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The 4 Biggest Patient Acquisition Mistakes That Medical Practices Make


Is your patient acquisition program falling short? If you’re struggling to grow your medical practice, you’re not alone.

According to data cited in a recent New York Times article, office visits to primary care doctors declined 18 percent from 2012 to 2016. In addition, partnerships like the proposed merger between CVS Health, which operates more than 1,000 MinuteClinics, and insurance-giant Aetna puts added pressure on traditional medical practices.

Certainly, increased competition from retail clinics and urgent care centers presents a challenge, but medical practices are also guilty of some marketing missteps that hinder patient acquisition.


4 common patient acquisition pitfalls   

Consumerism is transforming healthcare, but unlike counterparts in the retail, travel and entertainment sectors, the healthcare industry has been slow to evolve its marketing. More of the same just doesn’t cut it when patients begin to look for a medical practice. What are the most common problems?

1. Outdated marketing tactics: Newspaper ads, radio jingles or spray-and-pray direct mail campaigns are not as effective at reaching consumers as they once were. Modern medical practices need a strong digital presence. Nearly five years ago, Pew Research found that 83 percent of patients visited a healthcare provider’s website prior to making an appointment. With even greater saturation of digital media in 2018, one fact is certain: Medical practices must engage in and optimize digital marketing—from improving their websites’ user experiences to fine-tuning SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and PPC (Pay Per Click) ad campaigns to target prospective patients more effectively.


2. Lack of digital tools for healthcare consumers: While not all patients want to use digital tools for health management, the number who do is rising. Many Millennials, for example, like the convenience of apps that allow them to make appointments or pay bills from a mobile device. Moreover, a Deloitte study on healthcare consumer preferences found that users of digital tools are more likely to:

    • Have a family plan for health insurance and use insurance more frequently
    • Have a college education and an income over $75,000
    • Have a chronic condition and take more prescriptions
    • Spend more on out-of-pocket healthcare

Depending on your medical practice’s goals, these “more likely” users of digital tools may be precisely the type of patients you want to acquire, so having useful digital tools is an important consideration.


3. Focusing on health outcomes only: Patients naturally want positive health outcomes, but that doesn’t mean that’s all they expect—especially when they’re just in the discover or consideration phase of choosing a healthcare provider. Make sure that you’re marketing your practice on factors that prospective patients identify as important:

    • What insurance does your practice accept?
    • Where is your practice located and what are your hours of operation?
    • Do doctors in the practice have positive ratings in reviews?
    • Is your staff friendly?

Addressing key components of the overall patient experience early and often—even when they aren’t directly related to medical care—is a crucial part of marketing to consumers who are just a click away from choosing a different provider.


4. One-size-fits-all marketing: Just as consumers expect to find healthcare information online, they also expect individualized experiences along the discovery-to-decision journey. We’re not talking about first name personalization on a postcard; we’re talking about the types of customer experiences that companies like Amazon and Disney deliver. To achieve the level of insight needed to target prospective patients with market messages that hit home, you need to speak to the specific attitudes, beliefs, and motivations of individual healthcare consumers.


In a guest commentary for the Modern Healthcare blog, Nick Ragone, senior vice president and chief marketing and communications officer for Ascension writes, “Put in its simplest terms, healthcare marketing today is all about delivering the right message, to the right person, at the right time—and then measuring it. Gone are the days when brand awareness alone—through broadcast, billboards, sponsorships—is enough to persuade consumers on the best options for their healthcare needs.”  How do you know what messages will resonate?


Use psychographic segmentation to fine-tune your marketing

Psychographic segmentation of healthcare consumers looks beyond demographics or health conditions to help you better understand what drives individuals in terms of their approach to health and wellness. The c2b Psychographic Segmentation model offers 91.1 percent predictive accuracy, defining five segments of healthcare consumers: Willful Endurers, Self-Achievers, Balance Seekers, Priority Jugglers and Direction Takers. Each segment has a unique approach to healthcare and wellness with different motivations and communication preferences.

By understanding what matters to consumers within each segment, medical practices can customize marketing messages for greater relevance. To attract Self-Achievers, for example, you could focus on goal-oriented health programs or use of health tracking technology to win their attention. To attract Priority Jugglers, on the other hand, your marketing could focus on convenience—since time is a luxury with this busy segment—or family health care, since this segment tends to put the health of their loved ones ahead of their own.

One innovative urgent care chain in the New York City area used psychographic insights to change its website banner advertising. By understanding the segments most likely to use urgent care and customizing messaging according to the segments, this urgent care chain experienced a +200 percent increase in banner ad click-through rates.

And patient acquisition isn’t the only area where psychographic segmentation adds value. A clear understanding of what makes patients tick—whether they’re future patients or current ones—allows you to communicate more effectively to drive engagement, improve retention and succeed in a consumer-centric healthcare landscape.

Psychographic Segmentation and its Practical Application in Patient Engagement and Behavior Change


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