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9 patient acquisition strategies for medical and dental practices

Alia Paavola
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Patient acquisition is key to growing your medical or dental practice. The more new patients you bring in, the more appointments you can make, the more likely you can expand your service offerings, and the more protected you are when a patient churns. All of these benefits mean more revenue in the long run. 

In this article, we share the definition of patient acquisition and the difference between acquisition and retention. Plus, we share nine key patient acquisition strategies.

What is patient acquisition? 

Patient acquisition refers to bringing in new patients to your medical facility. It primarily involves marketing initiatives that focus on patients who have never used your services. In short, it means driving potential patients into paying ones.

How does patient acquisition differ from patient retention?

Patient acquisition and patient retention are both crucial to creating a sustainable medical practice but are distinctly different. Patient acquisition is focused on bringing in new customers, while patient retention focuses on keeping existing ones. 

The best practice for healthcare marketers is striking a good balance between retention and acquisition initiatives. Doing so will set you up for success. 

To learn more about ways to keep more customers, read our blog that breaks down 19 customer retention strategies that work.

9 patient acquisition strategies

1. Create a rock-solid online presence

Prospective patients looking for a new provider often turn to the internet first to inform their decisions. A survey commissioned by found that 80 percent of U.S. adults made a healthcare-related search in a one-year span and that 63 percent of adults choose one provider over another because of their online presence. 

As a result, one of the best patient acquisition strategies is to create a strong online presence.

This includes building a credible, easy-to-find, and easy-to-navigate website. But it doesn’t stop there. In addition, consider making business profiles on the following platforms:

  • Social media sites (Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, and more)
  • Directories and review sites (Yelp, Vitals, ZocDoc, Google, Angi, Healthgrades, and more)

Creating an online presence will help more patients discover your practice, help you build trust, and create a positive first impression. 

When you build an online presence make sure all information is up-to-date and completed. This includes physician bios and customer testimonials. 

2. Encourage existing patients to leave reviews to bolster credibility

Getting existing patients to leave reviews or provide testimonials is key to attracting new patients to your medical facility. 

In fact, a study conducted in 2021 found that 97 percent of patients used reviews to select a new provider or facility. Plus, that same study found that 69 percent of patients visit at least two review platforms before selecting a provider. 

There are many review sites, but some of the most popular sites for healthcare providers are: Yelp, Google Business, Healthgrades, Vitals, ZocDoc, RateMDs, and Facebook.

One of the best ways to boost reviews is to simply ask your patients in person, over the phone, or via text post-visit. 

Here are three text templates that you could use to send to patients to solicit reviews.

To a loyal patient

Hi {{}}! You’ve been a patient of {}} for X years! We’d be really grateful if you’d consider leaving us a review. Here’s a link to our Yelp page: {{link}} 

To a first-time visitor 

Hi {}}! We hope you enjoyed your first visit to {{}}. We’d love to hear about your first impressions. You can leave us a review on Google by clicking this link: {{link}}

To a patient that recently visited

Hi {{}}! We are checking in to see if you’d be interested in leaving a review about your recent visit to {{}. It would really help out our small practice in these trying times! If you’re interested, here’s a link to our review page: {{link}}

3. Advertise using paid digital platforms

Now that you’ve built a strong online presence, the next step is to get more traffic to your website and business profiles by using paid digital ad platforms. Paid advertising allows you to turn prospective patients into paying ones quickly when done well because the right message gets in front of the right audience. 

Depending on your budget and goals, you should consider using multiple ad platforms to reach prospective patients. 

A few good ones to consider are:

  • Google Display Network ads, which allow you to advertise on popular websites that customers browse
  • Facebook ads, which allow you to target your audience on the social platform using banner ads or sponsored posts
  • Yelp ads, which puts your local business above competitors on Yelp search results 
  • Youtube ads, which allow you to reach customers with video advertisements on the items they are watching
  • Instagram ads, which allow you to reach customers with sponsored posts or stories
  • Twitter ads, which allow you to reach customers with an advertisement on Twitter

There’s also paid search advertising, which we discuss in greater detail in the next section. 

4. Win patients on Google by using paid search and SEO 

When looking for a new provider, patients often will turn to a simple Google search like “urgent care near me,” “best cardiologists downtown,” or “best dentists in town.” 

Since the patient journey often starts on Google, using a local paid search advertising strategy is a great way to get new patients. This advertising strategy allows you to target particular keywords and get your website or ad at the top of search engine results pages. 

Using Google Local Services ads, medical and dental practices can get in front of the people who search on Google for particular services. The ads will only show up for customers in your service area, and you will only pay if a customer reaches out to you from that advertisement. 

For example, if a patient searched “dentist in Las Vegas,” the following results will come up. The first two used paid search advertising to ensure they were the first to pop up.

Screenshot of results from a Google search for dentist in Las Vegas
Google search results for a dentist in Las Vegas.

Another way to win patients using Google is by leveraging search engine optimization to drive organic traffic to your website. SEO can help your business create brand awareness, help you expand your target audience, and convert more leads in the long run.

