Getting and keeping patients: Physicians share their acquisition and retention strategies

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For the past couple of decades, doctors have adapted to near-constant change — in regulation, reimbursement, and managing medicine as a business. As the landscape continues to evolve, the most pressing challenge for private practice physicians is acquiring new patients while retaining their current base.

Delivering care is, and has always been, job one for clinicians. But industry conditions and consistent market competition have forced doctors to become savvy businesspeople, too. That means knowing how to pull in a steady flow of patients, achieve healthy margins, and manage the practice budget.

In July 2019, PatientPop asked more than 200 private practice doctors and dentists how they attract and retain patients, manage challenges related to acquisition and retention, and measure success. We also asked what inspired them to choose private practice, rather than working in a hospital or corporate health setting.

Read on to see what doctors and staff had to say, with key points from our research.

Getting and keeping patients: Physicians share their acquisition and retention strategies

Private practice question #1

Why did you go into private practice?

“There are perks to having your own business versus adhering to hospital staff rotations and rules. You can have a normal lifestyle, closer to regular business hours. I have the freedom to do what I want for patients and think outside the box of hospital care.” Physician, podiatry, 7 providers

“I wanted to have my own schedule and set my own rules. I wanted to own patient care.” Owner-physician, internal medicine, solo provider

“I wanted to work in a large private practice in an underserved area. Our integrated services contribute in different ways to family care because we see babies through to geriatric patients.” Physician, family medicine, 24 providers

“I went to business school and medical school, so having a private practice made sense. We’ve been growing rapidly. It’s busy but fun.” CEO-physician, medical imaging, 8 providers

“I wanted more control over my hours and patient care. I worked in a hospital residency and didn’t like the red tape involved. I’ve been in private practice for a decade and enjoy working with colleagues; we come up with ideas to solve tough problems together.” Owner-physician, dermatology, 9 providers

Providers at practices with 6-10 providers say “legacy ownership” and “greater influence over business decisions” are the top reasons for going into private practice. PatientPop insight

“For the past 25 years, I’ve thrived in private practice. I started when the industry was different, though. I like the autonomy to make my own decisions about the business.” Physician, podiatry, 4 providers

Private practice question #2

How do you attract and retain patients?

“We have a staff member who focuses on marketing and attracting patients, but our providers do, too. We’re involved with community events and outreach. We aim to get reviews and positive responses from patients.” Physician, family medicine, 24 providers

“We lecture in the community to educate patients, and use advertising. We’ve also started to dabble in social media, plus magazines and newspapers.” Owner-physician, dermatology, 9 providers

“People come to us based on the quality and number of our Google reviews. We also do some general marketing and are active on social media.” Physician, podiatry, 7 providers

“Along with patient care, I have 100 percent responsibility for marketing. We get patients through word-of-mouth, Google, and Facebook.” Owner-physician, obstetrics/gynecology, solo provider

71.5 percent of practices say referrals are their top patient acquisition source. PatientPop insight

“We’ve been developing our online presence. We use PatientPop and social media — together, these bring more patients into our office.” Physician, podiatry, 4 providers

“We visit senior centers and teach at the Y and Parks and Rec. These are opportunities to get seniors that want to switch doctors.” Marketing manager, family practice, 24 providers

Private practice question #3

What’s your biggest challenge in patient acquisition and retention?

“We always look to bring in more patients, but also the right type of patient.” CEO-physician, medical imaging, 8 providers

“I’d like to see more patients. We always need to adapt to change as time goes on and as situations dictate. You can’t get comfortable.” Physician, podiatry, 4 providers

“No-shows from new patients are our biggest challenge for retention. But overall, we do well, and we’re pleased with our retention rate.” Owner-physician, obstetrics/gynecology, solo provider

“My goal is to build my private practice more, though I’m torn about when I want that to happen. If I were to put my name out there a bit more, it would be easy to fill my practice.” Physician, psychiatry, solo provider

Interesting find: 65 percent of solo practitioners say attracting new patients is their biggest business challenge. PatientPop insight

What about larger practices? Half of 11-15 provider practices say attracting new patients is their biggest business challenge as well. PatientPop insight

Private practice question #4

How do you measure success?

“In my specialty, the expansion of staff and offices equates to being successful.” Physician, podiatry, 7 providers

“I look at the increase in patient volume, bringing in more physicians, and expansion. To have the ability to scale up and grow as a practice over time is important.” Owner-physician, obstetrics/gynecology, solo provider

The greatest area of focus for practice owners is the growth of their practice, which includes opening new locations and increasing patient volume. PatientPop insight

“We measure success by patient volume, especially as the practice matures a bit more. We’ve only been around since 2015.” CEO-physician, medical imaging, 8 providers

“It’s about keeping the schedule filled. We have five new patients just today.” Dentist, 4 providers

“I run a quarterly business report and look at our retention rates. How many patients have put their wellness exams in the books? I run financials every month and meet with the doctors to compare results to the previous year.” Practice manager, women’s health, 6 providers

“We define success by retaining the right type of patient. There are those who come in for a quick fix — the NASCAR pit stop of medicine — and others interested in the functional side of healthcare, who are committed to their overall health. That’s who we’re going for in the long run.” Practice manager, family medicine, 2 providers

How does your practice compare?

Is your practice well-positioned to attract new patients and deliver a great digital experience? Get the answer right now with the PatientPop competitive scanner.

In just a few moments, you’ll see how you stack up against others in your local market and specialty, with metrics across four key components of practice growth:

  • Google ranking
  • Overall web presence
  • Website performance
  • Online reputation

The competitive scanner was created to bring immediate insights to private practices, as a starting point for future improvement and growth.

See your results now at

About PatientPop

PatientPop is the leader in practice growth with the only all-in-one solution that empowers healthcare providers to improve every digital touchpoint of the patient journey. As experts in the healthcare technology space, PatientPop makes it easy for providers to promote their practice online, attract patients, and retain them for life.

With a commitment to continuous innovation, PatientPop helps practices attract more patients, manage their online reputation, modernize the patient experience, automate their front office, and integrate with the most widely used EMRs for a holistic approach to practice growth. For more information, visit

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Getting and keeping patients: Physicians share their acquisition and retention strategies