Patients are the foundation of every physician’s practice. Healthcare providers may possess an extensive skill set or the most advanced technologies available in the medical industry, but it’s insignificant without patients to attend to. That is why physicians and their teams must consistently get and keep new patients for their practice to continue to grow.
The patient acquisition cycle is the process when a healthcare provider attracts new patients and continues retaining these patients as loyal customers. This cycle keeps on revolving, adding new patients referred by existing satisfied patients.
While it is essential for a healthcare practice to acquire new patients consistently, it is also critical to maintaining patient retention, a strategy to keep patients engaged and involved. Patient retention is a vital component of a complete patient acquisition cycle because it helps bring patients back after their initial visit.
According to a study by Bain & Company, along with Earl Sasser of Harvard Business School, increasing patient retention rates by 5% can increase profits between 25% to 95%. Moreover, research about patient satisfaction published by National Center for Biotechnology Information says that one satisfied patient may bring four new patients, while one unhappy patient may result in 10 lost patients, or even more if the reason for dissatisfaction is more serious.
The cycle of getting and keeping new patients lies entirely on your best practices as a healthcare provider by being economical, creative, and innovative with your strategies.
Make your patients’ safety a priority.
Fearing COVID-19, Americans would avoid doctor’s appointments, delaying the healthcare they needed. According to an Orlando Health Heart & Vascular Institute survey, 67% of Americans are hesitant to go to their medical appointments when COVID-19 cases are high in their area. At the same time, 57% are reluctant to go to a hospital, even in emergency situations.
Many healthcare providers and practitioners are now using virtual care technology, such as telehealth, to transform how millions of Americans see their physicians. The rise of telehealth has become a digital health revolution as it increases patients' access to care; they can get the care they need at home, work, or any private location.
Patients appreciate a healthcare provider that makes their life easier, especially in trying times. Offering new and innovative office procedures like telehealth appeals to patients looking for the most advanced care possible. To step up your retention game, integrate the use of virtual care trends such as online scheduling, digital forms, telemedicine, secure patient portals, 2-way text messaging system, etc.
By investing in these technologies, old and new patients feel you value their time and safety — you want to keep them healthy, regardless of the situation. They are more likely to stay with your organization in the long run because they feel more comfortable and familiar with your practice and the technologies you use.
According to a Weatherby Healthcare study that surveyed nearly 500 everyday healthcare consumers, almost half of the respondents stay with their physicians due to comfort and familiarity; however, they want more than a friendly face.
Offer more than just a friendly smile.
Aside from providing the best quality healthcare, your main goal is to have new patients return to your office and recommend your services to their family or friends. Suggestions through word of mouth are a powerful marketing tool to make your practice notable in your area.
Building and maintaining patient relationships requires more than flashing a friendly smile at each appointment or providing an accurate diagnosis and treatment; they want to receive a fantastic overall patient experience.
Patient experience is a broad term in the medical industry — it refers to all of the interactions and situations that patients and their families experience during the healthcare journey, from scheduling an appointment to seeing a physician to filling prescriptions and follow-up appointments. The overall quality of the patient experience determines patient satisfaction.
To achieve the highest patient satisfaction, provide the best services you can offer, exceed expectations, and let your patients know that you care, not just during their appointments. The following simple gestures may strengthen and nurture your relationships with existing patients:
- Sending a quick thank you message after their visit to show them your appreciation
- Providing them a monthly patient newsletter with updates on your services and essential medical news
- Texting to remind them about prescribed medications to let them know you care about their well-being
- Wishing your patients a happy birthday to show them that you remembered
Even outside appointments for health management, keeping in touch creates an impression to your patients about your dedication to providing them the highest level of patient satisfaction. It is an excellent patient retention strategy because they feel valued, and your staff can assist in this process.
Value your staff members as much as you value your patients.
You are not alone when it comes to providing services at your medical practice. Your office staff plays a vital role in a successful patient acquisition and retention strategy since they are the first and last to interact with patients.
You must include your staff when considering the best strategies for patient acquisition and retention. Conduct a monthly meeting to assess goals and get recommendations from your team since they play a huge part in producing a positive patient experience.
Remember, you and your team are not the only healthcare practice that interacts with a specific patient. Often, a new patient’s first impression depends on their early office experience. If they are unhappy with your services, particularly in accommodating their schedule, they will seek care elsewhere. So, it is crucial to train your staff on presenting a great first impression. Ensure they are adequately informed about your practice, including the services you provide, pricing, treatments, on-site equipment/testing, consultation process, etc.
