Patients today may be more likely to switch healthcare providers than ever before. Almost a third (30%) of Americans chose a new doctor in 2021—up from 26% in 2017, according to results of an Accenture survey of more than 21,000 patients.
Nearly 80% of those who switched providers cited the need for a more streamlined, navigable healthcare experience, including access to online scheduling, digital patient-provider communication and straightforward check-in processes.
Given patients’ high expectations, is your organization using the right tools to attract patients seeking a new healthcare provider? And are you poised to retain them after they’ve booked their first appointment with you?
As a first step in your patient-acquisition strategy, consider the needs of the patients your organization wants to serve. Understanding and offering the tools, care and provider relationships they want is key to ensuring that you have a steady stream of new patients.
Read on to learn three ways you can acquire new patients—and one strategy to keep them coming back.
1. Take advantage of online organic growth opportunities
Most patients will start their search for a new doctor online, so take the time to make sure that the information they see there will encourage them to choose your organization. There are two main areas to consider here: reviews and your providers’ online profiles.
Patients across generations take reviews seriously when they’re looking for a new healthcare provider. In fact, more than three-quarters of patients say that the first thing they do when searching for a new doctor is read online reviews—and they read an average of five reviews before making a decision.
While it might feel like patient-submitted online reviews are outside of your control, they can be an important tool for building your credibility and demonstrating how your organization stands apart from the competition—if you prompt your existing patients to share their experiences in the right way, at the right time.
Send satisfaction surveys via text message or email right after the visit. Satisfaction surveys give you direct feedback, as well as the opportunity to encourage patients to post about their visits on online review sites. That way, patients can spread the word about your organization while their appointment is still fresh in their minds. An even better approach is to automate those messages so you can give patients a chance to write reviews without adding more work for your staff.
Increasingly, though, patients are looking beyond online reviews for sources of information that are more complete—like MediFind, a searchable provider directory that uses objective data, such as research output and a clinician’s standing among their peers, to help patients find the right provider. Ensuring the information on your physicians’ profiles is accurate can help you to not only connect with more patients, but with the ones who are likely to become long-term patients. Consider adding an online appointment request link to your doctors’ profiles to help patients transition to your group even more quickly.
2. Offer online scheduling
Convenient appointment scheduling is a major draw to a new organization. A Phreesia survey found that nearly 29% of patients consider online scheduling a “must-have,” and 71% of patients in the Accenture report said that easy access to care—including online scheduling—was their top consideration when choosing a provider.
Offering the option to request an appointment online reduces barriers to entry for patients who are short on time, researching potential new doctors outside of traditional work hours or nervous about calling a new provider group.
Post your online appointment request link in multiple places, including on your physicians’ MediFind profiles, your organization’s website and social media profiles. That way, patients can take action as soon as they decide they’d like to see you—anytime, anywhere.
Tip: Post a list of the insurance plans you accept online, too. Nearly 9 in 10 patients say that the most important factor in selecting a doctor was whether they accept the patient’s health insurance.
3. Leverage referral conversions
Although ensuring you stand out among other organizations’ online profiles and reviews is important, don’t forget about referrals.
About one-third of patients are referred to a specialist each year, but managing incoming referrals remains a major bottleneck for most healthcare organizations. Staff spend countless hours shuffling papers, vetting e-faxes and calling patients to schedule appointments. Worse, a disorganized referrals process means that patients may sometimes wait months for their referral—or never get care at all.
Digital referral management streamlines that process so you can stay on top of referrals to your organization. Using a tool that centralizes all your referrals—even the faxes—on a single hub can help ensure you convert more new-patient referrals to scheduled appointments and get patients in for the care they need.
Bonus tip: Plan ahead to ensure retention
The journey doesn’t end once you’ve acquired new patients. Next, it’s time to show them why they should keep coming back.
Maintain patient engagement between visits with digital communication tools, and commit to being accessible after hours—without burning out your clinicians. Keep this in mind: Patients who are “highly digitally engaged” with their provider are much more likely to stay with an organization than those who aren’t.
Learn how Phreesia helps healthcare organizations like yours drive growth by booking more appointments, standing out from the competition and retaining patients over time.