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What a year 2020 has been. And for that, even more reason to focus on understanding our prospects and how they become our patients. Every year, we release our Medical Marketing Outlook, which brings together data from millions of patient phone calls and web leads to evaluate the most effective ways medical practices are attracting and converting more prospects in to booked appointments.

We typically assess traditional and emerging marketing channels and compare them to performance in previous years to reveal key trends. But this year is certainly different, and we\’ll provide our thoughts on the impact of COVID-19.

Let\’s dive in.


2020 Lead Results

It\’s no surprise that with stay-at-home ordinances and practices having to shut down for part of this year, we saw a notable downturn in booked appointments. To compare, last year 80% of prospective patients who either submitted an online form or spoke with an OptiCall patient counselor booked a consultation*.  This year, that number fell to 74%.

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While notable, it\’s not as alarming as we thought it would be. Some practices we have spoken with have actually found their business to increase. Through times of quarantine, they have kept in touch with prospects who weren’t ready to initially book with nurture programs, keeping their name and services fresh in mind.

This underscores the need for practices to have a lead management process in place that includes collecting key patient information upfront, and a plan for follow-up communication if the prospect isn\’t ready (or able due to current restrictions) to come in to the office.

At a minimum, your staff should have a marketing brochure, email, or information sheet so you can provide relevant information for your prospects as an immediate follow-up. From there, it\’s important to consistently provide multiple touchpoints such as monthly eblasts and regular phone calls to stay in touch and top of mind. When the prospect is ready to book, you want to make sure they haven\’t forgotten about you.

Now that we\’ve covered what to do when a prospect reaches out, let\’s go over the marketing channels that drove them to contact you in the first place.


2020 Marketing Channel Performance

There are several aspects to consider in marketing. With any given marketing channel, your marketing team is assessing:

  • advertising impressions
  • engagement such as likes and clicks
  • visits to your website
  • responses – whether that is a phone call or website lead to your practice

All of those performance metrics are important in understanding what contributes to the full journey of a prospect converting to a patient.

However, for the purposes of this report, we focus on the marketing channels that drove the most booked and kept consultations.

In 2020, we saw a trend we\’ve never seen before. Historically, we\’ve known Referrals to be by and large the single most powerful marketing tool for practices. In fact, last year, we were showing about 47% of all booked consultations were a direct result of a patient referral.

But last year, and for the first time ever, we saw Internet leads surpass Referrals at a staggering rate. Not only that, all other channels have actually declined.

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Key reasons are clear. For one, there was a lot less social gathering with family and friends. Another: the conversations this last year have been focused on other things – COVID-19, politics, and other breaking news that dominated the headlines and our daily lives. Let\’s just say, asking a friend about a medical procedure likely took a back seat.

But that doesn\’t mean people weren\’t thinking about it.


The Surge in Internet

Internet has always been a strong contender to Referrals, but this year was different. We believe the drastic increase in internet this year enabled prospects with time and in some cases, money. Where they may have otherwise been spending time and money on shopping, buying the next toy, going out to dinner or drinks, or going on a trip, consumers were mostly kept inside. Their lifestyle, abilities and priorities shifted. As such, their ability to seriously consider and invest in a medical procedure may have as well.

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So with more time and perhaps more disposable income, plus two major channels – Internet Search and the Practice Website – working in tandem, you have quite the perfect storm: patients with less hurdles like time and money, who are now more able and willing to have a medical procedure than ever before.


A Nod to Social Media

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While Social Media is a distant contributor to Internet Search and the Practice Website as it relates to booking appointments, certainly it has its place in assisting with the decision-making process. And of course, Yelp consistently remains the go-to platform for reviews and commentary on personal experience, which is why it dominates as the highest performer for conversions within the social space.

We do want to point out despite trends in newer platforms such Instagram, Snapchat, and even TicTok, it\’s Facebook – one of the O.G.\’s of social media and the #1 social platform – that year after year seems to be holding strong as the 2nd highest performer next to Yelp. Why? A couple of fun facts:

  • It\’s still the largest social media platform
  • 69% of U.S. adults use Facebook (Source: Pew Research)
  • 74% of high-income earners are Facebook users (Source: SproutSocial)

Safe to say, Facebook doesn\’t seem to be going anywhere from the #2 spot any time soon, but as we\’ve learned from 2020, anything is possible.


In summary, how can you better cater to your prospective patients in 2020?  

We normally end our report with pretty concrete and predictable recommendations for the year ahead. However, given what we\’ve already faced, and an uncertain road ahead, we believe it\’s best to go on the principles that are consistently tried and true:

  • Every interaction matters: Prospects may not be converting to appointments as much this year, but it doesn\’t mean you don\’t make every touch-point with your practice matter. From the first impression to post-surgery, you will never go wrong if your priority is delivering the best patient experience.
  • Stay in touch: It\’s not the time to leave leads high and dry, and many factors are contributing to prospects not booking as quickly as they have in years past. Have processes and plans in place that focus on nurturing relationships with regular communications and check-ins.
  • Agility and adaptability have been the two greatest super-powers: Many practices have been forced to cut back on staff and it\’s been hard to predict when things will get back to normal. Practices may not be in a place where they can hire someone full time and if they are, who knows when things may take another turn and they may need to let people go. Outsourcing some of your business functions can help manage the ebbs and flows of running a practice in uncertain times. It can also be a much more cost-effective solution if you\’re trying to minimize your overhead. Furthermore, many practices may not be fully set up for staff to work remotely. Offloading functions to a HIPAA-compliant partner, who is already equipped with tools and technology, can keep your business running without skipping a beat. For these reasons, clients are turning to our First Contact phone management and Capture Web Response program. Not only are we able to help them manage fluctuations in volume at a lower cost, but our counselors are already trained in managing medical leads, set up to work remotely, and are available during extended hours.
  • Always have a pulse on practice is performance. Always evaluate a variety of key performance indicators and regularly report results. You can also take advantage of our free practice assessment for objective, data-driven insights that can help identify areas of improvement. Complete the fields below to request your free practice assessment:

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*This was the combined 2020 average conversion % across all the medical specialties we work with, including Ophthalmology, Plastic Surgery, Bariatric Surgery, Stem-Cell Therapy, Cosmetic Dentistry and more.