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Insights for those starting, managing, and growing independent healthcare practices

4 ways to get high-quality patient referrals

Learn how optimizing your practice’s web presence can help you get more new patients in the door.

Practice manager reads about how to get patient referrals

At a Glance

  • Most people research providers online before choosing one, so ensure your website, review profiles, and social media portray your practice professionally.
  • Patient reviews and referrals are powerful and inexpensive ways to acquire new patients.
  • Asking for reviews and referrals from existing happy patients generates positive word-of-mouth marketing.
  • Optimize your web presence by updating your website, claiming and monitoring review profiles, staying active on social media, and automating review requests.

Without an optimized web presence that makes it easy to find information and reviews for your practice, you may be missing out on a primary source of new patients — referrals. 

A personal recommendation goes a long way, but for many it’s not sufficient. When other providers and existing patients make referrals to your private practice, the individual is still likely to conduct their own research online. According to Tebra’s 4th annual Patient Perspectives Survey, 77% of people say they use the internet on a regular basis to search for new providers. 

If you haven’t optimized your web presence, potential patients are instead likely to see results for other providers with a similar specialty. In other words, rather than acquiring a new patient at no cost, your practice may lose the patient to a competitor. 

Patient referrals are one of the best patient acquisition strategies, and making some simple changes to optimize your practice’s web presence can increase the success of landing more new patients. In this guide we’ll look more closely at optimizing your web presence across your practice’s website, review and directory sites, social media presence, and patient reviews for best results.

77% of people say they use the web on a regular basis to search for new providers. ”
2023 Patient Perspectives Survey

4 strategies to optimize your web presence and increase patient referrals

These 4 strategies for optimizing your presence across the internet can boost your reputation, increase your number of patients, and grow your practice.

1. Invest in your practice’s website

Patients infer a lot about your practice from your website. They’re looking for signs of professionalism and tech-savviness, which inspire confidence they’ll have a positive patient experience at your practice.

If you haven’t updated your site in the last few years, it’s probably time to do so. Your practice’s website needn’t be overly sophisticated but it does need to be modern, user-friendly, and mobile-optimized. 

Make sure your practice’s website includes:

  • Information about your specialty and services 
  • Original photography to showcase your practice and support SEO
  • SEO-friendly, keyword-rich blog content centered around services and location
  • The ability to book appointments online 
  • Easy ways to get in touch with the front office 
Patient Perspectives Report

2. Claim business provider profiles on review sites 

When potential new patients receive a referral to your practice, they aren’t relying solely on your website to gather information. They’re likely to check review sites, like Google, Yelp, Nextdoor, Facebook, or Healthgrades to conduct research, too.

Since patients are able to submit online reviews for your practice across all of these sites and others, be sure you’ve claimed your business profiles across these. Doing so will add more credibility to your business and give you the opportunity to double check that listings are accurate and consistent across the web. It also makes it easy for potential patients to find reviews about your practice.

3. Stay active on social media

Despite its potential to engage patients, most practices don’t tap into the potential of social media. Research from Tebra found that only 18% of respondents follow their doctor’s office on social media, but 45% would if their doctor posted regularly.

Staying active on social media sites is a smart way to engage current patients and connect with future ones. Since referred patients are likely to check your social media sites, practices can leverage their profiles to share information about services while showcasing their brand. 

Rounding out your web presence by regularly posting on social media will make it easy for referred patients to get a sense of what your practice is like and feel connected to it. As more users follow and connect with what you post to social media, the more this content will circulate across social networks — which translates to additional low-cost marketing. 

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4. Automate asking for reviews and request referrals 

Patient reviews are hugely influential — 3 in 4 patients say that online reviews are extremely or very important when choosing a new provider, according to Tebra. Referred patients won’t just be checking the number of reviews, but their recency and average-star rating, too. In fact, 43% say how recently a review was posted is the most important factor of online reviews. 

Practices can get more patient reviews by automatically requesting patient feedback after each visit. Use a practice management platform that sends a request for review a few hours after an appointment, and follows up with those who don’t respond. This gives patients more than one chance to provide feedback and lets your business collect reviews at scale.

3 in 4 patients say that online reviews are extremely or very important when choosing a new provider. ”
2023 Patient Perspectives Survey

The top benefit of patient referrals? Low-cost marketing and patient acquisition 

Attrition is natural for even the best providers. Tebra’s research found that 29% of patients have left a healthcare provider in the past 2 years. For long-term practice success, regularly acquiring new patients is essential — not just to grow your business but also to maintain current patient volumes. 

Fortunately for providers, patient referrals are an inexpensive way to get new people in the door — and even better, the same strategies used to get high-quality patient referrals benefit your business in many other ways, making them cost-efficient marketing efforts.

What to avoid when it comes to getting high-quality patient referrals

Patient referrals come from being a valued healthcare provider and health advocate. Don’t undermine the goodwill of fellow medical providers or current patients by turning down patients or engaging in gimmicky tactics. 

While healthcare burnout is real, practices should avoid a “no new patients” stance. Since demand fluctuates, it’s important to take advantage of the opportunity to bring on new patients when possible. And when it comes to referred patients, turning down new business can create friction with existing patients or fellow healthcare providers. 

Practices should also refrain from ploys to drum up new reviews like spamming patients with repeated requests for referrals, or running sweepstakes for individuals who refer the most new patients. Doing so may have the opposite effect and make patients feel like you’re trying to get something out of them. 

An optimized web presence supports high-quality patient referrals

As healthcare continues to change, so do the tactics to support a thriving private practice. Take advantage of high-quality patient referrals by ensuring you have a high-caliber online presence to match the patient experience you provide in person. 

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Tebra recently surveyed 1,200+ people nationwide to get an inside look at how patients find and pick their doctors.
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How patients find and pick their doctors. We surveyed more than 1,200 patients nationwide to understand factors that influence how they choose a doctor and why they keep coming back. Download the free report.

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