World-class doctors provide excellent care, cure what ails you, and prevent further medical complications before they arise. But running a practice isn’t all diagnoses and treatments. Doctors must have a firm grasp on practice marketing to attract new patients and retain their business.
Today, practice marketing is more than billboards in high-trafficked areas and flashy online ads. Much of it involves what happens organically when a patient turns to the internet, taking their first step in the journey to care. Find out what real doctors and other healthcare-marketing professionals have to say about effective practice marketing to new (and current) patients.
1. Reviews are a make-or-break factor for prospective patients
In the digital age, word of mouth alone won’t cut it anymore. According to Doctor.com proprietary research, 81% of patients will look up a provider online even after they’ve been referred. The more validation they can find, the better. Healthcare professionals not only must learn to be receptive to the feedback they get online, but they must actively encourage it, too.
“Reviews are now the most important thing you need to have on the internet. Patient reviews are a channel to really market and publicize your brand philosophy in a way you otherwise couldn’t.” — Dr. Jonathan E., Dentist, California
“[Real-time feedback is] an opportunity to improve on challenges that our patients perceive and that we might not even be aware of…whether it’s parking or our front-desk person being distracted by a mobile phone. I think it’s the world we live in right now.” — Dr. Kevin Gebke, Family Practice, Indiana
“I don’t read a medical newspaper, see an ad, and decide to choose that doctor. Reading a review about an experience someone had would influence me, as a patient. Especially when they detail why it was a good experience and share a personal story about why they’re recommending [the doctor]. At the point of care, that story is right there in mind.” — Dr. Athena Theodosatos, Dermatologist, Florida
“Patients deserve to make informed healthcare decisions based on a representative sample of reviews, just like restaurant patrons do. With the goal of helping healthcare organizations achieve a higher frequency of consumer data, we’ve enabled verified patients to share feedback at the point of care and give a megaphone to the majority of patients whose first instinct isn’t to go online.” — Reed Mollins, Cofounder and Chief Strategy Officer, Doctor.com
“In this day and age, reviews are huge. As a new business, I needed help with my online presence. [Doctor.com’s] user-friendly ReviewHub is a wonderful tool to collect verified patient reviews.” — Dr. Victoria Gondar, Dermatology Specialist, New York
>> Related read: Mastering reviews to become a 5-star practice
2. That said, you don’t need a 5-star rating for effective practice marketing
The increased transparency of the digital age has some doctors worried. What happens if an angry patient drops an unflattering review? Won’t it tarnish their reputation and cost them prospective patients? Actually, it won’t! As long as the good outweighs the bad, a little less-than-stellar feedback makes a doctor seem more authentic, trustworthy, and appealing than a provider with all five-star ratings.
“There’s this interesting little concept in psychology called [the] ‘pratfall effect.’ It turns out that we like people who have a few flaws much better than we like people who seem ‘perfect’ or invincible. If a physician has nothing but five-star reviews, they may seem intimidating and be perceived as less likable than the doctor that has mostly five stars and one or two one-star reviews. So, believe it or not, having a bad review from time to time can actually gain you patients!” — Dr. Rebekah Bernard, Family Practice, Florida
“As in most things, the best defense is a good offense. Your patients understand the power of the internet — they read reviews, too. We have discovered that, if you ask them, they will help you make sure you have an army of good reviews posted to drown out the bad.” — Wayne Lipton, Managing Partner, Concierge Choice Physicians
3. Doctors must go all in with technology to reach more people at scale
Doctors today have myriad tools at their fingertips that help them access and communicate with more patients more efficiently. An omnichannel presence across patient destinations is no longer a nice-to-have: For doctors looking to attract new patients, win their loyalty, and keep them coming back, it’s a necessity of the digital age. Continuously take the pulse of patients’ adoption of digital and meet them through the channels they prefer.
“Much of [the patient] journey happens through digital channels, and the nature of these interactions can dictate whether a consumer becomes your patient. A broken, frustrating or inconvenient experience at any of these touch points could lead your patient to a competitor’s practice.” — Andrei Zimiles, Cofounder and CEO, Doctor.com
“Am I the world’s most tech-savvy person? No. But [technology] is the way of the future — and the future is now. I wanted to be with a company that was forward-facing about the way we communicate with patients.” — Dr. Jonathan E., Dentist, California
4. Online scheduling and appointment requests are in demand
Nearly half of patients prefer digital scheduling methods to calling. It’s easier, and patients aren’t confined to traditional business hours when they may be otherwise occupied. There are several benefits for doctors, too: You expand your office hours 24/7, capture appointments from more places, and appeal to the digital- and convenience-first millennial and Gen-Z demographics.
“As healthcare continues to evolve, we want to be present in the channels where our consumers want to interact with us…Previously, our main channel was the telephone for scheduling an appointment with a provider. Now, we will have both phone and digital, making it very easy for our consumers. By having a presence in both digital and phone channels, we are available to our consumers at times and in avenues that are most convenient to them.” — Dave Kriesand, VP, Consumer Experience Center, Banner Health
“The ease of online scheduling and online direct call option helps capture patients who prefer online interaction immediately.” — Dr. Kristen Cardamone, Sports and Spine Physiatrist, New Jersey
“A growing number of patients appreciate the ability to schedule anytime instead of having to call the office during their lunch break. This functionality also frees our office staff for more pressing patient-centered needs.” — Andrew Frankel, COO and Cofounder, Pennsylvania Dermatology Partners
5. At the end of the day, it’s about helping people
Outside of quality care, customer service is the #1 factor influencing patient loyalty. Lead with empathy, and focus on the customer experience at every touchpoint. Most doctors got into the business to help others. And it’s important to remember that no patient is a disease or diagnosis — they’re a person.
“Patients need a sense of control in the doctor-patient relationship. They need an opportunity to respond to recommendations and ask questions with regard to their care. No one likes to be ‘talked at.’ We must always remember to ‘talk with’ our patients.” — Dr. Andrea Lauffer, Hospitalist, West Virginia
“Doctors who don’t connect with their patients may risk undermining a treatment’s success. Doctor–patient rapport is not just a fluffy, feel-good bonus that boosts Yelp reviews, but [it’s] a component of medical care that has important effects on a patient’s physical health.” — Lauren Howe and Kari Leibowitz, Social Psychologists, Stanford University
“You have to provide good service to get good reviews…I make a point to ask something personal or comment on something non-medical with each patient. That allows me to get to know a little about them and shows them that I care about them as a whole person, not just a medical condition. I don’t zip in and zip out of the room.” — Dr. Athena Theodosatos, Dermatologist, Florida
The toolkit needed to run a successful practice has changed dramatically since most doctors graduated from medical school. Practice marketing is no longer solely about word-of-mouth referrals based on the great relationships you’ve established with patients; it must be bolstered by a compelling online presence and reputation as well as a seamless experience throughout the journey to care.