We live in a connected world. This simple fact changes the way you need to market your practice to
prospective and existing patients. While providing superior dental care is still critical, it alone doesn’t cut
it when it comes to attracting new patients and keeping the ones you have. Connecting with patients
digitally, on their terms, ultimately drives the growth and profitability of your practice.
Who is the connected patient? It’s almost every existing and prospective patient in your practice.
When you consider 85 percent of the United States is connected,1 focusing practice marketing
efforts in digital mediums becomes imperative. By 2015 the smartphone use rate is expected
to reach 81 percent.2 All you have to do is take a look at your reception area to see this trend in
action—almost every patient you have is armed with an Internet-connected device, usually a
smartphone or tablet. It’s your ability to reach the connected patients on the devices they use that
will determine the success of your practice.
The good news for your practice is that there are some common traits that most connected
patients share. There are four characteristics of connected patients that should be leveraged by your
practice to grow a loyal patient base.
1. Connected Patients are Mobile.
In 2014, mobile Internet usage will surpass desktop Internet usage.3 No matter where you look,
people have their phones out and are online researching information. With this pattern of mobile adoption, re-evaluating your patient engagement and communication, website and social media channels,
to ensure they are optimized for mobile viewing, is more important than ever. There are really two
ways to accomplish this.
In terms of your website, it is crucial that your website render optimally on any mobile device. This
can be accomplished by building a separate mobile site that identifies the device and presents an alternate
website that will work with a limited set of devices. However, the optimal way to accomplish this
is to update your website to what’s known as responsive design. In this scenario, your website is built on
a state-of-the-art platform that automatically adapts the design and content to screens of any size to
ensure an optimal patient experience on virtually any device.
In terms of patient communications, it is critical that your patient engagement platform is mobileoptimized.
This means your patients are able to view their accounts, pay bills, confirm appointments
and access their records from any device.
Connected patients expect your website to work on every device they use. Your practice needs
to ensure it’s ready to meet these expectations in order to attract new patients and keep the ones
you have engaged.
2. Connected Patients Rely on Search.
There are more than 12 billion monthly searches on Google, which represents roughly two-thirds
of all search traffic.4 The connected patient relies on search engines to quickly find relevant content and
information. Consumers have become sophisticated, expecting this content to be prioritized to meet
their needs, on demand. Case in point, 87 percent of all clicks from organic search engine traffic go to
the first five results.5 To reach the connected patient, your practice’s website or topical site (see the next
section) must secure these top spots in relevant search
results for targeted keywords.
This makes search engine optimization (SEO)
more important than ever. Your SEO strategies need to
focus on local search results. In a WebVisible study, 86
percent of survey participants use the Internet to find
a local business and 72 percent prefer to find information
on local merchants via search.6 The connected
patient of most interest to you is the one who is local
and seeks to make an appointment with your practice.
So make sure your practice deploys an effective SEO
strategy that is optimized to reach the right prospective
patients in your local area.
3. Connected Patients are Topical.
Due to the immense amount of content contained
within the larger search engines there has been a shift
toward what’s known as vertical search or topical sites.
These are websites or portals that cater to a specific
topic or area of interest. In the last half of 2012, topical
sites had an 8 percent increase in search traffic while
major search engine traffic decreased by 3 percent over
the same period.7 Examples for successful topical sites in
the consumer world include websites such as WebMD,
Amazon and eBay.
In the dental world, the best example for this is
Healthgrades.com. Today more than 20 million
prospective patients search Healthgrades.com for a new dental care provider in their local area. More than half will schedule an appointment when a click-torequest
an appointment feature is present.8 Topical search sites like Healthgrades.com can help your
practice in a couple of important ways. First they provide increased practice exposure to highly qualified
prospective patients and drive more of them to your practice. A study conducted in February 2014
by Sesame Communications found that practices with a Healthgrades Enhanced Profile received an
average of 13 additional calls to the practice per month.9 Secondly, they also provide additional exposure
on the more traditional search engine results. A listing on a well-trafficked vertical search site in
many cases will appear above your practice website on the regular search results. This obviously increases
the opportunity for prospective patients to engage with you online. The connected patient uses topical
sites for assessment and validation of your practice and to request an appointment.
4. Connected Patients are Social.
The connected patient spends time interacting with people and companies on social platforms like
Facebook and YouTube. Last year 72 percent of Internet users ages 30-49 were active on social media.
Even more interesting, 47 percent of Americans say Facebook is their number-one influencer of purchases
(up from 24 percent in 2011).10 Social media, done correctly, will drive new patients to your practice
from referrals and foster loyalty with your existing patient community. However, as connected
patients rely more on social media to make decisions and refer friends to your practice, they also expect
more quality content from your practice. The days of adding a Facebook, Twitter or Google+ account
and expecting it to act like a billboard for your practice are over. To ensure your social media efforts pay
dividends, your practice needs to strategize and keep all its sites up-to-date, providing relevant quality
patient directed content.
The practice that can engage their connected patients on social media will foster the type of loyalty
needed to ensure long-term, profitable relationships.
More and more of your patients are classified as connected patients. The future success of your practice
is dependent on your ability to attract and engage them within the digital world. Connected
patients are not swayed by traditional marketing tactics. They do not want to be sold something.
Connected patients want to quickly find you when they are online and build a level of mutual trust
through consistent digital interaction. Developing a digital marketing strategy for your practice that
focuses on the connected patient will drive more new patients, improve production and ensure sustained
growth and profitability.
- Pew Internet, http://pewinternet.org/Infographics/2013/How-Americans-go-online.aspx
- Digital Buzz, http://www.digitalbuzzblog.com/infographic-2013-mobile-growth-statistics/
- “Share of Listing Types and Share of Clicks.” Search Engine Watch
- ComScore, 2013, http://www.comscore.com/Insights/Press_Releases/2013/2/comScore_Releases_the_2013_U.S._Digital_Future_in_Focus_Report
- Healthgrades Use Study, 2013
- Sesame Research, New Appointment Request Research Brief, February 2014
- Infographic, http://www.jeffbullas.com/2014/01/17/20-social-media-facts-and-statistics-you-should-know-in-2014/