Don't panic, but your patients are ripe for the picking. That's because the practice down the street is busy refining their marketing game — and you probably didn't even notice.

They know that something as seemingly insignificant as a positive attitude can convince a patient to dump years of loyalty and sign on with a new practitioner. In the days of patient consumerization, practices have all kinds of new techniques to poach even your most dedicated patients away. That's why we want to give you a heads up on a few of the hard-to-spot methods, so you can stay on top of your patient retention strategies and get ahead of your competition.

1. They're targeting your relationship weaknesses with healthcare CRM
Sometimes you don't know what causes a patient to leave until it's too late. If another practice is using sophisticated CRM though, they probably do.

Modern healthcare CRM solutions allow practices to pull, record, and store information about consumer demographics, their behaviors, and all their interactions. They're the core of maintaining robust relationships with your healthcare consumers and without one you're operating in the dark.

Meanwhile, your competition can track what their patients are saying and doing in email, online, and even during clinical visits. They're conducting surveys to find out what patients love and what they hate (maybe even about your practice) — even advertising how they get it right and then going on to make future improvements.

2. They're catching your patients young
If you haven't calculated the lifetime value of your patients, now might be the time. That's because Other medical practices are aiming to start those practice-saving relationships as young as possible.

Attracting young healthcare consumers largely comes down to convenience. As the oldest Millennials reach middle-age, healthcare consumerism has brought about a new generation of patients that expect convenience in all aspects of the healthcare experience — ones who are willing to change providers to get it.

That convenience includes seamless digital communication, flexible online and mobile payment options, and scheduling options that work with their lives. Practices that get ahead in this area are winning the battle for long-term patient relationships, and that's ground that will be hard to recover.

3. They're keeping patients informed
Today's consumer knows that healthcare starts at home. This means the days of the doctor-centered healthcare relationship are long gone, and smart practices know this.

To keep up with consumer demands, they've stepped into their patients' daily lives with blogs, e-books, email series, and other dynamic content that aligns with their patients' health goals. They're mastering local search and combining owned, earned, and paid media to get in front of your patients when you're not looking.

By the time a consumer is considering coming into an office, your competitors have already used strong online relationships (and probably a great content management system) to build trust and get to the top of their consumers’ consideration list.

4. They're pushing convenience
We've talked about convenience and younger generations, but honestly, even seniors get tired of cumbersome relationships with their healthcare providers. Seniors are becoming more digitally equipped and socially active. Use of social media by ages 65 and up has gone up around 10 percent in the past four years. That's why practices that offer convenient solutions and encourage their consumers to use them are one step ahead, and likely picking off a few of your patients along the way.

Having a portal and online bill pay isn't enough. You have to treat your patients as consumers and focus on a full consumer experience. This means reaching out not only to remind them of everything you offer but also making sure they're satisfied and asking what you can do to improve your experience.

A 2014 survey by Strategy& revealed that less than half of healthcare consumers are currently satisfied with their consumer experience. This is a huge opportunity for any practice or group to capitalize on.

5. They're flaunting transparency
Consumers want transparency. Competitive practices don't just know that, they exploit it.

Transparency has been heralded as the “new normal" in industries like fashion, beauty, and wellness, and consumers don't drop those expectations just because it's time to see a doctor. Consumers crave transparency, especially in healthcare, meaning that digital marketing, billing, and even websites are the perfect places for competitors to let the world know they're better than you at providing the answers consumers want.

Still, all is not lost. Even if you're watching a steady stream of patients walk past your door and go across town to another practice (just like other organizations in a similar position) there's hope for your marketing presence. It all starts with taking a fresh look at your relationship with your patients. This infographic on the consumer experience will help you kick things off.