The Intake

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

Hot takes: Our top 9 trends that will get new patients to your practice in 2024

We’ve narrowed down all the ways to attract patients to your practice into 9 of the best.

Physicians look at tablet reading about 2024 healthcare marketing trends

At a Glance

  • The digital stakes are higher — embracing online tools and strategies is critical for healthcare practices to thrive in 2024.
  • Patients crave authenticity from their providers, so use AI tools sparingly on your website and marketing materials.
  • While patient disengagement is higher than ever, the right marketing can help you regain patient trust.

Independent practices face new headwinds in 2024: an aging population, disengaged patients, and the threat of a global recession. Plus, the shift to AI healthcare content and data analytics is leading patients to misinformation, incorrect diagnoses, and one-size-fits-all approaches (that fit few).

What does this uncertainty mean for the healthcare industry and independent practices? It means now’s the time to double down on patient engagement. Since the pandemic, both patients and physicians have adopted digital tools, creating opportunities for better healthcare and more marketing engagement. 

It means now’s the time to double down on patient engagement to protect your bottom line. You don’t want to wait for this economic uncertainty to pass before renewing your marketing efforts. 

While economic uncertainty is in the air, there’s still hope to protect your bottom line. Yet, we know from previous recessions that when people are worried about money, they do what they can to avoid expenses — even when those expenses are necessary. 

This can translate into missed appointments, unfilled prescriptions, and outstanding patient balances. Patients are deciding to combine necessity, efficacy, and economy:

  • Necessity: Do I need to go for annual appointments, or can I go every other year? 
  • Efficacy: Will going to the doctor effectively maximize my healthcare outcomes, quality of life, or recovery?
  • Economy: I feel fine — maybe I can get 90-day refills and go in only when necessary.

As an independent practice, you should double down on your patient acquisition and retention tactics. While it will differ depending on your specialty, a comprehensive strategy to find new patients and keep yours coming back will ensure practice growth.

In this article, you’ll learn:

  • Healthcare marketing trends we’re predicting for 2024.
  • How to turn trends into long-lasting growth.
  • How to acquire new customers — and retain your existing ones.

Continue reading for a quick look at the current landscape and the marketing trends to make your practice stand out in 2024.

Patient Perspectives Report

Trend #1: The patient journey starts online more than ever 

Here’s a hard truth: It’s time to leave the mailers and paper marketing efforts behind. Most patients use the web to discover and research their healthcare providers. According to the Tebra Patient Perspectives survey, 3 in 4 patients have done so at least once. 

78% of patients search online for doctors, dentists, or medical care often or sometimes. ”

That means your practice lives or dies by its online presence. Many patients use a combination of digital methods to find information, including:

  • Using their insurance directory
  • Looking up reviews on third-party sites
  • Visiting the practice’s website.

How do referrals fit into the online patient journey?

The Tebra survey concluded these top 3 ways patients found their providers:

  • 20% through an insurance company website
  • 20% through a referral from a healthcare professional
  • 18% through a referral from another patient

Even if patients find referrals from outside sources, they’re likely going to take the next step on their own — they’re probably going to Google you. Insurance company websites may even link directly to your website. So, even when receiving new patients through word-of-mouth, there’s still a digital component to their decision-making process.

Enhance your web presence to capture new patients

It all starts with your practice’s website. Making your website the hub of your practice will help attract new patients and please your current ones. Having a static page with outdated or incorrect information isn’t helpful. 

Over half of patients use a practice’s website to help them make their decisions. ”

Focus on these 5 tips to improve your practice website:

  1. Be searchable, which we’ll talk about more in-depth later.
  2. Have up-to-date information that’s easy to locate on your website’s homepage. This should include the physicians in your practice, your specialties, office hours, how to contact your office and schedule appointments, directions, and a clickable map. Bonus points for reviews.
  3. Be helpful with photos of the inside and outside of your practice (try to avoid stock photos), directions to the office and your specific suite if you’re in an office building, and access to other pertinent health information.
  4. Create content to keep your site fresh and up-to-date. Share news and events, include helpful health updates, or even post videos to show potential patients your and your staff’s personalities. We’ll dive deeper into this later, as well.
  5. Make it easy for patients to take the next step. Use calls to action (CTAs) to encourage patients to reach out and include easy-to-find contact information in the footer and on a contact page. Step up a notch with online scheduling.

