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June 24, 2016

Dr. Google Delivers Symptom-Based Mobile Search Results

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Image Credit: Google 

Of over 100 billion searches occurring on Google daily, one in twenty searches are healthcare related, and one in five healthcare searches are symptom related. Unfortunately, in the past these search results haven’t always been the most reliable — but, that’s about to change.

Google announced earlier this week, that it is rolling out symptom-based search on mobile for healthcare, working with physicians from Harvard and Mayo Clinic to curate the information. Google made a similar announcement back in September 2015, when it released the knowledge graph of symptoms for patients searching on Google.

Mobile Moments: From Search to Care

This recent roll-out is exclusive to mobile, giving patients that are on the go or looking to self-diagnose ease of use. Once a user searches symptoms such as “left side ear pain,” they may uncover that they should see a doctor and get an antibiotic. The next step of course would be to schedule an appointment with a physician.

What This Change Means for Healthcare Marketers

The introduction of symptom-based research underscores why it is critical for healthcare marketers to be visible during moments of need with a search-based location marketing strategy that connects consumers to care.

Patients take multiple paths to find care across a broad discovery ecosystem, of which search represents 77 percent, and mobile plays a large role in those searches. In fact, 60 percent of consumers say they use their mobile phone when choosing a hospital or medical center. When looking at local search patterns, we see patients searching for care around terms like “cardiologist Chicago” or “urgent care Miami.” These “near me” moments represent your opportunity to be visible, relevant, and engaging, when and where people are looking for care.

Symptom-based research triggers more near me searches. Once a user Google’s symptoms such as “left side ear pain” they may uncover that they should see a doctor and get an antibiotic. They most likely want to start the medicine as soon as possible — so they may conduct a “near me” search to find a physician that’s closest to them, or one who is available during the hours they can make an appointment.

Healthcare systems need to be ready for these moments. For instance:

  • Content on your physician pages needs to be descriptive enough to ensure that information about your physicians is visible when people conduct symptom-based research.
  • Your physician directories should guide searchers effectively.
  • Your location data needs to be accurate and visible to ensure that people requiring care can find your physicians.
  • You need to provide tools such as scheduling widgets to make it easier for patients to take the next step and book time with your physicians when they are trying to seek care after they do symptom-based research.

Only a comprehensive location-based marketing strategy that optimizes your locations for search will ensure that patients can find and obtain care with your network of physicians.

What’s Next

Consumer searches for health-related information and care will only increase with the Millennial population on the rise. According to a recent study conducted by Nuance Communications, “More than 54 percent of Millennials say they search online for health information before seeing a physician and reply on doctor ratings; whereas the global average for all patient ages is 39 percent.”

These searches are key moments in the patient journey that represent your healthcare system’s opportunity to connect consumers to care. I expect Google — and others — will continue to continue to innovate in healthcare to meet the needs of consumers when and where they are looking for care. And now is the time for healthcare systems to prepare with a comprehensive location marketing strategy.

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