier time evading laws of contractual business agreements.
In an age where the use of technology is widespread, and also provides information instantly and on the go in many areas of interest, it is not surprising to hear that a successful search engine company such as Google would innovate where this sort of feature is concerned.
Issues of health and medical advice, however, should be taken very seriously. Not only could this initiative affect the decision for a person to potentially not enter a physician’s office or hospital again, it is also a huge testament to the fact that any business – including medical providers – must take action to increase their web presence, and increase their online marketing efforts.