Patient Retention Strategies in Healthcare Industry
Patient retention is crucial for every institution in the healthcare industry. You can never underestimate the power of a strong and loyal patient base. These are the patients that bring you more business than your freshly acquired ones. Moreover, they are the ones that spread mouth publicity and recommend you to their known ones. Not to forget that the reviews viewed by your prospects or new leads come from your already existing patients. Hence, taking care of them and retaining them should be your topmost priority.
What is Patient Retention in Healthcare?
It is a collaborative effort to create positive touchpoints during patient interactions and make sure that they keep visiting you repeatedly. If treated well, a patient is likely to come back to you for a follow-up checkup or whenever he/she requires your services again. If not, not only will they leave bad public reviews but also stop their family members and friends from visiting you. One disappointed patient can lead to several missed patients. Therefore, you need to come up with solid patient retention strategies.
Patient Retention is More Important Than Patient Acquisition
It might be tempting to be laser-focused on getting new patients to your office. But, if you pay attention, patient retention is more profitable. Not only does acquiring new patients can cost you a lot of money and time, but it can also be very difficult when your current patients are constantly leaving behind bad reviews and never returning back. Even an amazing patient acquisition rate can’t make up for a poor churn rate.
16 Healthcare Patient Retention Strategies
All things said, remember that there are a lot of things regarding new patients that you need to consider. From struggling to make a good first impression to conducting a smooth onboarding process, it is again very costly. On the contrary, loyal patients can get you new patients without spending a penny through mouth publicity and referrals. Also, they are likely to complain less and cause less of an administrative burden.
1. Reduce Your Wait Times
Nobody likes to wait for hours to see a doctor. If you have allotted a specific time to a patient, make sure that they see the doctor in at least 15-20 minutes from that time. Imagine a patient walking in at 10 am and waiting until 11.30 am in the corridor. Maybe he/she had taken an hour off from their office to visit you, and you delayed it even more. Not only does it create a terrible impression, but the patient is also likely to be disappointed and never visit you again. Some patients simply walk out the door if their turn takes way too long than anticipated.
If your wait time is too much, you will be losing patients every single day. How to retain patients? Narrow down the wait time. Just because you can give appointments to everyone doesn’t mean you should do it. Be realistic and have a clear schedule. Take care that patients who come by appointment see you before those who just walk in.
2. Make Appointments a Breeze
Your competition with other healthcare providers starts right here. You need to make appointment scheduling as easy as possible for your patients. Even your most loyal and long-term patients are bound to lose interest and start visiting someplace else if your appointment scheduling system is not in place. The slightest discomfort, difficulty, or delay in the process can lead to patients getting frustrated.
Whatever method you choose to let patients make appointments, make it simple for them. Your patient retention strategies for primary care depend on it. Furthermore, make arrangements to send appointment confirmations and reminders with a personalized message. It gives a credible look to your institution, and patients are drawn towards practices that have such good appointment scheduling and confirming methods in operation.
If, for some reason, you cannot see patients that have an appointment, explain the situation to them and apologize. A little empathy can keep you from losing patients.
3. Improve the In-Office Experience for Patients
As a healthcare practitioner, it is not just you that needs to take care of patients and make an effort. You need to educate and train your entire staff about it. A rude receptionist can drive more patients away than you can ever retain with even your top-class strategies for patient recruitment and retention in clinical trials. The overall in-office experience matters the most.
Does your office have a comfortable atmosphere where patients can wait for a while? Are there enough seats for all your waiting patients? Have you taken the necessary effort to make your patients feel heard? These questions are strong indicators of what your patient in-office experience looks like.
You need to take care of the little things. Keep some magazines or books on the table so that patients can avoid boredom while waiting for you. There should be drinking water available at all times. That’s the least you can do. Big hospitals can do much more, like allocating parking spaces for patients.
4. Treat Your Patients With Respect
The more you respect your patients, the more they are to return back. It is an established rule to always treat patients with respect. After all, they can just as easily find another healthcare provider who does that.
It is not just you. Train your entire office team to treat patients in a respectful manner. Of course, there are a lot of things you can do. Always greet patients with a smile. Be genuinely interested and make everything easy for them. Dealing with a medical condition might be tough for more patients than you can imagine. Good bedside manners along with excellent services can help you and your patients both.
Never interact with a nurse or anyone else while treating a patient. Nothing can cause patients to instantly lose interest in your practice more than you having side conversations. Maybe you can save those conversations for after work hours or in-between appointments.
