Why Patient Referrals are Critical to Maintaining a Patient Base
Healthcare organizations typically leverage all types of marketing and advertising strategies to acquire and retain their patients, but one of the best methods at building a strong patient base is patient referrals.
When searching for a new healthcare provider, 51% of patients find that referrals from family and friends are one of the most important factors in making their decision. This means that happy patients spread the word of their positive experiences to their friends and family, which is highly trusted and considered important in their decision-making process.
Additionally, 52% of patients seeking new providers find referrals from another healthcare professional as one of the most important factors. This means the patient is seen by another healthcare professional, who then refers the patient to you and your practice.
In both referral cases, a trusted individual is recommending a healthcare practice or provider to a potential patient. For this reason, placing emphasis on a patient referral program can help to grow and maintain your patient base more than other marketing strategies.
Encouraging your current patients to refer their friends and family is an inexpensive, highly effective, and easy way to grow your practice.
What is a Patient Referral Program?
Patient referrals happen when a satisfied patient recommends your healthcare practice to their friends and family. Referrals can either happen organically or with a little nudge from a practice.
A patient referral program is a marketing system to acquire new patients by enlisting the help of your current patients.
In short, this system brings new patients in the door while helping to maintain prior relationships.
With extremely low overhead and a high chance of acquiring new patients, healthcare practices not utilizing a referral program are missing out on years of income.
How a Patient Referral Program Works
Patient referral programs thrive when both the staff and patients are excited about sharing. The staff must relay the request for referrals, and the patient must be excited enough about their visit that they actually follow through.
Referral programs can happen in several different ways. The simplest method is to have staff members ask patients to refer their loved ones after their visit. More complex ways include implementing software or other systems in place to recruit referrals.
Note that referrals will most likely not happen if patients are not generally satisfied with their experience as unhappy patients are less likely to share good things about their experiences and are even more unlikely to refer friends and family. So if patients are not generally satisfied with their visits, it may be time to rethink and restructure your patient experience.
How to Create a Patient Referral Program
- First, take a look at your overall patient satisfaction. As long as your patients are generally happy with the care they receive, you can begin recruiting referrals.
- Once you have established that patients are generally happy with their visits, make the staff aware that your goal is to seek patient referrals.
- Then, document a plan with tangible goals (i.e. plan to acquire at least 3 new patients from referrals during the next quarter, etc.). Choose a person or small team to be accountable for this plan.
- Decide if you will be offering incentives for your referral program, such as gift cards, discounts, etc. (Note that some state laws or other codes may prevent practices from offering incentives. Be sure to check!)
- Next, begin to place signage around your practice for patients to see during their visits. Provide staff with clear direction for talking about referrals and make sure everybody knows their role in this new initiative.
- You may also consider running campaigns, such as a series of emails, SMS messages, or phone calls to ask current patients for referrals.
Additional steps you may want to take to ensure a successful patient referral program are:
- Engaging with other practices: Especially for the purpose of acquiring more referrals from other healthcare providers, engaging with other practices in your area and establishing trust with them can help funnel new patients to your door.
- Utilize tools to automatically ask for referrals: Automated email campaigns, phone calls, and more can help even the busiest practice stay on track to recruit referrals.
- Creating promotional materials: Besides signage in your practice, creating additional material for patients to take as a reminder can help jog their memory after a visit and encourage referrals.
People greatly trust the word of their friends, family, and other healthcare professionals when it comes to choosing a new provider. Your referral marketing strategy should be designed to fit your practice’s needs. Your strategy will depend on your existing patients’ satisfaction, how aggressive you are about acquiring new patients, and more. Without placing emphasis on a referral marketing strategy, healthcare practices can be missing out on guaranteed new patients by the day.
If your patients are generally happy with the care they receive, a simple nudge to get them to spread the word can mean the difference between a booming, successful practice and a lonely, quiet one. The sooner you begin, the sooner you will start to see results. Always remember: the only “bad” patient referral program is not having one.
Start Your Patient Referral Program With RepuGen
In addition to improving healthcare online reputation, RepuGen helps healthcare providers grow their loyal patient base with an automated referral campaign. So if you want to give your happy patients the opportunity to refer your quality care to their loved ones, contact us at 866-246-7891 or schedule a live demo to see how the process works!