How To Get More Patients in Your Clinic

By: Collin Couey on May 10, 2023

If you’re an independent practice owner or admin who is struggling to maintain a patient base and you’re not sure how to attract more patients, you’re not alone. 

Patients nowadays have a specific set of requirements that they are looking to be met when searching for a new practice or doctor, and if you're not meeting their expectations, they will move on in their search.

If you’re not taking steps to make sure you are perceived as affable, available, and accurate, you risk losing out on new patient referrals due to your colleagues and patients being less likely to recommend you. 

Another avenue of attracting patients to consider is marketing—if your practice isn’t prioritizing some form of marketing, you’ll be losing out on revenue due to the low cost of entry and high return on investment.

Don’t worry though; we’re here to prove you with tips and advice from qualified physicians who have seen success attracting and maintaining a healthy patient base.

Dr. Gerda Maissel[1] is a Board Certified Patient Advocate (BPCA) and Board Certified Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (PM&R) physician with over 30 years of experience. She shared what she considers the most important soft skills needed to attract patients.

“Although physicians tend to want ads to build their practice, my experience tells me that ads are only a small piece of what needs to be done.”

Dr. Gerda Maissel

Dr. Jess Levy[2] is a psychiatrist specializing in patients with ADHD. He shares what marketing strategies made him successful when he started his own practice.

Use the 3 As to attract potential patients: Affable, available, accurate

It should come as no surprise that patient experience, engagement, and satisfaction are crucial aspects to attracting and retaining patients. However, when it comes to improving those parts of your business, it’s sometimes easier said than done.

Not taking patient experience into account can come back to bite you. In our recent Software Advice Patient Experience survey*, we found that 56% of patients sought a different provider after a negative experience.

A negative experience has led 56% of patients to seek a different provider.

Having a concrete idea about how you can increase your patient experience is the first step, and that’s why it’s so helpful to always keep the 3 As in mind. Remember, referrals make up the vast majority of your new patients, so it’s important to maintain a good reputation, and you can accomplish that by focusing on patient experience and engagement.

Get feedback to foster an affable reputation among peers and patients 

The first A is easy enough to accomplish. Being affable means you need to be pleasant and patient with your staff, other doctors, and especially your patients without being arrogant. If you have a reputation for being kind and compassionate, your colleagues are more likely to send referrals your way. 

The same goes for your patients. If you’re affable during appointments, your patients will give out your name and contact information to their friends and colleagues.

Dr. Maissel gave this hypothetical that plays out every single day:

“A patient trusts their doctor who's going to tell them when they have a thyroid problem. So they ask their primary care doctor for a recommendation about who's the best crinologist around. Their doctor is going to send them to the endocrinologist they know who seems affable.”

It sounds easy enough, but it takes concentrated effort to build and maintain a level of patient experience that is noticeable. The rewards are there for the taking though:

“I have never yet worked in a market where a good doctor with the right social skills, the ability to connect with people, and treat people well didn't get busy quickly.”

Improving your affability comes down to executing from a top down approach. First, you need to ensure every interaction with your practice is focused on patient experience. From scheduling appointments, to talking to you during their visit, to interacting with your staff, you need to ensure that every single person at your practice is being affable. 

This also applies to your interactions with your colleagues.

“The bottom line is doctors get feedback from patients all the time on their experience with other doctors. If it's no good, they won't send patients their way again because they don't want it to reflect poorly on them.”

Dr. Gerda Maissel

The best place to start is by asking your patients. Sending patient engagement and experience surveys out periodically is a great way to figure out where you stand with your patients as well as finding the gaps where you can improve.

Here’s a template to help you get started, but you should always customize it to fit your practice and its needs. Ask things like:

  • How satisfied are you with your doctor’s explanation of your condition?

  • Did you leave the appointment feeling confident about your diagnosis and healthcare plan?

Prioritize availability for patients with scheduling tools and practices 

Your schedule is another aspect of your practice that you might not have thought about that could be hurting your ability to attract new patients.

“If you change your schedule too frequently, and your patients and your staff are having to constantly reschedule, that will get out there.”

Dr. Gerda Maissel

Dr. Maissel already mentioned that doctors hear about what their patients think about other doctors, and that isn’t only about whether they are nice or not. One thing that can be hard to remember is that even if you’re seeing 30+ patients a day, most of your patients are taking time off work, driving to your office, waiting in a waiting room, and scheduling their entire day around their visit—so if you cancel or reschedule, that’s a huge deal to them.

That’s why it’s so crucial to be available. You may have a long wait list, but it’s important to have some flexibility for your colleagues.

