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#15 7 Effective Ways To Nurture Relationships With Your Existing Patients

May 28th, 2018

Many practices make the mistake of focusing only on gaining new patients. They fail to effectively address the need to retain those they already have.

The average practice loses between 15 to 20% of their patient base per annum. Yet only 7 to 8% will move out of your area each year.

One main reason why patients leave a practice is that the practice doesn’t stay in touch. If you don’t stay in touch with your patients, they will think that you don’t care, or other services you offer that may be of interest to them and their network of family and friends, and they won’t know why they need to come in for regular check-ups or to complete their treatment plan.

Basically, not staying in touch implies that it doesn’t matter to you if a patient returns or not.

In this podcast we talked about the 7 Effective ways to nurture your relationship with your existing patients or in other words, how to increase the patient retention rate.  We discuss;

  • Your Most Valuable Asset [0:46]
  • Why Do Patients Leave? [2:05]
  • Why You Should Reactivate Patients? [3:02]
  • Developing Internal Marketing Strategies and Examples [3:55]
  • The Most Cost Effective Strategy: Email [7:07]
  • Stay Personal With Patients By Posting A Letter [8:50]
  • Keep In Touch By Phone Calls [10:05]
  • Immediate Communication by SMS Message [11:12]
  • Show Your Knowledge By Hosting A Webinar [11:49]
  • The Value Of Incentive-Based Marketing [14:04]
  • Why Your Reactivation Campaign Doesn’t Succeed [15:43]

Online Course: https://onlinemarketingfordoctors.com/webinar-marketing-system/

Automate Your Marketing to Leverage Your Time and Scale Your Practice

online course

Podcast guest registration: https://onlinemarketingfordoctors.com/podcast-guests/

Hi, I'm Huyen
Our work (and this site) is devoted to sharing ideas, tools and resources that will help you automate, grow and scale your practice.


Learn More


Huyen - Welcome to another episode of Online Marketing For Doctors podcast, we are your hosts Huyen Truong and this is Steven Tait and today we are going to talk about 7 Effective ways to nurture relationships with your existing patients or in other words, how to increase the patient retention rate.

Steve - Many practices make the mistake of focusing only on gaining new patients. They fail to effectively address the need to retain those they already have.

Did you know that the most valuable asset that a practice has is its existing patient base? Every practice wants and needs new patients, but your surest and most predictable source of new revenue is right under your nose. It comes from the loyal patients who already know your practice.

It’s also far easier (about 50% easier) to sell to existing patients than to new prospects. Acquiring new patients is expensive (five to ten times the cost of retaining an existing one), but the average spend of a repeat patient is a whopping 67% more.

There are further staggering statistics on the value of existing patient reactivation versus new patient acquisition:

  • The probability of selling to an existing patient is 60 to 70%, while the probability of selling to a new prospect is 5 to 20%.
  • A 2% increase in patient retention has the same effect as decreasing costs by 10%.
  • Attracting new patients will cost your company five times more than keeping an existing
  • A 5% reduction in the patient defection rate can increase profits by 5 to 95%.

Huyen – Interesting data, so the question is Why Do Patients Leave?

The average practice loses between 15 to 20% of their patient base per annum. Yet only 7 to 8% will move out of your area each year.

Therefore, the rest of your patients are leaving for other reasons. If you are not tracking your numbers, this steady erosion of your patients can go unnoticed for years. When you do notice, it may well be too late.

One main reason for patients leaving a practice is that the practice does not stay in touch. If you don’t stay in touch with your patients, they will think that you don’t care, they won’t know what other services you are offering that may be of interest to them and their network of family and friends, and they won’t be educated in understanding why they need to come in for regular check-ups or to complete their treatment plan.

Steve – here is another important question - Why Should You Reactivate Patients?

The reason most (68%) patients don’t return and require the reactivation is due to ‘Perceived Indifference’. (Prof John Gattorna from Macquarie University 2008 published research on the question ‘Why do we lose customers’)

Basically, It means that a patient believes that it doesn’t matter to you if they return or not.

We know that is not true, so, it’s important to show how much you care by nurturing them with regular contact after each appointment, especially if they don’t have any future appointments booked.

Regular communication with your existing patients is critical. Internal healthcare marketing is the name given to this communication.

Huyen – So the first effective method that we are suggesting is to develop internal marketing strategies

Method 1 of 7 – Developing internal marketing strategies

Internal marketing is all about building strong, lasting relationships with your patients. As we have seen, it is far less expensive to do what is necessary to retain an existing patient than it is to attract a new patient through external marketing.