Remember, the patient journey begins long before they enter your practice. Ensure your website is prepared to welcome patients and give them a taste of what it’ll be like to work with your amazing team.

Optimize Operations

Trend #2: Optimize the digital patient experience for high expectations

Patients have high expectations for in-person visits and want easy digital access to schedule appointments, fill out forms, make payments, and follow up with their care provider. 

Last year, patient attrition rates were high. More than a quarter of patients said they left a health provider in the last few years, and most cited a lack of access and communication with their healthcare team and a poor in-person experience. 

Tebra asked why patients prefer corporate healthcare and healthcare systems over independent healthcare practices, and the answers were mostly based on convenience. For instance, 48% of patients said it’s because of access to an easy-to-use healthcare portal. Other reasons cited include appointment availability (52%), doctors responding to communications in a timely manner (38%), and virtual care (24.7%). Independent healthcare practices have an opportunity to win patients over from corporate healthcare and healthcare systems by providing these features.

Patients want a compassionate and attentive healthcare provider, along with digital access and convenience. ”

Patients want a compassionate and attentive healthcare provider, along with digital access and convenience. According to the Tebra survey, patients reported that (besides quality care) what they want most from their physicians are available appointments when they need them, prompt responses to questions, and good listening. Offering same-day or next-day appointments is a great strategy to compete with a healthcare system.

Even after the pandemic’s focus on telehealth, many patients' preferences focus on the in-person experience. Yet, following those, they focused on access to their healthcare professionals and digital health records. That means there’s an opportunity for independent healthcare practices to stand out with flexibility and personalized patient care.

What patients want from healthcare providers (digital edition):

  • Easier ways to book an appointment: 39% 
  • Easier ways to contact the practice: 37%
  • More communication in between visits: 34%
  • Opportunities to do more online: 30%
  • More frequent check-ins and visits: 23%

Consistently, patients report a desire for 5 key digital interactions:

  1. Appointment scheduling
  2. Form filling
  3. Asking questions
  4. Paying a bill
  5. Accessing health records

Here are some ways your practice can meet these healthcare needs to reduce attrition and improve patient satisfaction:

Simplify appointment scheduling

Patients don’t want to wait until business hours to call your office and schedule an appointment. Instead, modernize appointment scheduling by taking it digital. Patients won’t have to wait on hold, answer personal health questions over the phone, or remember to call your office during business hours. 

60% of patients prefer scheduling appointments digitally. ”

Plus, it’ll streamline the process for your team and potentially reduce the number of scheduling mistakes you’ll have to make up to your patients. 

Offer a patient portal

Build a thorough digital patient experience by giving them a portal to access their healthcare information. Provide them with a single place to schedule appointments, fill out forms (also reducing in-office wait times), communicate with physicians or nurses, and access their healthcare records.

Here are some tips to make the most out of your patient portal:

  • Create an office policy for response times. Dedicate team members to checking messages and responding to them, and document every patient interaction to make sure nothing slips through the cracks.
  • Include an emergency disclaimer. Share with patients that they shouldn’t expect immediate care using the portal and may need to call the office directly or call 911 in case of an emergency.
  • Establish 24/7 access. Make sure portals update billing immediately and are always available to patients. 

Providing this level of convenience will go a long way in meeting patient expectations. And giving them an easy and organized way to communicate with the doctors will improve overall patient satisfaction.

Trend #3: Be easily findable with tried-and-true online search

One of the healthcare marketing trends that isn’t going away anytime soon is the need to be found online. More than being searchable, you want to appear in the top search results or risk being ignored altogether. 

For instance, only the top 3 Google search results get 75% of all clicks, according to Backlinko. And if you’re on the second page? Forget about it.

Before you get overwhelmed with SEO's ins and outs, narrow down your focus to these 3 factors.

1. Optimize your site

If you’ve heard of SEO, you know the emphasis is often on content. While content is absolutely a key factor, the mechanics of your website also play a part. Start with these 2 action items:

  1. Ensure your website is mobile-first or mobile-friendly. It’s an increasingly important factor in the Google algorithm — and for your web visitors. In fact, 59% of all Google search traffic comes from mobile devices.
  2. Increase your site’s loading speed. Another concern of Google’s (and your site visitors) is how long your website takes to load. Google recommends a load speed of under 2 seconds.

