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A Physician Finder is often one of the top visited areas of a hospital's web site, yet at times, marketers may think of it as merely an accessory. In reality, the Physician Finder is a key strategic component that drives online audiences from awareness to engagement. By adopting the 5 Best Practices below, you should be on track to increase visitors and patient volume, resulting in an increase in ROI.

Mobile Enablement

Consumers are increasingly relying on their smartphone for Web access. At the immediate time, consumers need physician phone numbers, maps, directions and more. It's essential to make mobile engagement with your site as easy as possible. Mobile presents hospitals with an opportunity for differentiation in their market; Acsys' Hospital Industry survey found that, surprisingly, mobile was not even on the radar in more than 50% of the respondent hospitals. There are 2 different approaches to consider – a mobile website or a native Web app. The mobile website will be more universal across smartphones and multiple operating systems, whereas the native App can have an advantage when there is a high frequency of access by the user or when Internet access is suboptimal, such as in subways. The mobile Physician Finder should be a component of a hospital's overall mobile strategy and when integrated with the hospital's analytics solution, such as Google Analytics, Web Trends or Omniture Site Catalyst, it can provide significant insights to marketers on the mobile visitors actions, including the determination of highly accessed service lines.

Video Profiles

Videos allow the Physician Finder to be more engaging because they can highlight the physician's clinical approach and bedside manner. Rather than a static photo, a video can show the physician in a more human way, making it easy to choose one that's right for them. Well produced videos have the physicians talking naturally and unscripted, sharing their personal approach to medicine; these often will include "B-Roll" of the physician with patients in a clinical setting. Aurora Health Care in Wisconsin has done an excellent job of presenting video profiles of their physicians and presents consumers with the opportunity to search physicians who only have a video profile.

Referring Physician Audiences

As you may already know, it is imperative to be attentive to your referring physician audience, since their needs are different from general consumers. Referring physicians are a key source for reoccurring patients versus a single consumer visit. A typical use case is the clinic physician who needs to identify the location of a specialist who has the ability to accept new patients, and who also must know where to send patient summary data. The referring physician's needs can include deeper insights into the specialist's CV for medical education, residency, board certification, years of practice and published peer reviewed research, such as found on PubMed. The ultimate goal of a referring physician is to ensure that the specialist will provide his patient with high-quality care, as needed, and is also someone who the physician has a high degree of confidence in.

Be Mindful Of Patient Reviews

While hospitals are ranked by entities such as US News & World Report, patient reviews are becoming increasingly available and popular on credible comparison web sites such as HHS' Hospital Compare and most recently, Angie's List. Empowered patients are helping to guide individuals who may have no professional physician contacts or limited knowledge of the hospitals in their area. HealthGrades, a website geared for reviews of physicians and hospitals, indicates that ePatients are sharing their healthcare experiences online in real time. The hospital wants to evolve their website to the status of a trusted site which can occur through enhanced recognition of objective quality ratings from ePatients, along with the quick identification of top-performing physicians.

Stark Compliance

Is Dr. Abbott receiving more inquires than Dr. Zarcov? If your Physician Finder is presenting the search on physician names in alphabetical order, you may be in violation of this Federal Law. Under Stark, hospitals can not provide preference to one physician over another. When the default return search is alphabetical by physician's last name this is, in effect, presenting a preference for physicians whose last name starts with the letter A. The correct approach is to present a returned search that is completely random and then allow the visitor to sort based on their own criteria, which can include alpha. The risk for the hospital is the possibility that a disgruntled physician, appearing towards the bottom of an alpha search result, can file a compliant with the government. Yes – I've seen this before. The reward for marketers can be recognition from physicians who may have not been receiving new patients due to their lower position on the returned search, in spite of their superior credentials.
We’d like to hear from you!  Which of the 5 Best Practices do you feel will have the highest impact with your online audience? Leave your comments below.