When SEO is done well, the higher your web pages will rank on Google or other search engines. This means your content will be more visible to patients looking for a particular service. Being on the first page of Google greatly increases your potential to reach more prospective patients as the first five organic results account for 67.6 percent of all clicks.

One of the best ways to use SEO to get more prospective patients is to build a blog with high-quality content. By posting this content regularly, you are providing prospective patients with helpful content and establishing credibility as a provider. 

For example, when you Google “what to know before a root canal” the top-ranking result is a blog from Westerville Dental Associates in Ohio. Since it is the top result on Google, this post will get a majority of the search traffic and help the organization build credibility as a trusted advisor.

Google search results for how to prepare for a root canal
Google search results for "what to know before a root canal."

Another dental organization that leverages SEO and posts high-quality content regularly Aspen Dental. The organization regularly posts blogs that answer patient questions.

Screenshot of AspenDental's blog
AspenDental's blog that showcases posting high-quality, highly-relevant content.

5. Make it easy to schedule appointments

To acquire new patients ensure you make it easy for them to contact you and schedule an appointment. The easier you make it for customers, the more likely they will choose your practice.

Make it as clear and simple as possible to patients how to schedule, provide an option to schedule online, and offer multiple ways to contact your business like phone calls, texting, and form fills. 

That way, you don’t lose any patients because they didn’t want to call or didn’t have the time to. 

A recent report from KPMG found that although many customers make a phone call to book appointments, only 40 percent are successful on the first attempt. Plus, another study found it takes an average of eight minutes to schedule an appointment by phone. Further, the KPMG report found that 64 percent of GenX and 58 percent of millennials prefer booking appointments online, so much so that they’d switch their healthcare providers for one that has online booking. 

Here’s an example of a website from Dental Group of Chicago that makes it easy for patients to schedule an appointment or contact the business. The Dental Group has the option to book an appointment online, contact them via a form fill, or call them. 

A screenshot of Dental Group of Chicago's website that makes it easy to contact them
Dental Group of Chicago's webpage that makes it easy to schedule appointments.

6. Respond to prospective patient inquiries as quickly as possible

When it comes to elective procedures, prospective patients are reaching out to several practices at the same time to get more information. Often they are looking to answer questions such as do you accept their insurance, what will the price be, if a provider is accepting new patients, and how soon can they be seen. 

With that said, when a potential patient fills out a form on your website or tries to contact you to answer these questions, the faster you respond, the more likely you will acquire them as a patient. 

In fact, a study by Lead Connect found that 78 percent of customers end up selecting the company that responds to their inquiry first. This shows that the speed you have in replying matters. 

Business texting is one great way to reach out to prospective leads quickly, especially if they filled out a form on your website and you obtained consent to text them. Most texts are read within three minutes and the average response time is 90 seconds

Here’s an example of how you could send a text to a patient to follow up with them quickly.

A text message example following up with a patient.
A text message example following up with a patient.

7. Use a blend of communication channels to follow up 

Don’t be afraid to use multiple communication channels to follow up with prospective patients. By using a blend of communication channels, you can help them make informed decisions and increase the likelihood of bringing them into your practice.

Your follow-up strategy should be used to help you get a better understanding of each patient’s needs and help you prove to them why they should choose your practice. 

Say a prospective patient filled out a form to learn more about LASIK surgery at your clinic. Your initial reach out to the lead could be a text to schedule a phone call with them to answer some questions. Your next touchpoint would then be the phone call. From there, you could send over a PDF via email that provides a look at what to expect during the procedure and after. 

Using these touchpoints may help convince a prospective patient to choose your practice over the competition. 

To learn more about creating a streamlined communication strategy, read our omnichannel communication guide.

8. Keep local marketing strategies in mind

Healthcare is very local, which means you should also focus on bolstering local marketing efforts. There are several local and offline marketing strategies to consider:

  • Send out local mailers to residents in your service area
  • Sponsor a local community event like a soccer tournament or road race 
  • Partner with other local businesses
  • Attend local trade shows
  • Host a networking event with local stakeholders
  • Put up printed ads in local stores
  • Hand out tchotchkes with your brand name or logo like a water bottle or tote bag

These items will help raise brand awareness in your community and help foster goodwill toward your practice. 

9. Ask happy patients for referrals

Another tool to help you gain more patients is to ask happy patients to refer their friends and family. ​​Referrals, also known as word-of-mouth advertisements, are a cost-effective way to get more patients. 

In fact, a recent report found 72 percent of patients choose a physician based on referrals from people they trust, and that 83 percent of satisfied patients are willing to refer people if asked. 

One of the best ways to get referrals is to ask them post-service in person, via text, or over the phone. 

Another way to boost referrals is to create a dedicated patient referral program in which the referring patient gets some type of reward. These incentives could be a gift card to a local store, a discount on a future service, or entry into a giveaway raffle. However, keep in mind that some states have laws regarding incentives for patient referral programs so be sure to read those regulations before creating one for your practice. 

The bottom line

Keep these strategies in mind when you are looking to bring in new patients and more revenue to your medical or dental practice. If you’re interested in learning more about how business texting can supplement your patient acquisition and retention efforts, read our blog here

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