25 Ways to Improve Patient Retention
Patients are what make a practice successful- and you want to ensure that those patients keep coming back and that your patient retention stays high. Here are 25 surefire ways to make sure your patients stick around for the long run.
- Phone calls. Make sure your phones are answered, and that missed calls are returned in a timely fashion. Answering when a patient calls or returning their calls quickly gives a good impression and shows you care. Also, make sure the employee answering the phone sounds happy, and knows answers to basic questions people may ask. If the person answering the phone sounds rude, people will not want to come.
- Information. Make information available and known before a patient arrives. This saves the patient time so they don’t have to wait as long, and gives you less to worry about. Some examples are pre-approving insurance, informing the patient of the paperwork they will fill out before they arrive, making the paperwork available online so it can be done before arrival, and giving patients an estimate of how much time they should set aside to come in.
- Set yourself apart. Patients need to clearly see how you are better than your competitors, otherwise there is nothing stopping them from leaving. The solution is treating your patients like family. This makes more a more enjoyable experience for the patient. It also gives you that edge over the competition that keeps patients coming back.
- Simplify things. People get worried when going to the doctor because most people don’t understand what is going on. Going the extra mile to explain test results in a manner patients can understand helps the patient listen more because they can follow what you are saying. Before or during the actual procedure, explaining what you are doing and why you are doing it in terms the patient will understand will help calm a patient’s nerves.
- Listen. Listen to the patient. The patient can explain the issues they are having and give you a better understanding for how to treat them. Not letting a patient talk or talking over them is rude and makes a patient think you don’t care about them. If a patient is given the impression they are no different than someone else they’ll find another practice that treats them like they are important.
- Survey patients. Send an online survey to your patients after they leave. Getting feedback on the patient experience is critical. It gives insights as to what your practice does well, and what could be improved upon. This allows you work on improvements where needed to improve your practice as a whole, and give patients more of a reason to keep coming back. To incentivize people to take the survey, you could give a small gift or a coupon for their next visit for completing the survey.
- Appointment confirmations and reminders. Send appointment confirmations and reminders. People are busy, and tend to forget things. Send a confirmation email when the appointment is made so the patient has it available as a reminder. Once the appointment gets close send an email and/or text message to the patient as a reminder they have an appointment scheduled and the details for it. Sending a reminder for an appointment is quite useful, as the patient doesn’t have to stress as much, and if the appointment was made months in advance can remind the patient they made it.
- Be thankful. A patient is not forced to come to your practice, they make that choice. At the end of the appointment, thank the patient for coming to your practice. After a procedure, it means a lot to a patient if you follow up. Depending on the procedure, the patient may be in pain or not feeling well, and getting a call from their doctor shows the doctor cares about them. Patients are more likely to stay with and recommend that doctor if they show that level of care.
- Birthdays. Keep track of patients birthdays and wish a Happy Birthday when it comes time. Showing that your office remembers their birthday and cared enough to reach out and say it shows how much you care about your patients. It also allows for a promotion or marketing opportunity.
- Extended Hours. People have hectic schedules. Providing extended hours makes it easier for people to come to your practice. Being open late one or two days a week, or being open on one or two Saturdays a month would be ideal. This is more accommodating to patients who can’t leave work or school to come to the doctor, or just have a lot going on in general.
- Be informed. Patients will have questions when they visit. Staying up to date on your field keeps you informed of the latest technology and procedures. That way, when patients inevitable have questions about something they say online, you can answer their question and perhaps give a more well-rounded answer than they were expecting. This shows you know what you are talking about, and gives patients confidence in your abilities.
- Smells. Humans are sensitive to smell, so be sensitive to smells from your office. Strong cologne, cigarettes, and other strong smells like fish that can be repulsive to some people shouldn’t be present in the office environment. If people smell something they think is unpleasant while in your office, chances are they won’t be back.
- Website. It is 2018, most people will look online before going somewhere. If you have an outdated and poorly functioning website, people will not make an appointment at your practice. An easy to use and updated website is great. Being able to easily find information about your practice, make appointments and maybe even have access to the forms they’d need to fill out before they come is a must have.
- Parking. Make sure there is ample parking. Patients don’t want to have to search for a parking spot, so make it easy for patients to park when they arrive. If parking can be competitive with surrounding places, consider making some spots available for only patients of your practice.
- Flexible payments. The biggest reason people don’t go to the doctor is cost. Strictly limiting payment options limits the customers you can have. Giving patients the option to pay with insurance, credit card, cash, or offering a payment plan can set you ahead of the competition. It allows you to see more patients, and the patients who don’t have insurance, or a highly deductible plan will greatly appreciate it.
- Don’t fall far behind. Try and stick to the schedule. The closer appointments start to the scheduled time the better. The worst thing that can happen is patients being forced to wait for a long time because you overestimated what you could handle. Patients are happier if they don’t have to wait long.
- Be honest. If there is a reason the appointment won’t start one time, tell the patient. Things such as car trouble for an employee, or the doctor being stuck in traffic are uncontrollable by the practice. Informing the patient of what is happening instead of having them sit there waiting is appreciated. The patient is usually more understanding if you tell them the truth. If the patient has to come ask what is going on it is not good.
- Free stuff. People love free stuff. Free amenities will be appreciated by patients. It doesn’t have to be big things, just something small such as a bottle of water or sunglasses for a dental exam. It improves the patient experience at your practice.
- Know the patient. First of all, know the name of the patient you are seeing. In addition to that, try and memorize one fact about each patient. Knowing something about the patient shows you care about them because you took the time to get to know them instead of trying to rush them out of the office. It also gives you something to talk about while you are with them.
- Sit in your own waiting room. If you spend around a half an hour in your wait room, you can see what it’s like for a patient. This can show you what can be improved for a more enjoyable waiting experience. Whether you need to buy a tv, put in a water feature, add more magazines, paint, or something else, you might get some ideas for how to improve one of the most important aspects of the office through sitting in it yourself.
- Be realistic. Don’t over promise results. If you tell the patient they will get a certain result despite it not being possible, it hurts your credibility. The patient won’t want to return as they think you didn’t do a good job since they didn’t get the result they were told they would.
- Keep the office updated. Make sure your equipment isn’t out of date, and make sure your computer software is up to date. Replace equipment when it gets old, people can tell when something is out of date, and people want to be treated with the best technology.
- Setup a calendar. Having a calendar so you can reach out to patients at regular intervals. This allows you to touch base with them so they know when they should be coming in. This helps the patient so they don’t have to worry about figuring it out while dealing with their busy schedule.
- Surprise your patients. Every so often giving your patients a gift or something so they know they are appreciated. A discounted service, or a service free of charge could be ways to thank them for coming to your practice, and gives them continued incentive to stay.
- Marketing. Building a sustainable marketing program keeps your practice in the patients mind. Through blogs, mailers, and social media posts amongst other things make sure your patients up to date on your practice, your industry, and remind them they should go to you and not someone else.