How To Get More Word-Of-Mouth Patient Referrals In A Digital World

Lauren Parr is the Product Marketing Manager at RepuGen, an online healthcare reputation management SaaS platform. 

Lauren Parr is the Product Marketing Manager at RepuGen, an online healthcare reputation management SaaS platform. 

Stiff competition in the health care industry is requiring organizations to evolve and adopt digital marketing strategies in order to survive. Many patients are now researching health care practices and providers online prior to booking an appointment with them.

Health care organizations have accepted the new reality and are investing in digital advertising. With patients having more options for where to seek health care services, it makes sense for organizations to direct their marketing spend to digital. In fact, it’s predicted that in 2021, health care digital marketing spend will overtake traditional TV ad spend (download required), at 46% compared to the latter’s 42%. Despite the huge budget, many organizations struggle to justify the return on investment (ROI) of digital spend, for various reasons.

One area of marketing that is often ignored by health care practitioners is word-of-mouth. While regarded as a traditional form of marketing, word-of-mouth is a powerful patient generation strategy that can bring in new customers at a low cost. And a well-executed referral marketing program can become an invaluable system that lets patients talk about and recommend your practice.

How can you create an automated patient referral system? 

At RepuGen, we know that people trust the advice and recommendations from their friends or family, which is why we offer solutions to help health care organizations manage their online reputations. Encouraging an organization’s existing satisfied patients to refer their family, friends and co-workers is a cost-effective way of growing a practice.

Here’s how you can create a patient-generating referral system for your practice:

1. Implement a patient satisfaction survey.

Send an automated survey to your patients immediately after their visit to find out whether they are satisfied with your care and services. This will help you better understand your patients’ sentiments and improve your interaction with them.

You will get insight into how your patients feel about various aspects of your practice, which can help you identify areas that need adjustments to improve the patient experience and satisfaction. The survey will also assist in patient retention, as you can immediately address the concerns of your unhappy patients, which may encourage them to stay with your practice and even become your advocate.

2. Automate the patient referral process.

By using the findings from your patient satisfaction survey, you can automate the patient referral process by sending a referral solicitation email to the patients who you found were satisfied with your care. Within the email, thank your patient for their feedback and let them know that you’re happy to hear they are pleased with your practice. Then, ask if they would be willing to refer your practice to their friends and family. Include an automated option that allows the patient to send the referral via email.

3. Add incentives to your patient referral program. 

You can offer incentives to increase the likelihood that your patient will make the referral. For example, you can offer discounted services to new patients or gift cards to existing patients for any future services. 

Be creative when implementing your program. If you’re a dentist, that could mean offering $5 off the patient’s next cleaning for every friend or family member they refer to you. Be sure to check with your local state and industry laws to know what kind of incentives are permissible.

4. Track important metrics.

Determine and track metrics to find out how effective your referral program is. Since this process will be digital, it will be much easier to track which new patients came from your digital efforts.

Be proactive and treat your referral program as an essential part of your operations. The program should be an integral part of your marketing efforts, and being proactive will go a long way in generating new patients for your practice.

Word-of-mouth marketing may be a traditional form of attracting customers, but it can still work in today’s digital marketing landscape. Well executed referral programs can generate a stream of new patients to your practice without costing you an arm and a leg.

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