2. Focus on local SEO

Marketing online for your local practice isn’t like marketing a product. Your business is entirely dependent on your local community. This, however, gives you a local SEO edge. Instead of relying only on your website for SEO results, you can also take advantage of other local online directories.

Instead of relying only on your website for SEO results, you can also take advantage of other local online directories. ”

Local search focuses on a specific geographic area. Think “dentists near me” or “orthopedists in [city] area.” 

Users who type this into Google search get location-specific information from directories like Google Business Profile, Yelp, and more. Ensure that you claim your profiles and update your information in each. We’ll talk more about how to do so in the next section.

3. Don't neglect image SEO

Photos are often left out of the SEO thought process, but they provide a great opportunity to capture more web traffic — when done right. Selecting photos for your site shouldn’t be an exercise in stock photography selection. Instead, you need your own photos that showcase your practice, your location and your people.

To add to the professional quality of your photos, avoid images with non-medical symbols, depictions, or cute quotes. While it may show your personality and beliefs, it might turn some patients away.

Trend #4: Utilize online business directories smarter

Patients use the web to find and research potential healthcare physicians, and your website isn’t their only resource. Many use the information found on medical practice search directories like WebMD, Facebook, Tebra CARE and Yelp, or look at hospitals’ websites to see who is on staff.

This is a top trend in healthcare marketing that will continue into 2024. In order to make the most of these search directories, you need to claim your profiles and ensure all your information is accurate across directories. Here’s where you should start:

Google Business Profile

Easily the most used search engine, Google offers a free business profile that your practice can claim. People searching for your practice or one of your top-ranking keywords on Google Search or Maps can quickly view your profile. Adding information, photos, logos, links, and reviews will make you easier to find and add legitimacy and appeal. 

It’s vital that your reviews are positive, recent, and many in order for them to encourage a person to book an appointment. ”

It’s also important not to ignore reviews on your Google Business Profile. They’re highly visible and deserve a quick response — especially the bad ones. It’s vital that your reviews are positive, recent, and truthful to encourage a person to book an appointment.

Use Facebook and other portals

When looking for a healthcare provider, patients rarely access just one resource. It’s important to search the web for alternative directories (and even Facebook) to manage your practice’s reputation, no matter which sites your patients use to find you.

Not only will having your practice’s name and information across sites make it easier for patients to find you, but it’ll also improve your search rankings in Google. Just make sure your information is consistent and up-to-date across all platforms.

Trend #5: Use patient reviews to drive new bookings

Reviews are critical. Nearly half of patients said they trust online reviews from other patients when choosing a doctor, dentist, or healthcare professional.

And it turns out the number of stars isn’t the only factor that influences patient decisions. Here are some telling stats from Tebra’s Patient Perspectives report:

  1. Overall rating. Whether out of 5 stars, 10 points, or 2 thumbs up, your overall rating matters the most. Fifty-six percent of patients admit that they won’t book with a new physician if they have less than 4 out of 5 stars.
  2. The review content plays a role, too. It’s not just about stars — patients will read an average of 6 to 10 reviews before deciding on a provider. Provide some tips to help patients with their reviews. For instance, ask them to comment on professionalism, access to care, or how you did overall compared to other practices.
  3. The number of reviews determines whether patients think your reviews are credible, and patients ranked it the third most important factor of online reviews. This means it’s helpful to incentivize patients to leave a review — especially if they had a good experience.
  4. The recency of the review. Even positive reviews aren’t enough to turn a web visitor into a new patient if they’re all outdated — 43% of patients say how recently reviews are posted is the most important factor they consider when looking at a provider’s online review. You can’t just get to a certain number of reviews and stop asking. You must consistently solicit reviews from patients to keep the marketing engine running. 
  5. Where the review is posted matters, too; some sites are more credible than others. For example, your rating on Facebook might not be as credible as your rating on Google. According to Tebra research, 58% of patients look at Google for reviews, 34% look at the practice’s website, and 31% look at WebMD. Only 16% of patients look at Facebook for reviews. 
  6. The number of negative reviews. Over half of patients (51%) will move on to another doctor if they see 1 to 3 negative reviews posted online. 

With reviews a key factor in new bookings, here’s how you can manage them.

