The Patient Acquisition Trap

Are You Paying For New Patients When You Don't Need To?

Last month Google declared that it is putting an end to its ‘last click wins’ model. The news is likely to be the first step in a new way of thinking about the effectiveness of different channels of traffic for businesses, including medical centres.

What is last click wins?

Last click wins (also known as last click attribution) is when you credit a source of traffic (say a new patient) to the last channel they interacted with. It’s a big problem for all businesses, including medical centres, because it creates a gap between where clinics think their patients are coming from and where patients are actually coming from. This misalignment leads to what we call ‘the patient acquisition trap’.

What is the patient acquisition trap?

The patient acquisition trap is when a clinic ends up paying for new patients, when these patients would have booked with them anyway. Think of it like having a sales rep standing out the front of your clinic. He hands out flyers to every patient coming through the door and charges you a new patient fee for every flyer he hands out.

Often clinics stuck in the patient acquisition trap are under the illusion that they need paid channels to continue to bring them new patients, but in reality they could quite easily survive on their own.

How does the patient acquisition trap work?

The best way to explain how the trap works is to think about Mary.

  • Touchpoint 1: Mary is a patient who hears about your clinic from a friend 
  • Touchpoint 2: Mary is driving and spots your clinic on the street
  • Touchpoint 3: Mary searches your name on Google 
  • Touchpoint 4: Mary clicks on your paid ad instead of your website

The trap is that most clinics will give all the credit to the paid ad for bringing Mary to the clinic, but in reality it was word-of-mouth that was responsible for starting Mary’s journey.

Pictured: How a clinic would credit traffic sources in a case like Mary’s when using last click wins.

This isn’t a stretch. According to Google Insights:

“51% of people have a healthcare provider in mind when their research begins and only 11 % are looking to doctor shop.”

This means 1 in 2 patients have already chosen your clinic before they even turn to Google and 9 in 10 would have clicked your website, if given the option, instead of your paid ad.

How big of an issue is this?

This is a serious issue, which affects many practices. The reason being is because the data can be so enormously misleading. Consider the results of a survey we ran with 1,141 Australian patients in 2017.

Source: Patient Survey 2017

Looking at the graph we can see that word-of-mouth brings in more new patients than any other platform. It’s twice as effective as Google, and six times more effective than online directories. This is a big difference to what we see in the ‘last click wins’ graphic.

Need help escaping the patient acquisition trap?

Read our article on The 3 Phases of Practice Growth to find out how best practices avoid falling into the patient acquisition trap.

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