How to Generate Patient Referrals by Being Exceptional
To grow your patient base effectively you need to attract more of the right types of patients to your practice. Most medical practices get around 50% of their new patients from word of mouth referrals, rather than medical marketing. To increase your patient referrals, you need to ensure every patient’s experience is the best it can be from the time he engages with your practice to the communications he receives between visits. Here’s how to be so exceptional that new patients are beating a path to your door:
Make Appointments Easy
Make it simple for new and existing patients to book appointments with you.
- Keep one or two appointment slots open each day for new patients or emergencies. Don’t be so booked up that new patients can’t get to see you for three weeks. You can be sure they’ll go somewhere else by then.
- Provide several options for them to book appointments, including email, online bookings and telephone. If your receptionist is constantly busy, give the caller a voicemail option to leave a message so he doesn’t have to call back 5 times to speak to someone.
- Train your staff to convert inquiries into appointments by using a professional manner and putting the patient’s interests first. Harried, overworked medical practice staff can jeopardize your patient acquisition program by being abrupt with callers.
Create a welcoming environment in which your patients can wait for you. Provide comfortable chairs in your waiting area, and have water and reading materials available for them to drink. If you want to go the extra mile, a self-serve coffee station works wonders and free WIFI enables those with appropriate devices to work while they wait. Both are low cost options that will benefit your image tremendously and generate increased patient referrals.
Take a tip from the banks – train your staff to greet patients as they walk in, even if they are busy attending to another person. It only takes a second to say “I’ll be with you shortly” but ignoring the new arrival until they finish dealing with the current patient doesn’t contribute to a welcoming atmosphere.
Try not to keep your patients waiting for long after their booked appointment time. Most people are comfortable with waiting five or 10 minutes longer for their health care professional, but if you find you’re regularly running 30 minutes late or more it’s time to review your consultation periods.
By seeing fewer patients daily you’ll be able to keep to the scheduled times, and that will likely win you more patients than you can accommodate by cramming them in. You won’t benefit from increased patient referrals if your current patients are experiencing long wait times.
Patients don’t know what you know. That’s why they come to you – to reap the benefit of your medical knowledge and empathy. By communicating clearly and simply, you can ensure they understand their condition, the treatment and your recommendations without confusion:
- Spend the time to go over their questions thoroughly
- Check that they understand the answers, and if necessary supply handouts they can take home and review.
- Make the effort to understand their personal situation – it will help put their medical issues into context and build your personal brand as a health care professional.
- Communicate regularly with your patients via email marketing and social media, to continue to build your relationship with them even when they don’t require a consultation.
By being an exceptional health care provider to your existing patients, you’ll generate an increased number of patient referrals and grow your practice continuously.