Chances are, you’ve heard someone consulting “Dr. Google” when they’ve discovered a new ailment or condition. Many patients start with the internet to find information about their health, rather than going to their healthcare provider for a diagnosis.
Whether they’re looking for information on an illness or more general wellness information, more people are postponing visiting the doctor until they know they must. It’s likely not a surprise that millennials are perhaps leading this new trend. In fact, according to a study by Harmony Healthcare IT, 73% of Americans who are 23 to 38 years old said they chose to go online for medical advice instead of seeing a doctor. It’s important to note, though, that only 48% of respondents actually trust the online sources they consult.
Sometimes patients go to the Internet in place of visiting a healthcare provider, but oftentimes they go to be more informed. According to a survey from Wolters Kluwer Health, 77% of patients say they take their research with them to a medical appointment. There are a few things you can do, though, to communicate better with those who choose to self-diagnose while simultaneously improving your market share.
Accept Their Research
In a world of instant gratification, you probably aren’t going to be able to stop patients from going to the internet first. This trend will likely continue growing over the coming years, but you can choose how to respond to it. You can encourage patients to do their research and bring their findings to their appointment. Then, discuss the problem with them, helping them feel more informed and perhaps as though they can contribute more to the conversation.
You can also send them reliable resources that could help in their search. If your particular practice sees a few common issues, it might even be a good idea to create some good content about those issues and publish it online. Then, you can direct your patients there. You’ll still be providing them with the information, but it will be in the way they’ve become accustomed to finding it. This can even help increase patient loyalty because they’ll continue to see you as a trusted resource.
Communicate More Effectively
Not all of your patients are interested in self-diagnosing, though, and you don’t necessarily want to encourage someone to form the habit. Instead, you can use psychographic segmentation to determine which of your patients are most involved in their care, and therefore are more likely to self-diagnose online.
Some patients, particularly Self Achievers, are incredibly proactive when it comes to wellness. They’re typically on top of their healthcare, both by doing their own research and by making appointments for screenings and check-ups. They would be great patients to discuss self-diagnosis with and encourage them to visit trusted sources.
Once you’ve segmented your patients, you can use that information to craft personalized messaging that gives patients more valuable health information from you. By keeping your knowledge and name in front of them, you can make them more likely to come into your practice, which can help you improve your practice’s market share.
Creating high-quality patient education materials is a great way to serve your patients on another level. If you choose to do this, it’s important that you keep your patients’ segments in mind: not everyone learns the same way. If you tell a Direction Taker that a particular treatment is good for them, they’ll accept it and believe you. If you try to do the same thing with a Balance Seeker, you likely won’t get through to them. This kind of consumer needs statistics and concrete facts to support your information.
By providing your patients with the information they need to self-diagnose, or at least make themselves more informed, you can increase your market share and improve the health outcomes of your patients. Encouraging their research efforts can help them feel understood and heard — and keep them coming back to your practice.
For more on psychographic segmentation and patient loyalty, download our case study.