6 Simple Strategies to Improve Patient Retention

Lea Chatham January 29th, 2014

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by Audrey Christie McLaughlin RN

When marketing your practice, it is often misunderstood that getting patients to your door is the most challenging aspect of promotion.  True, new patient acquisition can be an uphill battle without targeted, authentic marketing practices, but pushing a patient from one-time-visit to raving fan involves much more.

With the changes in the medical market today, it is more important than ever to treat your patients well and really earn their business. You want your good patients to return and to suggest you to their friends and family when someone is in need of a fabulous and caring physician. The two words you don’t want to forget when it comes to retaining your patients: Customer Service.

If you haven’t guessed, I will let you in on a little secret. I am pretty passionate about customer service. It can so often be overlooked in healthcare in even in the name of “good medicine” or “getting paid.” I am also a fan of both of these, but they must coexist with phenomenal customer service for you to succeed.

This heightened level of service must begin with your marketing efforts and extend through the first phone call to check-in, practitioner interaction, check-out, payment, and follow-up.  Here are a few strategies to improve patient retention:

  1. Marketing. It is difficult to retain patients you don’t have. Put your best foot forward and ensure your marketing is authentic and useful. The goal should be to position yourself as a resource in the community and to build a community of raving fans around your practice. Remember, marketing is a service. The more patients you reach the more people you have the opportunity to serve.
  2. The telephone. When a patient calls to schedule an appointment, it is always best to have a real person (with a friendly tone) answer the phone. In some clinics, it may be necessary to have an automated phone system as back up, but a live person is best. The fastest way to send a patient back to Google is to make them leave a message and wait for a return call for something as simple as scheduling an appointment.
  3. Check-in and waiting. Be sure to greet anyone arriving in the office with an open-ended question. “Hi. How may I help you?” Avoid directing them to “sign in and sit down” or “name?” Also, the receptionist should wait for the patient to respond fully before directing them to hand over this and fill out that. Take the time to ensure patients have to come to the reception desk as few times as possible to answer questions. Offer patients a bottle of water at check-in. It is a very small expense that will go a long way for customer satisfaction.
  4. Practitioner interaction. When patients are called back to the exam room, address them as Ms./Mr. and their last name. Staff members should make eye contact. These personal touches can put patients at ease. Practitioners should seek to build rapport with the patient, try to optimize communication, and remember to be engaged and treat the whole patient and not just the ailment.
  5. Check-out and payment. Patients should be guided to the check-out area. Collect balances and schedule follow up appointments before the patient leaves..
  6. Follow-up. Following up with your patients after their visit is key. This allows you to assess how your patient is and how your office stacked up. Reach out via phone 72 hours after a visit to see how the patient is feeling. You may also let them know to expect a follow up email in which you can ask how your office did overall.

The key to retaining patients after you have captured their attention is to start recognizing your patients are customers with choices. Tweet This

If you can sit with that before each interaction and recognize that they chose you and your practice, and now you must prove they made the right choice, you will watch your retention rate climb.

For more on how to effectively engage patients to improve your bottom line, download Engage! 10 Powerful Ways to Engage Patients in Every Area of Your Practice.

About the Author

Audrey M

Audrey “Christie” McLaughlin empowers physicians to grow their practices and better the lives of the patients they serve. Audrey is the CEO of McLaughlin Sales Group LLC, creator of the series Customer Service from the HEART, and creator of physicianspracticeexpert.com, a sales and consulting firm that specializes in the business of medicine. Audrey has more than 12 years of experience in helping physicians and hospitals provide the best medical care while growing revenue and keeping costs down. She is an expert, entrepreneur, author, speaker, and is active volunteer in her community.

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