Chiropractic and the Internet: Opportunity or Liability?

June 17, 2009 · Filed Under Chiropractic Marketing, Chiropractor · 4 Comments 

search-engine-marketingThe opportunity now exists to present positive, accurate information about chiropractic care to those with health challenges at the exact moment they are in need of care.

According to recent research by the non-profit Pew Internet & American Life Project, seventy-nine percent of Internet users have searched online for information on at least one major health topic. That translates to about 95 million American adults using the Internet to find health information or about 9 to 10 million Americans on any given day.

The Pew Internet & American Life Project’s previous research found that online health seekers are often motivated to search out information that relates to actions they might need to take for specific health issues in their lives. For instance, they (or people they love) might have experienced health symptoms that worry them and Internet users search for information about whether they would be wise to visit a doctor. Or, they might have just received a diagnosis and want to learn more about their particular condition.

In many cases, online health seekers are action-oriented and highly purposeful because there is a pressing medical issue for them to address. Since it is highly likely that the issue they face may have nerve system involvement, how likely is it that the Internet user will find accurate, positive information on chiropractic that will encourage them to see a chiropractor? The answer to this question could have a far greater impact on the future of chiropractic than one might expect. In order to understand why, we must look at what Internet users are doing online. The Pew Internet & American Life Project’s research found the top five activities of Internet users searching for health information are as follows:

  • Tentatively diagnose their own diseases
  • Confirm their doctor’s diagnosis and suggested treatments
  • Check their doctors’ credentials
  • Research all available treatment options – not just those recommended by doctor
  • Give themselves a crash course on a specific medical condition when they (or someone they love) is diagnosed

Clearly these activities indicate a course of action is being formulated. This is precisely the time when accurate, positive information on chiropractic care can have the greatest impact. The Internet provides, for the first time in history, the ability to reach those in need of care at the exact moment they are deciding the form that care should take. So, how well is the chiropractic profession currently represented on the Internet to take advantage of this opportunity? You can see for yourself. Using Google, the world’s leading search engine, perform a search on the term “chiropractor”. What you find should cause you great concern.

As of 6/15/2009 , a Google search on the term “chiropractor” returns a a somewhat less than flattering Wikipedia entry as the number one result. A Bureau of Labor Statistics overview of “a career as a chiropractor” is the number two result and the third result is a condemnation of the profession titled “My Visit to a Straight Chiropractor” by Stephen Barrett MD on his website, Chirobase.com, which is dedicated to disparaging chiropractic.  The fourth result is an article on the Spine Universe site that states that chiropractic is “a popular pain treatment”.  And the remaining results are not much more encouraging. There is nothing presented that will inform a consumer with a specific health challenge how they may benefit from chiropractic care.

You may be wondering how this affects you. Maybe you don’t have a website and don’t concern yourself with Internet search habits. You rely on tried and true methods of new patient acquisition like personally delivered health talks and referrals from satisfied patients. This situation impacts you as much as the chiropractor that has spent thousands of dollars building and marketing his/her own web site.

Google, which handles 72% of all search traffic according to SearchEngineWatch.com, had 168,100 searches conducted on the term “chiropractor” in May, 2009. That means 168,100 Internet users were exposed to Stephen Barrett’s anti-chiropractic sentiments in May, 2009 alone.

How many of these Internet users were potential new patients referred by a loyal practice member or attendees at your most recent health talk who decided to do a little research prior to scheduling an appointment? How many of your patients have suggested that their spouse schedule an appointment, only to have them go to Google, become sucked in by the anti-chiropractic rhetoric and become forever poisoned to the idea of chiropractic care? They may even take their new found “knowledge” and talk your patient out of returning for their next visit. No one can say how many patients you have lost to the current Google situation, but it is safe to say you are not immune.

We know, however, from the Pew Research and Google keyword statistics, that the vast majority of the 9-10 million daily web surfers are not searching on the terms chiropractor or chiropractic (as they have no idea that their nerve system may be a factor in the health challenges they face). We also know that the  majority of these Internet health seekers begin their quest for information at a search engine (72% using Google) and that they search on the symptom, diagnosis or condition from which they or their loved ones are suffering.

