From the automotive industry to tourism, retail to real estate, there’s no denying that the future of business is digital. The healthcare industry, with its uniquely important role in the well-being of its patients, is no exception.

To better understand the increasingly virtual world of healthcare, and in what ways such digitalization can benefit both providers and patients, we sat down with OMMAX – Digital Solutions managing partner Dr. Anja Konhäuser.

 

 

We’re seeing a trend towards an increasingly digitalized healthcare industry. What can healthcare providers, as well as patients, gain from this reality?

The opportunity for growth and efficiency here is incredible. For one, the patient experience can be greatly enhanced before, during, and after a treatment or doctor visit. Patient behavior has itself changed massively, shifting towards a dependence on online sources of information. Once healthcare providers optimize their digital presence and their digital business strategy, internally and externally, patients and their loved ones will have significantly easier access to information of all sorts. Setting up appointments, viewing test results, carrying out prescribed follow-up treatments – all of this vital information will be available to both doctors and patients, thus enhancing organization and communication with minimal administrative efforts. Digitalizing the patient journey simply makes difficult health situations much easier to manage for patients, while it allows the most digitally competent healthcare providers to access their target groups with less cost and greater conversion. It fosters a set up of a patient relationship management system, attracting new and repeat patients.

This better utilization of time and resources allows providers to focus more on patient interaction. It also enables the gathering of medical data, surely to be protected by a reliable data protection system, so that more precise diagnoses and treatment options can be offered to patients. With healthcare’s digitalization, everyone involved benefits.

 

You mentioned the process of patients looking to set up appointments. And the path towards the particular clinic in the first place? What digital touchpoints between provider and potential patient occur within the healthcare industry?

Mapping a customer journey is important for any industry – but the healthcare industry requires its own particular considerations in regards to a patient relationship management system. Healthcare is an ongoing journey for patients, rather than a one-time search and purchase. Furthermore, in some cases, people look to healthcare providers in matters of life or death. Digital touchpoints are thus received with greater sensitivity in the healthcare industry as opposed to retail or tourism, and providers should treat their touchpoints as so.

As mentioned, patients come in contact with healthcare providers with every appointment, test result, follow-up meeting—you name it. But the digital touchpoints that take place prior to the first in-person consultation ultimately decide a hospital or clinic’s success. That’s where businesses like OMMAX come in.

Increased visibility, either through SEO, SEA, social media, or paid ads, are an important step. But they must be coupled with clean, user-friendly landing pages, and most importantly, several opportunities for contact establishment. When it comes to matters of health, person-to-person contact is key. Such digital touchpoints need to offer opportunities of smooth information communication and subsequent brand building before, during, and after the treatment or doctor visit.

On that note, reputation management, especially in healthcare, is necessary. One poor review could scare potential patients away. Establishing an online presence that radiates trust, transparency, and a sincere concern for the well being of patients will be a prerequisite to a healthcare provider’s success in the digital world.

While this can certainly be established on an individual company-by-company basis, one cannot forget the influence of platforms. Platforms have completely altered the travel industry, for example, allowing customers to compare costs and journeys side by side, all on one page. This will only grow increasingly popular in the healthcare industry. As such, if your online presence isn’t digitally convincing, your competitors will win those patients based on their user-optimization and overall online personality.

 

Which trends are already suggesting the increasing digitalization of the healthcare industry?

Perhaps the most telling trends that suggest healthcare’s inevitable digitalization can be found in the numbers. According to Google, about 5% of their searches are medical related. About 80% of American internet users have searched for a health-related topic online. This is an upward trend. Furthermore, eHealth, or applications of electronic equipment for medical or health-related tasks, is growing 10% annually in Europe. This includes all sorts of digital health products and services, whether for reaching medical advice, receiving documents digitally, renewing appointments, health apps – all sorts of digital healthcare applications.

Furthermore, in Germany alone, the search volumes for the 14 top keywords for assisted living grew about 70% in 2 years. Users are clearly taking their health-related questions to the web—someone should be there to meet them with answers. Meanwhile, financial investors are showing an interest in the healthcare industry, with estimates putting the number of necessary additional medical accommodation at 270,000 for just the next few years. Couple these facts with the current 10% risk of bankruptcy for all hospitals – and their subsequent need for innovation and cost optimization — and healthcare’s digitalization is self-explanatory.

Furthermore, common sense plays a role here. While Baby Boomers themselves are becoming increasingly comfortable with and thus dependent on digital research methods, millennials and the succeeding generation are what we call “digital natives.” As time passes, our digital native society is not only aging, but their standards of living are also increasing. This makes it so that individuals are more willing to pay for competent healthcare as they grow older. Taking this into consideration, digital means of research and financial decision-making will only become more prevalent. Industries of all sorts will be subject to this shift.

 

Considering the importance of digital touchpoints, how can healthcare providers best adapt their online presence so as to benefit from the increasing digitalization of healthcare? What are the biggest challenges in this entire process?

First and foremost, one must develop a digital strategy. Establish a target group, research commonly used, location-specific keywords, identify concrete decision points of potential patients – these are all fundamental steps towards digital optimization in healthcare. Build off these steps by analyzing user behavior data and then creating quality content in accordance with keywords and target groups. Additionally, establish a page layout of a professional, clean design that smoothly guides users to your contact points, securing appointments and thus patients.

Throughout these steps, keep your digital contact points in mind. At which point will your potential patient come across your ad or page? When they do, what information do you want to convey to them? How do you want to introduce yourself, and how do you want to continue representing yourself before appointments, during treatment, after recovery, etc.? It’s important to recognize that your clinic does, in some sense, radiate a sort of personality when it comes into contact with patients. Make sure that personality is understood to be competent, professional, and welcoming.

Problem-wise, the biggest challenge may be one that resides offline – a shortage of workers. With the growing demand in healthcare providers, healthcare professionals themselves are becoming scarce. As such, employer branding must be given particular attention – why should a nurse or doctor work for you? What is it about your online personality that persuades them to apply in the first place?

Data security is also a huge consideration in the digitalization of the healthcare industry. In fact, some say data security is healthcare’s biggest concern. The information healthcare providers hold on individuals could in some cases be highly valuable to hackers, and so with a digital business strategy and online presence must come a reliable data protection system.

If done correctly, healthcare providers could benefit greatly from the inevitable digitalization of their industry. This progress presents opportunities for efficiency and satisfaction for patients, professionals, and providers alike.

 

Are you interested in an outside-in analysis of your healthcare company’s digital presence? Contact OMMAX at healthcare@ommax.de