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.

We can also see that seeing a clinic on the street brings in a substantial amount of new patients. These are the big areas to focus on — patient satisfaction and signage — while other areas are less important.

To show you just how misaligned ‘last click wins’ can be, we’ve compared the findings from the graph above with a case like Mary’s. The difference is clear.


Pictured:  How last click wins compares to reality in a case like Mary’s.

How do I know if my clinic is stuck in the trap?


The only surefire way to know where your patients are really coming from is by using a Post-Appointment Patient Feedback tool or by adding this question to a New Patient Registration form. From here you can determine exactly where you should be putting more of your energy. If you’re like most clinics, you’ll probably see something similar to the pie chart above, with word-of-mouth, saw it on the street and Google taking out the top 3 spots.


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 aqcuisition trap.