So what if an Internet user has just been told by a physician that they suffer from fibromyalgia? We know that four of the top five activities most frequently performed by Internet users seeking health information relate to a particular symptom, condition or diagnosis. A Google search on this term ( a condition, symptom or diagnosis) returns exactly zero results that mention chiropractic care as an option. Surely since many chiropractors see patients with “back pain” there will be many results from a search of this term which provide accurate, positive information about chiropractic. Think again. Not in the first 198 results displayed. The ACA website appears at 199 as of this writing. And guess what is among the first 100 results: Quackwatch.com by Stephen Barrett.

Term after term, condition after condition the results are the same. Except for an occasional sponsored link, there is no mention of chiropractic in the search results for any of the myriad conditions for which chiropractic has been proven safe and effective.

So what can be done to correct this and to take advantage of the opportunity described in the beginning of this article? Our consumer oriented site at www.YourSpine.com, provides positive, accurate information about chiropractic and lays the foundation on which to build a much brighter future for the chiropractic profession. We provide valuable patient education material on specific conditions for which chiropractic is most effective. We use detailed graphics and animations to educate Internet health seekers on spinal anatomy and the composition and function of the skeletal and nervous systems. We demonstrate how spinal fitness greatly impacts overall health and quality of life. We explain the many degenerative diseases associated with neglect of the spine, the drugs and surgeries used to treat them, along with their sometimes disastrous side effects. And most importantly, we demonstrate the important role chiropractors play in finding and correcting subluxations.

We provide content designed to be “found” by the major search engines when an Internet user searches for information on chiropractic as well as specific symptoms, diagnosis and conditions. We combine this with search engine optimization techniques and use paid search engine advertising to drive those in need of care to the site at the exact moment they are in need of care, deciding what form that care should take and who will provide it.

Presenting chiropractic in a positive way to online health seekers who are action-oriented and highly purposeful because they have a pressing medical issue to address dramatically increases both awareness and utilization. With this repository of valuable consumer information available and easily found by Internet health seekers, we drive people to the site rather than sit passively and wait for them to come. We utilize a world class public relations firm to facilitate national exposure throughout all news outlets: Internet, television, newspapers and magazines. These very same public relations firms have successfully turned lackluster drugs into household names. In the future, with this strong foundation in place, we plan to run cutting edge television and print ads that reinforce the message. This is a three tiered approach, utilizing advanced Internet technology, world class public relations and creative advertising.

With the food, beverage, diet and drug industries all promoting health compromising products to consumers through national promotional strategies, you cannot be expected to compete for consumer attention on your own. You need and deserve help. By coming together and taking advantage of an initiative like the one described here, you become a force, a force that is an attractive partner to national non-profit and corporate sponsors trying to reach the same key demographic, those actively seeking to improve their health. This opens the door to co-sponsored national events, public relations exposure, increased credibility and greater cultural authority. You may not be able to outspend them, but with radical strategies and an aggressive agenda, you can certainly out-think them. Imagine proper care and maintenance of the spine being as important to the health care consumer as the care and maintenance of their teeth. Have you tried to make a same day dental appointment recently? Better yet, don’t imagine. Make it a reality.

To make your practice part of the growing network of Chiropractic America certified chiropractors and to secure your exclusive zip code allocation in this groundbreaking opportunity, visit: Doctors.YourSpine.com to sign on today!

Consumers With Chronic Conditions Turn to the Internet for Health Information

October 18, 2008 · Filed Under Main Content · Comment 

The internet is changing the way Americans engage with information when making health care decisions. Two major drivers for this change are broadband (high-speed) Internet connections and personal motivation according to Pew Internet & American Life Project associate director Susannah Fox.

The Pew Internet Project estimates that between 75% and 80% of American internet users have looked online for health information. This estimate is in line with Harris Interactive’s latest data on online health seekers (81% of internet users; 66% of all adults are searching online for health information).

