11 Effective & Proven Patient Retention Strategies
According to recent statistics, 81 percent of consumers are unsatisfied with their healthcare experience and are likely to take their business elsewhere. What makes a successful practice, one that received a high influx of new patients while retaining the patients they have seen before? There are some intrinsic values that determine a patient’s return, which a practice can tap into to ensure success. In the end, a successful practice is one that strikes a balance between its business goals and providing excellent care for its patients.
A long-term patient is one who returns to your practice, uses your services and follows prescribed treatments. These retained customers have formed a quality relationship with their healthcare providers, and they are more likely to keep returning through the years simply because they trust you.
Retaining patients costs less than engaging new ones, plus their positive reviews drive great returns and foster new connections. Here are some effective patient retention strategies that have proven their worth.
Provide outstanding care to your patients
A patient that receives exceptional service forms a deeper connection to the practice. These patients develop loyalty to the practice, and return whenever their need for care arises. Most people look for a good bedside manner in their provider -- a doctor who conveys genuine concern for his patients, listens to their questions, and provides detailed answers. The more you make your patients feel valued through compassion and respect for them, and by simply providing valuable information, addressing their concerns, and following up after treatment, the higher the probability is that your patients will return.
It is imperative for all employees and office staff who interact with patients to provide the same standards of service. If your office staff is rude or discourteous, if your billing and processing is often erroneous, or if patients either face long waits or are not informed of changes to the schedule, they will defect to a better service provider.
Personalize each patient‘s experience
Bedside manner is important; however, you can take it a step further. There are many doctors who genuinely care, and provide a personalized patient. This shows that they are more than just another medical file. You can accomplish this by asking your patients lots of care-based questions during their in-office visits while conducting a thorough examination. Create a personalized care plan based on your findings, and explain why your chosen strategy is in line with their unique needs.
Customers of any service want an experience that makes their lives easier -- and patients who are not feeling well, even more so. Digitalization of your office processes can help make this possible.
Introduce online scheduling so patients can make immediate bookings anytime, regardless of business hours. Today, 88 percent of all appointments are scheduled through calls, which take up a lot more time. 81 percent of patients would rather schedule a doctor’s appointment online, because it is much faster and convenient.
Some medical practices with high patient retention numbers make intake forms available online before appointments, and offer patient portals. Telemedicine is another way to make medical care cost-efficient and convenient for patients as they can be conducted from anywhere, and reduce transportation expenses, child care payments, or time away from work costs.
Review patient feedback
Patient feedback is important. 94 percent of healthcare patients use online reviews to evaluate providers. 84 percent of these searchers trust reviews, and it takes only 1-6 reviews for a prospect to form an opinion about your practice.
Patient satisfaction surveys after every visit help gain valuable feedback that should be used to improve your performance and reputation. When your patients feel their views and opinions are valued, they are likely to post commendable reviews about you online, too. Similarly, a dissatisfied patient will post damaging criticisms just as quickly.
Addressing client concerns is a great patient retention approach, and handled promptly will ensure you don’t scare off prospective patients through negative feedback from dissatisfied patients.
Adopt a robust marketing strategy
Wouldn’t marketing be attractive to new patients? Yes, a medical practice does need to attract new patients to be successful. In 2020, Google’s second and third most searched items were COVID-19 related. Yet, a year before the pandemic struck, Google's total daily health-related searches equaled 70,000 each minute, and accounted for 7 percent of total searches.
By focusing marketing efforts on ranking in search results and on social platforms, not only do you reach new prospects but you also ensure that your existing customers will not easily forget you, due to your recurring and relevant digital presence. What better method of patient retention than to be so visible that you’re hard to forget? Robust marketing builds patient loyalty, resulting in credibility and returning patients.
Build patient trust
As a healthcare practice, you literally have your patient’s lives in your hands. For patients to keep coming back to you, they need to trust you. If you are visibly knowledgeable in your field, your patients will automatically trust your advice and prognosis. Also, a calm demeanor as a medical practitioner will attract even nervous and anxious patients and assuage their fears.
Although your patient may not be the most, well...patient person to be around, it's important not to let their issues or attitude affect you personally. Your ability to make objective decisions garners trust, as does effective communication where you allow patients to express their concerns, and offer unbiased advice to their health queries as required.
Stay on schedule
It takes an average of 24 days to schedule a first-time appointment with a physician. Patients can usually count on a 20-minute wait time in hospitals and practices all over the U.S. Since this is the average wait time, patients typically have to wait even longer, not to mention if there are additional wait times added for testing or reports. About 30% of patients say they have left a doctor’s appointment because of an extremely long wait.
Stay on schedule, or as close to it as possible. Gaining a new patient costs your hospital or practice 5 times more than retaining existing patients. Cutting wait times influences patient retention positively. Keeping patients waiting extensively may send out a negative message that you just don’t care for their time, which of course will drive them away.
