Marketing Your Practice to Recruit or Retain Patients

January 18, 2016

By: Lea Chatham Looking to recruit new patients - or just retain your current panel. Both can be achieved through affordable and easy-to-use practice marketing solutions.

With the New Year upon us, practice managers and owners are planning ahead. This is the right time to evaluate your practice, set goals, and determine budgets. One big question is always around practice growth. Is your patient panel the right size? Should you be working to recruit new patients or focus on keeping the ones you already have? Or should you have a balance of both?

There are certainly practices that have a solid, established patient panel and aren’t really looking to grow. If that is the case then retaining patients is a good place to put your efforts. Patients are more likely to switch physicians today than ever before. According to the Altarum Institute, while 80 percent of physicians believe that most patients depart due to relocation or change in insurance, the truth tells a different story. Nearly 60 percent of patients actually switch physicians because of better service or treatment from a new provider.

Patients will also switch physicians for access to their medical records and better access to digital services, according to research from Deloitte. This means that if your goal is to maintain your current panel, practices should look to increase patient engagement and satisfaction. With a few small investments you can make a big impact. Research from Technology Advice suggests that patients are most interested in options like online scheduling and text reminders along with post-visit follow ups. Affordable, cloud-based practice marketing platforms can provide these tools and may be fully integrated with your practice management system.

Just providing text reminders can improve patient satisfaction while also reducing no shows. “We saw our no shows drop by 70-80 percent when we started using a solution that provided text reminders,” said Daniel Soteldo, practice manager at Westgate Skin & Cancer, a solo dermatology practice in Texas.

If your goal is to both retain existing patients and bring in new ones, these same tools can help. Online scheduling in particular can be effective at bringing in new patients when paired with a good website, search engine optimization (SEO), social media, and online reviews. While physicians say word of mouth is still the source of most new patients, the reality is that those patients look online before booking. In fact, one study found that nearly 80 percent conduct an online search before booking their appointment. It is important to be easily found online.

To increase local SEO be sure that you have your practice name, address, and specialty listed accurately and consistently on every page of your website, social media pages, and online listing sites like Yelp. Posting new content and getting patient reviews regularly will also boost your search rankings. While your practice has to post new content to your website and social media pages, a good practice marketing platform can help drive new reviews and keep your online listings up to date. Soteldo says that their practice, “jumped to the number one spot on Google for organic searches in just over two months of using our practice marketing system.”

These strategies are also a good place to focus if your top goal is bringing in new patients. However, if this is your priority, putting more time and effort into boosting your online presence may be worthwhile. Using a practice marketing solution for driving reviews will also allow you to see any negative feedback from patients quickly so that you can respond and address problems. “The post visit surveys we send now allow people to send a private comment instead of posting a negative review,” adds Soteldo. “We have gotten some feedback that we were able to address that I might never have known about.”

In a recent survey conducted by Kareo and the American Academy of Private Physicians, the majority of physicians indicated that they spend $800 or less a month on marketing. There are now affordable tools-well within that budget-that you can use to meet your goals and reach your ideal patient panel. Whether that requires focusing on retention or recruitment, tactics like offering online scheduling, engaging patient through social media, and positive reviews will play an increasingly important role in 2016 and beyond.