Online videos of a practice can make business go viral
■ A practical look at information technology issues and usage
You could tell potential patients what a great physician you are. Or you could show them, before they ever step foot in your office, by posting videos online.
"If a picture is worth a thousand words, then video must be worth 10,000," said David H. Song, MD, chief of the Section of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at the University of Chicago Medical Center.
But just posting videos isn't enough. You have to make sure people see them. And it's not as difficult as you might think to gain an audience for your videos.
A study published in August by Forrester Research found that the Internet-using public has come to expect online videos. The report said 67% of U.S. Web users had watched an online video in the past month.
"If you are in a competitive business -- and most people are -- then you want to have as much competitive advantage as you can," said Scott Lorenz, president of Westwind Communication, a Plymouth, Mich.-based public relations and marketing firm. "Using video on your website gives you a competitive advantage, and that's really the bottom line."
The easiest way to showcase your videos is by embedding them on your practice's website.
Steve Grushcow, CEO of edit.com, a website consultancy, said placing an introductory video on your website can show potential patients what your office environment is like, so people will know what to expect before they arrive. Videos can be embedded by putting a video player on the website, many of which can be downloaded for free.
However, many experts say your online video strategy should only begin -- not end -- at your website. In fact, you can establish an online video strategy even if your practice doesn't have its own website.
You can have your video posted on video websites, such as YouTube, and on social media pages, such as Facebook. In addition, links to your videos can be posted on sites such as Twitter.
Kristin Mapstone Smith, founder and managing director of eMedical Media, which helps physicians develop online marketing strategies, believes that even if a practice doesn't have a website and doesn't have the time or money to invest in one, an online strategy could be adequately effective with just an online video catalog and a Facebook page.
Many experts say YouTube is one of the best places to post video because they believe it is favored over other video sites in online searches, in part because of its popularity and in part because it's owned by the world's most popular search engine, Google.
Some recent analysis by John Pozadzides, CEO of iFusion Labs, which monitors web traffic through its site woopra.com, found that of the handful of multimedia sites at which videos can be posted, YouTube was responsible for 84% of the referrals to other websites.
At no cost, physicians can create a YouTube channel where a collection of videos can be stored.
The channels can be created in minutes simply by creating an account at YouTube.com. Once the account is created and verified through e-mail, you can start posting videos immediately. You are assigned your own website address that can be shared with patients.
Information about you and your practice can be posted at your YouTube homepage, as well as links to either your website or Facebook page, or any other website you would like patients to visit.
Facebook pages are free to create and can be found easily with a online search. Videos, with a link to the original video website, also can be posted on your Facebook page. The real purpose of the page is to give patients and potential patients the necessary information about you and your practice that they normally would get from a website, such as contact information. The pages also create another outlet for patients to discuss and share your online videos.
Experts say the same strategies used to draw traffic to your website or blog, called search engine optimization, apply to videos. The idea is to get the keywords people would use in a search to find your video into the text describing the video itself.
The more links to that content, the better. The more videos you have posted, each with specific search terms embedded in the text, the better your chances of being found online.
Don Corenman, MD, an orthopedic surgeon with the Steadman Clinic in Vail, Colo., makes videos explaining procedures and postop care using models and props. He has posted the videos on his own YouTube channel, to which he can refer patients.
But his patients aren't the only ones watching. His videos, many of which explain various magnetic resonance images of the neck and back, have been viewed nearly 39,000 times since December 2009.
The success of the videos actually has created a new problem. People searching for information on specific conditions find the videos and see something they like in Dr. Corenman. So they give him a call.
"So you do spend some time on the telephone giving free [advice]," he said. "But a lot of those patients translate into patients who come out to see you."