Ask for patient reviews

A surprising number of practices still don’t ask for regular patient reviews. Asking for reviews immediately after a patient visit is the best way to get accurate information quickly. Create a simple review form and schedule it to go out automatically after each patient’s visit. Also include links to review sites, like Google and Facebook, for easy access. 

Respond to both good and bad patient reviews

Whether publicly or privately, it’s important to respond to all reviews from your patients. It shows existing patients that you’re actively reading and taking in their complaints and/or praises. They’ll feel more engaged in your practice, and you’ll have a more 360-degree view of the patient experience. When responding to a negative review, make sure to post the resolution as well.

Whether publicly or privately, it’s important to respond to all reviews from your patients. ”

Monitoring and responding to reviews can also help you verify reviews to ensure they are patients and not just bots.

Download the report

Trend #6: Content marketing gets web visitors and new bookings

If you’ve heard about SEO before, it was probably in the context of content marketing. You may have a beautiful, personalized website, but to drive traffic and compete in Google Search, you need to update it continuously. The best way to do that? Content marketing.

Content marketing is when you drive interest to a product or service by creating valuable content. Blog posts, for example, are a type of content marketing that search engines love. Podcasts are another example. 

But content isn’t just for robots. It can also drive new bookings by capturing web visitors' interest and showcasing your practice’s knowledge and authority.

Here are a few topics you can pull from to create new and interesting content on your website.

Blog about the services you offer

Your services are a great place to start. Talk about each service you provide and go into detail about how it’s done, who needs it, why patients should do it, and why your practice is the best place to get it done. Highlight available services that are both distinct in the market and at the forefront of patient interest.

This benefits your business two-fold. You can drive interest in that service and appear on the cutting edge, or people already looking for it will see that you offer it.

Talk about your physicians and staff

While this may not target keywords, writing valuable and interesting content will always be rewarded by Google. Introduce yourself, your other physicians, and your staff with personal profiles. When new patients consider which practice to choose, the more information you can share about your doctors, the more comfortable new patients will feel — and they’ll be more likely to book.

When new patients consider which practice to choose, the more information you can share about your doctors, the more comfortable new patients will feel — and they’ll be more likely to book. ”

Share physician credentials such as board certification, specialty certifications, and national, local, and regional medical associations, including leadership positions.

Don’t be afraid to sprinkle in some personal interests outside of the practice. It’ll help humanize your staff and help patients find common ground.

Make it clear that your content is unique — not AI-generated

The rise of generative AI, like ChatGPT, has opened the door for redundant blog content. Generative AI platforms are built to predict the next word, leading to homogeneous and boring content. 

Patients’ trust in their providers has waned since 2020. According to Monigle, 33% of patients say they don’t always trust their doctor to make the right decisions for them — an all-time high. Keeping your patients’ trust needs to be a top priority. Since AI has a tendency to hallucinate and make up facts, studies, and even statistics, medical practices should avoid using it to pad their content. 

How do you make your articles stand out in a sea of AI-generated blogs? Stay away from generic content, and get as specific as you can. Include quotes from other professionals, pictures, and even doctors’ and staff’s personal experiences. 

It also helps to attribute individual articles to a specific person in your practice to give it credibility. Also, consider hiring a freelance professional medical writer to create personalized content for the practice. You can even hire retired physicians or other professionals to help develop first-class articles.

Trend #7: Leverage doctor-led social media content

Nearly 48% of people reported social media as their main source of health advice, according to a survey by Sortlist.

People spend hours a day on social media platforms and sometimes as little as 30 minutes a year with their healthcare professional. Creating social media content makes you more visible to patients and prospects and helps you combat all the bad health advice floating in the ether.

Creating social media content makes you more visible to patients and prospects and helps you combat all the bad health advice floating in the ether. ”

Even though it may seem difficult to navigate social media and healthcare restrictions, plenty of doctors are already doing well at it. Every practice should do social media in a way that works for them, but there are a few things good content has in common.

Relevance

While it’s good to post fun, personal content occasionally, the majority of your content should focus on your practice and your specialty. You can also increase your relevance by talking about things currently in the news or trending on social media — just as long as it’s within the realm of your practice.

Easy to understand

Your #1 goal on social media should be to talk to your patients. Even if you want to build your authority, you don’t want to write or speak as if you’re talking to other medical professionals. Make your content easy to understand so that your patients and prospects see you as friendly, thoughtful, and approachable.

