I get asked a lot about how our new patients find us. I have a thriving practice and am very lucky to not have to advertise. Our new patients come to us in a number of ways:
1. Patient referrals – this is by far our most important source of new patients. When our existing patients are happy (and sometimes even excited) with their care, they are our most outspoken advocates. These new referrals are often of similar temperament and social outlook of the friends and relatives that referred them, so they are very likely to become long term patients. At one point, we ran a contest to increase patient referrals, but found that people were just as likely to send new people our way even without incentive. We have also found that some patients will advocate for us on local social websites or discussion groups.
2. Professional referrals – this is our second largest source of new patients. We primarily get new babies from the local obstetricians, but will also get some new patients from other local specialists. We located our office close to an OB/Gyn office, so we also get “walk-by” interest from expectant parents.
3. Insurance – This is a fairly random way to get new patients. We primarily get new patients who are looking on their insurance website for a practitioner who is geographically close. Some of the insurance companies are now “rating” physicians based on some arbitrary standards they set, but this does not seem to be playing a role with new patients.
4. Internet searches – We occasionally get a new patient who has found us by using an internet search engine or mapping feature. We have not done any search engine optimization of our website to drive traffic. Nor have we done any internet advertising. However, the patients that do find us that way tell us that they use the website information to help them decide on whether they will come or not.
A new poll from the University of Michigan Mott Children’s Hospital mirrors our experience. They found that most parents rely on word-of-mouth recommendations to find a new physician. Interestingly, online ratings are becoming more important, with 30% of parents who use online resources reporting using online ratings in their final decision making process. This is even higher in younger families. However, this trend is still outweighed by location (65%) and taking their insurance (92%) as the most important factors.