Mastering the Art of Patient Retention

March 13, 2018

Attracting new patients is a vital part of any growing medical practice. However, when prioritizing marketing initiatives around new lead generation, physicians may be neglecting their most profitable lead base… their current patients. While bringing new patients in the door is important, it is arguably more important to keep them coming back in.

Patient retention is critical to the long-term success of a medical practice. Retaining current patients is also far less expensive than attracting new ones. According to Harvard Business Review, the costs of acquiring a new customer is 5 to 25 times more expensive than retaining an existing one. They also note than even a 5% increase in customer retention can lead to an increase in profits anywhere between 25 and 95 percent.

To master the art of patient retention in your practice, we’ve put together some helpful suggestions to implement.

  1. Provide a Comfortable/Inviting Environment

 The best way to keep existing patients is continuously improving patient satisfaction with their overall experience at your practice. Patients will likely have to wait to see their physician so provide them with comfortable seating and amenities to keep them occupied. Amenities may include things such as free wifi, televisions, magazines and interesting, up to date reading materials.

  1. Build Relationships with Patients

If you’re interested in retaining your patients, be interested in your patients. Address your patients by name and make them feel at ease when talking to you. If appropriate, ask patients about their personal lives, their interests or anything else you’ve previously talked about. These quick facts and personal information can even be documented into their patient file to reference at future appointments. This helps patients to feel valued beyond just being another diagnosis.

As patients develop long-term relationships with their physicians, they are less likely to leave. According to Medical Economics, 49% of patients stay with their doctor for five years or more.

  1. Practice Clear Communication

Listen carefully to their concerns and give them your undivided attention. Don’t ever make a patient feel rushed or feel that you’re pressed for time. Adopt a patient-centered communication model by directing all the focus to them during their appointment. Make them feel like they’re your only patient because in that moment, they are. Approach each patient’s situation with empathy and compassion to let them know you have a genuine interest in their well-being.

They came to you looking for answers to their questions. Keep your patients informed on everything you’re doing to convey transparency. Explain their diagnosis, recommended treatments/procedures or follow-up care in a way that is easy for them to understand. An educated patient is a satisfied patient and a satisfied patient is a loyal patient.

  1. Ask For Feedback

Another valuable tactic for retaining existing patients is to figure out why patients leave your practice. This is where the importance of using patient satisfaction surveys comes into play. By getting direct feedback from your patients, both good and bad, you can identify the areas of your practice that need improvement. Survey responses may also give insight to reasons why patients may be changing providers.

You can even motivate patients to leave feedback by offering discounts or give-away items. Your existing patient’s reviews will help to shed your practice in a positive light. When a prospective new patient is researching medical practices, yours will be a likely contender because of the glowing reviews from your satisfied patients.

  1. Maintain a Good Online Presence

Having a professional website for your practice is extremely important, as most individuals search for physicians’ online. Your website should contain information about your practice, the physicians who work in the office and the services provided. Contact information such as office number, address and hours of operation should be easily accessible for web viewers. Business listings on Google, Bing and other search engines will list this contact information along with your online reviews.

It is important to keep up with any negative reviews or ratings that appear online. When responding to online reviews containing criticism, a physician should react the same way they would with the patient in their office. Avoid identifying the reviewer as a patient or exposing any of their health information or reason for their visit. Keep the response short and thank the individual reviewing for sharing their concern. The physician may even extend the opportunity to discuss the concern over the phone.

  1. Keep Patients Engaged

The most cost-effective way to market to both existing and prospective patients is in the digital space such as email marketing, content and social media marketing. These efforts can be largely automated.

Quality Assurance Calls

Post appointment calls increase a patient’s perception of the care they received. It gives a chance to identify any potential problems they encountered before, during or after their visit. Follow-up calls can also greatly reduce the chances of a malpractice claim or lawsuit.

Online Patient Portal

Online portal for patients to schedule appointments, manage billing and access health records.

Email Marketing

A tactic that is possible via a variety of vendors or even your current customer retention management (CRM) system. Send existing customers informational newsletters, practice updates, product offers and/or loyalty program incentives.

Appointment Reminders

This can be done several different ways such as email reminders, text messages and/or phone calls. An appointment reminder can help ensure your patients remember to make it back to your practice.

Focusing on ways to improve your patient retention can enhance the long-term success of your practice. Implementing a seamless intake process, facilitating automated regular communications and using patient satisfaction surveys will all improve your patient retention rate and decrease the costs of attracting new patients.