patient acquisition

Digital patient acquisition and the impact on your turnover

If you have decided to start, grow or scale your private practice so it serves the right amount of patients, then this patient acquisition guide is for you.
patient acquisition

Digital patient acquisition and the impact on your turnover

Kris Borgraeve - Co-founder Digital Practice

Kris Borgraeve

July 12, 2021

What is digital patient acquisition?

digital patient acquisition

Digital patient acquisition has become more relevant in the last couple of years, and you may only just have started to explore it. The unprecedented opportunity is to understand digital marketing so you stay ahead of your competitors, who depend on word-of-mouth and GP referrals.

Digital acquisition of new patients is about creating an ongoing process that attracts and converts new patient leads for your private practice. Any treatment or procedure that is not administered in the Emergency Room is subject to a lead time: the time between the first suggestion that the patient needs to investigate a condition or a symptom, and the moment this same patient makes a booking and chooses a specialist.

Everything in between is influenced by ‘the digital space’ or in other words, the online behaviour of the patient matters, and so does the interaction with the content that doctors publish online.

Digital patient acquisition means that you start using your website, social media, and your online conversations in a strategic way. The end goal is to fill your funnel with new patient leads.

In this guide, we will unpack the proven tactics that leading Australian doctors use. You will spot the difference between scattered tactics and a coherent strategy.

How can digital marketing help you grow your private practice?

strategic patient acquisition

If you are reading this article, it means that you are not indifferent to the thought of growing your practice in the years to come. Either because you are starting out in private practice, or because you feel a specific market pressure for your niche in your area.

Digital is important because it disrupts the traditional model, when patients see their GP about a health concern, are then referred to a specialist and obediently follow the pathway that was presented to them. The disruptor in this day and age is the technology in your patients’ pockets. We can no longer claim that online and digital are only buzzwords for younger generations. The pandemic has seen grandparents embrace and use Zoom, Skype, Facetime, and Viber like no generation of grandparents before ever did. After that digital shockwave that came with Covid-19, we can safely assume that many under-80s are now able to use Google and click on a link, wouldn’t you agree?

Digital is important because it is not just about the new technology. It is about real conversations. It is about patients asking questions (or doing a Google search) and specialists providing answers (or having excellent FAQ pages about endometriosis, ACL-reconstruction, benign prostate enlargement, or sciatica. At its core, the conversation is emotive: when I am unwell, I feel insecure and doctors are there to inform, reassure, support or act.

Over the last 5 years I have seen private practices doubling their turnover and patient numbers just because they started using digital patient acquisition on top of the existing strategies: still building solid word-of-mouth referral pathways and making sure local GPs send patients their way. The difference, the growth, came from becoming a digital leader for specific conditions or treatment pathways.

And let’s face it: if you can keep your overhead costs at the same level and create a growth model for your private practice, wouldn’t that give you peace of mind and perspective for the future of your business?

How to create a patient lead generation strategy?

funnel patient acquisition

Many doctors keep shopping around and purchase services that focus on tactics: From engaging with the latest Instagram guru in town to purchasing backlinks from dodgy overseas SEO companies, all the way through to engaging a friendly cousin to build a cheap new Wix website or asking the receptionist to quickly set up a Facebook Page… If you have been down this path and you have not doubled your patient numbers, stay with me and let’s take a look at the steps we use to help customers achieve unprecedented, future-proof, and ongoing growth. The secret is to have the tactics work together, in a structured way.

Step 1: Identify your goals: target patients, core services

Reflection about the direction of your strategy is always step one. It requires a few things from your provider: maturity, experience, and skillsets in market research, the Australian private health system, and business development, to make sure your efforts are not wasting time or budget. This is a field that might overlap with the work you would do with your business coach. The outcome? Clarity about who you want in your waiting room, how many consultations convert into procedures or treatment instances, and how that helps you grow your practice in the next 12, 24 or 36 months.

Step 2: Map the information needs

The next step is to tap into local market research. What we do for our customers is access live Australian data to understand the patient’s Google behaviour. We assess the most common Google searches for the procedures or conditions that are relevant to your practice. Then we amalgamate this data with your business goals. As a result, we have a roadmap to produce content that is a good fit with the demand: we know what you need to publish to attract patients and what will make your website more visible in your local catchment area. Many surgeons and specialists experience a lightbulb moment when they are offered an insight into what can actually make them more visible and help them grow. It takes away the guesswork and the unnecessary focus on paid advertising to grow a successful practice.

Step 3: Build the content to attract and convert

With the data that we have now acquired, we can build the foundation of a content marketing strategy. It boils down to treating every paragraph on your website in an almost scientific way: adding the right information, using a palatable tone-of-voice that hooks the patient, weaving in the exact keywords that we know the patient has been Googling for. It’s a craft. It’s a combination of skillsets. It’s a technique. It’s an art. It’s all of that and it creates stunning results for the leading surgeons and specialists that we work with.

