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As many healthcare providers will know, a positive endorsement from one patient to another, also known as a ‘word of mouth’ referral, is one of the most effective ways to attract a new patient to your practice.

Traditional marketing methods cannot compete with the power of a personal recommendation from a trusted friend or family member. However, this form of promotion is often seen as the most difficult to manage as it is something you cannot fully control.

Let us introduce you to some simple methods to improve the word of mouth referrals that your practice receives.

First impressions

It all starts when a patient first interacts with your practice.

Whether the patient visits your website to book online, phones your front desk to make their first appointment, or drops in to ask some initial questions, all of these early interactions foster a relationship with a patient who may become an advocate for your practice.

Step into your patient’s shoes and walk the route they take when they first interact with your practice.

If you find any roadblocks or barriers to quick and effective communication with your practice, fix them. If you identify elements of your new patient onboarding process that are not friendly and welcoming, review them. Taking the time to create a positive first impression with every new patient will set you on the path to building close relationships which are more likely to result in word of mouth referrals.

Build a professional network

With the medical sector becoming increasingly competitive, it can be hard to see other healthcare practitioners as your allies in growing your patient numbers.

However, fostering close relationships with others in the healthcare industry is a great way to spread the word about services that you offer. Consider that the business community has long used professional networks to increase their exposure to new markets and opportunities. These business networks can work just as effectively in a healthcare setting. Take the first step and visit other healthcare providers in your local area. Introduce yourself and ask if they would be open to displaying your business card in their reception area if you do likewise in your practice.

If you don’t ask, don’t expect to receive

Ask, and you shall receive. This mantra certainly rings true when it comes to word of mouth referrals from your patients.

Ensure that your practice staff are aware of the importance of patients sharing their positive experiences with their friends and family. Discuss the opportunities that come off the back of receiving feedback from patients, whether positive or negative, and consider setting up a system whereby patients are asked how their experience at the practice has been.

This could come in the form of a simple patient feedback survey that can be completed by the patient at the end of their treatment. If they indicate a positive experience, ask them to share their experience with their friends and family. In most instances, patients are happy to advocate for a practice that they feel their friends and family will like.

If the patient’s experience is negative, acknowledge it, and outline the steps that you will take to solve their issue. These honest and transparent interactions are a goldmine for identifying potential improvement opportunities within the practice.

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Exceed expectations

Today’s consumers are increasingly demanding. Our insights into patient behaviour show that over 80% of Australians now own a smartphone.

With the the on-demand economy driven by our increasing reliance on mobiles, patients, have come to expect the same of their healthcare experience as any other service interaction they have. If a patient can quickly and easily jump online to book their holiday, including international flights, accommodation and a rental car in one evening, they will reasonably expect to be able to book a healthcare appointment in the same manner.

If your patients find their experience of booking and attending their appointments simple and stress-free, they are more likely to have a positive feeling about attending. Think about how you can optimise your website to help drive this outcome.

Create delight

We all like to feel special, and your patients are no different.

While it’s easy to get caught up in the busy day-to-day tasks of running a practice, it pays to take a few moments to ensure your patients feel they are your top priority. Recording some simple information about each patient on their record can help your front desk staff welcome them to the practice when they arrive for their appointment. They can welcome the patient by name, ask them how their children are, or ask them how their recent overseas holiday went. These unexpected interactions add delight to your patient’s day and make them feel like they are more than just a patient.

In summary

These are 5 simple ways you can start to improve your chances of gaining positive word of mouth referrals at your practice. You only get one chance to make a good first impression, so be sure to make it count.

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