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The evolving dynamics of patient acquisition in a consumer-driven health-care era

March 29, 2024
The traditional patient acquisition model is rapidly evolving, with patients now playing a more active role in their health-care choices. Here's what you must understand about these changes.
Kyle Ryan, Chief Technology Officer, Tebra

Like many other sectors, the health-care industry is currently in the throes of a significant transformation. The traditional patient acquisition model is rapidly evolving, with patients now playing a more active role in their health-care choices. The shift toward a more consumer-centric approach drives both challenges and opportunities for providers. Understanding these changes becomes imperative for health-care professionals who wish to thrive as the sands shift.

The past and present of patient choice

Historically, patients relied primarily on referrals from primary care physicians or chose providers based on proximity. Word-of-mouth recommendations from friends or family members often played a pivotal role.

However, today’s digital age has ushered in the concept of health-care consumerization. This process is where patients actively select their providers, much like they would choose any other service. This shift has significant implications, giving rise to a new paradigm where patients are more informed, demanding, and in charge of their care options. Even though word-of-mouth referrals still have their place, the digital world has completely taken over when it comes to patient acquisition.

The new financial paradigm

In past years, the financial aspects of health care were heavily skewed toward insurance providers. Patients rarely understood or questioned the intricate web of costs.

Now, with changes in insurance structures and policies, consumers are shouldering more direct payment responsibilities. This idea has led to a palpable demand for transparency, with patients seeking clear, upfront information about potential health-care expenses before choosing services.1 Practices that are transparent in pricing are more likely to foster patient loyalty.

A more informed consumer base

Gone are the days when patients would simply accept a doctor’s referral without question. Modern consumers prioritize information, seeking details about a provider’s expertise, history, and patient reviews.

This change stems from a desire to ensure a good “patient-provider fit” where both parties’ values, expectations, and needs align seamlessly. This transformation means providers must be more forthcoming and transparent about their services and credentials.

The digital transformation in patient sourcing

Search engines, primarily Google, have emerged as patients’ primary tools for researching potential providers. Furthermore, specific provider directories offer curated lists of specialists based on various criteria, helping patients make informed decisions.

The weight of online reviews and patient testimonials in decision-making can’t be understated, with many consumers giving them as much importance as personal recommendations. For health-care providers, this underscores the vital role of maintaining a positive online reputation and actively engaging with feedback.

Meeting the high bar for patient experience

The concept of boutique or concierge health care is gaining traction, characterized by personalized care and premium services. In this model, patients expect clinical excellence and a holistic experience that values their time, preferences, and individual needs.

This expectation extends to both in-person visits and digital interactions, with a demand for seamless online appointment bookings, telehealth services, and rapid response times. Health-care providers must, therefore, recalibrate their strategies to offer a well-rounded, consumer-centric experience that caters to these evolving demands.

Steering independent practices into the future

For health-care providers, particularly independent practices, having a robust online presence is no longer optional—it’s a necessity. Patients value clear, detailed information about practices, the services offered, and the professionals they might engage with.

Engaging proactively on review sites, responding to feedback, and addressing concerns can significantly enhance a practice’s image. Organic search channels, such as Google Business Profiles and sound search engine optimization (SEO) strategies, can increase visibility. Including genuine patient stories and testimonials adds authenticity and can profoundly impact new-patient acquisition.

A health-care revolution

The health-care sector stands at the cusp of a revolution driven by its consumers’ evolving preferences and demands. This transformation is not just about technology or marketing but represents a fundamental shift in the patient-provider relationship. Embracing this change, continually innovating, and staying aligned with patient expectations is crucial. The future belongs to those willing to adapt, listen, and deliver exceptional patient experiences. 

Editor's note: This article appeared in the April 2024 print edition of Dental Economics magazine. Dentists in North America are eligible for a complimentary print subscription. Sign up here.


  1. Nearly 90 percent of Americans support health care price transparency. Energy & Commerce Committee. July 11, 2023.

As chief technology officer at Tebra, a leading cloud-based health-care technology platform, Kyle Ryan is responsible for all areas of technology with a focus on the vision and strategy for Tebra’s suite of products and services.

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