Across industries, it costs five times as much to attract a new customer than to retain an existing one. The probability of selling to an existing customer is also 60 to 70 percent, compared to 5 to 20 percent for a new customer.
In the healthcare industry specifically, customer drop-off rates can be extremely high. In fact, the MGMA 2016 Practice Operations Reportfound specialties experience a median of 5-8 percent no-show rate. Another report found up to 20 percent of patients do not follow up on their doctor’s referrals to specialists.
If a patient ends up losing touch with the health system at some point along their care journey, the organization wastes acquisition costs and misses out on future revenue opportunities. A focus on patient retention can help cut costs and boost revenue by improving quality and longevity of patient relationships and word-of-mouth referrals.
This post examines three patient marketing strategies that can be used to improve retention.
Create and Leverage Patient Journey Maps
The patient journey is comprised of all interactions with a health organization. The journey begins when a consumer first makes contact with a healthcare organization and continues with subsequent interactions, both in person and virtually. A journey map outlines each patient touch point and helps marketers gain a deeper understanding of the patient’s experience. Journey mapping exercises are used to guide the planning, creation, and implementation of communication strategies and campaigns to improve this experience.
Most importantly, journey maps illuminate where there are gaps in the experience that may result in patient loss – for example, no call or text message reminder before a clinical appointment, or no follow-up email after the appointment. These gaps represent missed engagement opportunities, which may cause the patient to forget about their appointment and miss it, or to never schedule another clinical appointment with that organization again.
When patients lose contact with the health system, the organization loses out on potential retention revenue and may rack up additional acquisition costs. Once these gaps have been identified through a journey mapping exercise, strategic engagement efforts focused on retention can be implemented to close those gaps and prevent patient loss.
Marketers can employ tactics and processes that fill gaps in the patient experience, including informational emails, outbound calls via an engagement center, appointment reminder text messages, social media interaction, and paid advertising. These efforts work to engage patients, fill patient journey gaps, and improve retention by keeping patients involved and in contact with health systems.
Take Advantage of Digital Marketing Tactics
With one in twenty Google searches being for health-related information, the Internet’s influence is changing how customers interact with healthcare companies. Since consumers often use the Internet to find answers to care-related inquiries, health systems should have an online presence that offers valuable resources and engagement opportunities. Most importantly, studies have shown that happy and engaged patients are more likely to be loyal patients.
Healthcare marketers can employ retention-focused digital marketing tactics such as search engine optimization (SEO), pay-per-click campaigns (PPC), targeted email outreach, and social media marketing. These methods present patients with relevant information through preferred communication platforms.
These digital tactics also offer opportunities to collect additional information about patients. With each interaction, it’s beneficial for healthcare marketers to gather all types of patient data, from email addresses to psychographic data, because this information can inform and improve future retention efforts. Healthcare marketers can also present patients with retention-focused incentives via digital channels. For example, healthcare marketers could send a patient an email with an invite to a relevant, local event that the patient can participate in so they remain engaged with the health system.
Marketers should take advantage of a healthcare CRM to build, launch, and manage retention-focused digital marketing programs. Using this tool, healthcare marketers can reach out in a targeted, personalized way that keeps customers engaged with the health system throughout the care continuum. If engagement is not consistent, patients may lose interest and trust in the health system, resulting patient loss over the long term.
Digital marketing strategies can help healthcare organizations retain patients and gain new information to inform future outreach.
Improve Patient Portal Marketing
A recent poll found that 73 percent of patients believe access to personal health records would help improve their care satisfaction, which is critical when it comes to retaining patients over the long term. Patient portals are one effective way to ensure patients have easy access to personal health information in a convenient and secure way, including discharge summaries, medications, immunizations, allergies, and lab results.
Another way patient portals can help satisfy and retain customers is by strengthening patient-provider relationships. Patient portals offer safe direct messaging between patients and physicians, keeping patients engaged and helping them get the most out of their provider relationship. The relationships patients form by using patient portals can have a direct impact on retention: a study from athenaResearch found that patients who establish a relationship with their providers via a patient portal are more likely to return to that provider.
For that reason, healthcare marketers should advertise their organization’s use of a patient portal to inform patients and encourage them to join. Marketers can reach out via patients’ preferred communication channels, including phone, email, or social media, to market the patient portal and its benefits effectively.
One large health system in Wisconsin, Aurora Health Care, has used email-based marketing campaigns in conjunction with patient portal outreach successfully. By connecting their patient portal, MyChart, to CRM-based email marketing efforts, Aurora has seen patient unsubscribe rate decrease, while email open rates have risen to as high as 50 percent. These numbers prove that patients trust and appreciate that their health data is easily reachable and is referenced to connect with them on deeper levels.
Despite the proven advantages of patient retention, data shows that only 16 percent of companies put their primary focus into customer retention. This is concerning, as increasing customer retention rates by only 5 percent can increase profits by 25 to 95 percent.
In addition to the loss of revenue and wasted spend, lack of patient retention can lead to damaged customer relationships and fewer word-of-mouth referrals. In order to avoid these pitfalls, healthcare organizations can leverage strategic patient marketing to promote retention and grow your organization’s bottom line.
Gary Druckenmiller, Jr. is Vice President, Customer Success at Evariant. He functions as lead strategist, digital marketing thought leader and C-level executive sponsor for all of Evariant’s enterprise clients, primarily focused on advising health system leadership of opportunistic methods to improve their digital presence and interactive growth potential. Prior to Evariant, Gary served as Vice-President for Harte-Hanks, responsible for healthcare digital strategy and deliverables including multi-channel campaigns, paid digital media, social media, CRM and analytics. Gary has been with Evariant for 8 years and can be heard often on the hospital marketing speaking circuit. Gary has a bachelor’s degree in marketing from Bentley University.