What are Patient Engines and Why You Should Care?

Running a busy spine surgery in the 21st century isn’t easy. 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. 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

Featured in Spinal News International.

The convergence of these two elements creates a perfect opportunity for spine surgeons who are eager to grow their practice 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 U.S. adults turn to the internet for health information and finding their providers, and 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 can’t continue resisting a digital strategy 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.

An example is fairly easy to envision. Imagine a patient who has woken up with lower back pain for two, three, four days or even weeks in a row. They seek a solution online – perhaps they search symptoms, or 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 then get retargeted by Google ads or Facebook ads providing them with a field of solutions. Though some of the solutions may fit and others don’t, the mere fact of your ads makes them 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’ve posted, or a review of your practice or a Facebook ad where you offer them the opportunity to take advantage of a unique content offer, like a pain evaluation guide– and at the same time you request their email in order to provide them with this helpful information. At every step, your content suggests that they make an appointment, and once you have their email you can target your marketing – and a solution to their problem – even more closely.

The more information the patient seeks, the more branding and valued content you provide, giving them more reasons to trust you. Once they’ve made an appointment and you’ve established a relationship with them, and provided them with service, you then strengthen the relationship and trust by providing them the care they need and continuous engagement them and value via content on 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 and you ask the patient to engage in a review process in which they become your advocate, sharing their experience or providing a testimonial that further strengthens your social media authority status by showing a happy patient outcome.

The steps provided here explain the human side of a highly technical process that centers on what we at CustomerBloom call Patient Engines. This is our fancy name for a patient funnel and all the parts that go into it to achieve a better acquisition strategy for new patients. We are more than happy to provide your spine surgery practice with information on creating this for your own practice.