Changes In The Healthcare Supplier Decision Process

Search Engines Are Changing The Healthcare Purchase Decision Pathway


The act of identifying, researching and selecting a healthcare provider specialist has changed in the last few years. Word of mouth is still a major indicator but with the advent of the internet a different set of indicators have begun to become prevalent. The explosion of digital access in the western world has provided completely new ways and platforms for the decision research process.

The normal decision path to healthcare provider selection has moved towards internet research, this research can give access to reviews and comparison pricing. Authority can also be gauged by the researcher by viewing the depth of profile of a healthcare provider and indicators such as social media influence etc.

This shift is as important for hearing healthcare as it is for any other private healthcare provider or hospital. Your online reputation is exceptionally important, It is becoming more so every day. With the advent of search engine use in the developed world, your online reputation may actually be one of your most important marketing details.

It’s really important for your healthcare marketing that you understand the pathway that Patients take to making important healthcare purchase decisions. It will allow you to make intelligent decisions about your marketing strategy. It is this understanding that will allow you to apportion budget to your marketing activities. It will also allow you to target your marketing activities more intelligently.  

Initially the first step in any purchase or decision process is the motivation, an event that spurs the decision pathway. This event can be illness, general symptoms, a diagnosis etc. These events are the catalyst, the motivation that will prompt potential patients to start the research process. It is important though for our marketing purposes that we realise that not only potential Patients are part of the decision pathway.

Loved ones or significant others can not just be the motivation but also the motivated. They may in fact be a large part of the decision pathway, particularly in the beginning of the process. They may also be the primary researcher for the decision pathway. So your marketing needs to be directed at multiple personas, it needs to address the needs and motivations of differing stakeholders in the decision process.

One of the first places that most potential Patients or researchers will look to is search engines, usually Google. It is extremely important to understand how they search and what they search for. They will use search terms that involve their location and phrases that pertain to their needed healthcare service. If you understand this you can ensure that your website ranks for these local searches and terms.

With this understanding it is easy to see why your online profile and reputation needs to be positive, in depth, and one that helps set you apart from the your competition. Your online presence must help you stand out, it must help you establish yourself as the best in your field.

You need to understand that the changes to the decision pathway are currently underway. These are not changes of the future, these shifts in pattern are happening now. The most important aspect of healthcare marketing is always going to be what you do after the Patient has made the decision to select you. You can then affect the terms of your future online reputation simply by the experience that you deliver to your new Patient.

If the brand experience is good and you’ve taken steps to encourage social sharing online. The happy Patient can and should be encouraged to increase your online reputation by leaving positive reviews, following you on social media etc. This activity should increase your profile, your authority and improve your opportunity to  attract new patients.

Word of mouth hasn’t changed, it is still one of the biggest factors in the healthcare purchase decision process. Where that word of mouth occurs and what it looks like has changed though. Once happy patient experience leads to another, and another, which delivers your Practice a constant flow of new Patients. The opposite is true however, where one unhappy patient can damage your profile and lead to the loss of potential patients.

At present potential Patients of other healthcare fields are researching online reviews from sites like Healthgrades, Vitals, Yelp and Google. They also expand their searches when they have centred on a particular potential healthcare provider to include any videos or blogs belong to that provider. Sites such are already important and will become more so over the next few years. Your healthcare marketing strategy needs to be undertaken with this clearly in mind.



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About Geoffrey Cooling

Geoffrey Cooling is an Irish hearing care blogger and the author of The Little Book of Hearing Aids and Audiology Marketing in a Digital World. He has been involved in the Hearing Healthcare Profession since 2007 when he qualified as a hearing aid audiologist. He has worked in private practice and for a major hearing aid manufacturer. He has become recognised as an authority within the field of hearing care and hearing aids.


  1. Couldn’t agree more Geoffrey! There is a rate and review section on the Action on Hearing Loss website, although it doesn’t seem to be well used for private practices at the moment. We know that people rely on others experiences to guide purchasing decisions (tripadvisor, toprated etc.) and if I were looking for a provider to help with a specific medically related issue I would be looking online for some guidance, especially in the absence of a personal recommendation.

    • You are one of an increasing number Gary. The motivation that ensures the survival of yelp, Tripadvisor et al will come into play within our industry. More and more people will begin to use review sites pertaining to healthcare. It will be a large element of the decision process in the future.

  2. Pingback: Fired For Facebook, The Danger To Your Professional Reputation Just Audiology Stuff

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