Did you know that a 2% increase in patient retention is equivalent to cutting costs by 10%? The reason behind this statistic is pretty simple: seeking out new patients is expensive. In fact, it costs between 6 and 7 times more to secure a new patient than it does to maintain an existing one. As a result, patient retention should be one of your practice’s top priorities. If it isn’t, or your practice is struggling to retain patients, then here are the top five tips to address the problem immediately.
- Don’t Run from Conflict
Nobody likes dealing with an unhappy patient. However, patient complaints are one of your most valuable resources. As Sharon Mason Parker of Practice Builders points out, a patient with a complaint is someone who is willing to stay as long as their needs are addressed. If they weren’t willing to remain a patient, then they would simply leave, no comment needed. Patients who complain are telling you, right to your face, exactly what you can fix to keep patient retention up. That kind of honesty is relatively rare, so face it head on and use it to improve your patient’s experience at your practice.
- Remember your Patients are also Customers
The word “customer” can feel abrasive to some medical professionals, as if recognizing that their practice relies on profitability takes away from the humanitarian role of a healer. However, dividing those realities is simply impractical. Your ability to continue serving your community is completely dependent on the profitability of your practice, so you have to start treating your patients as customers.
Niki Kaylor, Director of Client Services at Healthcare Success, emphasizes how shifting your perspective to treating patients as customers with choices changes the entire dynamic at your medical practice. When you start considering patient comfort as well as care, you can address issues that were detracting from your practice’s success. Friendly desk staff, an inviting waiting room, and small, creature comforts such as water or coffee can make all the difference in how your patients perceive their visit.
If your current practice feels dingy or worn down, consider a renovation or talk to the experts of Boulevard Medical Properties about other available locations.
- Maintain Patient Relationships Outside of Appointments
Many healthcare providers make the mistake of limiting their interaction with patients to when they are physically present at their practice. This is a sure-fire way to make your patients feel that they are inconsequential to you. For your patients, their healthcare is a personal endeavor, and they expect you to treat it that way.
To ensure your patients feel like you care for them as people, Solution Reach suggests reaching out beyond the appointment. This can include appointment reminders the day prior, a hand-written birthday card every year, and just taking some time to get to know them. If you want to really commit, integrate yourself into the community by taking time to talk to people at the grocery store and donating to local festivities. In the end, all patients want a friendly, neighborhood doc.
- Tackle Wait Times
Besides a lack-luster experience with the doctor and staff, extended wait times are one of the top reasons that patients leave a practice. To avoid this problem, there are three things you can do.
- Use an automatic appointment reminder system to increase your chances of scheduled appointments showing up on time.
- Perform an audit by taking a proxy patient through all of your normal procedures. It will be time consuming initially, but it will help you to identify problems in your workflow, allowing you to streamline the process and your wait times.
- Track average waiting time and keep it updated on your website and answering machine. This will allow walk-in patients to accurately predict how long they can expect to wait, reducing patient frustration.
- Take Surveys
According to Solution Reach, roughly 67% of people complete at least half of the surveys offered to them. As with complaints, surveys provide vital information regarding your practice and patient satisfaction. Look at surveys as a way of further auditing your practice and implement changes that reflect patient needs.
Patients are People
In essence, patient retention revolves entirely around your patients feeling that you recognize them as individuals rather than just a name at the top of a chart. If you take the steps to personally engage with your patients in a meaningful way both inside and outside of your practice, you will see an increase in retention.