There’s a Diversity Problem in Private Practice Hearing Care

there's a diversity problem in private practice hearing care image

Let me start by saying two things:

  • Firstly, this is a topic that is somewhat uncomfortable to talk about, and personally, I feel it would be much easier to not publish this article. However, I’m struggling to stand by and watch as this significant diversity issue continues, as I can only believe that it’s unintentional.
  • Secondly, I want to apologize in advance if I’ve used an incorrect term or labelled an ethnicity incorrectly – this has been written with pure intentions.

However, in this article, I’m going to share, and prove, that there is a significant diversity problem in the marketing of hearing care and how many of your patients are not being correctly represented through your assets, which will be losing you opportunities that you’re probably unaware of.

I’m also going to share why this is unlikely to be your fault and very fixable.

You strapped in? Let’s get started.

What Diversity Issues Are You Talking About, Oli?

I’m talking about the race/ethnicity of the people that make up the imagery in your marketing, on your websites, and in your advertising.

Because as it stands, it’s insanely imbalanced.

Let me prove my point, and then I’ll explain why I believe this has happened and the details of how you can fix it.

We collected statistics from three major cities: Los Angeles, Houston, and Chicago. In each city, research was conducted to go through the top 20 private practice websites on Google and count how many different races were represented in the images on these websites (excluding provider images, naturally) and then compare that number to the actual demographics of each city.

Let’s go through each major city.

Los Angeles, CA

Statistics published by categorized the race and ethnicity of Los Angeles into the following:

LA race and ethnicity

After looking at the population statistics, we searched Google for “Hearing Care in Los Angeles” to check the top 20 private practice websites and count the number of people from these ethnicity categories on the homepage of each website.

The totals from these 20 websites were surprising when compared with the population statistics above.

The total numbers found for each group were:

  • White – 125
  • Black – 30
  • Hispanic – 19
  • Asian – 10

As you can see, the images used on the leading hearing care website results do not reflect the actual population of Los Angeles.

The city’s highest portion of the population is the Hispanic community, at nearly 50%, but in pulling up the top 20 search results for private practices, we counted only 19 Hispanic people used in the imagery. Yet “white” makes up for only 28.5% of Los Angeles but dominates 67.9% of all imagery.

Statistics would show that if you are in the category with the highest numbers, you may not likely notice that lack of diversity.

If you are in a category with lower numbers, you are not as likely to have a sense of familiarity and comfort established when viewing the websites, because most of the imagery used does not reflect your personal life experience.

Houston, TX

Using once again, the numbers for Houston looked like the following:

Texas and Houston race and ethnicity

Once again, the top 20 private practice websites were reviewed and the different ethnicities in the pictures were calculated.

The outcome:

  • White – 193
  • Black – 22
  • Hispanic – 11
  • Asian – 11

Again, we see a drastic imbalance in the use of imagery on our top 20 search results.

For a city that is 35.9% Hispanic, only 4.6% of the images within websites is representative.

Pictures of the white population make up for 81% of all pictures, yet only 37.8% of the population are white.

Chicago, IL

Once again, the race and ethnicity split for Chicago looks like this:

chicago race and ethnicity

When reviewing the top 20 private practice websites, here’s what was found:

  • White – 98
  • Black – 11
  • Asian – 4
  • Hispanic – 2

Again, we can see some drastic differences in population percentage and the number of times each race appears in our website search results. The amount of white people used on the top websites is more than eight times the amount of black people used. As you can see, this doesn’t represent the population percentages at all.

Out of 116 pictures across the top 20 private practices in Chicago, only 18 of the pictures were non-white – less than 16%.

This may have been a basic experiment, and the data may shift and change, but it highlights a serious imbalance to suggest that most websites do not represent their communities.

Why Has This Happened?

The reason is very simple.

The majority of the imagery that was reviewed and counted as we reviewed the top websites across Los Angeles, Houston, and Chicago were stock images.

These stock images shared a lot of repetition (elderly white people with grandchildren on a beach, etc.). This resulted in the major imbalances in representation of ethnicities as outlined above.

It’s likely that nearly all stock imagery used on these websites were chosen by the web design companies from a folder of purchased stock images, as we can only assume that there wasn’t any purposeful intention behind it.

But here’s the thing; many ethnicities/races are not being represented through the large percentage of hearing care websites, which in turn is resulting in many websites subconsciously saying that they’re available to some people and not others.

What’s the Solution?

The answer is to tell the truth.

Rather than relying on stock imagery throughout your website, simply document the truth and feature pictures of real patients.

There’s two ways that you can do this.

#1 – Take Pictures of Your Real Patients

Whether by organizing a photoshoot (following these top tips by professional photographer John DeMato) where they take “fly on the wall” pictures of you interacting with real patients or by setting up a process where patients are invited to have their pictures taken following an appointment.

Top Tip: Asking patients for a picture of them following an appointment can feel a little weird and awkward, but by simply giving them something to hold OR by having a provider stand alongside them, it makes it feel much more natural.

#2 – Invite Patients to Submit Pictures of Themselves

An alternative way to document the truth is to invite patients to submit pictures of themselves to be featured on your website. This allows them to be the “star of your show” and allows the truth to be shared with the world.

Once again, it can be weird to ask people to send a picture of themselves … however, we’ve found that if you position it to patients that you’re looking to feature patients doing something that they love as a result of better hearing and you’re looking for them to submit a picture, then you’ll have them happily contributing.

We’ve done this for a lot of our Inner Circle members and used these submitted pictures to create mosaics of patient faces throughout key website pages.

Your Next Task

Go and audit your website and apply the same experiment that I ran above.

Does your website photography represent the demographics of your community/city … and what percentage of your images are stock imagery?

The solution is to just tell the truth.

Look at you Go!

Oli Luke

Co-Founder & Marketing Director
Orange & Gray

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