There are so many easy and inexpensive or even cost-free things you and your staff can do to enhance the patient experience. Just start with the little things and you will begin to build a culture in your practice that will make your patients feel good about you and more likely to stay.

Remember that your current patients are the audience for your internal marketing message. With internal marketing, you’re talking to people who already know you, so it feels more comfortable.

Steve - The following are some best practice items that should be included within your internal marketing activity to retain existing patients;

  • Greeting patients with a smile.
  • Answering your phone in person on the first or second ring.
  • Calling a patient at home after a difficult or long session to see how he or she is feeling.
  • Sending birthday cards to patients.
  • Sending them a referral brochure
  • Undertaking patient satisfaction surveys
  • Sending patient ‘thank you’s
  • Implementing a rewards program for loyal patients
  • Establishing on-hold marketing

Huyen - As you would imagine, I spend a lot of time on hold waiting to speak to doctors about their marketing. It continues to amaze me that there are so many practices who do not use on-hold messages. If you don’t have one, you are missing out on a great opportunity to educate your patients about the services that you offer.

  • Educating patients through seminars or webinars
  • Holding live open house events

In my opinion, there is really a no more friendly way to say thank you to your existing patients and hello to your future patients than to open your doors up wide and invite them in. This is a wonderful opportunity to reach unlimited members of the healthcare community.

Your open house gives you the opportunity to make connections in a casual and relaxed atmosphere when you and your staff are not busy doing your day job.

  • Undertaking email marketing for patient newsletter
  • Posting on social media
  • Running offers, promotions, and competitions
  • Sending appointment reminders
  • Keeping in touch via text messaging
  • Maximising recalls

Steve - Moving on to the 2nd effective method which is emailing

Method 2 of 7 – Email

Email communication is one of the most cost-effective marketing methods you can implement. Start collecting email addresses as early as you can. Even if you don’t currently have an email strategy prepared, these will prove very useful at a future time.

Email marketing campaigns give you the opportunity to distribute information to a wide audience of patients at a relatively competitive rate. Research shows that email marketing has one of the best return on investment ratios.

A patient newsletter demonstrates your concern for the people your practice serves and aims to strengthen that relationship. It is a convenient and impressive way to keep in touch on a regular basis, especially with patients you may not see often.

Huyen – Another point I’d like to add is Email is a highly leveraged and is an automated process, enabling you to send a series of broadcasts at the scheduled time and in a particular sequence.

Typically 2-3 emails as part of the campaign is best for exposure because some emails may be missed amongst the patient’s inbox/junk/spam or just their busy schedule.

Email is quick, cheap and you can often get analytics on how effective each broadcast has been (e.g. open rates and click through rates).

So here is a Pro Tip: Use a catchy subject line like “are you interested in this?” to improve open rates

Steve - Well – now it’s the third effective method to retain your existing patient which is posting your letter

Method 3 of 7 – Posted Letter

Using Letters means we can add a personal feel to our communication with an added handwritten note or personal signature.

You also have the opportunity to include marketing material, vouchers, printed newsletters or a small token gift/item in the envelope.

Printing, folding, packing and delivering letters takes time and money, but the advantage is household letterboxes are not as cluttered as email inboxes, and the success rate can be much higher.

Letters can be slower, with no automated analytics on effectiveness, though, they do add a personal touch, and can help keep your database up to date with current home addresses.

Here is our Pro Tip: Use a 3M Post-it-Note with a handwritten “Hi patient name, hope you are fit, healthy and active, see you soon” and hand-drawn smiley face to increase the conversion (Yes! Book here)

Huyen – Interesting, well I hope you have learnt some good tips so far

Let’s move on to 4th method which is phone calls

Method 4 of 7 – Phone Call

This can be the most effective way to connect with your patients, however it relies on having them answer the phone.

If you need to leave a message, do so, and then follow up with either of the other methods to ensure the client is engaged (e.g. send email with mention of the missed call or sms).

Practitioners who make these calls can get caught delivering consultations over the phone, so our suggestion would be for a trained member of your admin team to deliver these calls.

So we’ve got this Pro Tip for you: The calls can be framed as a courtesy call to check in on the patient and extend the invitation and to help arrange their next appointment time.

