As Patch Adams has famously said, “You treat a disease, you win, you lose. You treat a person, I guarantee you, you’ll win, no matter what the outcome.”
As a healthcare professional, you provide your patients with care and devote your time to their treatment, hoping they will reciprocate by visiting your practice next time they need help. Some of them do, others… never show up at your doorstep again. This may not seem a big issue. One patient in, another out…
Existing Patients Are Your Strongest Asset
The cost and effort involved with acquiring a new patient are by far greater than the investment needed to retain your current base. Gaining a new customer can be from 5 to 25 times more expensive than retaining an existing one. A doctor’s practice is no exception to that rule.
“The probability of selling to an existing customer is 60-70 percent. The probability of selling to a new prospect is 5-20 percent.”
The Pangs of Maintaining a Patient
Solutionreach, an organization that examines the patient-provider relationship, revealed that a staggering 35% of Baby Boomers switched doctors between 2015-2016.
If these stats apply to your practice, you might be doing something wrong. Even if you’re successful in attracting new patients, they aren’t motivated enough to stay.
So how can you keep patients involved and decrease their dropout rates? Check if you’re not guilty of one of the following sins against patient retention:
Sin Number 1: You’re Not Offering a Clear-cut Value
Treat your practice as a small local business. In fact, it is one. Recognize patients as informed consumers who approach your healthcare facility hoping to resolve an issue. To achieve that, they need to know what your offering is, and how it corresponds to their requirements.
Is the information about your medical services comprehensive and easy to find?
Without thorough information about your practice, patients don’t know what to expect. They may visit you in an emergency, but leave disappointed and look for another provider next time they require an all-around, professional care.
To prevent that from happening, explore the ways to promote your practice and keep your patients informed:
A professional website is an absolute must. It will not only help you attract newcomers but also stay in touch with the current patients. Build a website and provide details of all the healthcare services you offer. Include the information about reimbursement and paid treatments, your healthcare plans, and opening times. Post relevant content related to your patients’ concerns. Keep your website updated.
Since your business operates locally, make sure you claim and optimize local listings, such as Google, Yahoo, or Bing. It’s a low-effort (and free!) exercise that greatly facilitates patient interaction with your practice. In the listing, include a rich description of your team and services, add in photos, and keep the office hours updated. Ask returning patients to rate your place and write a short review. You will improve online visibility, attract more people, and enhance the interaction with your existing patients.
Newsletter and social media sites are also powerful tools that communicate your values and help you establish and maintain contact with your patients. Don’t fear modern marketing, embrace it, to provide the best healthcare offering our there.
How flexible are your office hours?
Do you offer early mornings, evenings, or weekends? Your patients are busy people, and the more you accommodate their schedules, the greater the chance that they will come back to you.
It’s not about becoming available 24/7, but being there when your patients need you most. If you’re open 9-5 each day, no weekends, no holidays, you’re saying goodbye to a large pool of patients.
Run a patient questionnaire to see what days and hours are the most convenient for them. Think about how you could modify your schedule to reflect that.
Diversify your office hours. Open in the morning for half a week, and start later on the remaining days. If you and your staff are not ready to work every weekend, that’s fair enough, but how about showing your goodwill and opening your office once a month on Saturday?
Sin Number 2: You Start Off On the Wrong Foot
It’s the first impression that counts and makes your patients return or retreat. Walk in your patients’ shoes, evaluate your customer service and see what can be improved.
Some examples of the most frequent ‘offenses’ against patients include:
Disappointing meet & greet. What kind of treatment can your patients expect when they enter your practice? Is your front desk personnel friendly and welcoming? Do they remember patients’ names? All these details impact patient experience. Reflect on how to optimize each of these points.
Poor communication. Today, people expect total responsiveness and streamlined communications. If you fail to deliver on this requirement, you may be losing patients. To avoid that, leverage modern technology.
Use professional answering services to provide your patients with 24/7 care, even when you’re off. Investigate online scheduling and appointment keeping options to enable fast and convenient booking. Offer telemedicine or set up a patient’s portal to make your patients feel connected.
Delays and last-minute changes. Sure, reality kicks in sometimes, but you should make every effort to keep on schedule in respect of your patients’ time. Use automated systems to confirm appointments in advance and remind about an approaching visit. If you anticipate delays, inform your patients about it and offer them the possibility to reschedule.
Sin Number 3: You Are Taking Your Patients for Granted
The number one reason why patients change their healthcare provider is the feeling of being left out and neglected. Many doctors treat a healthcare practice like an assembly line, offering no personalized patient experience. This is unacceptable!
Think about your bedside manner. Patients expect doctors to be empathetic and courteous. Treat people with respect and show your compassion. Explain your diagnosis and all provide details of the treatment.
Focus on humans, not screens. If during a visit you pay more attention to a computer screen than your patients, you make them feel like a nuisance. There’s no need to prioritize paperwork over your patient. Smart time management techniques will help you save time and make the most out of each visit.
Turn into a listener. During an appointment, listen to your patients, and hear them out. Ask about their lifestyle, habits, and sleep patterns. Inquire about all details that can affect their health. They will appreciate your genuine concern.
How to Make Your Patients Come Back?
The healthcare services landscape has changed in recent years. Patients have become more demanding and less forgiving, and doctors who want to grow their practices must recognize that.
As a medical professional, you need to ensure that your facility provides the highest level of care to attract new patients, but also to keep the existing ones content. Avoiding the above ‘sins’ it’s a good way to start!