Growing your practice is a great idea, but it’s also an expensive one. It costs practices far more money to win new patients than to keep those they already have; one healthcare exec has estimated that it costs 90% less to get current patients to return for future care than it does to attract new ones.
But when you keep patients around, the benefits add up. In fact, a small number of highly engaged, loyal patients may account for the vast majority of your revenue: Across the industry, estimates say that 12% to 15% percent of a practice’s most loyal patients represent 55% to 70% of its appointments.
That loyalty doesn’t emerge out of nowhere. A patient’s likelihood of coming back is impacted by all of the interactions he or she has with your practice – spanning your office, staff, services, and general state of affairs. Here are three key ways of enhancing your odds of retaining patients.
Improve First (and Last) Impressions
Whether your top source of referrals is lead generation to your website or old-fashioned word-of-mouth, make sure you present the impression you want to when they first encounter you: A professional online presence – with up-to-date information on your hours, contact info, location, and services – will have a memorable, favorable impact on new audiences.
And keep the positives up for the in-person experience, too. Ensure your space is welcoming, your staff is friendly, and that patients time is spent in a productive way throughout their visit. That means short waits, adequate time with the provider, and an honest opportunity to have their questions answered. Make sure new patients receive follow-up calls and a chance to provide you with feedback on the all-around experience.
Simplify Scheduling & Confirmation
Unless a patient requires ongoing care for an illness, the first appointment is your only real chance to “win” them over. But making that first encounter into a lasting relationship is easier when the process for scheduling a subsequent visit is simple and streamlined: Providing multiple options for patients to book – online, by phone, by email, or even by text – can make it easier for patients to try your office first before contacting a competing practice.
And once you book the appointment, don’t let a no-show happen to you. Text-based appointment reminders are proven to improve the likelihood of a patient showing up for the appointment.
Extend Your Offerings Further
Driving loyalty also requires that patients see a unique value to sticking with you (as opposed to the practice down the block). How do you make that possible? By offering advantages the other guys don’t have: Consider incorporating ancillary services, extended hours, or personalized services (such as weight loss, wellness coaching, or disease support groups).
From there, stay ahead of where your specialty is going and continually find ways to modernize your technology for a better patient experience. Patient portals, for example, can be a high-impact addition: They tend to generate an increase in patient loyalty because they provide patients more context and information beyond what is said during the appointment.
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