Nov 17, 2022



Patient Acquisition Playbook: 10 Strategies that Engage and Convert

Take a close look at your acquisition marketing strategies—are they driving results? Here are 10 patient acquisition techniques that will help your hospital attract more qualified patients.

Low patient acquisition is a sign that your hospital isn’t effectively connecting with potential patients—the most important question is: why? Maybe your healthcare marketing strategies aren’t reaching the right audience at the right time. Or maybe there’s insufficient segmentation for audiences who would benefit from more specialized care. Does a digital front door greet patients who come across your hospital? How easy is it for them to view your team’s availability and expertise? 

These are just a few questions your marketing team should consider when developing a plan to boost brand awareness and optimize outreach. With 77% of healthcare marketers prioritizing patient acquisition in their marketing strategies, it’s time to dig deeper into how your brand can draw in more qualified patients and outpace the competition.1

Why Patient Acquisition Matters

Patient acquisition helps hospitals meet yearly revenue goals, expand existing services, better address community health concerns, and build a loyal consumer base. It involves a thoughtfully crafted outreach strategy that puts your brand in front of high-value prospects who need to see a doctor. The goal is to make your health system memorable enough that consumers keep your name top of mind when they make their next healthcare decision.

Did you know that you have a 5-20% chance of successfully selling a service to a new consumer compared to a 60-70% chance of selling to an existing consumer? This statistic might make patient acquisition seem daunting, but it drives home the importance of making your healthcare practice stand out on its first impression. The consumers you engage effectively now are the loyal patients of the future.

Patient Acquisition vs. Patient Retention: What’s the Difference?

Patient acquisition and patient retention go hand in hand, but they’re not synonymous. Patient acquisition requires marketers to develop effective ways to attract new prospects, while patient retention requires marketers to focus on keeping existing patients loyal to their brand. As a result, your hospital’s patient acquisition and retention plans will likely differ because they have different goals.

For example, improving patient acquisition might entail revamping a brand’s website, investing in organic and paid ad placement, and digitizing communication lines for increased awareness and engagement. On the other hand, patient retention typically requires that health systems focus more on improving services and the overall patient experience based on feedback so that current consumers have no reason to explore what your competition has to offer. Patient acquisition and patient retention are both crucial to the success of your hospital—70% of marketers are prioritizing retention in their future plans, after all—but attracting and cultivating a loyal patient base is the start of it all.1

10 Effective Strategies to Boost Patient Acquisition

Here are 10 tactics to implement into your health system marketing campaign for long-term patient acquisition.

1. Expand Your Digital Access Points

Over 50% of today’s consumers say they use search engines to find a primary care physician, meaning you’ll find many qualified patients online. Build upon your existing patient acquisition marketing plan by thinking of more ways to streamline the patient journey and make it easier for them to find your hospital.

Digital front doors allow prospective patients to use your website to view your appointment availability, set up telehealth appointments, fill out essential paperwork online, and directly message a staff member with questions or concerns. Also, embrace opportunities to engage with prospects through email marketing, content marketing, and social media campaigns. Patient testimonials, clinician insights, and industry updates spark curiosity that will help potential patients see your hospital as a trusted healthcare resource.

2. Offer Online Appointment Scheduling

Don’t forget to include appointment scheduling in your hospital’s digital transformation! Studies show that almost 70% of consumers would rather book an appointment online than by phone, and 80% report they’d switch healthcare providers if one had more convenient scheduling options than the other.

In addition to allowing prospective patients to select an appointment time that fits their schedule, online scheduling helps patients receive care sooner and remember their appointment times. These conveniences help your health system earn a reputation for providing high-quality patient experiences, even before they check-in for an appointment.

3. Respond to Patient Reviews

Reputation management isn’t just a way to maintain positive relationships with current patients—it can also draw in new prospects! Healthgrades research shows that 78% of consumers check online reviews before scheduling an appointment with a new doctor and of those, 86% consider patient testimonials somewhat or very important.2 Prospects aren’t only considering patient feedback—they’re also considering how physicians or specialists respond to praise and criticism.

Consumers look favorably on health systems where doctors take the time to thank patients when they receive a compliment or respond graciously when they receive a negative comment. This shows a commitment to accountability, self-improvement, and prioritizing patient satisfaction that will drive patients to your doors. Be sure all patient engagement is HIPAA-compliant and offer to address any negative feedback offline.

4. Publish High-Quality Healthcare Content

Sometimes prospects just want answers to general health-related questions that don’t necessitate a visit to the doctor. 54% of consumers say the internet is the first source they turn to when researching health and wellness, so why not make your health system their go-to source?3 Having medically-reviewed articles and condition information, webinars, explainer videos, and wellness tips on your site positions your hospital as a thought leader in the healthcare space and boosts your online presence. If and when the need for a medical visit arises, patients will already have you in mind.

