The term “patient retention” makes you feel that you are a marketing guy. But the truth is, marketing has become a necessary skill if you want to stay afloat and prosper- whether you are an insurance carrier, hospital, or private practice owner. After all, a loyal patient is worth more than the sum of their appointments over a lifetime. Loyal or returning patients are more likely to write a review, refer another patient/s, and ask about additional treatments you offer. A positive customer experience is pure and simple. It’s not price nor is it prestige. It’s just feeling good about the visit. Making matters more challenging, patients are particularly tough customers. When a patient is unhappy about a visit and is given an apology, chances are a third still won’t come back again.
Ideally it should not take more than a couple of minutes for someone to get their appointment in your calendar. If your patients have a difficult time scheduling an appointment, they’re going to be upset before they ever come to your office.
It is always advisable to have a website which will allow your patients to book an appointment. Your website should contain some vital information about your business such as your phone number, address, hours of operation, how to reach, and payment modes. If you don't have a website then having a Google/Bing Business listing ensures your information comes up quickly on Google search results and even produces a map listing for patients to get to your practice easily.
Reminding people of the 1-2 days before an appointment is good office and calendar administration. Reminding patients may lead to revising appointments but it's advisable. Last minute change is vastly better than a disappearing patient.
Establish and use a recall system in which you schedule the next appointment in advance, usually at the end of the current appointment.
Take the extra step of connecting with patients who have missed an appointment. Patients either will reschedule it or cancel it. In case of canceling the appointment, document the reason as it will help you figure out the reason for attrition.
Customer satisfaction isn't enough—you need to connect with customers at an emotional level. Your front-desk staff is the first person your patient sees and they set the tone of the visit. Your front desk person has twice as much influence on your business as the check-in person does for a hotel. Try to recruit staff that is empathetic and warm as they are professional and capable. Successful practices sustain a constant culture of respect. It's not just the first impression, every encounter counts.
Pay attention to patient needs; hear them when they share their concerns with you. Even if the issue seems trivial or out of your control, try to listen. Taking the time to hear about the issue shows you are concerned about them.
Sit in your own waiting area for a while. By the end of the time, you might be having few ideas on how to make the experience a little nicer. Anything you can do to provide ample parking is a plus. Consider having your office open early mornings and/or later evenings to accommodate people's working schedules, even if it's just one or two days a week.
These small efforts can make a difference. According to research, a quarter of patients are willing to switch their doctor if they found one with "a more positive attitude."
It never hurts to ask your patients what they would like your practice to change or improve. The first step to fixing a problem is knowing what the problem is in the first place. That's why some providers have implemented a quick survey from patients before they leave the office. This gives your practice the chance to make it right before the patient vents online—and goes to another doctor.
Handle negative reviews properly. Today, negative feedback is shared online in terms of reviews or on social media. Thank the person for the feedback and respond to their concerns. Provide contact information where they can reach out to you to get their problem resolved. Even if you can't fix the problem, most people want to know that they are heard and acknowledgment of the issue and an apology can go a long way.
If someone appears upset, it might be a good idea to simply ask how their day is going. It may not be anything you've done, but if you can show a little empathy, it can make a great impression, and it's just a nice, human thing to do. It often relieves a lot of stress when you explain everything that you're doing. No matter how obvious it may seem to you, your patient may have some questions.
Nothing shouts, "you're not important" more than having a side conversation with a nurse or hygienist during an entire visit. Take time to get to know your patients; pay attention to their needs and wants. Leave your side conversations for between appointments or after hours.
It costs 7 times less to retain a patient than attract a new one. The above efforts will economically enhance your operations; set yourself apart from the competition and ultimately setting your practice up for success in the long-term, because patients keep coming back until you give them a reason not to.