“How to get more patients” is the question every Clinician in Private Practice has been seeking the answer too, at some point in their Private Practice career, and something we’ve been focusing on in the Private Practice Ninja Academy.
But before you can start to “get more patients”, you first need to take stock of how your patients are currently finding their way to you in clinic.
And I mean doing a proper stock-take – like an actual audit.
Most Clinicians have, at best, a few stats they can pull down from their practice management software system, and a “gut feel” about who might be referring patients to them.
If this is you, I want you pause that Instagram Story you were mid-way through recording, and ask yourself this question:
“Do I REALLY know where my patients are coming from?”
Chances are, it’s pretty unclear. And even if you did have a good handle on your how your patients come to end up in your clinic, would you notice if some of those referral sources were gently starting to dip (in the midst of all the other things going on in your life?). Probably not.
If we’re not auditing how our patients find us, it’s makes it much harder to increase patient referrals through those sources that are working well, or to attract patients from sources we may have been neglecting.
And the second problem is, if we’re not sufficiently granular with our patient referral pathway data, it’s not that helpful to us, which in turn leads to giving up with the data gathering.
Let me give you a couple of common scenarios.
Let's say you or your medsec ask a patient “how did you find us – were you referred by someone?”, the patient may respond with “my GP referred me”. Is that particular GP someone you have a really close working relationship with, or, as is more common, they were the patient who “rubber stamped” the referral for the purposes of the insurers?
(N.B. whilst you can indeed foster some good referral relationships with GPs, beware spending loads of your time and energy trying to get in front of them. If your local private hospital Consultant liaison officer keeps encouraging you to “do a few GP talks”, literally audit the fruit that that time and effort bears. Chances are, the harvest will be small, and you’re better off focusing your efforts else where. Why is this? Because these days, patients are online researchers, and they make up their own minds and then ask the GP to refer them.)
Secondly, when you ask a patient “how did you find me”, and they say “I found you online”, don’t stop there. Did they find you because a friend they play tennis with mentioned your name, and then they Googled you for your contact details, or do they mean, they spent a couple of evenings researching an awesome urogynaecologist? Or, did they see a post of yours on social media, and then went a looked you up?
Did they read a blog you wrote or watched vlog you’d recorded? Great! So, which one? And what was it that really resonated with them?
Then WRITE IT ALL DOWN.
You’re likely to have several patient referral sources which may include some, or all of these:
- Repeat Patients
- Professional Referrals from Osteopaths, Physiotherapists, Chiropractors, Podiatrists, Surgeons, Physicians, Psychiatrists, GPs, Speech and Language Therapists, Hand Therapists, Occupational Health Consultants, Hand Therapists, Psychologists, Strength and Conditioning Coaches, Pilates Instructors, Midwives, Nursing Consultants and the list goes on.
- Clinician recommendations sites (such as Doctify)
- Private Hospital recommendations
- Word-of-Mouth Referrals from Friends, Family Members, Colleagues and Team Members (who may or may not have been a previous patient of yours)
- Internet Searches, which can include looking for information about a condition or problem, looking for a specialist opinion, reading a blog, watching a vlog, or clicking on a Google Ad.
- Social Media posts
- In person or virtual events.
Make yourself a big, fat Excel sheet, and record for one month, the breadcrumb trail of how each patient came to being in your clinic.
Does this take time? Yes – but it’s about 30 seconds per patient.
Will this be a worthwhile exercise? Youbetcha.
Covid will likely have changed the landscape of your patient referrals considerably. When we did this exercise in the Private Practice Ninja Academy, one of our Ninjas remarked that “Covid has had a huge effect, I guess! I've had to get a lot better at the website stuff as the consultants weren't doing surgery.”
Start that data collection, and start reflecting on where your patients are truly coming from.
Have there been any surprises?
Is your referral source mainly in one basket?
What’s changed during Covid?
Who or what is your current best referral source?
Which source needs the most work?
Once you're clear on where you stand currently, it becomes so much easier to focus on where to place your time and energy to get more patients, and if you’re looking for help with this, why not consider joining the Private Practice Ninja Academy?