5. Invest in Both Paid and Organic Advertising

Paid advertisements quickly and effectively promote your brand, but organic traffic provides long-lasting exposure. Balancing the effectiveness of both outreach methods helps make the most out of your hospital marketing budget.

According to search engine optimization (SEO) software firm SISTRIX, Google Ads’ average click rate is just 6.11% for healthcare. In contrast, the top three organic search results see average rates of 28.5%, 15.7%, and 11%, respectively. It’s wise to allocate a portion of your patient acquisition funds to organic digital marketing campaigns while strategically spending on paid placements to maximize your reach.

6. Establish a Cohesive Brand Presence

A study by Harvard Business Review found that 73% of customers shop through multiple channels, and healthcare consumers are no different. Patients explore health information through various avenues, from social media apps like TikTok to video streaming platforms and websites. This is an opportunity to cement your health system as a household name.

Don’t be afraid to engage consumers on a variety of different platforms and when you do, make sure you establish a cohesive brand presence. Connect the dots between your various touchpoints by making sure your brand messaging, voice, appearance, and persona are uniform—that way, your healthcare organization is recognizable wherever patients may find it.

7. Keep an Eye on Competitors

To stand out from the competition, you’ll need to watch how other health systems tackle industry changes and adapt to consumer trends. You can assess what works and what doesn’t and explore novel tactics and niche audiences that other brands aren’t tapping into yet. For instance, George Washington University uses a state-of-the-art virtual reality tool to assist surgeons with neurosurgery, which opens up an arena of applications for healthcare organizations to enhance services. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box, especially if it means attracting low-funnel patients your competitors might not be targeting.

8. Strengthen Community Ties Through Volunteerism

A recent study by communications agency Zeno shows that consumers are up to six times more likely to champion purpose-driven brands. Physically engaging with prospects and giving back to the community paints your health system in a positive light. Encourage your healthcare staff to get involved in community fundraisers and awareness initiatives, such as 5k fun runs, food drives, and sponsored wellness expos.

9. Consistently Track Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

The best way to know if your marketing efforts are working is to look at tangible numbers. Concrete metrics help to accurately measure how well aspects of your patient acquisition campaign are faring, allowing you to pivot quickly and readjust as needed to meet your patient acquisition marketing goals. KPIs offer insight into what’s keeping prospects and current consumers engaged so that you’re not wasting money on poorly performing campaign methods.

At a minimum, your health system should be monitoring the following metrics for effective campaign reflection and analysis:

  • Qualified Leads: Prospects that fit into your brand’s ideal target audience.
  • Conversion Rate: The number of visitors on your website who have completed the desired campaign goal (e.g., downloading a pre-appointment checklist, booking an appointment, etc.).
  • Customer Acquisition Cost: The average budget it will take to acquire new patients within a designated time frame.
  • Time on Site: The average time prospects linger on your brand’s site and ad space.
  • Bounce Rate: The number of prospects who do not convert after following your campaign.
  • Return on Investment (ROI): Measures the profitability of a paid marketing strategy relative to its success.
  • Organic Traffic: Streams of prospects that visit your website or convert on their own accord.

10. Invest in Market Research

Remaining agile in the face of a shifting industry means keeping up with upcoming healthcare trends and changes in consumer preferences. Along with tracking KPIs, understanding the state of the healthcare market keeps your patient acquisition strategy relevant and timely, so you’re always ready to engage prospects as their needs and habits change.

Acquire More Qualified Patients with Healthgrades

Half of all Americans who see a doctor annually visit—will they choose your health system? As a Healthgrades partner, you can tap into the largest audience of people looking for a doctor online and meet your patient acquisition goals.

Healthgrades users aren’t just browsing options—they’re ready to make their next healthcare decision. We can make sure they see your health system first. Premium placement with prominent branding and CTAs on physician search pages and provider profiles drives more qualified visitors to your hospital than any other third-party healthcare site. Our competitive intercept feature promotes your health system as an alternative option on competing doctor profiles to give you more opportunities to engage prospects. Also, Healthgrades’ robust syndication network boosts your organization’s online presence by extending your campaign to partner sites to keep your brand top of mind.

Take your patient acquisition strategy to the next level—contact us today to learn more about how Healthgrades can turn your marketing goals into real results.

1. Healthgrades Borderless Access Panel Survey, April 8-May 19, 2022, n=111
2. Healthgrades Patient Confidence Study, October 2022, n=980
3. 2022 MARS Consumer Health Study