Patient Retention Strategies: 3 Ways to Keep Patients Coming Back

May 13, 2020 by Antonio Arias, MBA, CHBME

Topics: Practice Management, Medical Billing Company

doctor shaking hands with patient

Building a successful medical practice can be a daunting challenge due to the unique regulatory environment of the healthcare field. At its core, however, a medical practice faces the same demands as any other business. You must first raise awareness to attract customers and then deliver outstanding service to keep them coming back. That’s why your patient retention strategies are every bit as critical to your practice’s long-term success as your billing strategies.

Why You Should be Tracking Your Patient Retention Rates

While it may be tempting to view revenue as the key metric when evaluating the health of your medical practice (and it IS important), your patient retention rate may provide greater insight into how well you’re delivering care. Cycling a large number of one-time patients in and out the door might appear to be efficient, but it could be an indication that your practice has the marketing presence to attract people without providing a quality patient experience that keeps them coming back in the future.

Understanding where your patients are coming from can help you to allocate your resources more effectively. If your practice isn’t growing, but you have a high patient retention rate, then you probably need to invest in marketing to attract more patients. Since you’re already doing a good job of keeping the patients you already have, any new patients will likely keep coming back as well. However, if your growth is flat even though you keep getting new patients, investing in more marketing won’t do much to address whatever problem is keeping your first-time patients from returning.

Why It's Important to Have a Patient Retention Strategy

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 invest in patient retention strategies and 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 they have with your practice – including your office, staff, services, and general state of affairs. That’s why it’s critical for you to embrace the importance of delivering a positive patient experience. Delivering quality service that keeps your patients satisfied greatly enhances your odds of retaining them in the long run, which translates into cost savings over time.

3 Simple Patient Retention Strategies

1. Improve First (and Last) Impressions

Whether your top source of referrals is lead generation from your website or old-fashioned word-of-mouth, make sure you make a good impression at the very beginning of the relationship. 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 each patient’s 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. Streamlining the billing process can also indicate that you’re running an organized, professional practice.

2. 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 turning 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.

3. Extend Your Offerings Further

Driving loyalty also requires that patients see a unique value in sticking with you (as opposed to the practice down the block). How do you make that possible? By offering advantages the competition doesn’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.

Streamline Medical Billing and Boost Patient Satisfaction with NCG

When patients come to you for medical services, their primary concern is getting their health needs addressed. The last thing they want to deal with is navigating the complicated process of medical billing involving their insurance provider or Medicare. They want the payment and claims process to be quick, easy, and seamless so they can get back to their busy lives after leaving your office.

That’s where an outsourced medical billing service like NCG Medical can help. We’ve been helping medical practices improve their billing process for over forty years so they can focus more of their attention on delivering the quality healthcare experiences that drive patient retention rates. To learn more about how our experienced team of billing and coding experts can improve your revenue cycle management, reduce claim denials, and improve your back-office efficiency, contact us today.

Are you interested in learning more revenue cycle management tips? Visit our blog! 

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