11 Effective & Proven Patient Retention Strategies
Did you know that according to recent statistics, 81 percent of consumers are unsatisfied with their healthcare experience and are likely to take their business elsewhere? So what makes a successful practice? Technically, those with higher influx of new patients as well as retained ones would be deemed successful. However, there are intrinsic values that determine a patient’s return and those standards are essentially a part of the practice’s success. A successful practice strikes a balance between its business goals and the provision of excellent care for patients.
A long-term patient is one who returns to your practice, uses your services and follows prescribed treatments. It is these retained customers who have formed a relationship with their healthcare providers that are most likely to spend more than someone new, 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 services forms a deeper connection to the practice, which in turn engenders customer loyalty. Such patients return to the facility whenever a need arises. When patients come to your office, they want more than just an accurate diagnosis; displaying good bedside manners such as conveying genuine concern in a patient, or answering questions instead of shutting a person down can be a deciding factor in your patients’ return visits. The more you make your patients feel valued through your compassion, and respect for them, or simply by providing valuable information, addressing their concerns and following up after treatment, the higher the prospects of your patient retention.
Remember that it is imperative for all employees and office staff who interact with patients to provide the same service standards. 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 in time of changes in schedule, they will defect to a better service provider.
Personalize Your 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 experience to people under their care, which shows the care-receiver that they are not just another medical file. How would a medical professional accomplish this? Ask your patients lots of care-based questions during their in-office visits and conduct a thorough examination. Creating a personalized care plan based on your findings, and explaining why your chosen strategy is in line with their unique needs also helps.
Because of COVID-19 many medical professionals now engage with patients through emails or virtual visits, this should not stop you from conveying your genuine concern virtually. You can still write personalized responses: make sure your replies don’t become mere copy-paste texts with a name thumped on hurriedly at the beginning to emulate personalization.
Any service customer would want an experience that makes their life easier, an ailing patient more so. Digitalization of your office processes makes this possible.
Introduce online scheduling so patients can make immediate bookings anytime; without thinking of business hours. Today, 88 percent of all appointments are scheduled through calls which take up a lot more time, the fact is that 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
Here are some numbers to tell you how important this is. 94 percent of healthcare patients use online reviews to evaluate providers. 84 percent of these searchers trust reviews and it can only take 1-6 reviews for a prospect to form an opinion about your practice.
Patient satisfaction surveys after every visit help gain valuable feedback that improve your performance and your 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 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 because of 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 to not 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. Once that’s done, around 20 minutes is the average wait time patients endure in hospitals and practices all over the US; which actually means many patients must wait even longer, and what 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 and that 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, and mainly because the front office staff is not properly trained in customer service.
If your staff has poor phone skills and appears to be rushing through calls, 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 10 minutes, it reflects how you would treat patients personally. Some people won’t just hang up on long holds, they will choose to replace their healthcare providers too.
Effective, Clear, and Regular Communication
If your staff is trained to answer patient queries effectively and redirect the questions that they cannot answer, due to doctor-patient confidentiality or because it requires 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 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.
Then there are patient billing errors. Around 80 percent of all medical bills contain billing errors, increasing the chances of insurance companies rejecting patient claims. Most mistakes occur due to technological issues or staff entering incorrect diagnostic codes into bills, especially on bills that total more than $10,000 or more. 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-thought out, 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 of your team as it reduces the amount of administrative time necessary to complete a video appointment as compared to taking an in-person 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 the numbers of patient retention rising when these eleven proven retention strategies are properly and consciously implemented by medical practices regardless of their business size.
While it would be highly improbable to implement all simultaneously, or for them to start showing immediate results, this much is a given: these strategies work.
And 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 your practice. All you have to do is list your practice here and start receiving new patients! The Tripment platform allows for 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.