Where do your Patients come from?
Have you ever taken a look back through the past year of your practice to see where your patients are coming from? This exercise is critical to the health of your practice and should influence your marketing strategies, because the cost of acquiring a new patient is significant. Internet marketing for new patients is expensive! If you depend on this as your sole strategy for attracting new patients to your practice, it will cost a lot more than you will want to spend.
This underscores the importance of taking detailed notes about where your patients are coming from as they enter your practice. This can easily be done by your front office staff as they collect or enter new patient information. They really need to ask, very specifically, how they found you. Over the years, I have had a difficult time getting the front office to collect this data. It is now part of the job description, and is a determining factor for continuing employment. When you really take an accurate look at how new patients are generated I think you’ll find some surprises. I know that we all have different practices with different emphases. Some practices are driven by procedures, some are driven by office visits, and some fall somewhere in between. As you start to pour over your office data, you will begin to see some patterns emerge. You will start to see important referral sources (maybe more important that you realized) that are very steady sources of business. You need to know this so you can nurture these referral sources in more ways than one.
I have seen some practitioners rely very heavily on one referral source. This is dangerous and can lure you into a false sense of security. You might get overly comfortable with the volume and then something changes- the provider network, leaders of the referral group, a couple of complaints, or another practice making in-roads into “your” referral source. If something does change, you can really get hurt. This is one reason that I prefer a broad referral base when I think of practice stability.
I will use myself as an example. I have a surgical practice that is relatively low volume with high margins. The big number (we will talk about your “office numbers” in a later post) for me is how many patients end up on the operating schedule. In general, my referrals came from 3 major sources. 1) YouTube and the Internet 2) doctor referrals and 3) referrals from previous satisfied patients. After my analysis of where my patients come from, I was really surprised. What I found was that my “previously satisfied patients” were my largest referral source!
Especially significant was that I wasn’t doing anything to nurture or cultivate these old relationships – simply a huge mistake on my part.