Luckily for you, software can help make sure your availability is easier to maintain. In particular, self-scheduling software and patient portals are both tools that any practice should have to both improve patient experience as well as decrease the likelihood that you have to cancel appointments.

What is patient self-scheduling?

With self-scheduling tools, patients can book, alter, or cancel their appointments from their smartphones or computers. Considering that consumers can book hotel rooms and flights on-demand online, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that they want greater control over scheduling their doctors’ appointments too.

For more insight into how self-scheduling can improve your practice, check out How Patient Self-Scheduling Will Help Your Practice

Patient portals are an equally important tool that most doctors have access to but are often underutilized.

What is a patient portal?

A patient portal is a secure online website or application available either from a desktop, laptop, or mobile device that gives patients access to personal medical information or updates provided by their healthcare provider.

And if you don’t have one, you’re losing out:

Dr. Maissel pointed out, “I occasionally have clients who, when there's not a good portal, are turned off from an entire health system. They want to go elsewhere.” 

According to that same Patient Experience survey, 66% of patients expect healthcare providers to use tools such as telemedicine and patient portals.

66% of patients expect healthcare providers to use tools like telemedicine and patient portals

For more information about patient portals, their benefits, and how they can improve your practice, check out our other resources:

Make accuracy a cornerstone of your practice culture 

And finally, you need to be accurate.

You know your stuff, but it’s important to remember that your patients are relying on you to provide them with succinct, accurate information. It’s easy to go overboard with explanations and details during your patients’ first few visits, but they are often just looking for the most simple answer to their questions.

This goes doubly so for whenever your colleague reaches out to you for a consultation.

“Try to answer the question sent to you, because you don’t want to go off on a tangent and not actually answer the question that they're consulting you about.”

Dr. Gerda Maissel

It’s also important to make sure all of your healthcare data is up to date and maintained. You’re required to have an electronic health record system, so you might as well utilize it to its fullest by making sure you and your staff are maintaining accurate records.

It can be easy to overlook your EHR as a useful tool to help attract patients, but having accurate, up-to-date records helps you with not just accuracy but also affability. If a colleague calls to consult on a patient or problem, you’ll have the necessary data available at your fingertips. 

Additionally, you can use your EHR to write personal notes about your patients so that whenever they come back for follow-up visits, you can remind yourself of something they previously mentioned so they know you’re invested in them.

For more information about EHRs, check out these resources:

Attract new patients by investing in medical marketing strategies and tools 

Being affable, available, and accurate go a long way toward attracting and retaining patients considering referrals are such a big part of your client list. But, they’re not the only ways you can attract patients.

When it comes to marketing for medical practices, a little intentionality, time, and monetary investment goes a long way. You don’t have to spend big in order to get big returns. You just have to invest the time and effort in a few key strategies:

Attract new patients by investing in medical marketing strategies and tools

Uplevel your practice website and include pricing information

According to Gartner[3], cost is the primary factor when making healthcare decisions for 53% of consumers and 88% of insured consumers. That’s why it’s so important to be upfront and transparent about the cost of your services on your website. You might be scared that patients are going to see that information and choose another practice over you, but they’re more likely to choose you knowing that there aren’t going to be any surprises.

This is all without mentioning the hospital price transparency rule that went into effect in January 2021. Unfortunately for patients, the vast majority of healthcare systems are still a long way from fully complying with the mandate.[3] Of the 2,000 nationwide hospitals that were reviewed, only 16% complied with the rule as of August 2022.[4]

In 2022, Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) increased penalizing hospitals who were noncompliant. [5] Penalties for noncompliance were previously $300 a day (for smaller hospitals).

All this to say that if you provide price transparency on your website, not only are you providing a better experience for your patients, but you’re also ahead of the curve, and maintaining compliance will save you a ton of money in the long run.

Price transparency isn’t the only thing you need to focus on when it comes to attracting patients with your website though. First, you have to make sure that it looks good and is usable.

Dr. Jess Levy spent a lot of time developing his website to make sure it was set up to best capture his ideal patients:

“When designing my website, I spent a lot of time looking at other websites that I liked or I thought my patients might like. I specialize in treating patients with ADD, so I wanted to make sure that my website had an ADD-friendly interface.”

Dr. Jess Levy

Luckily, it’s never been easier to have a nice-looking, optimized website. Whether that’s hiring a contractor or service to build you one from scratch or using a website builder, you can create an optimized website where you can house important information patients are looking for when choosing their provider.

Example of Wix’s custom website builder

Example of Wix’s custom website builder (Source)

Plan a search engine optimization (SEO) strategy to help patients find you online

First, it’s important to understand what SEO is: Search engine optimization is the process of optimizing your online content to help it rank in search engine results pages (SERPs). The goal of SEO is to increase your content ranking in organic search results to improve visibility, create awareness, and drive traffic to your website and other digital marketing efforts, such as social media pages.

