Your healthcare practice’s continued growth and long-term success depends largely on your ability to attract new patients. To accomplish this, it’s critical that you create a winning patient acquisition strategy that includes reputation management, referral streams, and online scheduling.
When it comes to new patient acquisition, the biggest question is always what are the best and most cost effective ways of converting prospects into patients. Managing your practice’s online reputation, offering online scheduling, and implementing a referral program are some of the most productive methods. They should be at the heart of your patient acquisition strategy.
One of the most reliable and proven approaches is to leverage your practice’s online reputation, making it easier for patients to find you. By tracking your online reviews, responding to reviews, and claiming your online business listings, you can make your practice standout among the crowd when people Google to find a doctor. Ninety-four percent of patients search online to get healthcare information and to choose a practice or provider.
Online scheduling is an in-demand amenity that prospective patients look for when weighing practices during internet searches. Sixty percent of patients prefer digital scheduling over a phone call because it’s quick, convenient, and accessible 24/7.
Finally, a robust referral program should be at the core of your growth plan. Your happy patients are more than willing to recommend friends and family to your practice. But it’s crucial that you ask while making it as simple as possible for these “practice champions” to share referrals. Automating that process with a referral solution lets you collect referrals more effortlessly without placing extra burdens on staff.
Patient acquisition involves attracting new patients while patient retention involves engaging with current patients to avoid churn. They are two related but distinct areas of marketing your practice. Both are essential and contribute to the viability of your practice. Many activities that involve and influence acquisition also overlap with retention. Actively nurturing these priorities supports the long-term success and sustainability of your practice.
Patient acquisition is the marketing efforts and activities you engage in to attract new patients. Successful acquisition strategies help you gain the new patients you need to meet your practice’s marketing and growth objectives. Adding new patients helps fill your schedule, generates more revenue, and helps you expand your practice.
Patient retention is the activities and plans your practice has to increase patient satisfaction and prevent churn, or patients switching practices. It’s about building upon and strengthening your relationships with existing patients to elicit their loyalty so you don’t lose them to competitors. Because it costs five times more to attract a new patient than it does to retain an existing one, retention produces greater ROI than acquisition. Your strategy might include several different methods for increasing patient retention and improving engagement.
Patients switch doctors for a variety of reasons. In a more consumer-oriented era, patient expectations have changed and they’re switching practices more than ever before—but it’s not because of the quality of care. It’s because they want a better patient experience with more patient-centric services that are quick, convenient, and easily accessible. One study found that 43 percent of millennials, 44 percent of Gen X’ers, and 20 percent of Baby Boomers are more likely to switch providers in the next three years.
Similarly, a 2021 study found that more than one-third of patients of all ages said they would switch providers to get more modern communications like automated reminders and text messaging. Of those ages 50 and under, 64 percent said they’d switch to be able to connect better with practices as well as 33 percent of those ages 50 and up.
Online reputation management should be a key component of your practice’s patient acquisition marketing strategy. That’s because your practice and its providers are being searched for and evaluated by the prospective patients largely through the lens of online reviews. Reputation management includes activities like:
By actively tracking and managing patient reviews, you can help ensure that you get the quality and quantity of reviews that will help searchers pick you over your competitors. A reputation management tool ensures you track and collect every review, helps you analyze trends and priorities, and allows you to respond to reviews more efficiently. It significantly reduces the burden of manually managing your practice’s online presence so front office staff can focus their attention on patients.
Patient reviews are important because that’s where 94 percent of people go when they need to find or evaluate a doctor or practice. Patient reviews are the “user feedback” patients leave, both positive and negative, about a practice on popular directories like Google, Facebook, or Yelp. Many will also look up reviews about your practice on healthcare-specific sites like WebMD, HealthGrades, and Vitals. Since your reviews and star ratings are important to prospective patients, they should be a top patient acquisition strategy priority for you.
Since the vast majority of patients go online to find a healthcare practice, a considerable portion of your patient acquisition efforts should surround reputation and review management. Selecting a healthcare provider is a major decision for most prospective patients. They’ll want to do their due diligence when comparing practices through online reviews. That’s because 84 percent of consumers trust reviews as much as they would a personal recommendation. As a result, the lion’s share of your patient acquisition will come from online reviews.
Patients use online reviews primarily for these three reasons—as the first step in finding a new practice, to validate their choice of their current provider, or to leave a review for their current provider. Primarily, they’re looking to see that there are several reviews, that the feedback patients leave is generally positive, and that the practice has a good overall star rating. Three out of four patients prefer providers with a minimum star rating of four or more (on a five-point scale).
Word-of-mouth marketing and patient referrals are another indispensable tool in your practice’s patient acquisition playbook. Since new patient acquisition can be expensive, referrals are a cost-effective way to acquire patients and increase your revenue. One study found that 72 percent of patients choose a doctor based on word of mouth recommendations and 83 percent of happy patients are willing to refer friends and family.
To begin with, you should establish procedures for your staff to ask patients directly for referrals and prepare them with ideas on how to bring up the topic when they’re speaking with patients.
A major focus of getting new patients into your practice should involve actually booking them quickly and efficiently. Luckily, there are scheduling alternatives that fast-track and bypass the traditional phone call approach, making the process easier and more accessible for both new and existing patients.
According to research, 80 percent of patients prefer a practice that offers online scheduling. Adding this feature is one of the ways to help boost patient acquisition. An online scheduling tool allows you to post a link to your practice website where patients can easily request an appointment at their convenience, with no phone calls required. Existing patients can be sent a link by text or email to make an appointment request.
While online scheduling is a convenient selling point to attract new patients, it’s also a significant benefit for practices. It reduces the manual workload on your staff by getting them off the phones and allowing them to focus on in-office patients and higher priority office tasks.
Another scheduling feature that holds mass appeal for both new and existing patients is to offer a waitlist. When cancellations occur, those on the wait list can be offered available appointment slots to get in for a visit much sooner. A patient engagement solution can automate this process so when cancellations come in, those at the top of the waitlist are automatically notified.
As we’ve covered, there’s several key components that should make up your patient acquisition strategy as part of your practice’s overall marketing plan. Some of the most cost-effective ways to acquire new patients include:
In order to determine the effectiveness of each component of your patient acquisition strategy in growing your patient pool, it’s important to take a data-driven, results-based approach. By regularly collecting and analyzing the metrics of each patient acquisition activity, you can gain valuable insights into what’s working, and what areas might need to be tweaked.
A modern patient engagement platform gives you all the tools and dashboards to not only track and aggregate data in a meaningful way, but also to provide you with the visibility to identify trends and actionable insights. That way, you’re making informed decisions to improve your patient acquisition strategy.
The Solutionreach platform enables your practice to take the manual burden and busy work out of patient acquisition so that you can get more new patients and expand your practice.