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5 Patient Retention Strategies That Work for Healthcare Practices

Rather than tirelessly trying to bring new patients to your practice, these five patient retention strategies can help you grow your practice by improving patient loyalty.

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Managing patient retention is a critical part of growing a sustainable practice. 

But, according to Journal of the American Dental Association (ADA), the average general dentist keeps only four out of ten new patients beyond their first appointment. 

It’s clear that the attrition rate of patients is too high for many healthcare practitioners. 

While there’s been a focus on healthcare marketing strategies in recent years, spending money on advertising your practice without making sure you have solid patient retention strategies in place is like pouring water into a bucket filled with holes. 

With that in mind, here are five tactics you can use to build patient loyalty.

What Is Patient Retention?

Patient retention is the process of engaging existing patients to continue coming back to your practice. 

The best patient retention tactics enable you to form long-lasting relationships with people who –as a result–become loyal to your organization. 

It’s increasingly important because American patients are starting to act more like savvy customers when it comes to their healthcare decisions: they’re now choosing providers based on their service level. 

If you want to retain customers, you need to improve the patient experience so they don’t have a reason to go out and find another provider. Here are five ways to do it.

1. Retain Patients By Making Your Experience Convenient

With digital healthcare booming, traditional services are now competing with the convenience of e-commerce platforms, telemedicine, and digital pharmacies. 

This means you need to take extra steps in the office to make your patient’s visit more convenient. 

Reduce wait times, or create ways to engage the patient during their wait so that they don’t feel like it was a waste of time. Focus on improving processes that will also make your team more efficient. 

For example, you could: 

  • Send an appointment confirmation text instead of trying to call someone. People prefer text reminders and it’s more efficient for your office staff. 
  • If things are running behind, call the patient to let them know so they can come in a few minutes later or at least be prepared for the wait.
  • Minimize bureaucracy: nothing is more frustrating to patients than to have to provide the same information over and over before they even get to see a provider.

2. Ask for Patient Feedback

How you handle customer service and convenience depends on your patient demographics and what your patient wants out of the experience. 

A retired patient may enjoy light conversation and may not mind longer waits. A younger, big city patient may prefer to be left alone, with an outlet available to charge their phone and speedy in/out service.

Not only can you better gauge what matters to your patients, but you’ll also gain an insight into what’s really going on. One study found that 8 in 10 senior-level healthcare professionals believe appointments start on time, while 48% of patients said they had to wait.

Patient satisfaction surveys can give you the information you need to close these gaps and improve areas that are lacking.

3. Invest In Your Digital Presence

From SMS marketing for healthcare to social media to telemedicine, embracing a digital presence will help attract and retain many patients. 

Start with social media and have fun. This will help support that personable feel of your practice and your patients will feel more and more loyal to you because they feel like they know you.

You can also leverage Facebook to share information such as new research, health insights or other relevant information. Sharing information via social media is a great way to reach and educate patients while also building your online reputation.

4. Embrace Asynchronous Healthcare

Almost one year after the first lockdowns, virtual care is still highly popular, with 77% of patients reporting they are willing to use some form of telehealth post-COVID and 41% preferring it. 

Even providers report anticipating virtual visits to remain steady at 10-30% for years to come. 

It’s no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated an already increasing trend of asynchronous virtual care.

Asynchronous care is where there’s no continuous real-time interaction between patient and provide or between providers. This allows people to initiate a visit or care interaction whenever and wherever they are and from any device.

This could be an online portal that allows someone to keep a record of symptoms. It could be a text message that reminds someone to take their medication.

All of this means that consumers are no longer in the passenger seat: they are becoming empowered to receive care according to their convenience and expecting service to come with empathy and innovation.

5. Don’t Forget the Human Element of Patient Relationships

While lots of medical practices are focused on investing in telehealth and building out efficient processes, don’t neglect the human aspect of caregiving.

For example, research suggests that patient satisfaction suffered when a physician used her computer and faced the screen away from patients during care encounters.

In fact, data from 2017 revealed that something as simple as sitting next to a patient when discussing healthcare issues can put patients at ease and improve satisfaction.

While the common pushback is that clinicians simply don’t have time, it’s been shown that taking even one minute to establish rapport can have a major impact.

Blending Technology and a Human Touch

Retention rates are becoming a major focus for healthcare organizations. As patient expectations skyrocket, it’s important to ensure that you’re keeping up.

There will always be a percentage of patients that go elsewhere for their care, but minimizing this turnover can help you build a thriving patient base.

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