Put simply, the more useful the search engine thinks your website and content is, the more likely it will be to include it as one of the first options whenever someone searches for “doctor in X area.”

Screenshot of a search page for local orthodontists

Better optimization makes it more likely that your practice will come up within these first options on a search engine.

SEO optimization can be tricky and time consuming, but unless you’re paying for a service, it’s free and comes with a bevy of benefits: 

  • High-quality traffic (and more of it) to your website.

  • Increased visibility for your business in organic search results.

  • Greater trust and legitimacy for your business (a higher SERP ranking indicates that Google has deemed your site trustworthy).

  • Expanded audience reach.

  • Better user experience which means greater patient experience.

This is just scratching the surface of what SEO is and how it can benefit your practice. For a more comprehensive resource, check out Your Complete Guide to SEO for Your Medical Practice.

Use email marketing to meet patients where they are 

Email marketing has become the go-to marketing channel for a variety of industries for a good reason. It’s cheap, effective, and produces one of the highest return on investments across the board compared to other marketing channels. And the same goes for the healthcare industry. The 2022 Software Advice Email and Social Media Marketing Survey**, while not specifically about healthcare organizations, found some staggering statistics about email marketing.

An infographic showing email marketing is a crucial part of any business's marketing strategy.

You might be stunned to see 1,000% ROI, but the simple truth is that there’s value in email marketing. According to the aforementioned survey, 10% of businesses increase their spending on email marketing year over year. 

Email marketing takes time and effort, but you already have your patients’ email addresses, so you’re losing value by not sending email newsletters. Especially when you consider these benefits:

  • It’s a free or low-cost channel

  • You fully own your email marketing

  • Preferred customer communication channel

  • High ROI

For a more complete, comprehensive look at healthcare email marketing, including actionable tips and recommendations that you can use to improve your email marketing efforts, check out How To Improve Your Healthcare Email Marketing

Be active on social media to increase patient engagement

Your healthcare organization social media page is more than just a place to share photos and opinions. Instead, think of each of your social media pages as another business directory where you can provide patients with a way to quickly contact you. Include your phone number, email address, and location prominently.

Dr. Levy weighs in, saying, “There’s nothing more frustrating than going to a doctor’s social media page, and it’s out of date. If it hasn’t been updated in a year it makes me wonder if they’re even still in business or if they care.”

The first step is making sure you are established on at least Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, and any specialty-specific platforms that might exist in your field.

Additionally, you want to promote your social media pages through your email newsletters, through your website, and whenever your patients are in your practice to maximize the number of followers you have.

Social media advertising is also a great way to help you reach patients in your area who might not otherwise know your medical practice exists.

If a potential patient runs across your profile, you want it to seem like you’re active and engaging, which might be the difference between them choosing your practice and going with someone else.

In order to have a successful healthcare marketing strategy on social media, consider the following:

  • Be consistent and organized

  • Optimize your content properly

  • Be interactive with the patients responding to your posts

  • Post regularly to encourage engagement

  • Use real photos and content from your medical practice and not generic screenshots

  • Drive patients to your website by sharing content from your blog

For more information on social media marketing, as well as every other type of healthcare marketing we went over, check out Everything You Need To Know About Medical Practice Marketing.

With some thought, time, and effort, you’ll see an increase in your number of patients

Attracting new patients is worth the effort. First, you need to work on your soft skills to ensure that your patients and colleagues like and, more importantly, trust you. Then, once you’re confident in that, you need to focus on increasing your outreach by ensuring you have a strong website, an online presence that optimizes SEO, a solid email marketing strategy, and at least some consistent social media presence.

Not only will this ensure you’re attracting new patients, but it will also make sure your patient experience is engaging and thorough.

Survey methodology

* Software Advice's 2022 Patient Experience Survey was conducted online in October 2022 among 1,001 respondents in the U.S. Respondents were all adults who had visited a healthcare provider within the past three years.

** 2022 Software Advice Email and Social Media Marketing Survey

Software Advice conducted this survey in January 2022 among 299 respondents to learn more about small, midsize, and large business email and social media marketing tactics. Respondents were screened for full-time employees of all company sizes that have involvement with marketing-related activities. They must have been working within roles including advertising, brand management, customer experience or service, data and analytics, IT, marketing, product marketing and management, sales or strategic planning and be current email and social media marketing users.

Note: The applications mentioned in this article are examples to show a feature in context and are not intended as endorsements or recommendations.