The primary goal of all medical practices is to provide excellent care to patients, but at the end of the day, a practice is a business. Without a solid patient base, practices cannot be financially successful. Specialty practices that offer elective procedures like cosmetic plastic surgery, fillers and botox injections, and Lasik eye surgery, should not only rely on existing patients for business, but always be looking for ways to bring new patients into a practice. One of the most cost effective ways to build a patient base is through word-of-mouth marketing.
Although Americans are increasingly looking to review sites such as Yelp, Vitals, or Healthgrades on their search for a new physician, a study found in the February 2014 issue of JAMA has found that word-of-mouth referrals is still a primary factor for selecting a doctor. The following are a few simple steps to increasing the amount of word-of-mouth referrals your practice receives.
1. Understand Customer Evangelists
Patients who willingly sing your praises to their family and friends are customer evangelists. These are the people who love everything about your practice so much that they want everyone else to know about your practice too. These patients cannot be bought, and in fact, do not expect anything in return. Customer evangelists are the key to bringing in word-of-mouth referrals. But how do you turn your everyday patient into a customer evangelist?
2. Provide Excellent Patient Care
Ensure that every patient that walks in your door receives the best quality of care, not only in the exam room, but as soon as they walk in the door. Keep wait times to a minimum by implementing robust scheduling tools. Check on your staff to ensure everyone, from the front office administrators to the billers are treating everyone politely (your outstanding care in the exam room can be easily overshadowed by a rude receptionist). Survey patients to gather their feedback in order to find the practice’s weaknesses. Then, create a plan of attack to fix these issues. Happy patients turn into customer evangelists.
3. Ask for Referrals
Once you have done everything you can to make sure the patient experience at your practice is exceptional, the simplest way to increase word-of-mouth referrals is to ask for them. Let your existing patients know that you appreciate referrals, and if they are happy patient evangelists, they will be happy to share their experience. When patients tell you that they are very satisfied with the care that they have received, make a point of asking them to recommend your practice to their friends and family.
4. Develop Relationships With Other Physicians
The study found in the February 2014 issue of JAMA also stated that referrals from another physician were nearly as important to patients when selecting a physician as word-of-mouth from family or friends. Tap into this source of referrals by networking with other doctors in your area, especially with general practitioners or generalists in your specific specialty. For instance, if you specialize in Lasik eye surgery, network with general ophthalmologists or optometrists in your area to receive more word-of-mouth referrals.
The need for specialists has been on the rise, but with the many choices of physicians, patients are still relying on what they perceive as the most credible sources of information - word-of-mouth referrals from their friends, family, and other physicians. If you put in the work to create happy patients and customer evangelists, your increase in quality referrals will increase as well.