On January 9, 2024, Schema.org released version 24.0 of the vocabulary. In this version, the Schema.org team added vocabulary for describing types of digital sources and new clarifying subtypes for Physicians.
At Schema App, the ambiguity around the use of the Physician type has long been an area of contention for many of our healthcare customers. Therefore, this article will hone in on the issues around Physician Schema Markup and how the new clarifying subtypes will resolve them.
The Issue With Physician Schema Markup
Prior to Schema.org’s version 24 release, the Physician type was intended to represent a doctor’s office. It was a subtype of MedicalBusiness via both Organization and Place, and MedicalOrganization via Organization, as shown in the hierarchy below.
- Thing > Organization > LocalBusiness > MedicalBusiness > Physician
- Thing > Place > LocalBusiness > MedicalBusiness > Physician
- Thing > Organization > MedicalOrganization > Physician
This hierarchy emphasized the categorization of Physician markup as a business with a physical location.
However, naming the type “Physician” caused confusion regarding how to use it properly. As a result, the Physician type was usually applied to describe an individual physician rather than a physician’s office with a physical location.
You can read more about the issue in this GitHub ticket.
Changes to Physician Type in Schema.org v24
Therefore, Schema.org made a few changes to the Physician type in v24 to provide users with greater clarity in their categorization.
1. Redefined the Physician type
The Physician type is now defined as ‘an individual physician or a physician’s office considered as a MedicalOrganization’.
2. Removed Physician as a subtype of LocalBusiness
The Physician type is now exclusively a subtype of MedicalOrganization.
3. Added usNPI property to the Physician type
The Physician type now also includes the usNPI (National Provider Identifier) property, a unique 10-digit identification number issued to healthcare providers in the United States by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
4. Introduced two new Physician subtypes: IndividualPhysician and PhysiciansOffice
Note: Schema.org version 26.0 later went on to restore PhysiciansOffice as a subtype of MedicalBusiness, after accidentally omitting it from the v24 update.
You can read more about it in this GitHub ticket.
5. Added occupationalCategory property to the Physician type
The occupationalCategory property is used to describe a job, preferably using a term from a taxonomy such as BLS O*NET-SOC, ISCO-08 or similar. This means you can specify whether a Physician (or its subtypes) has a specific occupational category like obstetrics or pediatrics.
6. Added new practicesAt property to the IndividualPhysician subtype
We will expand on this more in the section below.
But before that, let’s learn more about the two new Physician subtypes and how to use them.
Using the IndividualPhysician Subtype
The IndividualPhysician subtype still has properties available for things like:
However, it also has the new ‘practicesAt’ property, which is unavailable to either Physician or PhysiciansOffice.
The practicesAt property should be used to indicate the MedicalOrganization (i.e. hospital, clinic, pharmacies, etc.) where this individual physician practices. If you have the MedicalOrganization entity defined on a different page of your site, you can connect both entities using this property.
Using the PhysiciansOffice Subtype
The PhysiciansOffice subtype should be used to describe an entity that is a doctor’s office or clinic.
It has the exact same properties as the Physician type, so you can still associate the PhysiciansOffice with a location using the address and hospitalAffiliation properties.
Should you Update Your Physician Markup?
In summary, the changes made to the Physician type in v24 will allow users to describe their content with greater specificity and help search engines better understand and contextualize the content on a page.
If you would like to continue using the Physician type to describe the entity on your page, you can do so since the new subtypes have almost the exact same properties. However, being specific with your Schema Markup is essential for search engines to disambiguate the entities on your site, thus allowing them to provide users with more accurate and relevant search results.
Therefore, we recommend updating your markup if you want to:
- Clearly distinguish between an individual physician vs a physician’s office,
- Leverage the practicesAt property, which is only available under the IndividualPhysician type.
The Schema App platform already supports Schema.org V24 if you want to try out the new Physician subtypes and properties. If you are a Schema App Enterprise customer, chat with your Customer Success Manager if you have questions about using these new types and properties.
If your healthcare organization is in need of healthcare schema expertise, we can help!
Jasmine is the Product Manager at Schema App. Schema App is an end-to-end Schema Markup solution that helps enterprise SEO teams create, deploy and manage Schema Markup to stand out in search.