The next thing that you can do to treat your patients with dignity is to avoid their calls going straight to voicemail. Show them that you value them. Therefore, make sure that there is always someone available to take calls during work hours. Also, make sure that they always hear a friendly and helpful voice. If a call gets missed, it should be returned as soon as possible, not when it is convenient for you. Remember that it doesn’t take time for missed calls to convert into missed patients.
5. Create an Excellent Brand Image
There are a lot of things you can do to improve your brand image. Sometimes you need to focus on the small things more than your extravagant patient retention strategies in clinical trials.
Be proactive in handling patients at your office. Sometimes, there are going to be emergencies. You might have to accommodate such patients before the ones that have been already waiting. Therefore, plan your time frame accordingly. Your response to such situations is what will define you for a long time.
Even after being a little late occasionally, you can make up for it. You can call up your patients the next day to check upon them. Such post-appointment calls can make them feel valued, and they are likely to remember them for a long time. Other small things that go a long way include offering a glass of water, eyeglasses during a dental appointment, or a discount to people who genuinely cannot afford your services but need them.
6. Build Trust Among Patients
Health is a very fragile topic, and your entire work depends on people trusting you with their health. Hence, trust is clearly in the picture. In order to gain the trust of your patients:
- Communicate with them.
- Talk about everything related to their health.
- Offer them some advice as to what they should and should not do.
You can actively use patient behavioral data to understand your patients and deliver value. A bad experience filled with false claims and things that the patient didn’t understand at all can result in a high churn rate.
Onboarding new patients can be difficult. There is a great deal of information about them that needs processing—medical history, symptoms, prescription usage, medicinal allergies, prior diagnoses, test results, and other healthcare information. It is better to use electronic intake forms that the patients can fill out and send to you as and when they get the time. You can use this information to treat your patients better and win over their complete trust. Also, tell your patients that they should feel free to ask any questions and that you are ready to answer them all right away.
7. Leverage Personalization
One of the best patient retention strategies for any healthcare institution is leveraging personalization. You can impress your patients in several ways, and one of the most prominent ones is personalization. Everybody likes a business sending them a postcard with a personalized discount or anything similar. Even a doctor addressing someone by their first name when they walk into their office is something that impresses them.
Ask your patients a little something about themselves. Interact with them on a personal level while in-office visits. If somebody is your regular patient, take the time out to know them. These things can make your patients feel special and more than just a number in your long list of patients.
Plus, while replying to emails and comments, use a personalized response rather than the same automated one. It shows that you care and are ready to dedicate your time to solve your patients’ queries if any. Having said that, you can always help your patients with a personalized health-plan which they can follow. Turning a human ear to them makes them feel understood, and as a doctor—you can make them feel better even with a few helpful tips regarding their health and overall lifestyle.
Another thing that works is giving patients something for free. For example, let us take the example of a dental clinic. Out of all the dental patient retention strategies, one could be giving the patients a free cleanup along with their root canal treatment. For loyal customers, you can come up with several types of discounts, offers, and additional services that assure patient retention.
8. Build a Website
A website represents your brand virtually. With most people looking for websites to get a company’s contact information, you don’t want to be lagging behind. You might not have the most attractive website, but a professional one with your contact details, the hours of operation, and the full address can help prospects and current patients a lot. Even if a person has already been your patient, the chances are that even he/she doesn’t have your contact number saved on their phone to make an appointment. Hence, make sure that all your details are readily available on a well-built website for your patients to find you easily.
Having a website today shows people that you are a real, credible brand. Most people hesitate to visit a business that doesn’t have a website or any online presence, as it is considered basic nowadays. Along with building a website, it is advisable to work on your SEO. Having your website ranked on Google creates a good impression and makes your website attract more visitors. Since people don’t usually remember URLs, it makes it easy for them to get your website at the top of the search results once they enter something relevant in the search box.
9. Have Your Business Listed on Google and Bing
Take the time out to get your business details listed on the Google My Business (GMB) page. Today, most people use Google to search for everything. Therefore, it is a must to get your business listed on it. This listing helps your company get online visibility. It ensures that your business information shows up along with a map view of your office location on the Google search results page. Hence, it will be easier for your patients and other people to search for you and reach your location easily. Similarly, you can get your details listed on other popular search engines like Bing and Yahoo.
