5 Best Practices to Acquire and Retain More Patients

January 23, 2020 | Stericycle Communication Solutions

Don't blame Amazon and Uber for the consumerization of healthcare. While these companies are disruptors in their respective industries and have worked to set the bar high for the customer experience, they aren't the bad guys.

Instead, one of the key drivers of consumerization is the trend of employers shifting more of the burden for paying for healthcare services and coverage to their employees. As employees shoulder more of the cost, they want to make sure they're getting the most value for their healthcare dollar.

Engaged consumers are bringing their expectations for convenience, access and value to their healthcare experiences. If one provider offers online scheduling and another doesn't, today's consumer may very well switch to the one that does. In its "Healthcare 2030: The consumer at the center" report, KPMG states that 58% of millennials and 64% of Gen Xers value online booking of appointments to the extent that they would switch providers in order to do so.

Given the shift in power to consumers, what does your organization or office need to do to compete with other health systems and providers in your area? How can you meet consumer expectations in a way that lets you attract and retain new patients?

Here are five ways to make sure you're differentiating your patient services and delivering the kind of experience that informed healthcare consumers are looking for when seeking out a new provider:

  1. Improve your search engine ranking: It's not enough to have a good website to attract new patients to your health system. You also need to make sure that your website gets found. This means winning the organic search battle so that your website displays as high up on the first page of results as possible. To improve your ranking, you'll need to apply best practices for search engine optimization (SEO), including the use of strategic keywords, consistently updated and high-quality content, and social media.
  2. Pay attention to reviews: If a consumer searches using the term "best," Google often shows only results for businesses with a 4-star rating and above. That's one important reason why it's critical to manage and respond to comments and reviews on social media and review sites. It's also critical to set up automated review invites to help you automatically gather more online reviews so you can rank higher and your leads can find you even easier. Your rating is important because you want consumers to compare you favorably with other providers to help you attract new patients.
  3. Optimize the patient journey on your website: Often the part of the consumer journey from searching for a new provider to scheduling an appointment is a major source of frustration and confusion. For instance, many websites have separate processes for finding physicians and scheduling appointments.A consumer may spend time locating any number of physicians that meet their criteria on the website but are unable to schedule an appointment with these same providers. In other instances, websites aren't optimized for natural language search queries – those complex phrases and questions that mimic our everyday speech. This can lead to frustration and missed opportunities for conversion when consumers can't find clear, concise, and accurate answers to their questions. To identify speedbumps in your processes, map your patient journey and what a consumer needs to do at each step of the way. Are you making it particularly challenging for new patients to find the right provider? How can you streamline the process of getting an appointment with that provider?
  4. Focus on conversions: It's not enough to get healthcare consumers to your website. Once they are there, you need to understand whether your calls to action are effective in getting them to actually take the action. Are your calls to action converting into appointments? You'll need to collect this data to understand and improve conversions if you want your website to play an important role in driving new patients into your system.
  5. Rethink the mobile experience: As health systems moved to engage consumers on their mobile devices, many adopted mobile apps. The problem is that traditional mobile apps need to be downloaded and updated by healthcare consumers, many of which don't want to go to this level of effort. The better alternative is to use a progressive web app, which delivers an app-like experience in the mobile browser. They provide a fast and engaging experience with no need for the end user to download the app.

In its Healthcare 2030 report, KPMG believes that a consumer-focused healthcare industry is not only possible, but inevitable. As consumers increasingly choose their providers based at least in part on convenience, you need to focus on attracting and retaining these discerning patients.

Starting with the above best practices, you can stand out from the other providers in your area.

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