Upping your practice’s patient base isn’t outside the realm of possibility. A lot of doctors stick to the status quo and are comfortable with steady walk-ins from patients they’ve seen for 20 years. However, in today’s highly competitive healthcare field marketing the status quo isn’t enough to guarantee success. Boosting patient loyalty starts and ends with customer service. With the Internet, this means more than greeting and walking patients out to the waiting room after a check-up.
The importance of customer service isn’t lost on any respectable practice. One bad experience can turn off a patient for good, especially when there are a handful of other similar practices in the area. The recent upsurge of patient-centered care is something that practices both big and small should look into in order to ensure continued excellence and, more importantly, customer referrals and continued loyalty. Here are a few cornerstones of patient-centered care:
- Every member in a practice is considered a caregiver. This means the janitor, receptionist, doctor, and nurse all have a duty to serve in every capacity possible.
- Continued care is of the essence. Episodic care is performed when a doctor treats symptoms; continuum care is when a patient receives life-changing attention.
- Knowledge sharing between the doctor and the patient. This is vital when a patient is referred to other practices or has advanced health complications.
- Transparency between patients and providers and vice versa. Upfront and honest business is a requirement for a successful practice, especially where health is concerned.
Knowing these doctrines is only important if you’re willing to go above and beyond them. In addition, patient-centered care is a great avenue to increase your marketing.
Marking Up Referrals
Referrals are generated through a variety of courses. For starters, hospitals and other physicians may recommend one practice over another during patient check-out. Primary care physicians specialize in long-term treatments and are more accessible than dealing with hospitals. It is crucial for practices to actively seek out referrals by staying in touch with a set group of outside physicians, urgent care clinics, and hospitals.
Boosting patient loyalty begins with referral building, because without patients there is no one to be loyal to. Start by creating a list of nearby practices that may issue referrals for you (this includes potential and existing clinics). In terms of marketing, patients are more likely to go to a practice if another medical professional refers them. This means you need to push marketing beyond the patient and stay in touch with doctors in the community. For existing referrals, ask how you can make the entire process easier. When you’re hunting down new referrers, head to another practice in the area and have a sit down with various members of the staff. Explains what you do, why you’re the best, and how you can help.
When new patients come in to your practice, ask them how they heard about you. Was it through another physician? A specialist? A friend? Online marketing? You can shape your referral generation techniques based on this information in order to maximize your resources (and time).
A lot of your referrals come directly from other patients. This is common for specialty practices like dermatologists and chiropractors, but successful patient referrals depend on how they enjoyed their experience. This means providing patient-centered care, positive marketing, and an environment that can handle an influx in patients. For some practices, it is helpful to have a referral program or continued loyalty card that is useful for encouraging patients to return. A “get four cleanings, the fifth is free” or “free flu shot Friday” never hurts.
In essence, you want to create as many reasons as possible for people to come into your practice. You have a variety of different forms of contact with today’s consumer base; hospital referrals, patient referrals, online advertising, printed publications, etc. One core element is to make sure everything you say and do through your practice is based on patient satisfaction. As mentioned, this extends to the entire office.
It is a top-down process, however, and many doctors “lack the time” to ensure every patient leaves with a smile on their face. Regardless of the type of referral, every recommendation hinges on boosting patient loyalty through continued contact and excellent care.
Photo by: Donna Duberg