Informative

What are some things you find yourself repeating to patients all day long? Social media allows you to share more in-depth information with the masses and help fight misinformation on the platforms. Make content that is accurate and helps your patients make better choices overall.

For now, don’t stress too much about being everywhere all at once. When just starting, pick a social media channel your patients frequent and someone on your team is comfortable using. 

Some helpful don’ts of social media for physicians

While independent practices should embrace social media, it can be a minefield in any profession — even more so in medicine. 

Here are some things to avoid when you’re just starting out with social media:

  • Avoid controversial topics. 
  • Avoid talking about procedures that are still new.
  • Avoid promotional content from a partner or a parent company.
  • Discourage staff or physicians from communicating with patients about health issues.
  • Never post any private healthcare information.

Trend #8: Focus on patient re-engagement

While getting new patients is always an important business factor, 2023 showed us that keeping patients isn’t as simple as providing quality healthcare. Between no-shows, patient attrition, and who Monigle calls “doctor dodgers,” there’s a lot of opportunity to re-engage lapsed patients.

In 2023, 17% of patients were classified as “doctor dodgers” by Monigle. Here are some startling statistics:

  • 35% of patients only go to the doctor when they’re sick, up 8% from 2022
  • 17% of patients avoid going to the doctor even when they need to, up 7% from 2022
  • 22% of patients say they don’t have time to go to the doctor, up 7% from 2022

How to re-engage patients

The 2 most important things to do when re-engaging past patients are to understand their reasons for disengaging and have empathy. Patients stop going to the doctor for many reasons, ranging from transportation or childcare issues to a lack of funds and fear. Identify your patients' reasons and address them as best you can.

Here are some ways to re-engage your existing patients:

  • Create an email campaign educating patients on the importance of preventative care. This subtle reminder might help encourage someone who hasn’t prioritized scheduling their next appointment. You can also try highlighting new services, staff, or physicians who have recently joined the practice. 
  • Share videos on social media walking patients through what a visit will look like. Make sure these videos are done professionally with full written permission from any patients involved. Knowing what to expect can help reduce your patients’ anxieties and encourage them to make appointments. Make sure you do not run afoul of HIPAA laws with your video!
  • Offer telehealth options when feasible for patients who can’t get time off work or struggle with transportation and childcare. 

Trend #9: Prioritize patient privacy

Patient privacy is and will continue to be one of the biggest marketing trends in healthcare. Despite the rise in digital communications and content, privacy is still an important concern for patients. With recent data breaches, it may be on their minds now more than ever before. According to a recent survey, 75% of patients are concerned about protecting their personal health data.

According to a recent survey, 75% of patients are concerned about protecting their personal health data. ”

In order to maintain HIPAA compliance, practices must protect the privacy, security, and integrity of protected health information. This includes any digital communications or marketing materials. Ensure you never reveal any patient’s PHI without prior written consent.

Quick tips for maintaining patient privacy on your website

Your website could be the gateway to PHI, especially if you offer patient portals. Take a look at these tips to improve website security:

  • Purchase a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificate if one does not come with your hosting package. SSL improves website security using encryption, ensuring third parties can’t view or modify secure information. 
  • Ensure your website hosting provider is HIPAA-compliant — not all are. Tebra practice websites ensure patient compliance, for example.
  • Don’t send PHI through email or public web forms. Ensure end-to-end encryption, even with your website forms.

Final thoughts on 2024 healthcare marketing trends

Like previous years, healthcare marketing will be distinctly digital in 2024. Now’s the time to focus on optimizing your online presence, enhancing the digital patient experience, and leveraging SEO to attract new patients. These aren’t just fleeting trends but fundamental shifts in the healthcare industry.

Embrace these strategies to be ready to meet the evolving needs of patients in the coming year.

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Rebecca Slawter

Rebecca Slawter is a seasoned freelance content and copywriter focusing on B2B SaaS. Bringing nearly a decade of experience, she leverages her skill set to create dynamic, compelling copy that resonates with her clients and their audiences. California-born and bred, she uses her love for writing to help global brands tell their story.

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Drew Sutton

Dr. Drew Sutton is a board-certified ENT physician. He has vast experience in treating all aspects of ENT, with particular interests in disorders of the ear and nasal and sinus disease. During his career, he started and managed an independent, single-specialty medical practice in a large metropolitan area.

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