Nowadays the first place that patients go to look for information about consultants and specialists is online. In many cases, patients may have been recommended to a particular consultant or consultants by their GP or by a friend or colleague, and the final choice of private consultant is down to the patient. Or they may be starting with a blank sheet of paper, looking for the consultant who they feel is going to be right for them and either going direct to book an appointment through sites such as GoPrivate.com or telling the referring GP “this is the specialist I want to see”.
The first impression
Very often, the web provides the first (and possibly the last) impression of a consultant whom a patient may be considering. And that first impression may be delivered through a multitude of web sites over which the consultant may or may not have control:
- The consultant’s own web site.
- A profile on one of the Intuition web sites such as Private Healthcare UK, GoPrivate.com, the Harley Street Guide and HarleyStreet.com.
- A profile on the web site of an NHS or private hospital or clinic where the consultant works.
- A profile on a free directory site.
So, how do you ensure that your first impression is the right impression, and that your profile stands out from the crowd?
The first step is to review what information is currently available about you on the web. Type your name into Google, and see what comes up. It will be a mix of information from a variety of sources, some of which you can control and some of which you can’t. The order in which the information appears in the search results will also, to some extent, be out of your control.
How do I ensure that my information appears higher up the search results?
Let’s take me, the author, as an example. My name, “Keith Pollard” is not uncommon. Type it into Google and you’ll find that, in terms of Google search results, I compete with a Marvel comics artist and a multiple murderer, both of whom have reasonable coverage on the web. But I am pretty successful at outranking my name “competitors”. Here are two approaches that I adopt that every consultant should consider:
- Create a personal web site
I run a small web site - www.keithpollard.com. Do a Google search for “Keith Pollard” and you’ll see that this site ranks at number one. There are many factors that affect this ranking, but the domain name keithpollard.com and appropriate content built on this domain counts for a great deal.
- Create a LinkedIn profile
Many Consultants see LinkedIn as a business to business medium without a great deal of relevance to running a private practice. But a well written LinkedIn profile enables you to improve on your web presence at no cost apart from your time in creating your profile.
Obviously, it’s also important that you feature in search results that are relevant to what you do. e.g. a private oncologist may want to rank highly for a search term such as “private cancer specialist London”. This is more difficult to achieve, even if you have invested in your consultant or clinic web site. Consultant profiles on large sites such as Private Healthcare UK are more likely to deliver results for this kind of search term due to the higher overall ranking that Google will give to sites of this size and reputation.
What do I say about myself?
The information that patients find about you on the web will fall into two types:
- Content which you can control.
- Content which you can’t control..
It’s vital that where information about you is provided on sites where you have some control over the content, that you use it to “sell” who you are and what you offer more effectively than your consultant competitors.
In preparing content for the web, many consultants make the same error. When they are creating a profile for one of the Intuition sites or providing information for one of the private hospital sites, they tend to dig out the CV they would use when applying for a job or submitting a clinical paper for review and re-purpose this for use on the web. It’s the quick and easy solution. But is it the best solution?
Stop and think about who your audience is. The audience in this instance is a potential patient and they want different information, presented in a different way from your traditional CV. Here are some suggestions to improve the profile that you present on the web.
- Talk the patient’s language
Keep the information in your profile simple, and talk in the kind of language that patients not clinicians use. E.g. Patients have operations not procedures.
- Tell patients what it is you are good at and why
Patients may not understand how to interpret clinical data and clinical papers, but they do understand information such as how many of a type of operation you do every year, what the results of the operation are like and how you have developed your expertise. But present the information in a simple and convincing way that the typical patient can understand.
- Your visual image
If you include a photo on your profile, make it a good one! Take the time to go to a professional photographer and get some decent studio shots done. Patients may be put off just by the way that you look in a photo. And give serious consideration to commissioning a video to provide patients with a real impression of what you are like.
Your colleagues are your competitors!
Your colleagues in the NHS are your competitors in private practice. When a patient goes to a GP needing a private referral, he or she is often given a choice of the consultants to whom the GP would normally refer an NHS patient. The GP may say “Let me know which one you prefer.” The patient choice may be affected by several factors - convenience of the private hospital or consulting rooms, appointment times, or how soon he or she can be seen. But what can make a real difference is the first impression that you give the patient through your web presence. Make sure that your first impression is the right impression!
Author profile: Keith Pollard
Keith Pollard spent ten years in marketing and operational roles in the private healthcare sector before setting up Acumen Solutions, an internet development company in the mid-1990s, specialising in the healthcare market.
Private Healthcare UK was one of several internet ventures which were created at that time.
In 2003, Keith formed Intuition Communication as a web publishing company and embarked on a major investment in the redevelopment and expansion of Private Healthcare UK.
The Intuition portfolio has grown impressively since then, and Intuition has become a leader in medical tourism with the development of Treatment Abroad. Keith writes a health and medical tourism blog.