What are “patient engines” and why should you care?


Matthew Coffy - comment and analysis. patient engines and medical practice marketing
Running a busy spine surgery in the 21st century is not easy, writes Matthew Coffy. Healthcare professionals in all practice areas are facing unprecedented financial and operational pressures, and the challenge is exacerbated by the fact that physicians are infamously marketing-averse. But medical practice marketing can help.

Marketing yourself is ego-alien to the physician culture, but there are two trends that should make even the most media-shy doctor rethink their hesitation:

  • The ease of entry into digital marketing
  • The easing of anti-business stigma in the medical field

The convergence of these two elements creates a perfect opportunity for spine surgeons who are eager to grow their medical practice marketing and explore a new aspect of their professional life. You can be creative and open new lines of communication with your existing patients, while at the same time attracting new patients and growing your practice exponentially.

The Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project estimates that 72% of US adults turn to the internet for health information and finding the best providers. Even among those who start out simply seeking medical information, 46% reach the conclusion that they need to make a doctor’s appointment. This means that doctors cannot continue resisting a digital strategy for their medical practice marketing and that they need to position themselves in a way that most effectively attracts and engages more patients and converts more appointments. The secret lies in understanding the patient journey, then positioning yourself along their path by creating a patient funnel.

A patient funnel anticipates and responds to what the spine surgery patient is seeking, providing it in a consistently engaging way that leads to them making an appointment, having a procedure, and then providing positive feedback to be seen by others seeking the same information.

The “patient engine”

The steps provided here explain the human side of a highly technical process that centres on “patient engines”. This is a fancy name for a patient funnel and all the parts that go into it to achieve a better acquisition strategy for new patients.

An example is fairly easy to envision. Imagine a patient who has woken up with low back pain for two, three, four days or even weeks in a row. They seek a solution online. Perhaps they search for symptoms, want to know what medication is most effective, or look for exercises that will ease their discomfort. If you have posted content that fits their search, Google leads them to the first stages of your patient funnel: perhaps to a blog or article.

Once the patient reads your preliminary information, they will then be retargeted by Google or Facebook adverts providing them with a field of solutions. Though some of the solutions may fit and others may not, the mere presence of your medical practice’s marketing makes patients more aware of you, and increases their trust in your practice and your authority.

Through more and more retargeting, the patient’s interest may lead them to click on a video you have posted, a review of your practice, or a Facebook ad. Here, you could offer them the opportunity to take advantage of a unique content offer, like a pain evaluation guide. At the same time, you could request their email in order to provide them with this information. At every step, your content suggests that they make an appointment. Once you have their email, you can target your marketing—and a solution to their problem—even more closely.

Driving your patient engine through medical practice marketing can help grow your practice
Fostering continuous engagement with patients through social media can help grow your practice

The more information the patient seeks, the more branding and valued content you provide, giving them more reasons to trust you. Once they have made an appointment and you have established a relationship, you can then strengthen it by providing them with the care they need. You can foster continuous engagement with them through social media, email, retargeting in Google and more.

Each of these steps is geared towards convincing the patient that you are the right solution. The patient funnel is completed and the cycle begins again—after the procedure is performed, you can ask the patient to engage in a review process through which they become your advocate. They may share their experience or provide a testimonial that further strengthens your online and social media authority status by showing a happy patient outcome.

Matthew Coffy the ultimate guide to medical practice marketing book coverMatthew Coffy is chief executive officer of Practice Bloom, and author of The Ultimate Guide to Medical Practice Marketing.


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