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Doctors must have robust online presence to meet today’s patients’ expectations


Savvy physicians are using social media to establish trust, build patient loyalty

cell phone with images of social media apps ©Production


It used to be that the only things that mattered when choosing a surgeon, a primary care physician, or any other health care provider were their (mostly word-of-mouth) reputation, referrals, and how quickly you could snag a spot in their often-packed schedules. But that is changing. Today, patients have a consumer mindset, and they are demanding more access to information about their health care providers.

And we have the internet and social media to thank for it. Just like they’d pick a spot for dinner, people seeking health care services are turning to online reputation and online reviews. These reputation sites have become gospel among some demographics, especially younger patients. Patients "doctor-shop" based on what they see on Instagram and TikTok amid the rise of doctor-influencers on these platforms.

So what does all this mean for doctors? First, it means that they need to be more “online”—or at least they will soon, as this trend isn’t going anywhere. Second, it means that they need to pay attention to all the things that drive good online reputation. Number one on that list? A positive patient experience.

Let’s take a look at the changing factors driving patient loyalty:

Elevated patient expectations: The modern patient is an informed consumer, seeking a health care journey that transcends traditional boundaries. The pivotal role of patient experience highlights a significant shift. Health care providers are now navigating a landscape where data-driven insights and predictive analytics are key to meeting these heightened expectations. And not only does it win over customers, it counts directly toward the bottom line: this year, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services doubled the weight of patient-experience metrics in the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Health care Providers and Systems patient survey.

The digital doctor’s persona: In this digital era, the physician's role extends beyond the confines of clinics and hospitals. Social media has emerged as a powerful platform for doctors to establish trust and build loyalty in their communities. By sharing their authentic selves, experiences, and expertise online, physicians can connect with patients on a more personal level, creating a sense of community and trust that traditional advertising strategies often fail to achieve. While this trend is still fairly nascent, confined to a small-but-growing community on social platforms, it will continue to grow over time.

Influence of online platforms: The rise of health care grading systems and data platforms signifies a critical shift in how patients make health care decisions. Providers must learn how to adeptly navigate these digital arenas, understanding that their online presence and reputation are integral to attracting and retaining patients in this tech-savvy era.

Responding to the digital shift

In response to this digital era, doctors must adopt a new mindset. Rather than emulating the typical influencer model, health care providers will need to focus on authentic communication. This involves sharing meaningful insights, engaging in public health discussions, and demystifying medical processes and advancements.

It also means demonstrating health care innovation. By showcasing novel treatments and technologies that improve safety and enhance patient experience, doctors can position themselves on the forefront. Such genuine engagement will resonate more deeply with a patient base seeking reliable and relatable health care guidance.

The growing importance of patient experience

As the digital revolution reshapes health care, patient experience has emerged as pivotal in increasing loyalty, transcending mere clinical outcomes. This paradigm shift recognizes the patient journey as a holistic experience where every interaction, from initial contact to post-treatment care, contributes to the overall perception of care quality. Now more than ever, the nuances of this experience are crucial to defining patient satisfaction and loyalty.

Harnessing emerging technology: Technology, when thoughtfully integrated, can be a catalyst in enhancing patient experience. But it requires solutions that are adaptable, convenient, and safe. The ideal technological integration enhances diagnostic accuracy, patient safety, and care quality while being versatile enough to fit various clinical settings.

But focusing beyond just technology: Patient experience is a mosaic of interactions that extend far beyond technological advancements. It encompasses the nuances of clinical care, the efficiency of administrative processes, and logistical considerations such as accessibility and facility amenities. Providers must cultivate an environment of empathy, clear communication, and personalized care to elevate the patient experience to new heights.

As we navigate this new era of health care, it’s increasingly clear that success hinges on more than just medical expertise. It's about creating a harmonious blend of technology, enhanced patient experience, and meaningful digital engagement. By embracing this multifaceted approach, health care providers can not only meet the evolving demands of patients but also emerge as pioneers in a patient-centered, digitally forward health care landscape.

Gregory Kolovich, M.D. is chief medical officer and cofounder of OXOS Medical

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