Hong Kong has one of the highest rates of internet use in the developed world with 92.4%1 of the population online and this number is only expected to grow. With more than 80% of internet users today2 searching for health-related information online, often symptom-focused3, before searching for local services or solutions, providing educational content and comprehensive service information is more important than ever.
Today, for the best medical practices, laboratories and hospitals, it’s not enough just to offer the best in-person patient experience and doctors – you must also be a digital leader if you want to attract new patients. Word of mouth will continue to be one of the most powerful sources of new patients but digital has quietly taken over in terms of potential growth.
So what does it mean to be a digital leader in the private medical space?
Ten years ago having a website as a medical practice simply meant having a digital address where patients could see some nice photos, a list of services and have some contact information so they could call or email to book an appointment.
This practise is still commonplace in Hong Kong for most clinics or hospitals, ranking on Google well for the brand name or resident doctors but rarely well for anything else. This means that the ‘foot traffic’ on the website is largely existing patients or word of mouth referrals and not patients who aren’t yet aware that this practice offers the service or care they are looking for.
Due to medical council restrictions in Hong Kong, doctors are limited to what they are able to post about and include in their profiles. To get around these rules and to improve digital foot traffic medical practices must focus on creating more ‘awareness content’, a marketing term that means creating educational and useful content for someone that is searching for related search terms online. As a hospital, clinic or practice this would include generating blogs, videos, knowledge base articles etc on symptoms, news, or useful information on keywords close to the services you offer. As a physiotherapist covering tops such as tennis elbow or ACL injury recovery would be a good example of creating relevant awareness content which is not only going to increase traffic to your website but also foster trust-building with potential patients.
It’s important to understand here that medical/health terms online can be exceptionally difficult to rank for and you will have a lot of competition so your strategy and the quality of your content is paramount to your success. Today, there are no shortcuts in fooling the Google algorithm with copied or shallow content written by an inexperienced copywriter.
As the possible range of topics for each practice can be very wide, it can be easy to get distracted writing random articles without a content plan. Make sure that all content written is part of a bigger plan to interlink content and become an authority on a certain topic. A great example of success in this area of marketing locally in Hong Kong would be OT&P, which have seen exponential growth digitally by providing educational content and consistent thought leadership.
Empowering Patient Voices
One of the most important benefits of creating educational content is empowering your patients to better manage their health. Social media and digital health information are widely understood to improve patient health literacy and empowerment. Below is a health-empowerment model developed by Peter J Schulz and Kent Nakamoto, two experts in health communications reproduced for an Economist 2021 report.
Digital Visibility Checklist – How do you perform?
- Our website is at the top of Google (positions #1-3) locally for all of our core services without mentioning our brand name
- Our website creates new, educational content related to our core services that rank at the top of Google (positions #1-3)
- Content generated on our website is part of a larger, organised campaign to become a digital authority on a certain subject
Localisation of Content
Localisation of content basically means providing a consistent experience in all languages spoken locally. Market leaders must have a digital experience that is identical in each language which is crucial for capturing the attention of the widest audience possible. There’s also the SEO benefit of ranking for multiple searches which creates more traffic and builds the domain authority of your website.
Many medical websites within Hong Kong are in Cantonese only or have partially finished translations with sections of the website missing in other languages. Not only does this deter potential patients from looking for information in another language, but you will incur a search penalty from Google which will understand that your website isn’t translated properly.
Then, there’s also the mainland Chinese audience to consider. Having your website translated into Mandarin while still being hosted outside of mainland China (yes, that includes Hong Kong due to the great firewall) isn’t going to be enough to rank well within China as Chinese search engines penalise foreign websites. You’re going to need a website hosted in China, designed for the mainland market with the requisite social media channels all functioning smoothly as patients expect them to.
Localisation Checklist – How do you perform?
