By Travis Schneider, chief corporate development chair, Tebra.
In a digital-first world, it is more important than ever for physicians to implement strategies that meet patients where they are. To grow and retain a patient base, physicians must implement tools and technologies that set them apart from other practices and physicians online. With the right practice growth software and business strategies, independent practices can quickly execute the best methods to grow and retain their patient base.
Optimize Your Website For Search Engines
When selecting a healthcare provider in today’s digital age, 74.5% of patients turn to the internet. To remain competitive, your practice needs a strong online presence. First, examine and optimize your website by ensuring it is user-friendly and that information like phone numbers, provider information, and addresses are accurate.
Search engines, like Google, are where patients start searching for healthcare information. Ensuring your website features keywords related to the practice and healthcare field can help boost the search engine optimization (SEO) ranking. The higher a practice website ranks, the more visibility the website will have with potential patients using Google to find their next physician.
Another way to optimize a website is by ensuring that the pages of the website are also SEO friendly. This means content on a website should be unique, include links to drive traffic, and have relevant keywords throughout the page content.
Maintain a Great Online Presence
Start by claiming and updating your Google business profile through Google My Business (GMB) to build an excellent online presence. Doing so will ensure prospective patients see the most accurate information about your practices and services. In addition, by displaying various business information in multiple formats, Google makes it easier for patients to find information about your practice without the need to navigate directly to your website.
Like your Google business profile, updating your profile on popular sites like WebMD, Yelp, and Facebook is crucial. All information must be accurate and engaging. For example, include your practice address, hours of operation, key services, and photos or videos showcasing your office and providers. In addition, patients may research potential new doctors; without updated profiles, you risk losing patients.
Take Advantage of Patient Feedback
According to PatientPop’s survey, 74% of patients report that reviews affect their decision-making when selecting a new provider. Having that positive reputation online can make a difference in retaining and growing a patient base as an independent practice.
Physicians should focus specifically on Google reviews, as 69.3% of patients report that they are more likely to rely on Google for authentic patient experiences. One way to encourage online reviews is by implementing patient satisfaction surveys. Additionally, PatientPop, a leader in practice growth technology, data reports state that patients being asked for feedback by their providers immediately after appointments are more than twice as likely to take the initiative of submitting online reviews.
Building an online presence and optimizing the patient experience will help physicians and independent practices retain and grow their patient bases over time. In addition, patients want to ensure they will be taken care of by the physician they choose to seek care from.
Examine the Complete Patient Experience
While it might sound like an obvious patient retention strategy, keeping your patients happy is essential, especially in a busy healthcare practice with many moving parts. Many factors can impact the patient experience at any point in the patient journey, so independent practices must understand the entire patient experience from when they find your practice to post-appointment follow-up.
The patients’ top priorities include a provider who listens, welcoming staff, and a short wait time. Patients will contemplate switching providers for greater convenience, so adding tools to simplify the patient experience is a valuable investment in patient retention.
From online scheduling and digital patient registration and intake to automated appointment reminders and telehealth options, providing simple conveniences can add to a better patient experience — and, ultimately, better patient reviews.
Communicate with Patients Directly
When physicians strengthen the provider-patient connection, it goes a long way in supporting a practice’s growth strategy. And it doesn’t have to be complicated. One easy way to do this is to communicate with patients how they prefer.
Current survey results indicate that 2 out of 3 patients prefer to receive appointment reminders via text message. However, when the questions they have might be more involved—say, questions about you or your staff—nearly one-third prefer a phone call. These statistics show patients prefer human contact and communication when things get complex.
Practices can also take retention communications one step further by implementing email marketing campaigns. These campaigns can be custom-designed to increase patient engagement, provide specific information about health conditions, and share practice updates. By segmenting your patient base through email marketing campaigns, you can deliver targeted, relevant information that matters to patients while also establishing a deeper connection with patients.
Patients have an abundance of healthcare providers to choose from, and with big players like CVS, Walmart, and Amazon entering the landscape, the competition is fierce. As a result, independent practices must prioritize their online presence and patient experience. The ultimate key to success for independent practices is cultivating patient relationships over time.