As a surgical practice, your patients may only need to see you once a year at most after surgery, unlike a primary care physician, who patients may see more regularly. This is why many surgeons focus their marketing efforts on bringing in new patients. But once your patients have had surgery, do you need to continue to market to them? Yes! Here’s why: word of mouth is a powerful tool for bringing in new patients.
Think about it–much like any other service-based business, customer service is important. If one of your patients has a very positive experience while in your care, he or she is much more likely to recommend you to friends and family members who need similar services. Conversely, if one of your patients has a very negative experience with any aspect of their care, they’ll also be sure to let their friends and family know about it.
It’s one thing to read online ratings and reviews of physicians and surgeons, but it’s quite another to get a recommendation from someone you actually know. Recommendations from friends and family hold more weight than recommendations from strangers because 1.) we tend to trust our friends and family more than anyone else, and 2.) we can physically see how your care has impacted the patient.
Don’t neglect this critical component of marketing–here are some tips on how to get more referrals from your patients.
1. Ask patients about their experience.
Patient surveys are a great way to see what patients think about the care they receive at your office. You can add a survey to your website so that patients can easily access the survey after their appointment. Patients are often willing to share their experiences if you ask. Try handing out response cards or sending emails with links to your survey. You could even make the survey available on a tablet or computer in your office so patients can fill it out before they leave your office. Just be sure to keep the survey brief–it should take no more than a couple of minutes to fill out. You should also offer the option of anonymous survey submissions, as some patients may not be comfortable with having their name attached to the survey. We offer patient surveys for our clients’ websites. You can view an example of our surveys here.
2. Invite patients to contact you with questions.
The surgical procedure may be over, but patients will often have questions during the following weeks and months, and they may not be able to wait until the next office visit to ask you. Encourage patients to contact you should they have any questions. Whether they contact you by phone, email, or text is up to you, but consider your patient base. Older patients may be more comfortable contacting you by phone, while younger patients may prefer to send you a text or email. If possible, offer a few different ways to contact you so that your patients can choose the one they feel the most comfortable with.
When you make the offer to have patients contact you, you will need to make an effort to respond in a timely manner. Of course, patients understand that you are busy. When contacting you, a patient knows that he or she is not your only patient. However, by taking the time to respond to questions in a timely manner, you are telling that patient that you care about your patients and their outcomes individually, and will go the extra mile for them.
3. Offer health tips.
Whether you choose to provide tips through a blog, social media, email, a newsletter, or any combination of mediums, giving tips on how to stay healthy can help to build your credibility with patients. Take the approach of “I’m always here to help if you need me, but here are some ways you can avoid doctor visits.” Again, this comes back to letting your patients know that you care about their well-being. Sending out regular updates also helps you to stay on the minds of patients who only come to you on an as-needed basis. It shows that you are willing to help even when patients aren’t seeing you regularly, which helps you to stand out among all of the other doctors in your area, thus making it more likely that your patients will recommend you to friends and family. If you use an email marketing system, you can even automate email messages, making the process quick and efficient.
4. Check in with your patients.
After the procedure is over with, there may be follow-up visits, but once recovery is over, patients often go on with their lives until they need your help again. Remind patients to schedule follow-up appointments with a phone call, email, or postcard. You can also use the appointment reminder to reiterate that patients can contact you anytime with questions or schedule an appointment to address any questions or concerns in person. It reminds patients that they need to take care of themselves even after they have surgery, and that you care about how they are doing.
5. Ask patients to provide testimonials.
If a patient has had a really positive experience under your care, ask him or her to provide a testimonial for your website. This gives your patients a chance to share their experience with others. Potential patients want assurance that they will be in great hands if they choose you as their doctor. When they are able to read firsthand accounts of your patients’ success stories, it makes them want to join in too.
The bottom line is this: happy patients equal more referrals. Strive to provide a positive experience for your current patients, and you will be rewarded with new patients in turn.