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4 ways to boost appointment bookings and improve listings management

The rise of the web has given patients more control over their care-seeking journey. They now look for, evaluate, and make decisions about providers based on what they find online. And, if they don’t like what they see, they’ll readily choose a different path.  

Leveraging an organization’s—and its individual providers’—online profiles and listings data is a key tactic for converting more active care seekers into patients. In traditional consumer industries, like retail and hospitality, people look to listings as a source of critical information, from location to hours of operation and more. The same is true in healthcare. But in healthcare, not only are the stakes much higher, but the data is also more complicated and often interwoven—and it doesn’t map 1:1 to the consumer web.   

But managing your organization’s listings data doesn’t have to be a massive undertaking. Partnering with a healthcare-specific solution provider can help you understand the ecosystem and leverage consumer behaviors to drive acquisition and meet your revenue goals.  

1. Capitalize on how patients search for care today

Google is synonymous with “search”—a fact that extends to healthcare. Over half of patients rely on the web when choosing a new primary care provider, and 65% of them rely on search engines.  

Amplify your brand on Google by leveraging robust built-out profiles for locations and providers. To use Google algorithms (i.e., ranking rules) to your advantage, consider these key factors:   

  • Accurate listings   
  • Number of patient reviews   
  • Review recency   
  • Overall star rating   
  • Engagement from the business (i.e., responding to reviews)    
  • Locality (i.e., locally relevant providers and businesses are displayed)  

But Google is just the gateway to the broader web—including healthcare-specific domains like Healthgrades, WebMD, and Vitals; hospital websites; and non-healthcare-specific platforms like Facebook—where patients get to know doctors and their style of care. In fact, your physicians’ presence across these sites constitutes the “new visit”—before the “real” visit. Photos, bios, and even video content help patients learn about individual care providers and make the best choice for them. Partnering with a healthcare-specific company is mission critical to getting your listings in all the right places—and making sure it stays accurate as things change. Not only will a healthcare-focused company deeply understand the nuances in data mapping as well as patient behavior, but it can also help you craft patient-friendly language throughout your listings that will give care seekers the information they’re looking for—as well as give them confidence to book an appointment.  

2. Make sure your foundation is strong 

Keeping listings data up to date across the web is essential for building trust with prospective patients, minimizing friction with your brand, and driving patient acquisition. Consumers validate healthcare providers with several online sources. In fact, most check around three different online sources before picking—or passing on—a doctor. Incomplete listings or inaccurate information can weaken consumers’ trust in your brand—and drive them to competitors. 

But healthcare data is more complicated than the consumer realm. Hospitals, health systems, practices, and clinics manage different data points than a restaurant or clothing store. For example, one physician might work across several locations, treat different conditions, or affiliate with multiple organizations, introducing a level of complexity that other industries aren’t forced to grapple with.  

Data inaccuracy poses a significant problem. All these different third-party sites pull in data from disparate sources, and without a healthcare-specific listings partner to serve as the source of truth, it’s impossible to manage it all. And this is bad news for your patient acquisition efforts. When choosing a new primary care provider, 37.2% of consumers say inaccurate or incomplete profile information would drive them to seek care elsewhere.  

3. Tell a compelling and consistent brand story everywhere patients search for care 

Don’t let engaged patients slip through your fingertips. Patients actively searching for care are primed and are ready to book an appointment. But if without a positive online reputation, most will keep looking.  

Patients use online reviews to learn about healthcare providers and organizations from others like them—i.e., in need of care and/or specific treatment. They look to learn about their peers’ personal experiences with a certain provider and how successful the outcomes have been. Consider this habit as the modern-day equivalent of “referring a friend.”  

Before booking an appointment, reviews are a patient’s #1 consideration—and the new currency of trust in the digital age. Most healthcare consumers read at least 5½ online reviews before deciding to book an appointment, and 84% even read reviews of referred providers. Positive high-quality reviews must accompany your organization’s and its providers’ profiles everywhere patients are searching to transform care seekers into patients with appointments. A solution like Press Ganey’s Review Publishing can do the heavy lifting, turning patients’ survey responses into reviews and syndicating them across leading sites like Healthgrades, WebMD, and Vitals.  

4. Drive conversions with convenience factors—like online appointment scheduling  

Convenience factors are more important than ever in driving conversion, loyalty, and 5-star reviews. The importance of telemedicine, communication, and ease of intake in earning patient loyalty are up significantly across the board—81%, 28%, and 37% respectively.  

Of note: Online booking continues to help organizations secure appointments. Over 63% of patients prefer to book appointments online (compared to calling the office). Nearly half of patients say the ability to schedule (or reschedule) an appointment online has impacted their decision to choose one healthcare provider over another. Providing an online appointment scheduling option right from an organization’s listings or a provider’s profile is key to helping patients complete that critical “last mile” of their journey. What’s more, offering online appointment scheduling translates into great ratings: ~60% of patients say the ease booking factors into their decision to award a provider with a 5-star review.   

During the COVID-19 crisis, listings emerged as an important tool for helping patients gain access to information about your healthcare organization. Plus, online listings help patients understand new protocols and what to expect from your facilities. Is a physician taking on new patients? What insurances are accepted? What safety measures are currently in place? Is telehealth offered?    

The good news is that managing vast quantities of complex healthcare data across the web isn’t as difficult as you might think—when you choose the right partner. To learn more about tackling the challenge of listings for your healthcare organization, reach out to a Press Ganey expert

About the author

Joan oversees the Experience solutions team in Strategic Consulting, partnering with clients for more than 15 years in consumer experience for the health and wellness space. Joan is known for driving innovation and engagement across large, multi-faceted organizations, and bringing valuable consumer experience ideas to fruition through the alignment of ideas, people, and processes. Joan’s passion is to transform the healthcare experience for both staff and patients. Prior to joining Press Ganey, Joan was chief experience officer at Yale New Haven Health System.

Profile Photo of Joan Kelly, EdD, M.S.Ed, MBA