Step 4: Nurture a digital funnel to convert traffic into new patients

An optional step is to take it all to the next level. You have now been attracting 5x or even 8x the traffic you used to attract with a typical web design that did not have a content strategy behind it (the one done by the web developer around the corner or your much-beloved cousin). So what do we do with all this traffic? Do we get more bums on seats? Our top customers add a funnel to their strategy. It means that we invite the visitor (remember, this is a potential new patient who then refers to 5 other people who become patients who refer to 5 other people…) to take action!

The action we want is not to click and buy an ACL reconstruction, have IVF or replace a hip. It’s simply to fill out a form. To enter a conversation and to explore if the treatment offered is suitable. You get an email or a phone number. You are now talking to this patient and they are one step closer to choosing you.

These are only four steps of a typical strategy but the truth is that there are about 6 to 10 more steps. In our unrivalled and highly successful strategies for leading Australian specialist doctors, we carefully select the most suitable steps and tactics for your practice, because just like the treatments you offer, marketing is not a one-size-fits-all activity.

How to choose tactics and platforms to grow your practice?

tools for patient acquisition

So how do you know which strategy is right for you? Even if you don’t, we are here to help. When we get to know you and your practice, we help you get clear on the destination and the goals for your practice. Then we can discuss the timeline and how soon you want to achieve certain results. The tactics below are just a tasting platter of the techniques we can then discuss to help you grow:

Content marketing:

Patients will trust you more when you help them understand symptoms, conditions or treatments, and procedures. That is why quality content is a powerful long-term tool to build a leadership reputation. It’s also more cost-effective than paid advertising which can cause an adverse effect in certain patients who just want information.

Social media:

The next step is to tap into local market research. What we do for our customers is access live Australian data to understand the patient’s Google behaviour. We assess the most common Google searches for the procedures or conditions that are relevant to your practice. Then we amalgamate this data with your business goals. As a result, we have a roadmap to produce content that is a good fit with the demand: we know what you need to publish to attract patients and what will make your website more visible in your local catchment area. Many surgeons and specialists experience a lightbulb moment when they are offered an insight into what can actually make them more visible and help them grow. It takes away the guesswork and the unnecessary focus on paid advertising to grow a successful practice.

Paid advertising:

Google Ads are very effective and immediate. Pay now, get visible now, get clicks today. But as said, it is still advertising and it may not be suitable for you. Paying $1,000 per month might get you 3 clicks per day and then again, how many new patients do you get from that? Remember that a click towards web content that is not converting is a wasted click.

Video:

Leading specialists use video to convey personality, palatable information, and patient education. When done well, the result of a 90-second video equals the impact of a one-on-one conversation with the patient. So what that now does is creating leverage. The visitor now gets to know you – the trust levels are going up and the rapport you are building pays off when they are about to make a choice.

Email:

Good old-fashioned email still has a place in marketing. When patients or GPs have given you their email as part of a funnel, it means they are giving you permission to send you information. It can be a casual conversation towards a next step, or an opportunity to send information that increases your status even more: as an educator, as someone who gives value, as someone who deserves reciprocity, and who I will remember as a patient.

LinkedIn:

An often underestimated marketing tactic is LinkedIn because it is a focused professional social media tool that allows you to connect with local GPs in your area. The ones that are on LinkedIn might also be slightly more responsive when it comes to accessing your other digital content (blogs on your website for example) and creating relationships with 5 extra GPs might mean that you are now close to achieving the patient number growth that you had in mind.

But as said, all these tactics need to be contained in a coherent integrated strategy. Working together like clockwork, the tools, content, and elements help you scale your practice or build a stronger reputation, whether it’s in a one-man-band practice or in the group that you are part of.

patient acquisition

Examples of great practice growth strategies

the ultimate guide to practice growth

Woom

Check out this strategy to see it all come together. The patient finds this website for a number of women’s health topics and feels as if they are already walking into the practice when they land on the home page. The brand promises expert specialist healthcare in a welcoming environment, a team approach, and a warm personal touch that puts you at ease and makes it easy to reach out and make an inquiry.

Advance Surgical

With a topic such as bariatric surgery, patients spend hours going through online information that helps them understand the ins and outs of weight loss surgery. This strategy invites the patient to engage in a simple online conversation to explore if they are a candidate for any of the obesity surgery procedures. This takes the conversation from the website to the patient’s inbox and then to a real conversation with the practice team.

Jeremy Rawlins

With a diverse range of surgeries, Dr Jeremy Rawlins educates the patient about cosmetic procedures and also explains his work in advanced burns and reconstruction surgery. The information flow on the website helps patients understand that they are in good hands, so the initial trust and rapport are established even before the first consultation. Supported by short videos, the website converts visitors into hot leads simply because the patient feels safe to take the next step: to ask for a referral or to make a booking.
Can’t find what you are looking for? Book a one-on-one session below and we will discuss even more examples in our live Zoom session, to explore the most suitable strategy for your practice, your group, or your organisation.
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