Proven Strategies to Increase Patient Retention
With the changes in the medical market today, it is more important than ever to treat your patients well and really earn their business. You want your good patients to return and to suggest you to their friends and family when someone is in need of a caring physician. This involves something that many practices have forgotten altogether: customer service.
Building your patient relationships is more than just making sure you put on a friendly face every time your patients are in for their care appointments. It requires a consistent investment of time and attention throughout the continuum of care. It goes without saying that the stronger your patient relationships are and the higher the level of overall patient satisfaction is, the more likely it is that your patient retention percentages will improve.
The relationship that someone has with their healthcare providers is far more important and intimate than the relationships they may have with other service providers or merchants. But healthcare is a business after all and a competitive one at that. Just like any other business owner, providers need to think about how to attract and retain patients.
What are patients looking for when it comes to choosing and staying with their doctors?
A study by Weatherby Healthcare, one of the nation’s largest providers of locum tenens staffing, surveyed nearly 500 everyday healthcare consumers to find out what they look for in a physician and what would cause them to change doctors. The survey also examined how patients educate themselves about doctors, procedures, costs, health conditions, and more.
The survey found that, overall, patients are generally happy with their physicians and many stay with their doctor for a decade or more. When choosing a new doctor, they look for someone with experience, competence, and a positive attitude. Cost, location, and the type of insurance accepted are also important factors in the selection process.
Here are other key findings from the survey:
- 75 percent of patients are satisfied with their primary care physicians. Patients find their physicians professional, knowledgeable, and empathetic, all characteristics that patients report as crucial to satisfaction.
- 82 percent of patients over the age of 55 are satisfied with their physicians. Among patients 18 to 34, that rate drops to only two-thirds (67 percent).
- 51 percent labeled in-network care as critical. Finding an in-network, affordable doctor is the top priority for patients when selecting their physicians and healthcare facilities.
- The survey found that apart from a physician’s age (which is closely linked to experience), most patients are not concerned with the demographic profile of their physician.
- 23% percent of women strongly prefer having a doctor of the same gender, compared to 9 percent of men.
- Nearly half of patients stay with their doctor for five years or more (49 percent), often due to comfort and familiarity
The study illustrates that patients focus most on insurance, cost, and convenience when selecting a physician and healthcare facility, but appreciate a doctor with experience, adequate competency, and a positive attitude, and care about the general ambiance of the facility in which the physician practices.
Though patients are sometimes persuaded to leave and are frustrated by long wait times, many are satisfied with their doctors and stay with them for years, looking to them for the final, official opinion on their healthcare decisions. Patients are leveraging the Internet to research their doctors. Though modern patients use online research, they still rely heavily on the close, human-to-human relationship they’ve cultivated.
Retaining Clients is the Easiest Way to Grow Your Practice
Acquiring new patients is a worthwhile and necessary investment. Without a steady stream of new patient leads, your practice may suffer in the long-term. The costs to acquire a new patient is not unlike any other industry. It’s time-consuming, and it’s expensive. According to a Harvard Business Review article – acquiring a new customer is anywhere from five to 25 times more expensive than retaining an existing one.
Harvard Business Review reported another compelling fact in the same article. While the article speaks broadly across industries, savvy medical providers should take note – increasing customer retention rates by 5% increases profits by 25% to 95%.
It makes sense then to take additional efforts to deepen your relationships with your patients. SolutionReach, a patient relationship management platform, suggest 5 ways to let your patients know you care:
- Send appointment reminders to make sure they don’t forget or show up late to their appointment. Your patients will appreciate this, especially if your schedule is typically booked out a few weeks. (Fewer no-shows will be your benefit.)
- Follow up their visit by sending a quick text message to say, “Thank you for coming in. We appreciate you!” When appropriate, a follow up to see how they are doing or if they have any questions lets them know they are on your mind and that you care.
- Sending a monthly patient newsletter to keep your patients up-to-date with industry news, especially as it specifically pertains to their health, is another way to show your concern for their well-being.
- Use automated patient surveys to find out your level of patient satisfaction and more about each patient’s experience. Thoughtfully consider the feedback given and thank your patients for expressing their opinion. (You could send them a coupon or small gift to say thank you!)
- Don’t forget to wish your patients a happy birthday! Birthday messaging is a simple way to show your patients you remembered them and is also a great marketing tool!
What does this mean for your practice?
There are many proactive and consistent approaches you can take and efforts you can make to effectively build patient loyalty and improve your patient retention.
Get together with your staff to come up with a strategy that everyone is on board with so that each staff member is aware of how to do their part to ensure a positive patient experience every time.
If you find you need additional working capital to implement some patient retention programs, get started today to learn more about how we help practices grow.