Study: Physicians and Dentists Lagging Behind in Digital Marketing


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Everyone knows that social media is an important part of doing business. However, up until recently, there were some industries that believed they were relatively insulated from the need to use social media. Two groups in particular were dentists and physicians. Both groups relied on other means of marketing in order to grow patient numbers, but as consumer habits have evolved, so to has the marketing need for both of these professionals.

Foxtail Marketing recently ran a series of surveys to over 500 dentists and doctors and discovered some interesting trends with their digital marketing. The results are discussed below.

What’s up Doc?

Doctors were the most impacted by the shift in consumer activity towards digital search and social media. Previously, before the Affordable Healthcare Act, doctors relied heavily on referrals from other physicians, or were secure in knowing that they were the only option for many patients because of their insurance plans. But with the shift in regulations in allowing patients to choose their own doctors, many physicians were left in the lurch and had no social media presence or local SEO presence. This caused some doctors offices in our study to experience drops in foot traffic by as much as 35%, although the average was roughly 28%.

This drop is significant by itself, but for many independent clinics and doctors, it was crippling. And starting from scratch with their digital marketing put them behind the eight ball. Many of the doctors surveyed described taking actions such as joining physicians groups and referral programs to help boost their patient numbers. Quite a few started signing up for referral services that send potential patients their way based on an affiliate program.

These were strategies that were never required before, and opened many doctor’s eyes to the idea that this is a brave new world.

Open Wide

Dentists have likewise felt the pinch as consumers are increasingly turning to directory sites like Yelp and because they are looking for peer reviews before they make their decisions on who their dental provider will be.

However, something that may have been lost in the mad scramble to optimize their profiles on Yelp and HG is that consumers trust referrals from their friends more than any other source of marketing. And one of the easiest and most readily available ways to receive a referral is through social media. Yet, many dentists that we surveyed expressed that they were not active on social media, and in many cases didn’t even have social media accounts set up.

Now, this did skew towards the older generation for missing out on social media. Fully 68% of dentists over the age of 45 did not have social profiles for their practices, while only 48% of dentists below 45 did not have a social profile. So, it does appear that the newer generation of dentists are aware of the importance of social media.

Does it Change?

We conducted our surveys 6 months apart and found that in the second round of responses, dentists and doctors who instituted a local SEO and social media initiative saw a significant increase in patient numbers and patient referrals. While most of the feedback was anecdotal, over 60% of physicians and dentists who adopted a digital marketing strategy saw “noticeable increases” in their patient numbers.

Additionally, the most successful networks for the professionals were Facebook, followed by Instagram.


As we mentioned at the beginning of this article, social media has been a foregone conclusion for many industries at this point, however it’s becoming apparent that its impact is now being felt in legacy industries that previously didn’t need to focus on it.

Dentists and physicians would be encouraged to adopt digital marketing and social media as a core tenet of their clinics. Otherwise, it seems inevitable that they will be overtaken by their competitors who have embraced these strategies.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments below.

Much success,

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