January 17, 2023
Dr. Carlene MacMillan, M.D.
Over 50% of patients start their search online to find a mental health clinician. In 2023, you need to build a digital foundation that establishes credibility, gets new patients, and communicates important practice information.
The good news is you don’t need to spread yourself thin—or even have a social media presence to attract right-fit patients.
Your website serves as your digital home: you own the real estate and you can direct traffic—aka people visiting listing/review sites and social media—back to your site to learn more. Patients evaluate if your practice is the right fit based on your services, your website’s design, how you describe yourself, and your philosophy.
But, that doesn’t mean you need to spend thousands of dollars on a website designer. You have a few options:
1) If you’re tech-savvy, you can build your own website using tools like Wix, Squarespace, Weebly, or WordPress.
2) Or, you can save time by hiring a digital marketing service. They'll help you build out your online presence without you needing to be tech-savvy. We recommend choosing one that has experience building mental health and medical websites.
When evaluating options for launching your website, make sure to ask if they include the following with their service:
Whether you’re creating your website yourself or hiring someone, you’ll want to make sure you include these key components:
Clinical staff bios
For each clinician in your practice, include a photograph, medical training, professional history, and other details that help your patients get to know each clinician.
State the types of patients you work with, if you see patients virtually or in person, and the states in which patients must be present for virtual appointments. If you specialize in certain diagnoses or have other areas of focus, make sure you clearly state that. On the flip side, state up front if you don’t treat patients with certain diagnoses or medication needs.
Visit types and fees
If you take insurance, list which insurance policies you’re in-network with. If you work with private pay clients, it’s best practice to list the visit types you offer and your corresponding fees. Not everyone lists their fees, but many patients appreciate transparency around pricing.
Pre-screening forms for new patients
ou may not want first-time patients to self-schedule an appointment online. You may want to make sure the patient is a fit for their practice first. One way to screen patients is to sign a Business Associate Agreement (BAA) for a HIPPA-compliant Google workspace and then make an online screening form.
Here are the steps to create a pre-screening form:
List your practice phone number, fax (if applicable), email, location (if applicable), and business hours. You may want to provide an estimate for how long it typically takes you to respond to voicemails and emails (e.g., 1-2 business days).
Directions, parking, and transit
If you have a physical office, it's nice to list:
Patient portal link
If your EHR offers a patient portal, it’s nice to provide the link directly on your website for patients who may forget how to find it.
If you offer treatment in languages other than English, we recommend having the option to switch the website language as well.
Many patients turn to physician directories when searching for a psychiatrist. Listing yourself in third-party directories not only allows patients to find you, but also lends credibility to your practice when you get patient referrals. But, these services come with a cost, so you’ll want to compare the pros and cons of listing your practice on directory third-party directories. Some common online directories include:
Psychology Today: The bread and butter of psychology and psychiatry directories. Some solo practitioners opt just to have an online profile here rather than a practice website.
ZocDoc: ZocDoc is transitioning from a yearly subscription to a pay-per-patient model, and you’ll need to contact them to learn about prices in your area.
Yelp: While Yelp is famous for restaurant reviews, some patients use the platform to find and review psychiatry practices.
Some complain that Yelp overemphasizes sponsored businesses and charges businesses for paid badgs. Even so, Yelp allows patients to filter by several helpful categories including location.
For a full breakdown, check out our article with more guidance on best practices for listing your practice and deciding between online directories.
In addition to the business directory profiles, you may want to think about social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.
We strongly encourage you to avoid using your private social media account for professional purposes. Depending on your target patient demographic, you may want to create business social media accounts.
The American Psychiatric Association touts the benefits of professional social media accounts as a way to:
You finally have the foundation in place to start seeing patients! We recommend writing an announcement to current patients, colleagues, and your professional network to let them know that you’re available.
Consider creating an email announcement letting your network know about:
You can post on your personal social media letting your network know that you have new professional social media accounts. Lastly, don’t forget to post on your new business social media accounts!
Now you have everything you need to curate your digital foundation. Your website is your home. Listing sites and social media are the signposts for patients to find you.
One more thing: Although we live in a digital-first world, there’s still merit in physical marketing (e.g., mailers, flyers, etc.). Creating referral pathways—especially if you serve a particular area—can help you grow your practice on autopilot.
We’ll cover best practices for with examples in a future article. In the meantime, opt into the Osmind newsletter to stay informed. We send digests of strategies to help you start and grow your practice.
If you’ve been following along in our “starting your practice series,” congratulations on setting up your new private practice! In parts one, two, three, and four, we covered four questions to ask yourself before starting, budget planning, legal foundations, and finding and furnishing your office. In our final article of the series, we’ll cover how to cultivate a community for continuous learning.
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