Illustration of a doctor putting a hand on a patient's shoulderAs humans, we’re often attracted to things that are “new and shiny.” As healthcare marketers, we might say the same. Our campaigns often seek to bring in new patients. But do you have an engagement strategy for when those new patients become familiar faces?

Existing patients have trusted you at least once with their care. But that doesn’t guarantee they will choose you next time. Life is full of ongoing healthcare decisions — finding a new primary care provider, picking a hospital for a procedure, seeking a specialist — and each choice matters.

Plus, if we want to look at the bottom line, it’s more financially sensible to focus on current “customers” with patient engagement. In fact, retaining patients is more profitable than trying to acquire new ones.

In the same way longtime friends can create more meaningful relationships than new acquaintances, your current patients can create significant brand value. Engage the patients you already have.

Know your goal: What does an engaged patient look like?

An engaged patient plays an active role in managing their own health. This can look like asking questions, doing research and making decisions in partnership with their healthcare provider. An engaged patient doesn’t leave their health up to others; they take action to improve it.

They’re also vocal about their healthcare experience. This could manifest as sharing information by word-of-mouth, leaving reviews online or posting on social media. Every patient has a circle of influence and multiple platforms at their fingertips.

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What are the benefits of patient engagement?

Engaged patients tend to be healthier patients. When patients are active participants in their healthcare, they have better outcomes and experiences. As a result, both the patient and the healthcare provider have lower costs.

Patient engagement also has the power to build your brand equity through brand advocacy. When was the last time you recommended a great product or service to a friend? Did you write a review online or share on social media? Your patients can do the same for their experiences with you. If they feel like they are cared for, patients are more likely to leave a positive review or share their great experience with others.

These types of reviews and referrals build up your brand and can create future patient volume. Because it occurs organically and comes from trusted social connections, brand advocacy can have a great impact on your business. People trust the opinions and experiences of other people they know.

How to engage patients and build tailored content

Like your childhood friend, your current patients know a lot about you. Here’s how to make the most of your relationship in a way that is mutually beneficial and can grow over time.

Listen to their feedback

Your patients are giving you a lot of feedback already — are you listening? Tap into existing feedback sources like patient experience surveys, social media, ratings sites and provider reviews. You can also build short, targeted surveys to gather more data.

Don’t forget to ask your providers. What kinds of questions do patients ask them? What are the most common reasons for office visits? What do providers wish their patients knew more about? Asking the care team can round out your feedback to create robust patient engagement marketing.

Engage in two-way conversations

Ignoring someone when they talk to you is just poor manners. Once you’re listening, be sure to respond thoughtfully. This applies whether you’re getting negative complaints or rave reviews. You may even be able to convert a dissatisfied patient into someone who is willing to give you another shot based on your conversation with them.

If you’re lucky enough to have some patients singing your praises as brand advocates, engage with them. Reply to their reviews, encourage comments and reshare social media posts. Thank your patients for giving their opinion and support. When others see how you treat patients online, it may encourage them to step out and advocate for your brand too.

Build tailored content

Have you ever had to buy a generic gift for someone you barely knew? It’s stressful and awkward. But when you know someone well and talk to them regularly, the right gift jumps off the shelf.

The same goes for content. When you use patient feedback, your content is a personalized gift. When you analyze patient feedback, ask: what questions do they have? What information are they looking for? What are their pain points and struggles? You can also look to previous content that performed well, such as blogs with high readership or social media posts with high engagement.

Through two-way conversations, you can uncover great patient stories that build your brand. Because they come from your current patients, the stories are relatable and genuine.

Take it to the next level

Think beyond content and get creative. Use what you know about your patients to offer other meaningful experiences that are tailored to them. Consider special events, support groups, thank-you mailings and patient advisory boards as ways to continue engaging your brand advocates.

Are you ready to start your own patient engagement marketing?

If you decide to devote a strategy to your existing patients, you’ll be in good company. According to Content Marketing Institute, 78% of the most successful content marketers focus on building loyalty among existing customers.

By creating content tailored to your current patients, you can improve the health and well-being of your patients, foster further engagement and loyalty, reduce costs for everyone and know you’re doing purposeful work.

Build campaigns that keep patients engaged. WriterGirl helps healthcare organizations build effective content for all types of patient audiences. Lean on our writers, editors and strategists to create campaigns that help you reach your marketing goals. Contact us or email