In one memorable scene on Mad Men, Dr. Arnold Rosen said, “People will do anything to alleviate their anxiety.”
I am not a doctor, and I prefer to watch them on TV instead of visiting them in person so I can say with confidence that patients like me turn to resources like WebMD to try and lessen anxiety by looking up information on conditions that we hope are nothing to worry about.
Unfortunately many people get the wrong ideas in their head and start to fear the worst when they look up health information online.
In The Atlantic article, Self-Diagnosing: On the Proper Role of Sites Like WebMD, Michael H. Perskin of NYU Langone Medical Center explains this effect:
When patients perform their own research on complex illnesses, they’re often misinformed. Perskin said one out of every 20 of his patients suffering from extreme fatigue, visit sites and conclude that they have lupus. Perskin says nearly all of them are incorrect and only one in 500 patients with those symptoms suffer from lupus. Nonetheless, he says in many cases doing the research educates consumers, makes them more informed and ask better questions.
Medical information sites present a catch-22 for doctors; patients allow themselves to be misinformed while becoming more informed with the ability to ask better questions.
You don’t have to view WebMD as the enemy. Their role is to provide general knowledge so they have a different goal in mind. Instead, view WebMD as a starting point for your patients. The information that they lack is an opportunity for you to step in and provide the detailed, expert advice that your patients are seeking.
Keep Your Patients From Self-Diagnosing
Creating your own online content is an opportunity to keep your patients from self-diagnosing themselves on other health information websites.
Creating a digital medical content library on your website may sound overwhelming but it’s simply a collection of resources that shares your expertise of treatment and condition content.
Content can include topics like how to prevent injury, common myths and misperceptions of disease and treatments, proper ways to recover after a surgery, and so on.
Patients don’t want advertising, they want answers to their questions and if you can provide that information they’ll feel more comfortable visiting your office.
Wil Fulton spoke with several doctors and medical professionals for his Thrillist article, 6 Reasons Your Doctor Wants You to Stop Using WebMD, including Dr. Adam Kaplan of Johns Hopkins who explained that:
The word doctor originates from the latin word docēre, which means teacher. A doctor is supposed to be a teacher, and that’s one thing that has been taken out of the system.
Your website then is a tool to leverage to help you educate your patients before they even walk through your door and at the same time building trust by demonstrating your expertise.
Patients Trust Doctors More Than Other Sources
This may seem incredibly obvious but, studies show that patients trust doctors more than other sources.
A full 90% of patients 18-24 years old are turning to social media to find medical information (SearchEngineWatch) and at least 60% of social media users trust posts by doctors more than other sources (InfographicsArchive).
Social media posts by doctors shouldn’t just be sharing news articles – these posts should be coming from content that you’ve created on your own website.
How to Create Your Own Digital Marketing Library
Getting started creating content for your site you should understand that purpose is to both attract and retain patients by answering their questions.
Most healthcare searches are localized so if you can direct a patient in your area to your website first instead of WebMD you greatly increase the chances that they will call you to schedule an appointment.
Educational content can include a variety of resources including:
- Blog posts
- Email Newsletters
- YouTube Videos
- Social Media Posts
For all types of content that you produce there’s one thing that WebMD does that you should emulate – Use plain language. It’s one of the reasons that they get so much traffic because the information is easy to read and digest.
The downside is that patients begin to think that they know what is happening to them and know what treatment should be prescribed.
Any experience with a stubborn patient that tries to tell you what to do should should be used as motivation to create your own content that can help you avoid that situation.
Creating your own digital medical library can help patients find you, trust you, and be used as a resource by you and your staff to further educate patients pre- and post-visit.
To learn more, read InboundMD’s three part series on content marketing for medical practice websites: