# Acquiring New Patients: Extreme Bingo Cruises

There are many ideas that spring to mind when one looks at how to attract new patients to a hospital.  One would be to offer extreme bingo cruises to patients after discharge.  Another option might be to sponsor open Karaoke in the admissions seating area.

Apparently nobody knows what it costs to acquire a patient.  It appears the same number of people do not know what it costs to lose one.  My take?  They are both very expensive.

It never occurred to me that hospitals actually had business development people.  While I knew they had marketing people because I see their billboards and hear their ads on NPR, I just assumed that patients were their own mini business developers—they get sick and seek out a place to get unsick.  I think more people are doing this than the business development people would like you to think, because if that is the trend then the business development role in a hospital becomes irrelevant.

So does this business development thing work?  Can you prove it does?  I only ask because I keep asking what it takes to acquire a single new patient and nobody seems to know.  Does nobody track business development efforts or measure their costs against the number of patients acquired?  Trying to argue that fifty percent of the reason that a given patient came to your hospital to have their knee scoped is because they saw the billboard of your urologists is like trying to prove that one side of a black hole is darker than the other.  The math just does not work.

Suppose last year the combined budgets of your hospital’s business development group and its sales and marketing group were ten million dollars.  Let us also suppose that you were able to prove that your hospital acquired ten thousand new patients as a result of that ten million dollar spend.  Were that the case we could say the cost to acquire a patient was one thousand dollars.  If you acquired only one thousand new patients we would know the acquisition cost was ten thousand dollars per patient; five hundred new patients cost twenty thousand and so forth and so on.

Simple math, but nobody is saying what it costs and that is because nobody knows what it costs.  I believe strongly that if the real cost was only one thousand dollars to acquire a new patient that every chief marketing officer would put that message on a billboard and erect it outside of the CEO’s office.  Because those billboards do not exist, I am betting that it either cost substantially more or that the costs are never to be known.

So, back to costs and what is known.  We know that it is less costly to attract customers to organizations that are easy to do business with.  We know that it is less costly to do business with people who have already been your customers, probably to the tune of ten to one in terms of actual dollars.  The only glitch in that equation is that these former customers have to like you, and that they found it easy and beneficial to have done business with your hospital.

To conclude, it is much more cost effective to attract potential patients who have already demonstrated an interest in your organization.  Those people are the ones who visited you online, who called your hospital, who interact with you on social media, and who visit patients.  They are not the people who saw your billboard, heard about you on NPR or received a telemarkeintg call extolling your services.