Health-related research is one of the top three online activities in the world, according to the Content Marketing Institute. In the U.S. alone, more than 100 million people per year visit health-related sites such as WebMD, Familydoctor.org, Healthfinder.gov, and CNN Health, among thousands of others.
A recent survey by Pew Research Center found that 72 percent of Internet users looked online for health information within the past year. But eight out of ten of those online health seekers began at a search engine such as Google, Bing, or Yahoo, versus just 13 percent who started their search at a site that specializes in health topics.
The message is clear: your patients are looking for health information online, but maybe not from the best sources. You want patients to be educated, not overwhelmed. And you want the information to be accurate and helpful, not misleading or even harmful. Here are four reasons why you need to be a part of your patients’ health research.
1. You can provide patients with quality health information so they don’t seek it from less-reputable sources.
You have the medical degree. You read the journals. You attend the conferences, earn CME credits, and keep up to date with the latest advances in your field of medicine. So why would you leave your patients to navigate the vast array of questionable health info online without your help? Instead of telling your patients to get off Google, make sure you are providing them with educational content that answers their questions – and make sure they can access it before and after their appointments.
2. You can offer patients targeted, expert materials related to their condition.
Of all those people searching for health topics online, more than half of them (55 percent) searched for information on a specific disease or medical problem within the past year. Since you are the expert on your area of practice and your patients, you are the best source of timely and accurate condition-specific information for them.
The good news is that you don’t have to create this content yourself. Internet-based patient education software makes it easy and cost-effective to add medical animations and videos of procedures, treatment options, and patient testimonials to your practice website, social media pages, and even a TV in your waiting room. You can customize the content for your practice, and show patients only what it makes sense for them to see.
3. You can provide patients free information they can’t get elsewhere.
While it’s true that anyone can find just about anything they want on the Internet, the best and most timely content is not always free. The same Pew Research study found that 26 percent of online health seekers have been asked to pay for access to something they wanted to see online. Just 2 percent say they paid to access the content, while 83 percent tried to find the same information somewhere else, and 13 percent gave up.
As a medical provider, you have access to top-notch proprietary content that your patients can’t find anywhere else. By positioning yourself as an expert source and provider of quality health information, you increase your practice’s value offering, your reputation with your patients, and maybe even referrals. JAMA cited word-of-mouth referrals as “very important” or “important” to 85 percent of people surveyed when it comes to choosing a doctor.
4. You can boost patient engagement.
A new study shows that one in five patients are searching for information related to their health in their doctor’s waiting room so that they can feel prepared and confident during their appointment. More and more patients want to be active participants in their health care, and by providing them with high-quality health information at their fingertips, you’re helping them to be more engaged. And research has proven that more engaged patients have better outcomes and lower health care costs.
As a doctor, your time should be spent treating patients, not sifting through a pile of WebMD printouts and talking terrified patients off the ledge after a Google search gone wrong.
To find out more about educating your patients and being a part of their health research, contact us today.