How Patients Find You Can Define Your Marketing Spend

The normal attrition rate in an optometric practice is 13%. Patients move away, pass away or sometimes choose a new office. We advise our clients to aim for a 20% new patient rate to replace this loss and to continue to grow their practice.

There are a number of ways to attract new patients. The most common are word of mouth (WOM), referrals from other doctors, the location appeal of the practice, social media referrals, memberships to community organizations and Google searches.

Which method is the most effective for your office?   

If you aren’t already, put a process into place with the staff to ensure that you record where every new patient heard about your office and track this information every month.

Depending on your strategy, the sources can vary. For instance, if you have set up a medical practice, you are more likely to see doctor referral as your main source for new patients. If you are in an area catering to young professionals and families, you are more likely to see Google at the top of the referral sources.

Pushing the analysis a little further, we are also curious to see which referral source is the most profitable in each office. Again, there is going to be a correlation between the strategy and this result.

When you are clear about your strategy, it drives all other decisions to ensure you are offering all the products and services that the patient is expecting from the practice.

Tracking Can Optimize your Expenses

As many EMRs don’t easily allow this analysis, it is likely that a manual process is required, but it’s worth the effort.

Using a spreadsheet, record where all new patients heard about the practice and how much they spend at the office, including all services and products.  At the end of the month, sort by referral source and get an average RPP (revenue per patient) for each referral source.

We recently did this exercise in an office where we putting a lot of resources towards Google adwords. Interestingly, the analysis came back that the office’s most profitable patients were from WOM.

What does that mean?

First, we revisited their strategy. They have a long history in their community and their patients have a lot of trust in them. The people that they refer are their friends and family, who likely have similar expectations of loyalty and trust in their practitioners. Perhaps this is why they more readily accept the recommendations of the office and opt into their services and purchase their products.

With this information, we know that we need to spend more time and energy on encouraging more WOM referrals. Marketing efforts may include activities such as email blasts with “loyalty” coupons for referrals. We may let every patient know that we would be happy to see their friends and families as patients too.

This is such an exciting time for your business. There is so much information available to help guide your decisions. Tracking and analyzing your new patient information will take the guess work out of where to spend your time and money in marketing.


is the co-founder and managing partner of Simple Innovative Management Ideas (SIMI) Inc. and expert Practice Management contributor for Optik magazine. She can be reached at


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