Podcast #82

Healthcare Listing Platforms: Are They Worth the Cost?

Healthcare listing platforms have become an integral part of the patient acquisition strategy for many providers. From providing a centralized platform for patients to discover and connect with healthcare professionals to showcasing reviews, ratings, and other essential information, these platforms have transformed the way patients search for and select healthcare providers.

Episode Highlights:

Lauren Leone: “A simple listing is free. If you want to be a priority listing, if you want to be found and booked through that, usually you’re going to be looking at some sort of pay-to-play model to be a top result.”

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Announcer: Welcome to The Ignite Podcast, the only healthcare marketing podcast that digs into the digital strategies and tactics that help you accelerate growth. Each week, Cardinal’s experts explore innovative ways to build your digital presence and attract more patients. Buckle up for another episode of Ignite.

Alex Membrillo: Something we don’t often talk about, but we need to, are the aggregators. You know when we used to do hotels 12 years ago, I had a hotel chain, it was off the chain. It was the biggest thing where the OTAs, online travel agents, and it’s agencies like Expedia, Priceline, booking, and we have the same thing in healthcare, and it doesn’t get enough airplay. You’ve got Zocdoc, RateMD, Vitals, all of these different ones. Our clients come to us and say, what should our strategy be? What do we need to do with these? What’s the pay-to-play model? Lauren, welcome. We’re going to spit some game about all of this stuff. First of all, describe these platforms. What are they? Are they all pay-to-play? What’s the deal?

Lauren Leone: Yes, so when we talk about the aggregators in healthcare, we’re talking about you guys are all probably using Zocdoc, right? Or to some capacity. There’s Zocdoc is the big one, Solve, there’s Healthgrades, there’s Vitals, RateMDs, all of these websites where a patient can go, they can plug in what they’re looking for, their geography, their service that they need, whatever, and bring up a results page full of options. Zocdoc is the first one that comes to mind.

A lot of organizations are using Zocdoc in a pay model. I’m not just talking about, am I using Yext to push my information out into Google and Bing, and also into Zocdoc and Healthgrade in a free capacity. It’s free to just go on and create a listing. We’re talking about businesses whose primary online scheduling capability is through an aggregator. They are paying per patient who books on Zocdoc, they’re paying to be at the top of the page. They want to be found.

Zocdoc is making revenue off of each person who books, or we are talking about Zocdoc, their new model, which is an open API, and you can actually build on your own website a scheduling interface that pushes through Zocdoc. The thing is that Zocdoc, they’re integrated into your calendar so you don’t have to do it. They are creating a world where they’re the middleware. A lot of organizations are paying, I’ve seen it anywhere from $35 to $75 per booking.

Alex: Half the bookings don’t show.

Lauren: There’s a large drop off on the booking show rate as well. What I’m seeing a lot of organizations ask for these days is they want to get away from the reliance on these third parties. Of course, any healthcare search you do, Zocdoc is there. They are getting a large portion of the share. They can provide usually reliable pipeline of leads. How are you going to replace that? How are you going to build your own first-party pipeline strong enough, reliable enough, profitable enough to replace that? Can you afford to pull out of those models and just rely on what you’re doing for yourself? That’s the big question.

Alex: The listings part of this thing, does every provider group need to have their locations and mostly their providers in all of these listings providers, these aggregators, health grants? Should they be in all of these? Is it free to put all my providers in those?

Lauren: A simple listing is, yes is free. If you want to be a priority listing, if you want to be found and booked through that, usually you’re going to be looking at some sort of pay-to-play model to be a top result. If you’re thinking about listings as backlinking opportunities, high authority ways for Google to verify and validate that the information that you have in other listings is in fact the same as what matches there so you show up higher in maps in other places, then yes. Putting yourself in something like a Yext or reputation.com so that you have consistency.

Alex: You got to pay per provider if you do that, but–

Lauren: You got to pay a license fee to do that. What you’re not paying is every single booking has a $75 cost associated with it. Those are the types of considerations that organizations are going through right now where they start to think about, could I afford to replace that? You think about, how do they even get enough people onto their site to be able to sell me these leads? They’re strong organic, they’re large paid search budget, they are there always, but also where can’t they play? They can’t play in the listings. When I searched dermatologists near me, Zocdoc can’t play in the maps.

They can’t show up in Google’s LSAs, their new local service ads, they can’t show up in some of these areas of the SERPs. If you can play really well in those and work to outrank Zocdoc in the paid and organic, be present on your own terms, especially on your brand, because they are on your brand, and then really focus on your organic, you should be able to capture enough of the share that you don’t need to wait for someone to click on Zocdoc, go to their site, and then pay however much your contract.

Alex: That’s right, and maps with Yext or something like that. That’s critical. That’s what you can own first and you’re not competing against Zocdoc. Zocdoc has the paper lead, paper provider type thing. What about Healthgrades, RateMDs, Vital? Do they have their own advertising network within it and you have to buy advertising for them? Or it’s bought through DSPs and–

Lauren: You’re going to be sponsored straight through. It’s like Healthgrades for example, they don’t allow any external third party to manage.

Alex: No agencies. Because they’re trying to get our agency business. Mike don’t do it. They think they’re an agency as well so they want you to come direct to buy the inventory.