Information Gathering Now a Habit for Many

This latest Pew Internet Project survey confirms that information gathering has become a habit for many Americans, particularly those in the 55% of households with broadband connections. Home broadband has now joined educational attainment, household income and age as the strongest predictors of Internet activity. For example, 78% of home broadband users look online for health information, compared with 70% of home dial-up users. Home broadband users are twice as likely as home dial-up users to do health research on a typical day — 12% vs. 6%. High-speed, always-on connections enable frequent and in-depth information searches, which is particularly attractive if something important is at stake.

Disability, Disease Tend To Increase Internet Usage

People who feel they have a lot at stake are more likely to engage intensely with online resources. Internet users living with a disability or chronic disease are more likely than other Internet users to be wide-ranging online health researchers and to report significant impacts from those searches. For example, 75% of Internet users with a chronic condition say their last health search affected a decision about how to deal with    an illness or condition, compared with 55% of other e-patients (patients seeking health information online).

Newly diagnosed e-patients and those who have experienced a health crisis in the past year are also particularly tuned in: 59% say the information they found online led them to ask a doctor new questions or get a second opinion, compared with 48% of those who had not had a recent diagnosis or health crisis. Some 57% of recently challenged or diagnosed e-patients say they felt eager to share their new health care knowledge with others, compared with 45% of other e-patients. Experienced e-patients are posting technical advice online about managing a certain disease as well as advising people about how to communicate with health care providers. Other e-patients are gaining national attention by documenting significant problems with a drug, problems that FDA failed to catch. Some people are uploading their “Observations of Daily Living” in order to track their symptoms or reactions to various medical interventions.

More than Convenience

It is not just the convenience that draws Internet users, but the positive experiences that most people have with online research. In health, the impact of an online information search is more likely to be helpful, not harmful. Thirty-one percent of e-patients say they or someone they know has been significantly helped by following advice or health information found on the Internet. Only 3% of health seekers say they or someone they know has been seriously harmed by following the advice or information they found online.

In conclusion, the population of e-patients has stabilized at 75% to 80% of all Internet users and it is clear that broadband allows people to engage more deeply with information sources and with each other. And circumstances, such as a serious diagnosis can kick that engagement into high gear. The most affluent, highly educated and in need of care segment of the population is on the Internet looking for answers to their health challenges. There is a pressing need to present chiropractic (the world’s largest, most-established, licensed drugless health care option) to this ready, eager and actively searching majority of the American population with an organized, professionally designed and executed campaign. This unprecedented window or opportunity will not stay open forever.

ChiroUnity Launches to Unite Chiropractors

May 21, 2008 · Filed Under Chiropractic Marketing · Comment 

Chiropractic America has launched a new website to provide free local search optimization as well as behavioral statistics of online health seekers to chiropractors. The mission is to see to it that those seeking information via the internet are introduced to a subluxation based chiropractor when they seek a chiropractor online. For far too long, consumer understanding of chiropractic has been shaped by the medical profession and the segment of the chiropractic profession that most closely duplicates the allopathic medical model.

Our 113 year history of drugless health care has never been communicated effectively to the public. Until now. By providing free instruction on how to increase visibility in the major search engines and take full advantage of the incredible opportunity which the Internet provides, we free up chiropractor’s resources previously spent on individual websites, yellow page advertising and other out-dated marketing methods. The savings can then be used to reach out to the 95% of the population who are unaware that the health of their spine has a major impact on their overall health and wellbeing. Pooling the resources of thousands of leading chiropractors, we have created a powerful marketing engine to educate health care consumers nationwide about the importance of spinal health, motivate them to seek chiropractic care, and direct them to exclusive local partner practices.

A series of instructional videos has been developed which will provide information and instruction on how to minimize advertising expense while maximizing results. The term “Unity” has been bantered about for many years in our great profession. But never before has a comprehensive plan been put forth to unify like minded chiropractors behind a common, cooperative marketing program like that which we have created. Chiropractic marketing is in need of an adjustment. When the power of the chiropractic adjustment meets the power of the Internet to reach a global audience with our message of hope and healing, the new patient problem will be solved once and for all.