All businesses are tasked with the job of building a new customer “funnel” that nurtures the relationship through initial transaction and on a going basis. A hospital or healthcare system has inherent disadvantages when building this funnel but also some built-in advantages.
The biggest advantage is that a hospital can, and should, be more than just a place to get a fix a broken bone or cyst removed. A hospital can market itself as a long-life wellness partner, something that’s very difficult for a pizza chain or cable company to do.
Here are some steps for not only building your patient acquisition funnel, but also for keeping the patients flowing through it:
The Top of the Funnel Matters
The top of the funnel matters. And for a hospital, this is often the urgent care center or primary care provider. Someone coming into an urgent care center for stitches should be dealt with compassionately, empathetically and quickly. Don’t underestimate the simple power of smiles and respect. In that way, those stitches won’t just heal the patient; they’ll stitch together a lifelong relationship with the patient.
The same goes for primary care physicians affiliated with your hospital or network. Yes, doctors are bogged down with regulations, paperwork and chronic lack of time. This is where peripheral support staff needs to step in to help create an empathetic, warm environment.
The Virtual Top
Print newspaper ads? Forget it. TV? It can be a big money commitment with a shotgun message. Billboards? They more often reinforce a decision that has already been made rather than sell the product or service to a prospective customer.
Digital media is where it is at. Yes, you’ll get plenty of new patients who come in to your urgent care center for acute care or find one of your PCPs to treat their bronchitis, but the way to fill your funnel today is through clicks: Google AdWords, LinkedIn and SEO-rich content that focuses on your local market.
Phrases like “top cardiac care in New Orleans” or “best cancer center in Peoria” need to be woven throughout a compelling content narrative to help capture the many people clicking and Googling their way to better health.
There are plenty of other marketing strategies that can help you build a better funnel.
You can enhance your funnel through precision technology like PatientBond’s configurable platform for digital communications that uses psychographic segmentation to tailor and customize the customer experience throughout the life of relationship. This “digital hand-holding” can go a long way to making sure the patients stay in the funnel.
Your goal with a patient acquisition funnel is just like any funnel: You want to get as much in at the top as you can and create a flowing core at the bottom that provides sustenance.
Stop the Leaks
A decent funnel for your engine coolant has no leaks. Your patient funnel shouldn’t have any either, but hospitals lose a staggering amount of revenue simply to referrals going out of network and to competitors. A mere five lost patients a week can add up to almost $800,000 in lost revenue over the course of a year.
Some leaks will be beyond your control to stop, but other leaks are like throwing money away. A staff receptionist who simply isn’t aware that your network takes a certain health insurance plan (we’ve seen it happen) or isn’t aware that a physician in your hospital specializes in rare joint disorders (we’ve seen it happen) can cause completely needless turning away of patients.
A large hospital system faced a large number of patients who would use their emergency room, often inappropriately, so this system employs dozens of call center nurses to follow up with patients post-discharge to steer them toward an in-network physician.
This resource-intensive approach is costly but can yield big dividends as the annual revenue generated by new patients is significant. Seeking to improve its conversion rate, the system used psychographic segmentation to personalize the call center phone scripts such that they resonated more strongly with patients. Encouragingly, the system’s conversion rate jumped 50 percent after taking this consumer-centric approach.
Another big cause of leaks you need to stop: Negative patient experiences. Once the patient is in your funnel, unlike car coolant, they can climb out. Poor customer experience will cause a patient to leap out the top of your funnel faster than anything. This can range anywhere from mishandling customer data to creating an overall poor experience.
We’ve seen cases where doctors have left previous patient’s medical data right on a screen for the next patient to see, or sign-in sheets with other names clearly visible or receptionists who announce your proctologist appointment to the whole waiting room. Patient privacy is a big deal, and not being careful with it will cause huge leakage in your funnel.
A doctor acting disinterested or rushed, lack of follow-up care, a cattle-call waiting room environment. Yes, you want the customer (and the revenue), but the most revenue comes when the tuning fork of altruism and capitalism is in harmony.
Again, this is where a patient engagement platform can help. PatientBond, for example, can be used for applications ranging from appointment reminders and follow-ups to wellness reminders to surveys and insights gathering — showing patients that you care about their experiences and that you want their feedback.
Make the patient experience your number one priority, and the leaks will stop and your funnel will flow.