Steve – we are getting close to the end of the list so hold tight… the next one we’d like to suggest is SMS Message

Method 5 of 7 – SMS Message

This is an immediate and effective way to engage with your clients.

It’s hard to convey tone through a text message, but with the right words you can achieve the desired result.

Make sure the message has a clear call to action and a simple process to act. Complexity will catch you out when you are only playing with a few characters in the message.

And here is the Pro Tip: ensure people can click to book, reply or call you in the message.

Huyen – Now, moving to the second to the last item of our most effective method to retain your existing patients…which is to host webinars…

Method 6 of 7: Host a webinar

Webinars provide a great way to connect with your existing patients on a more personal level regularly.  Your passion for healthcare, and your interest in sharing your knowledge will help create meaningful intimate connections and building trust in you and your practice.

Especially if you want to promote a new treatment or service and want to invite your relevant existing patients to attend the webinar and learn more about this through an educational oriented webinar. That will save you a lot of time in terms of reengaging with every single existing patient and showing your interest in on-going patient education and advanced medicine.

Unlike the challenges of live seminars, recorded webinars provide vital flexibility for a time-poor professional community, but they also benefit your audience too, who can now watch your webinar when it suits their schedule.

Steve – Ahh so true! As you can see, webinars are an incredibly powerful way to create an authoritative and trustworthy brand for you and your practice, establishing you as a trusted source for your existing patients and leveraging your valuable time.

Actually, we are in the process of creating an online course teaching healthcare professionals on;


Automate Your Marketing To Leverage Your Time and Scale Your Practice

The course teaches you how to generate new patients and referrals and retain existing patients on auto pilot: once it’s up and running, there’s no further work required on your part for a while.

This is a brilliant way of automating your marketing, keeping in consistent contact with your existing patients, and leveraging your time, all while growing your practice. If you’d like to learn more about this course, check out the link below in our Show Notes to hear from us when the course is released!


Huyen - Now move on to the last item which is to have incentive-based marketing

Method 7 of 7: Incentive-based marketing

People are procrastinators; particularly when it comes to services such as dentistry, they need a reason to come back in to see you. Incentive-based marketing is a great way to get your patients to come back in.

By using the right promotions, you can retain existing patients, attract new patients, and sell a wider array of services to patients who have traditionally participated in a very small segment of what you offer. Incentives can help you leverage the power of referral- based marketing, too. More practices than ever are using this strategy to drive growth.

Use a special offer as a low barrier to entry, making it really attractive for your client to return to the clinic.

Advise clients on the new and better ways you can serve their health and body.

Tell them of the fantastic new skills or technologies you now have as a result of your continuing professional development and let them know how it can help them.

Remember, clients always want to know What’s In It For Me (WIIFM), how is it going to improve my life.

Steve – and here is our final note which is tracking the performance of the follow up campaign

It’s always useful to be able to track how effective each reactivation campaign is.

To review results of each broadcast, you should identify a special code or appointment type that you can use to measure the rebooking.

Measure the impact with Clinic Excellence Indicators such as Rebooking Percentage and Patient Visit Average (PVA).

Huyen - Here’s Why Your Reactivations Won’t Succeed

So first of all is Out of date contact details

If you haven’t got an up to date record of people’s details e.g email address, phone numbers etc

Your message either won’t reach enough people or reach the right people

The second reason is  Random & Spasmodic Communication

If you don’t regularly communicate with your community, they’re not conditioned to listening.

Remember people want to feel valued continually, not just when you need extra appointments filled.

The offer/invitation has no relevant value

If you haven’t got anything relevant and special to offer patients to return, why would they?

Any communication or invitation must have a strong ‘WIIFM’ (What’s In It For Me) so that it resonates with the patient’s needs and wants.

Steve – or simply You make it hard to book in again

There needs to be minimal friction to create a booking, otherwise people will delay or forget e.g. online booking link, sms reply button, call now button etc

You don’t have a follow up

You need regular contact with your community so that you have more opportunities to keep them active.

Don’t hope that one email or sms will do the trick. Create a structured campaign and series of contact points.

You don’t have a schedule of when you will do it

Consistency is key to filling your books, don’t be reactionary, have it in the diary of when you are going to do it throughout the year, or better yet, have an automated platform to do it for you, it’s that simple.

Huyen - We hope that you enjoyed this episode, and we are curious about what you have done so far to retain your existing patients? Our healthcare professional community would love to hear your comments below this podcast.

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We can’t wait to have you on our show and we look forward to seeing you next time.

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