Though Google is undoubtedly the most used search engine, you cannot ignore the others completely. There are still many people who prefer searching for healthcare services on Bing and definitely on Yahoo. To expand your reach, have Bing and Yahoo listings too. By investing a decent amount in such things, you can attract a lot of new patients and also retain your existing ones.
10. Monitor and Handle Your Hospital's Online Reputation
Most healthcare institutions today have social media pages with hundreds and thousands of followers. It is a part of maintaining social media presence and attracting patients towards a hospital or clinic. However, it is not always a good thing. If you don’t monitor your online reputation well, one bad comment can ruin it. Perhaps, social media is the easiest place for people to drop bad reviews right on your page, where people can read them easily. Also, these comments are visible to everyone. Imagine a patient or prospective patient visiting your profile and reading bad comments on your recent post. It can affect your image very badly, and it takes a lot of time and effort to retain an online reputation.
So, what strategies for patient retention in healthcare can be used in this case? Always keep an eye out for such comments. Solve people’s queries and respond to these comments politely and professionally. If possible, get the person to withdraw the comment by getting his/her problem solved and assuring that it won’t happen again.
11. Give Various Payment Options
Patients no longer want to pay you in cash. If you have still not started using other payment methods, you are way behind your competitors. In fact, people refrain from visiting such practices.
Some people simply don’t visit a healthcare provider due to difficulty in payment of bills. Not everybody has ready cash to pay you. Therefore, it is important to offer credit options. Make sure to offer several payment options like online transfers, debit cards, credit cards, and more. These options lead to faster payments and reduced hassles. Plus, it offers convenience to your patients, which is one of the top aspects of all patient recruitment and retention strategies.
12. Seek Feedback From Your Patients and Implement It
If your patients aren’t satisfied with your services, it is likely that they are not going to visit you again. Non-satisfactory services can lead to losing patients every day, and you might have no idea about it unless you seek feedback.
How to retain patients? Ask them about your services—what they liked and disliked? Tell them to share their experience with your staff. Inquire whether it was easy to book an appointment with you. Such feedback can help you go a long way. It can help you understand what you’ve been doing wrong and even right.
The first way to get feedback from your patients is by asking them on their way out. Let your receptionist ask them about their experience and record the same. Some angry or disappointed patients will be quick to list their complaints. Make sure to address each of them separately. If you have implemented someone’s feedback, let the person know about it. It makes your patients feel heard and understood while also stopping them from taking their business elsewhere.
The next effective way of seeking patient feedback is using patient feedback surveys. Send them an online survey or print it out and let the patients fill it before leaving your office. Though surveys sound boring, they can actually be of great help to you and your patients both. Plus, surveys are excellent for patient retention in clinical trials. They empower people to express their thoughts and opinions.
Next, learn how to handle negative feedback. Getting negative feedback is better than disappearing patients. There is still a chance to resolve an issue and retain patients. Hence, after seeking feedback, learn how to handle and implement it. If the issue is long waiting times, do something about it. If the parking space is too far from your practice, do something about that too. In short, always do something about every negative review that you get.
13. Educate Patients
Keep your patients well-informed about their health. Let them know if there are any issues, explain those issues to them, and offer a solution for the same. These things make the patients feel that they are in charge and is an excellent strategy to retain more patients. Moreover, it is their right to know what’s going on. Explain to them how a certain treatment plan can be of use. Justify the costs. Give them complete and reasonable reasons for a health problem and offer to help. It is a great way to show that you are a professional and want your patients to be educated.
One of the effective strategies for patient recruitment and retention is to remain top-of-mind. Hence, you need to keep your patients engaged at all times. The best way to do it is to publish informative, engaging, and useful health-related information on your website and social media pages. Create a blog on your website dedicated to it. Let your patients access your blog and find content that can answer their queries. This way, you can always remind people of your practice and also showcase your expertise in the field. Therefore, all hospitals, clinics, and other healthcare institutions should make it a point to have a regularly updated blog.
Your content should motivate people to visit you. Some people are simply ignorant about their health conditions. Encourage them to see a professional and get their condition addressed at the earliest. Such kind of content can really help people that can indirectly help you to retain more patients and also get new patients to your office.
Now that we’re talking about educating patients, it is equally important to stay updated on the recent news in the healthcare industry. You should also educate yourselves enough to be able to educate your patients. So, make sure you keep up with the recent healthcare advancements. If there are any new ways of treating a certain health condition, ditch your old method and make use of the new one instead.
14. Differentiate Yourselves From Your Competitors
Though most of your clinical trial patient retention strategies are going to be the same as your competitors and which you cannot control, think of something that can differentiate you from the rest.