By improving your organization’s communication and providing the best services possible, your practice makes a lasting impression on patients to the point where they express positive feelings about you to the public. Good reviews can lead to new patients, whether via Google, social media, or another channel.
Generate social media exposure to get new patients.
The healthcare industry is a business, and it’s competitive. One of the best ways to stay at the top of your game and reach out to potential patients is by taking advantage of social media.
Online platforms transform into a powerful marketing tool for businesses such as medical practices. Medical practitioners establish their online reputation through patient ratings and reviews left on websites or social media pages.
The rise of social networking sites, such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, has impacted the relationship between physicians and their patients. By setting up a social media page or account, you make your practice more accessible to patients, and them to you. They can reach you through messaging, and you can post updates on your practice, services, even general reminders to all about important check-ups to not forget to schedule, like annual physicals.
Social media offers abundant channels to reach out to your target audience. It is up to your team to take advantage of this digital communication tool to attract new patients and retain those already regular patients who follow your social media pages.
Aside from providing your organization’s basic information and posting about your services, you can produce the following branding to leverage your social media exposure:
- Partner with reliable pages that post informative videos to educate the public about a medical topic
- Publish up-to-date blog articles about health and share them on your social media pages
- Post valuable and timely infographics, such as proper handwashing techniques, for social media users to like and share
- Encourage patients to leave testimonials on your page and share their success stories under your care
- Respond courteously and professionally to online comments or reviews, even if they are negative
Establish an online presence and post a steady surge of content to maintain connections with patients and engage potential patients. The more you share, the more likely your page will receive visits from potential customers. For current patients, reading your posts regularly on their social media feed keeps your practice on their minds.
When a person plays a mobile game, they find it interesting and useful if they can customize the characters — hair, clothes, skin color, weapon, etc. — to meet their needs and preferences. The same concept applies in the healthcare industry when patients seek individualized care.
Personalization in healthcare is the process of considering a patient’s characteristics, preferences, desires, fears, and clinical history to administer personalized care or treatment. For healthcare providers, personalization means a longer time to deal with patients resulting in less treated patients. But now that innovations have transformed the way doctors deal with patients, personalization has become easier.
Some of the benefits of personalized care include:
- Stronger relationship and communication between physicians and patients
- Increases patient engagement and satisfaction
- Decreases mortality rate due to early diagnosis and proper treatment
To strengthen communication, as an example, you can send personalized messages or responses via text or email with a patient’s name, convening a caring demeanor. It shows that the message is specifically written for them rather than copied and pasted to send to many other patients.
Moreover, part of personalized care is seeking patient feedback. Giving your patients a chance to provide comments and evaluations makes them feel empowered and valued. It is also one of the best strategies to address issues promptly. Feedback is one of the most crucial and valuable insights your patients can provide to your practice. Asking for their feedback makes them feel you genuinely care and consider their likes and dislikes.
Overall, personalization increases patient experience — one of the critical factors behind patient retention. The success of a patient acquisition and retention cycle is possible when doctors and their teams take extra effort to treat their patients as individuals rather than standardize their care.
Give back to the community.
You don’t have to spend a fortune on marketing campaigns or strategies to encourage patients to visit your office. A simple way to advocate your practice is through actively participating in your local community.
Your office may participate in local health events by giving donations such as medical supplies and volunteering services. To reach a wider audience and potential patients, you can create videos to educate your community about medical updates, treatments, and healthy lifestyle routines. Sharing the videos on social media gets them out to the area.
Focus on introducing your practice’s name and reputation to the public and giving back by offering free services and donations.
To get new patients and have a high retention rate, focus on patients’ broader needs and expand your practice’s local reach.
While marketing strategies provide fuel to your business, your patients sustain and keep it running. In today’s highly competitive healthcare industry, your campaign strategies to growing and promote your business must focus on being patient-centric, cost-effective, and innovative.
Your organization must regularly review the strategies for acquiring and retaining patients to identify what is working and what areas need improvement. Concentrate on how you can set your organization apart from other practices through stronger patient communication, telehealth, other convenient and accessible technologies, and engagement to enhance your service quality.
And remember, your current patients are just as important as acquiring new patients, and they could always refer you to others because of your exceptional services and extended efforts. Continue to accept and look for new patients while retaining the regulars.