Train your front-office staff
Practices have the potential to lose millions of dollars at the front desk, partly because of the processes in place -- or lack thereof. This can often be fixed by training the front office staff properly in customer service.
If your staff has poor phone skills and appears to be rushing through calls, or acts indifferent or rude, patients will simply call up another practitioner. Long hold times work the same way; you should not put anyone on hold for more than 10 minutes, as it reflects how you would treat patients personally. Some people won’t just hang up on long holds, they will choose to take their business somewhere else.
Effective, clear, and regular communication
If your staff is trained to answer patient queries effectively and redirect the questions they cannot answer (due to doctor-patient confidentiality or because they require medical advice), your patients will be satisfied with the service they receive. Patients must be able to get the answers they need.
Additionally, staying in regular touch with patients helps keep you relevant. Use a content calendar (also called an editorial calendar) to track your content strategy and send your patients updates, planned promotional activity information, special offers, or even handwritten notes using marketing automation software.
Frequent communication with your patients builds trust, eliminates misinformation, confusion or doubts, and persuades them to return time and again. Your calendar will also help generate leads and convert them to patients.
Maintain flawless billing
Quality care starts with appointment setting and ends with collecting billed payments. It’s not just the doctor visit that must be perfect. Billing issues or inefficiencies, such as overcharging a patient, or misinformation about insurance coverage, leave a bad taste in the mouth. Informing a patient during appointment scheduling that payment will be due at the visit is a small courtesy. Check that they understand their insurance coverage and their estimated financial responsibility. Have a proper payment procedure set up at check-in or check-out and be clear in your communications and follow-ups.
Setting up payment plans for patients who may not be able to pay upfront is a good patient retention policy. Remain polite and respond appropriately to patients who may not appear comfortable discussing finances. A caring, empathic attitude goes a long way in showing patients that you care for them and not just the billing.
Make a strong effort to avoid billing errors. Around 80 percent of all medical bills contain billing errors, increasing the chances that an insurance company will reject patient claims. Most mistakes occur due to technological issues or staff entering incorrect diagnostic codes into bills, especially on bills that total over $10,000. Patients have plenty of reasons to go elsewhere. Don’t let erroneous billing be one of them.
Keep your employees happy
Though it may seem unrelated at first, your medical staff actually plays an important role when it comes to patient retention. Your patients will not just interact with doctors, medical staff, and front desk personnel, but with schedulers, medical assistants, billing department staff, and other team members. If your medical practice has unhappy, stressed, or under-resourced office personnel, they cannot provide great customer service and will shape the customer experience negatively.
If you are under-resourced and under-staffed, it may not always be possible to hire additional staff to deal with a temporarily increased workload. If your policies are not well-planned, or if there are billing issues and your staff has to bear the brunt of your patients’ wrath because of poor planning, it will affect their work and funnel back down to other patients. Huge staff turnovers also lead to your patients losing faith in your practice. Remember, for most people, the doctor’s visit involves them forming connections not just with their doctors but the familiar faces they see at the practice.
Telemedicine may be an excellent way to take the pressure off your team, as it reduces the amount of administrative time necessary to complete an appointment. This is also a great money-saver, as it lets the practice expand without elevating costs of additional salaries or burdening staff with extra work and making them miserable. It also works well for the patients themselves, as it keeps wait times short and reduces waiting room crowding.
So, if you want your patient retention numbers to grow, convoluted as it may appear, keep your staff engaged and happy. They will do the same for your patients.
Medical providers all over use some of these practices unknowingly and have seen success. But imagine how much patient retention can rise when these eleven proven retention strategies are properly and consciously implemented by medical practices, regardless of their business size.
Here are a few more numbers to mull over before you complete this article:
- Patients now have many choices of how and where to spend their healthcare dollars, and more than 72% of Americans begin their search for healthcare providers online. These online queries drive thrice the number of visitors to hospital and medical practice websites compared to regular walk-ins.
- The average cost for a healthcare lead is $286, and healthcare advertising spending is expected to rise 5 percent in both 2020 and 2021, so healthcare marketers will pay even more for each lead.
- 81 percent of patients find their healthcare experience unsatisfactory.
Therefore, placing these proven patient retention strategies in your medical practice will cost you less, keep your patients loyal to you, and expand your referral base. Now that’s a sound practice!
Tripment can help you implement some of these strategies very easily and improve your patient retention as you grow. All you have to do is list your practice here and start receiving new patients! The Tripment platform allows you to have virtual visits with your new patients, show real-time availability with our appointment booking feature, showcase your reputation by displaying real ratings & reviews, list accurate prices for the procedures & services you offer, and attract new patients with Tripment’s cutting-edge marketing tools.
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