Patient acquisition is a big focus here at P3—all of our orthopedic marketing efforts are geared toward helping practices get more of the right patients. It’s a topic we’ve discussed frequently, both on our podcast and our blog.
Acquiring new patients for an orthopedic practice takes continual effort both inside and outside the practice, and in a lot of ways you don’t expect. These are some of the patient acquisition strategies we recommend for both inside and outside the practice.
Outside the Practice
Traditionally, orthopedic practices have used marketing methods like print ads, TV ads, and billboards to attract new patients. However, we typically steer practices away from these marketing efforts for a few reasons. First, they can get expensive. Second, it’s difficult to track the return on investment for these efforts. Third, it’s difficult to know if you’re even getting in front of the right audience because it can be difficult to track actual appointments back to these ads.
That said, online ads on Google or Facebook can be a good option for orthopedic practices. They tend to be less costly than more traditional ads, and it is much easier to track ad clicks all the way through to patient appointments so that you can determine an actual return on investment.
As a digital marketing agency, we’re naturally a little biased toward digital marketing. With that said, there are a lot of potential benefits to marketing your practice online. Online marketing can be more cost-effective than traditional advertising. It is also much easier to tie your marketing efforts to actual patient appointments. Additionally, more and more patients are turning to online sources when looking for an orthopedic surgeon, so it’s critical that your practice has an online presence. This includes a website with good content, online listings, and reputation marketing.
With that said, we do recommend some traditional methods of patient acquisition, as well.
Traditional Patient Acquisition Strategies
There is a lot to be said for keeping up good relationships with referring physicians, as well as your community as a whole. Word of mouth is still very important for orthopedic practices. You might try participating in or sponsoring local events, or holding health fairs or seminars to help educate patients who might need a procedure like a hip replacement. Getting out in the community keeps you top-of-mind for patients, and helps them get to know you before they ever book an appointment. In fact, these sorts of efforts can help patients feel more comfortable with booking appointments.
However, once you’ve got those outside methods in place to bring patients in, your work is not done. There are also things that you need to address inside your practice to make sure you retain those patients.
Inside the Practice
There are a lot of things inside your practice that affect patient satisfaction that have nothing to do with treatment. You might be the best surgeon in your area, but if your office staff or processes are difficult to deal with, patients may go elsewhere.
These are some of things that happen within your practice that can affect patient acquisition (and even retention) in a positive or negative way.
Interactions with Your Office Staff
For example, your office staff are typically the first people patients interact with. How do they treat patients on the phone? Are patients having to wait a long time to talk to someone? Does your staff sound irritated or rude when talking to patients, either on the phone or in-person?
According to survey results published in Becker’s Hospital Review, “issues with front desk or staff” accounted for 13% of negative reviews posted about healthcare providers. A Press Ganey study on consumer experience trends in healthcare also found that “quality of customer service” and “quality of communication” were the top two factors that influenced loyalty to a healthcare provider.
If you have caring, friendly people on your staff, you have an opportunity to make a great first impression with patients. On the other hand, if patients have an unpleasant experience with your staff, you may end up losing those patients.
If your office’s processes are difficult to get through, that could also be a deterrent to patients. The same Press Ganey study stated that “ease of patient registration/intake” and “ability to book an appointment online” were also top factors that fostered loyalty to a healthcare provider. Do patients have to go through a complicated phone tree to speak to someone? Are they having to wait on hold for a long time? Do they have to fill out several pages of paperwork every time they come in? Remember, your patients are already in pain and not feeling well. Anything you can do to make it easier for them to get taken care of will go a long way.
Focus on Patient Experience
It’s important to regularly communicate with your staff to set expectations and find out what is and isn’t working. If patients have very positive interactions with your practice from the moment they walk in the door, they will sing your praises. If they don’t have a great experience, they are also likely to let everyone know. In fact, when we look at a practice’s online reviews, a lot of negative reviews focus on negative interactions with the staff, rather than the outcome of the treatment.
According to the Press Ganey study, the quality of customer service is the top factor in earning a 5-star rating. Practices that don’t focus on patient satisfaction are not only more likely to get negative reviews, but they’re also more likely to have patients switch over to a competing practice.
With all of the changes that are currently happening in healthcare, it is very important to keep a strong focus on both attracting and retaining your patients. With the right strategies and systems in place, your practice will be better equipped to weather those changes.
P3 Practice Marketing has helped orthopedic, spine, and neurosurgery practices market themselves online since 1998. Our focus is on helping practices expand their reach through increased patient recommendations and provider referrals.