Personalization In Healthcare Starts With Search. Here’s Why.

The pandemic has taught us that people now expect enhanced digital experiences. After all, some of the most utilized websites during the pandemic.

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The pandemic has taught us that people now expect enhanced digital experiences. After all, some of the most utilized websites during the pandemic – Amazon and Google – have trained consumers to expect tailored experiences for every search and every visit. And that shift doesn't just impact consumer brands: now, marketing and IT teams in the healthcare industry need to deliver on those expectations.

In fact, Huron Consulting Group research suggests that "digitally inclined consumers are the fastest growing segment" in healthcare – and there has been a 25% increase in this segment from 2019-2021. This research also notes that these "digitally inclined" consumers value "online quality ratings, review and comparison tools to guide their healthcare decisions" — notably, the same tools that they value when shopping for things outside of healthcare.

When you pair this increased digital use with personalized experiences, you get a recipe for success to drive greater loyalty and revenue. That's why 'personalization' has become a hot topic in healthcare. It feels like just about every organization is talking about it — but the fact is, few are doing it well (yet). But it pays to get personalization right: if you do, research shows that you can potentially "out sell" your competitors by 30%. In today's highly competitive industry, that's a welcome advantage.

So, why aren't more organizations winning the personalization game?

It's because they tend to focus on personalization only once a customer, consumer, patient or member reaches their owned properties. But there is a better way.

Start sooner — with search

Have you ever stopped to think about patients, consumers, or insurance plan members, and how you are personalizing their individualized experiences before they arrive on your site? If you've only focused on personalizing your website, you've missed a large part of their individual journeys.

We like to call these journeys "personalized search." Think about it: a search is the first step someone takes to find you and your healthcare organization. As much as you spend time ensuring someone landing on your site sees the right content, if you don't get in front of someone during their very personalized search journey before they reach your site, you are likely to miss them (and your current personalization efforts will also be in vain).

A Twilio Segment report, first released in 2017, showed that personalization has become a "basic expectation" among consumers. Adobe has accurately stated "customers don't just judge their digital experiences against other providers in the same industry. They rate their experiences against their last, best interaction."

And that interaction could be with Google, Amazon, Netflix or Apple — or any other non-healthcare platform. That means the bar is set high.

It all comes down to this:

Personalization starts with a search.

The moment someone experiences pain, or receives a diagnosis, or a provider referral, that person is going on a search journey unique to her. It's up to you to get in front of her as early as possible — and then keep her in your orbit and ecosystem.

So how can you do this?

Tackling a personalization strategy isn't that difficult. You probably have the data you need to understand search intent for every searcher, and can develop content and a search strategy around the resources and tools you already have.

Instead of solely focusing on what is going on on your website, think more broadly – think first about what people are doing to reach you on your website. Look at data sources that can give you search experiences through search queries. Where can you find this data? To start, look at any Analytics program (e.g., Google Analytics, Adobe Analytics, etc.) where you can find search queries that people type on search engines before reaching your site.

Once you've collected this information, you should be able to categorize this information into buckets of themes. Let's say you're a health system and you are seeing a lot of searches for orthopedics-related terms. What kind of themes can you deduce from the total number of orthopedics terms for a given timeframe? Maybe you're seeing themes for orthopedic surgeons, orthopedic doctors near me, orthopedic procedures, costs of orthopedic procedures, and more. Once you've analyzed the themes, perform some sample searches on Google and look at what the results look like on the results page.

  • For "orthopedic surgeons" – do you see your doctor in the Google Map pack?
  • For "orthopedic doctors near me" – do you see any doctors within your system in the knowledge card of the Map pack?
  • For "orthopedic procedures" – does your orthopedic page within your site have a high ranking on the search engine results page?
  • For "costs" – can someone easily navigate to your orthopedic page or your costs page on your site to find out more information because these pages have a high enough rank on the results page?

If you can answer yes to these questions, you are doing great at personalization off-site. If you answer no to any of these questions, now is the time to think about how you can better understand how search directly drives your personalization strategies. It's important to think about how all of the elements of search fit together to answer a singular question. It's important to maximize your provider and facility listings, reviews, page optimization and more to ensure you've had an opportunity to capture individual intent each time someone searches.

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