Few would argue that in today’s competitive environment, whether you’re a pizza shop or a professional service practice, having an online presence is mandatory. Healthcare practices that take advantage of digital marketing can gain a competitive edge, if done right—starting with your practice’s web site and patient portal. After all, your web site is often the first impression prospective patients (and referral sources) will have of your practice, and your patient portal is a critical part of ongoing patient engagement.

Due to concerns about costs, management, ethics and liability, many medical practices have been slow to join the digital marketing revolution, and many who have done so are doing a poor job. Having an online presence can be simple but it requires a continuous commitment. Here are the top seven mistakes we’ve seen physician practices make when trying to build their online footprint:


  1. Bad Web Site Design

This is the leading medical marketing mistake.  No matter how successful are your efforts to drive traffic to your web site, an ugly design can quickly turn off any positive response visitors might have. While design is admittedly subjective, the most frequent issues we’ve seen are dreadful color schemes and layouts, outdated platforms, lack of a lead generation process (contact form, for example), and old or poorly done content.


  1. Being Anti-Social with Social Media

Physicians tend to use social media as little more than online bulletin boards. Social media is all about building relationships through communication. Providing patients or potential patients something to comment on such as a poll, an interesting healthcare article, or even just a humorous picture will go a long way to establishing an online following.


  1. Not Constructing a First-Rate Email List

Once patients are on board, they expect regular communications with their healthcare partners. The 2014 “What’s Reasonable?” study, conducted by Catalyst Healthcare Research, revealed that 93% of the adults surveyed wanted to receive email communications from their doctor. A quality email list of people who are interested in what you have to say is truly invaluable.  By sending out recurring promotional and informational emails, a practice can refine the list to prune the uninterested and harvest the faithful followers.


  1. Shortage of Varied Content

Once you get on the online bandwagon, be prepared to post regular and varied content that’s suitable for downloading, commenting on, and sharing. Videos, patient-friendly healthcare articles, links to useful web sites, news articles or other content should be curated with care. Virtually every piece of content you post gives you an opportunity to gather information about patients and visitors each time they download content.


  1. Not Blogging

Your patients expect you to be experts and since one-on-one time with them is ever-shrinking, let your patients ‘see’ more of you through blogging. You don’t have to be Hemingway or spend hours on research; write about what you know and what you’re passionate about—in or out of the medical field. Just posting a couple of articles a month may increase referrals and improve patient engagement.


  1. Not Promoting Patient Reviews

Online reviews are targeted word-of-mouth advertising; 72% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. It doesn’t matter how great you are, people increasingly look for online reviews before considering your practice. To motivate patients to leave a review online, give a special discount or incentive for those who do.


  1. Ignoring the Patient Portal

Physicians who view patient portals as little more than places to schedule appointments, refill prescriptions or comply with Meaningful Use regulations are missing a huge marketing opportunity. These portals enable patients to initiate discussions with their doctor or clinician, exchange private emails, view content, and more. Patient portals can enhance patient-provider communication, empower patients, support care between visits, and improve patient outcomes, which can lead to favorable online reviews!