How to hang onto patients

In the last of his marketing series, Simon Marett continues the patient experience theme by giving ideas to help grow patient retention and drive loyalty and advocacy among patients.

Delivering an outstanding first-time experience for patients is crucial to delighting them and generating positive word-of-mouth recommendations.

But in my final article in this series, let’s look at taking things a step further: turning patients into advocates of your practice 

Remember, it is estimated to cost seven times as much to acquire a new patient than retain an existing one. 

In my first feature on patient acquisition back in May, I covered the challenges independent practitioners face in finding new patients and how it is not as easy as many think. 

It can often take months and even years to perfect your acquisition strategy, so once you have onboarded a patient, how can you retain them and keep them loyal to you?

In many healthcare fields, active or existing patients can be your best marketing tool by recommending you to other people and driving word of mouth – which can result in you spending less marketing budget on patient acquisition. 

Here are a few ideas and initiatives that you might want to try.

Patient communications 

Remaining front of mind with your patients is important for the future growth of your clinic, so make sure you are communicating with them on a regular basis. 

Investing time and effort on creating interesting and informative content on your website and then emailing or text messaging patients is a great way of keeping patients engaged. 

This can relate to conditions that you treat, treatments you offer or subject matters closely linked to your clinic. Make it interesting and encourage patients to share this content with their friends, colleagues and family to organically build your network and database of prospects.

Case studies 

New patients love nothing more than reading stories about patients who they relate to and have had a great experience – from symptoms and diagnosis through to successful treatment. 

Contact those patients who have left a positive review about you and ask if they would be happy to share this story on your website and social channels. This can take the form of a written blog or a short Q&A video recorded over Zoom or Teams. 

Once you have published the content on your website, include it in newsletters and share it on your social platform to share these stories.

Patient surveys/reviews

Patient surveys are now very common, but that has not always been the case. They can be a very effective way of keeping in touch with patients and getting valuable feedback on their experience and how it can improve. 

Positive reviews can then be presented on your website to help attract new patients, but you can also take it one step further. 

Frequent patient research and surveys into symptoms, conditions and treatment options can help create interesting content that you can then share with patients and build loyalty by bringing them back to your website and clinic

Staging webinars 

Regular patient webinars on Zoom or Teams can be a fantastic way of building loyalty amongst your existing patients and attracting new ones. 

Collating frequently asked questions (FAQs) from patients and building a calendar of content on topics that you know your patients will find useful and informative is a great first step. 

Promoting these webinars to patients and incentivising them to invite friends and family can also help build your database of future patients at minimum cost. You can also post recordings of these webinars on your website and link to them through your website homepage, blog and newsletters.

Holding open days or coffee mornings 

If you have a physical clinic and can invite patients to a location, it can be a great way of engaging with them. 

As well as answering burning questions, it can be an opportunity to visit the clinic or theatres and meet other clinicians and the patient care team who will be supporting a patient throughout their journey with your clinic.

Acquiring new patients can be one of the biggest challenges for some in private practice and therefore any exercise that makes it easier and keeps a lid on marketing spend has got to be explored. 

Retaining patients and generating positive word of mouth and recommendations can be an incredibly cost-effective way of driving new patients. 

Simple marketing initiatives such as patient reviews, webinars and case studies are all very useful for creating loyalty among your patients and gaining new ones.

These ideas and initiatives can be all be managed internally, but if you have a small team and you are already stretched, it is worth considering some temporary marketing support to get you up and running.  

This can offer tried and tested methodology and valuable advice and guidance to help you avoid the pitfalls and common mistakes.

At Ellerton Marketing, we provide a free 60-minute business ‘health check’ for Independent Practitioner Today readers and can help guide you through some key steps you should think about to build loyalty among your patients and leveraging positive word of mouth.

Simon Marett (right) is a director of Ellerton Marketing