Lauren: You’re not going to be buying any of that through a DSP or something else.

Alex: Got you. What else do we need to know about these bad boys? Do we optimize for them? Do we go in or we tell them, listen, Healthgrades’ not even going to let us mess with it, but you guys should go upload?

Lauren: We certainly do. If we’re going to be managing a master provider database or a master location database, keep it centralized and then give it to these partners and ask them to list you there, if your competitors are there, do the competitive audit. Take a look at, in order to win, I need to be above these five companies that are in my market getting my share of business. If they’re in those places, then you need to be in those places too. It’s oftentimes, can say it about anything, about, do I need to be on search? How many backlinks do I need to have? Is my domain authority good enough? It’s all relative to who else it’s–

Alex: Just be a little bit better than the slowest guy.

Lauren: Yes. I can’t say 100% of the time you must put your investment there first and foremost, but it’s certainly something you should consider.

Alex: Let’s talk about trends. What’s this Zocdoc API thing? If I run a derm group, I can just use their scheduling. What am I going to pay? Or do we know yet?

Lauren: I do know. I think it’s in early doors, so I don’t want to necessarily put it out there because I think it’s going to change. You’re going to pay a monthly base fee just to have access to the technology, the API, then you’re going to pay a per API call and the API calls go both directions. If I go on and I search dermatologist near me and I want to see availability, I have to call the schedule, and that is a call, so I’m going to pay. I might not even get booked, but I’m going to pay every time that the API has to call in the schedule to see what’s available.

You’re going to pay some sort of fee if you use a third-party middleware anyways. The best bet, if you’re trying to keep your costs down on scheduling, is potentially your own build, right on your own EHR. Or to look at the other third parties, a NexHealth, Yosi Health. There’s tons of them out there. To look at those and really weigh your options. If you are trying to walk away from more reliance on the aggregators, don’t go then build your entire user experience and how you do online booking on top of their technology. You’re just getting more and more you deeper in bed with them.

Alex: Yes, and you’re not going to have a choice. Next health blog and podcast coming up very soon. Also, they’re good online scheduling platform. The good thing with Zocdoc, they already integrate probably to all of the EHRs, and that’s what some of our other partners are struggling with.

Lauren: That’s exactly why people go that route. It feels like the path of least resistance. It’s the quicker win, you get the end result for the patient quicker. If you can afford to parallel path, like say, I concede I’m going to give my patients online scheduling by linking either to a Zocdoc white label page, which where I lose all my data, it’s free from Zocdoc, the cost of that is they own your data and you don’t, so there is a very heavy cost to it, and though it’s not monetary. Or using their now newer open API. Those two things are, if you can do those short-term but work on the long-term at the same time.

Alex: Building your own thing, owning your own data, and that’s going to be more critical for [crosstalk]

Lauren: Don’t just do it, say it’s convenient for now and realize two years later, I don’t even know how much my paid search card, I can’t tell anything beyond a button click. That’s extremely–

Alex: That’s the biggest part. You’re going to have trouble cranking up your advertising if you don’t own the data because you don’t know what happened after anybody landed on the website, right?

Lauren: Correct.

Alex: You don’t know what to [crosstalk] and you can’t advertise to that. We can’t do pixel-based, we can’t upload lists anyways.

Lauren: We don’t upload lists. No. The only thing that you would do is potentially build a lookalike off of a cookie behavior, which in the case where you’re clicking externally to something like a Zocdoc experience is just a button click. You don’t know if they ever made it through the funnel.

Alex: Man, you all are getting the deep dive on listening today. This is exciting. Very good.

Lauren: I think the other thing, I’ll add one more challenge that I think organizations may not even be thinking about, but Zocdoc is brilliant, and don’t get me wrong, for a lot of organizations, it is a key pipeline. It’s maybe more efficient than building your own for the first two years. It’s painful to build your own, so it makes sense to maybe keep it as part of what you’re doing and start building your own pipeline, and trying to find where the efficiencies intersect in the next 24 months. Zocdoc is really smart. They’re building an experience that is better than anyone else’s first-party experience.

When a patient gets used to that experience, let’s say, I’m already a patient of Alex’s dermatology practice, I found you through that, but now I really like you as a practice and I’m going to go back and book my follow-up appointment. I know that the Zocdoc experience is easy, so I go back to the Zocdoc experience. I’m your patient but you just paid another $75 for me to book [crosstalk] It’s frustrating, right? That’s why the whole focus on, even if you have to parallel path it, building something that you own.

Alex: Building yourself and I will say their experience is awesome. I was looking for a provider this morning, and the individual groups weren’t really showing in the search, and the mass one had bad reviews, so organic, I click on Zocdoc and they have every type of that provider, and you can book online, it has their availability. Guys, we’ve got to compete with that. I don’t want to hear that we’re not putting my scheduling on your website anymore because our surgeons don’t want, our doctors don’t either. We’re high acuity and you need to call in for more information. It’s all excuses and you’re going to get lapped by Zocdoc or whatever the next aggregator is. Lauren, thanks for joining us.

Lauren: Thanks, doc.

Announcer: Thanks for listening to this episode of Ignite. Interested in keeping up with the latest trends in healthcare marketing? Subscribe to our podcast and leave a rating and review. For more healthcare marketing tips, visit our [email protected].

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