Patient Cultivation

How to develop a patient for life.

Patient Cultivation

The statistics speak for themselves—80% of practice revenue comes from 20% of existing patients. It costs five times more—in both budget and resources—to recruit a new patient than to keep an existing one. And when it comes to purchasing procedures, current patients are 65% more likely to have a treatment done versus 20% of new patients. So the obvious question is: How much of your practice’s energy is focused on cultivating relationships with existing patients?

Patient cultivation is an art form made up of meaningful experiences, prioritized care and incentivized rewards. It’s a process that needs to be carefully managed and strategically developed to foster long-term loyalty. Like all significant interactions, the best way to develop patient relationships is through engagement, education and motivation.

Track Your Patients

Every nugget of information your patients share, from their evolving skincare needs to reading about the latest rejuvenating treatments, is a lead for your practice. Keeping track and following up on these points of interest provides your practice with opportunities to engage these patients. A great place to start is a comprehensive skin consultation, which allows you to learn about the patient’s global skin needs and aesthetic habits.

Too often patients book an initial appointment for a specific procedure and the opportunity to expose them to your full scope of services or fully understand their aesthetic concerns is missed. An effective consultation serves as a treatment road map that gives the provider a strong sense of the patient’s options beyond the first series of treatments. For example, a patient may be interested in dermal fillers to correct volume loss, but in the course of the consultation also expresses concern about hyperpigmentation. As a provider, you focus on the primary concern first. However, once the volume loss is corrected, you already know that the next step for patient development is to share information on procedures and products that help to even out skin tone.

Gaining insight into a patient’s aesthetic needs is not only reserved for the consultation. Each patient interaction or touch point allows your practice to learn a little bit more so that you can outline a long-term treatment plan based on their needs and interests. During each appointment, note any relevant discussions or comments, including patient feedback on their care, interest in procedures or skincare products, and skin concerns. This will help you develop an engagement plan for subsequent appointments.

From a marketing standpoint this will also help you track and filter patients for targeted outreach initiatives. For example, with proper patient tracking your practice can create a custom campaign for the launch of KYBELLA (KYTHERA) targeting patients who have expressed concern about submental fullness. Being able to dissect your patient base by needs and interests will allow for greater marketing campaign engagement and success.

Maintain Contact

Patient cultivation does not end at checkout. Continual follow-up from the practice will ensure that your patients feel prioritized and that their needs are being met. Creating continuous and relevant touch points will help foster a long-term relationship.

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Fortunately the nature of aesthetic procedures lends itself to patient follow-up. An opportune time to check in with your patient is after a procedure. It is important to have a staff member touch base to assess the patient’s recovery, results and overall satisfaction. For procedures with moderate to significant downtime, this added touch point helps your patient feel supported and prioritized.

Patients often underestimate or forget the importance of maintenance treatments. Implementing a patient reminder program by procedure will help with patient retention for a variety of reasons. First, regular maintenance treatments will ensure that skin improvement is not only maintained without a lapse back to baseline but also enhanced, leading to greater patient satisfaction. Second, following up with your patient gives your practice the opportunity to learn about their contentment with the treatment. Oftentimes patients do not return for their maintenance treatments because they are dissatisfied with the results and end up transitioning to another practice. Also, with our over-programmed lives, few patients remember when they are due for their next appointment. Having a practice that anticipates their needs makes them feel valued and important.

As mentioned earlier, this type of optimized patient tracking allows for targeted marketing outreach. Contacting patients whenever you introduce a new treatment that may be of interest will remind them that your practice is on the cutting edge and aware of their needs, interests and concerns. It also allows for another touch point of engagement. Each connection is an opportunity for your practice to build upon the patient-practice relationship.

Celebrate Your Patients

Nothing motivates patient loyalty more than appreciation. Fostering a personalized connection through the acknowledgement of milestones and joint celebration of important occasions will make your patients feel like VIPs. The best time to start expressing gratitude is right after the patient’s first appointment. In a competitive landscape where every street corner houses some type of medical aesthetic business, it is important to let your new patients know that you value the effort they made to come in and learn more about your practice. Have your staff send a personalized, handwritten thank you note, and be sure to include the provider’s business card if the note does not already contain the practice’s key contact information.

Other important occasions, like birthdays and holidays, allow you to celebrate your patients and motivate them to schedule an aesthetic treatment at the same time, a win-win for both patient and practice. At the beginning of each month send out happy birthday cards to each of your patients celebrating a birthday that month and include an exclusive, limited-time offer for an in-office treatment. Not only will your patients be touched by the thoughtful gesture, they will have added motivation to indulge in a rejuvenating treatment.

Another meaningful time to thank patients for their loyalty is during the holiday season. Send out holiday cards to all patients, and for your top 50 include a gift card for a complimentary treatment redeemable in January, when everyone will be focused on their New Year’s resolutions. Patients will appreciate the thoughtful gesture, especially during a time when they’re overwhelmed by gifting others.

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Share What's New

Every aesthetic patient aspires to stay abreast of the latest rejuvenating technologies. Informing your existing patients of new treatment options first reaffirms your pioneering position. Start by sending monthly e-blasts to introduce new innovations within your practice and include a strong call to action.

While new procedure launches are quite infrequent, there are many other noteworthy happenings on which to communicate. For example, has your practice acquired a new generation device of an existing technology? Send an e-blast announcing the device arrival and explain why it is superior to other technologies within the same category.

Other relevant topics for promotion include new skincare launches, updated treatment protocols for enhanced results, and cutting-edge scientific research showing additional benefits or new applications of an existing technology. The primary purpose of these e-blasts is to establish regular and frequent communication so that your practice stays at the top of patients’ minds and continually educates with pertinent information.

Incentivize Loyalty

All patients, regardless of disposable income, appreciate the value of a loyalty program. There are two key business measures to include in your practice loyalty program: new patient referrals and service activity. Your current patients are your practice’s best brand ambassadors. They are in a powerful position to personally validate and testify to your expertise. Empower them to promote your brand by establishing a tier-based structure for complimentary services that rewards your current patients for new referrals.

Secondly, launch a program to reward patients for their treatment activity over the course of a specified time period. This loyalty program can either be based on total dollars spent or procedure frequency. For example, for every four neurotoxin treatments purchased, your patient can earn a complimentary treatment or discount toward their next neurotoxin appointment. These rewards programs have a significant perceived value and will motivate your patients to keep all their aesthetic needs within your practice.

In a competitive environment these extra touch points and added values will translate into a loyal, recurring patient base. Aesthetics remains a luxury market, and luxury experiences all share the common trait of creating elevated and meaningful moments. Patients want to feel appreciated, prioritized and supported. Practices that are able to foster these types of relationships and experiences will cultivate a patient for life.

Delaram Saidi is the founder of DS Group, a full service agency specializing in business development for aesthetic medical practices and brand strategy/marketing for aesthetically focused brands. Contact her at 212.580.5830, www.dsgrp.com.

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