declining patient numbers

The ultimate remedy against declining patient numbers

If you work in a private practice, patient numbers are linked to a delicate balance exercise. You want to maintain high service levels and yet, you are now also running a business. Let’s unpack the challenge of declining patient numbers and look at a failproof solution.

declining patient numbers

What causes declining patient numbers in private practice?

Kris Borgraeve - Co-founder Digital Practice

Kris Borgraeve

December 19, 2022

Running your practice without data?

private practice performance

Private practice performance may seem like an ugly term when you have only just launched your work in private. As a doctor, clinical or surgical outcomes and patient care are your focus.

More seasoned specialists in private practice know that measuring the performance of your practice as a business is important. And we all know that declining patient numbers or excessive seasonal fluctuations can make you nervous.

Kris Borgraeve - Co-founder Digital Practice
Kris Borgraeve | Co-founder Digital Practice

"Many surgeons and specialists are still running their practice with a total focus on GP referrals, not on the digital data that define their online lead generation. Leading doctors have found that ongoing, monthly or quarterly content updates are key to avoid a decline in patient numbers."

This article about the impact of Google-friendly content on your GP referrals summarises it well.

The use of performance data is all about measuring how your online presence performs prior to the moment when a patient follows up on a GP referral. Are you answering the most common questions that patients type into Google? And are your answers visible, palatable, compelling and powerful enough to convert these visits into new enquiries or referrals?

You will know when it is time to bring in data and make your numbers game more predictable.

The two layers of medical marketing

personal profiles for doctors

Personal profiles for doctors are a delicate subspecialty of medical marketing. Not because of the status you enjoy as a doctor, but because of the nature of the service that you offer.

Your audience is always vulnerable. Unlike the marketing content that supports the sales of whitegoods, your service is subject to higher levels of scrutiny and critical reflection.

It speaks for itself that medical marketing content needs to be reliable and accurate in the first place.

Kris Borgraeve - Co-founder Digital Practice
Kris Borgraeve | Co-founder Digital Practice

"Even Google looks at your medical content with a different set of eyes. YMYL stands for “Your Money or Your Life” and Google references health content heavily in their Search Quality Rater Guidelines."

There is a second layer that matters when we look at personal profiles for doctors. It’s the layer that leads to interesting conversations when we run workshops across the country, helping surgeons and specialists embrace the concept of their brand story or their brand positioning.

I know. To the medically trained brain, these concepts feel fluffy. But if you have experienced declining patient numbers, your brand might need some attention.

In simple terms, as a second layer on top of your accuracy and reliability, you need rapport. If consumers become patients and their intuition does not validate the rational conclusion they draw by looking at your medical website, then you’re gone.

The other doctor down the road may have enjoyed less training, or may have a set of references that in your mind are inferior to yours…if they have a more compelling, authentic and welcoming brand story woven into their online presence, they will win, over and over again.

So how do you become an influencer that generates referrals?

building referrals

Building referrals used to be all about networking in the community. Giving a talk at an accredited event and nurturing conversations with GPs over lunch. That is still real. Even after overdoses of virtual and hybrid events, we are all clear about the fact that we love connecting with people in real life.

But here’s the thing. When patients and consumers do their research, it means they spend virtual time with doctors. On web pages, on social media channels, on YouTube.

That time is not irrelevant. If used well, it influences their willingness to follow their GPs referral blindly.

If the content is powerful, educational, authentic and well presented, many people will simply take the referral to the specialist they started to trust by looking at this online content.

So how do you make sure you are the specialist who benefits from these changed referrals?

What causes declining patient numbers in private practice?

You start looking at your online presence as a 24/7 channel that generates conversations, rather than this static digital brochure you once purchased and then forgot all about.

The biggest secret in medical marketing: the channel vision

marketing channel

We all know the concept of a brochure, and the concept of a channel.

A brochure organises information in a static way and then remains unchanged for a while.
A channel (such as a TV channel) constantly broadcasts new content and variations of the same theme to reach out to its audience.

So what is your website?

Kris Borgraeve - Co-founder Digital Practice
Kris Borgraeve | Co-founder Digital Practice

"Many doctors have locked themselves in with a vision about websites that stems form the early days of the internet. Their website is a static object that they had made, and then it sits there and has no real ongoing purpose other than to sit there."

This is how you can set your private practice apart from anyone else in your catchment area or local market: Start seeing your website as a live channel.

  • While you are seeing patients, having time off or traveling, patients are still searching for information and expecting your channel to give them an experience
  • The channel can have fresh updates, new videos, new articles and fresh educational content on a regular basis
  • Google loves websites that behave as channels because it means they offer a better experience so they will rank better than the static ones
  • By creating this more dynamic experience, you will be seen as an authority, educator and thought leader

Predictable patient numbers? It’s possible

business tips for doctors

There are many professionals out there who give business tips for doctors. I noticed that they often focus on investment products, financial advice and insurance.

The stress I notice when I speak with surgeons and specialists is about the right volume of patients. You want to have a comfortable wait list, a pipeline of consultations and treatments lined up, so you don’t have to worry about your private practice as a business.

Kris Borgraeve - Co-founder Digital Practice
Kris Borgraeve | Co-founder Digital Practice

"There is now a direct connection between understanding the thousands of online searches in your speciality area, using your website as a live channel, and getting more control over your enquiries, referrals and planned surgeries or treatments."

Australia has been one of the first places where extensive Patient Search Behaviour data have become the backbone of many patient education websites. Medical marketing is no longer a synonym of promotion and has become a mature, data-driven activity that helps you grow and develop your private practice without spending money on advertising.

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declining patient numbers

If you suffer from unpredictable or fluctuating, or even declining patient numbers, let’s talk.
In your free 1:1 Strategy Session, we will look at your current online visibility, and propose a tailored solution to make your private practice more resilient and in tune with the demands in your local market.

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