- Our website is fully translated (including educational content) in both English and Cantonese for the HK market
- Our website and social media content has a consistent tone of voice in all languages in keeping with our branding guidelines
- Our website targeting the mainland audience is designed for China, hosted on servers within China, and we use both WeChat and WeCom to connect with potential patients
Streamlined Digital Booking
The internet is rapidly changing expectations of digital experiences. No longer are patients willing to phone a hotline, potentially wait for someone to answer and then spend 10-15 minutes slowly explaining how to spell their name or email address. The best patient experiences are the most convenient and have the fewest touchpoints, so when a receptionist needs to call back with an appointment confirmation, this is not only inconvenient, it’s now unnecessary. Modern digital booking systems integrated with internal patient databases and doctor calendars mean that patients should now be able to see available time slots and make their own decision as to when they would like to see a doctor.
It’s impossible to cover digital bookings without of course mentioning telehealth. As recent analysis indicates telehealth use has increased 38X from the pre-COVID-19 baseline5 and crucially, isn’t decreasing, this is a trend that is here to stay.
Digital Booking Checklist – How do you perform?
- Our digital booking system allows patients to access doctor calendar availability and book appointments without the need for human intervention or waiting
- Our digital booking system measures patient satisfaction and we analyse the patient experience data regularly
Social & Advertising Presence
Competing online means competing on all channels, and for Hong Kong, this also does include social media and advertising. Advertising here mainly refers to keywords that you are buying through Google Ads, and the goal should be to have some level of visibility and profitability on your ads, without needing to spend a great deal of money each month. You may also need to analyse if your competitors are spending on your brand name keywords to take a share of your brand search traffic.
Social media is probably the most competitive space for businesses in Hong Kong as many local companies focus solely on social advertising and often forget about the organic traffic and awareness content side of marketing. Social media ‘can’ be a useful tool with the right audience and consistent messaging from your channel – however, remember that you do not ‘own’ your social likes and that you will need to pay Facebook, Instagram etc for every post you make regardless of how many followers you have. Ideally, you should have a presence on social channels relevant to your practice and post as much educational content as possible to build awareness of your brand, this will inevitably include some advertising spend to boost to bigger audiences than you can organically reach. In terms of ROI, expect less from social media investments than other marketing investments, especially in the long term.
Social Media & Advertising Checklist – How do you perform?
- Our social media channels are well-suited to our patient demographic and we regularly post and boost educational content (not promotions)
- Our advertising spend covers most of the core keywords of our service offering and there is a positive ROI
- Our social media spend (time & money) is less than the time we put into generating content for the website and SEO
Google Business Reviews
As Hong Kong doesn’t really have any popular medical practice review systems like ZocDoc in the USA, one of the most frequently visited places for patient reviews is currently Google Business (or as most know it, Google Maps). Ratings here are extremely important as they will usually be the first thing prospective patients see when they are searching for your business or a service that you offer. There’s almost no point in being at the top of Google if your rating is showing 2.4 stars and your listing is full of angry reviews. It’s common that most patients won’t leave a review unless they have had a bad experience so unless you are proactive about asking for good reviews, it’s likely you will end up with a bad rating that doesn’t reflect the true quality of your services. Promote positive patient reviews by; having QR codes and reminders within your clinics, proactively asking patients to rate their experience using an NPS system and using automation after an appointment to remind patients to leave a review.
Google Business Review Checklist – How do you perform?
- Our Google business rating (per location) is on average above 4.5 stars
- We get new reviews, at least once per week, to keep reviews relevant
- We have an in-house team that manages reviews and quickly responds to feedback
- We have an automated process to collect patient feedback internally and promote positive business reviews
Want to see what your overall rating is for your business based on the matrix above? Download our free Excel calculator to rate yourself and see which areas you need to improve on. For more information on how your business can improve digitally, speak with one of Oxygen's medical marketing specialists today.
- National Academies of Sciences Engineering and Medicine, Health and Medicine Division, Practice, et al. Addressing Health Misinformation with Health Literacy Strategies. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2020
- Empowerment of patients in online discussions about medicine use