Hospitals spent $1.5 billion on marketing last year. However, marketing alone is not enough to get patients to choose one hospital over another. Cost and quality data offer an objective view of a hospital’s ability to provide value-based care. But patients aren’t using this information either.

This begs the question: What’s really driving patients to choose a hospital? More importantly, how can you get them to choose your hospital?

Four Factors Driving Health Care Consumer Choice

1. Word-of-mouth marketing

Word-of-mouth marketing has historically and continues to be the strongest influence. Sure, having a modern facility and the best medical team helps, but patients hang their hat on the good experiences of friends, family members and trusted peers. It’s not very scientific, but this is how millions of people choose a hospital.

How to get them to your hospital: Let patients sing your praises right on your website. For example, Hospital for Special Surgery recently launched an online forum that encourages patients to share their experience. Next to each patient story is information about the doctor who treated them along with a link to schedule an appointment.

2. Search engine ranking

Search engine ranking is important, too. Most people conduct online research following even the most heart-felt hospital recommendation. Search engines play a huge role in delivering them to your virtual front door. In fact, more than 90 percent of traffic to your website comes via search engines. If your hospital doesn’t rank on the first page of search engine results, potential patients may not follow through on those recommendations.

How to get them to your hospital: To achieve the best possible ranking, your site must have fresh, original content and you must update it regularly. Learn more: 12 Tips for Landing Pages That Maximize Conversion.

3. Online reputation

Online reputation, which includes the collective sentiment of online reviews, ratings and social media mentions, is an important driver. Many people consider this information in their decision making process.

How to get them to your hospital: Use your website and social media presence to encourage questions and dialogue from current and prospective patients. Respond to negative feedback, especially if there is an opportunity to clarify a misunderstanding or improve a patient’s future experience. Learn more: 9 Tips for Online Reputation Management.

4. Price and emotion

Price and emotion are two factors that play a role in nearly all healthcare decisions, especially when choosing a hospital. The same is true when deciding whether to return to a hospital for follow-up care. When patients are in pain or stressed about their health, it affects their ability to make good decisions.

How to get them to your hospital: A great way to ease anxiety is by offering ample information about the expertise of your clinical team. Learn more: 9 Tips for Marketing Your Hospital Using Online Physician Profiles.

Allay patients’ financial concerns by making it easy for them to learn more about their potential out-of-pocket costs. You can this by directing them to your patient financial services department. You could also make price information available right on your website. Learn more: 6 Tips for Engaging Self Pay Patients.

Did we miss anything? Please share your thoughts on what’s driving patients to your hospital in the Comments section below.

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