Patient retention could easily be thought of as the lifeblood of any successful medical practice. In fact, it’s of such tremendous value, that the benefits to both patient and practice are readily seen. A medical office that keeps its patients coming back through the door realizes increased revenue, a rise in referrals, and, ultimately, the survival and long-term success of the practice as a business. On the other hand, the patient is able to reap the benefits of a long lasting relationship with their provider as well as the myriad of gains attributable to continuity of care. The question then quickly becomes, just how does one keep patients coming back through the door time and again? As with any good, and therefore successful, business, there are a number of individual behaviors and attitudes that combine to contribute to an overall increase in patient retention.
- Be Genuine. A patient’s belief in the value of their own health and the steps that they need to implement in order to realize that health starts with your own belief and confidence. In a culture inundated with chains of superstore giants and their false customer service, people can spot a fake smile and insincere “how are you today?” a mile away. Particularly in health care, it’s vital that patients believe that their provider genuinely cares for them and their wellbeing. When they walk out of your doors, let it be with full confidence that you have a vested interest in their welfare. What they believe is what they will then share with others (you guessed it, referrals!).
- Education. An educated patient is a valuable patient. There’s a reason why psychiatrists in training frequently undergo treatment themselves. It helps to educate them in the value of their own practice. Taking the time to educate your patients will likewise help them to see the value of their health care and ensure that they continue to turn to you for guidance. A starting point for any medical practice could even include a structured or planned educational program for their patients.
- Finances. Let’s face it, third party pay is confusing for just about anyone, and financial problems can be embarrassing for many patients. By providing personalized assistance with understanding and making their financial obligations, you set yourself as a reliable and comforting source of help. In other words, you make it easy for them to return.
- Family. Everyone likes to feel as if they belong to something, whether it’s a family, community, or circle of friends. Some practices have gotten creative with the labels we use, referring to patients as “practice members”, partaking in “wellness clubs”, and giving their opinions through “advisory committees”. The point is to make them feel special and a part of something that they’ll want to return to over and over again.
- Measure, review, and improve. Commit your entire organization to a process of continual quality improvement on a daily basis. Set goals, measure your progress, address problems before they get big. Find something to improve every day. By never stagnating in “the way we’ve always done it”, have the courage to shake things up, always with the ultimate goals of patient wellness, satisfaction, and retention.
A successful business sees any given customer not as a single transaction, but as a lifetime partner. A successful medical practice will take the same view of their patients. There’s really no secret to keeping patients coming back. It does, however, take an investment in time, attention, and the willingness to implement a few simple changes.
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