Surely, there are some things you can do differently. Be it added convenience to your patients, discounts, or flexible office hours—study what your competitors have been doing and then provide something extra.
Rethink your working hours. Most practices operate during the traditional hours, that is, 9-5. Some of them do keep their offices open until 6 or 7 pm. If you can work early mornings or late evenings, it will be an added advantage for you. Since people work during the 9-5 window, they might find it very difficult to take the time out and visit you. They might either have to get someone else to cover their shift or take some hours out to see a doctor. Either way, it is inconvenient and might cost them a part of their income. Therefore, it is a wise strategy to be flexible and accommodate patients during odd hours. It will be a bonus if you can operate during the holidays or during those days when other clinics and hospitals aren’t taking any appointments.
You can also choose to offer free services for a day. Conduct free checkups, like a dental checkup or eye exam. It will give an opportunity to the people who haven’t been able to visit a doctor due to financial reasons. Plus, you are likely to attract a lot of patients during such free consultations. People tend to come back for follow-ups and more. It is a great method to increase your visibility among the masses.
15. Send Out Direct Mail and Level Up Your Marketing Game
If you take the advice of a patient retention specialist, he/she will definitely advise you to use multiple marketing channels, including direct mail. Direct mail marketing performs better than many online marketing channels, hence being one of the best patient retention strategies.
Leverage special occasions like birthdays. Sending direct mail postcards on your patients’ birthdays reminds them of you and makes them feel special. Alongside, you can also offer a free checkup or some discount that can lure them into visiting you. Similarly, you can also send holiday greetings to your patients every year. It is a warm gesture and helps maintain bonds.
Even if there is no special occasion, healthcare institutions can conduct direct mail marketing campaigns as part of their strategies for patient retention. Don’t forget to add a CTA and an interesting offer—that is good enough for anyone to respond. Your goal should be getting more engagements, improving brand image, and always keeping in touch with your patients so that they don’t think of any other institution.
It is advisable to automate most of your tasks. Marketing automation enables you to manage patient contacts, send regular emails, send appointment reminders, and so on. In the same way, PostGrid’s print and mail API can help you automate your direct mail campaigns. From design to mailing, you can do it all through PostGrid. It can help you save a lot of time and effort, plus allowing you to retain more patients.
16. Measure Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
KPIs are measurable values that allow you to evaluate your institution’s success through some parameters. They let you know what is working and what is not. Furthermore, you can find out ways to improve your performance. Hence, KPIs are retention strategies for patients that let you know your pros and cons through solid numbers.
Let us understand some commonly used KPIs:
Whenever a patient shows interest in your institution in some way, it is your duty to respond on time. Whether it is answering phone calls or responding to a query they left on your website, response times matter a lot. Hence, response time can be a KPI to measure your speed while responding to your patients. The number of minutes or hours between a patient’s query and your response can decide your success majorly.
To measure the churn rate, determine a certain time period, say six months or a year. Churn rate = Number of churned patients during a time period/ Total number of patients during a time period.
Your churn rate should not be more than 50%, as it is a clear indication that you are losing half of your patients over a certain time period—which is definitely not good for your practice. All your strategies for patient retention in healthcare should focus on keeping the churn rate in check. The churn rate is also often referred to as the funnel drop rate.
Retention rate = Number of patients at the end of a time period – Number of patients acquired during the time period/ Total number of patients at the starting of a time period.
This metric lets you know how many customers you were able to retain and what is the exact retention rate. Along with giving you an idea of your performance, it is also important in planning your future strategies.
Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT) and Net Promoter Score (NPS)
One of the finest patient retention strategies in clinical research is to note down your CSAT and NPS. As the name goes, CSAT measures patient satisfaction, and NPS measures the patient’s likeliness to recommend you to their family and friends. This data can be collected as part of a survey.
Over to You
As a healthcare provider, people come to you to get treated and expect nothing but the best. With the right methods of patient retention in healthcare, you can make them feel appreciated easily. All the points listed in this blog are basics that every healthcare institution should follow—to retain as many patients as possible and also get a lot of new patients in the process. It is like a chain that you need to maintain forever. Direct mail marketing is one of the many ways to do that, and PostGrid’s automated direct mail solutions can guide you every step of the way.
PostGrid’s print and mail API can help you send postcards, letters, checks, and other items in the mail easily. It can transform the face of your offline mailing activities forever.