Findings from a recent study published in the Aesthetic Surgery Journal reveals that patients are searching for plastic surgeons online, choosing the first-page results from Google to guide their search.
Over the past decades and into the beginning of the new millennium, aesthetic surgery practices anecdotally relied on referrals, word of mouth, and the surgeon’s reputation and pedigree to attract new patients.
Residents were taught that providing excellent results and taking good care of patients would lead to a good reputation in the community, which would attract future patients.
It is now clear that this practice-building model is being rapidly supplanted by a new paradigm based on social media presence to reach potential patients.
The aim of the study was to analyze the respective importance of physician academic pedigree, experience, and social media presence on plastic surgeon Google first-page search result placement.
Given that nearly all prospective patients seeking cosmetic surgery are utilizing the internet to search for their provider and seek health-related information, these findings present significant support for the importance of social media and online presence in directing online traffic and therefore patient flow.
The study authors conclude:
If we consider the importance of the internet and social media in patients’ choice of providers and the influence of search engine ranking on directing these potential patients’ traffic, it becomes obvious that a strong online presence and search engine ranking can be crucial to attracting new patients to a practice
These findings have implications for all healthcare professionals.
If social media presence influences how patients choose practitioners the risk is that those practitioners most qualified (such as board-certified plastic surgeons) must compete for clicks with the least qualified (non-medical professionals).
To quote the study: “It is therefore of the utmost importance to understand the factors that are key to improving search engine rankings.”