Last month, the Healthcare Marketing and Physician Strategies (HMPS) Summit took place in Salt Lake City, and for the first time, I heard health systems actively discussing voice search and contemplating its implications for healthcare. Voice search was definitely a hot topic!
During the conference, I hosted a luncheon on Voice Search in Healthcare and identified ways in which health systems are interested in learning more about voice search. They want to know what the impact is going to be on provider discovery. Our latest voice search and healthcare study data shows that patients are looking for quick answers (e.g., more than 50% want to know where the nearest urgent care is located). Patients are also not conducting symptom-based searches on voice devices, but rather asking tactical questions using voice devices — and hoping to find an actual response (instead of, “I don’t know yet, but I’m learning”).
The biggest question health systems ask during my conversations is:
I need to optimize my site for voice. How should I prepare?
Knowing that health systems, on average, spend more than $640k on a website redesign or relaunch, and that intelligent systems are increasingly screen-less, it’s important for health systems to think about how to prepare for a world where patients may not use a screen to find their health information.
How you can optimize your health system’s site for voice?
There are two ways to approach this: Create a Skill or Prepare for Search Answers.
I’m placing a stake in the ground today to say: give your patients what they ask for now — and prepare answers to the questions they could ask in the future. While Alexa Skills and Google Actions are useful in optimizing for voice search generally, healthcare patients today are primarily using Amazon and Google to discover tactical information about health systems — information better optimized by taking the Prepare for Search Answers approach. This can be done today and can be done almost immediately, if you focus on your data.
Here’s how you should go about that:
1. Collect your data.
Know where you provider data lives. It’s important to have a baseline of where your provider information exists internally (hint: check with credentialing/medical staff office, your CMS platform, website, Excel spreadsheets, CRM platforms, etc.). Once you have a sense of where your data lives, there is so much you can do!
2. Structure your data.
Once you’ve collected your data, you need to house it in a place that ensures your data is structured — so that it can capture all of the attributes (beyond name, address, and phone number). Patients search in very complex ways for health information and providers, so it is important to know these attributes. Housing your data in a way that is structured will make it much easier to ingest data from places, like credentialing, as well as sending data to your website and to other places where patients can find your information.
3. Syndicate your data.
This is one of the major opportunities to reach your patients. As patients continue to search in more complex ways (e.g., “doctor nashville tenn blue cross blue shield cardiology” as opposed to “cardiologist nashville”), it will become more important to ensure that your structured data is syndicated to places where patients search.
In a 2018 Yext study, we found that only 17% of people consult health system websites before making a healthcare decision. That means 83% of people find information in other places. Now, with voice devices being used, there isn’t even a screen involved, and questions asked are far more conversational (e.g., “ok Google, find me a doctor that accepts Humana and is located within five miles of where I live”). Syndicating the data to Google means you’ll achieve consistency across mobile, desktop, and Google Home, and the same can be said of other places where patients search — on and off intelligent services.
Preparation is all about your data. This year might be the year of provider data! Don’t let your health system fall behind because you didn’t think about how your data plays into how to “optimize your site for voice.”