It costs your practice about five times more to acquire a new patient than to keep an existing patient within your database. That’s why patient retention is so necessary –the overall loss of a patient’s lifetime value is not something you want to give up.

To retain patients, you must be willing and able to audit your current processes and find out what’s turning patients away.

1. Front Office Blunders

Most practices and even hospitals don’t realise how much money they lose at the front desk. Some practices have the potential to lose hundreds of thousands of rands at the front desk each year. The problem occurs when the reception staff haven’t had sufficient customer service training.

Gone are the days when the reception staff were considered a solely administrative part of our profession. In the current age of patient experience, the reception experience is held to a higher standard. These mistakes can get in the way:

  • Poor phone skills. If patients recognise your front desk staff as being rude, indifferent, or rushing through calls, they have the option to call someone else.
  • Long hold times. Putting a patient on hold for 10 minutes is no longer an acceptable practice. It’s a representation of how you treat patients in the office, and some people will hang up if a hold is unexpected or carries on for longer than a few minutes.
  • Confusion or misinformation. There are some questions your reception staff cannot answer, whether due to doctor-patient confidentiality or required medical advice. But your receptionist should be able to redirect the question correctly and make sure patients feel like they can get the answers they want.
  • Billing issues or inefficiencies. If a patient is overcharged, or given misinformation about insurance coverage, they have enough reason to go elsewhere.

2. Long Wait Times

The average wait time for patients in practices is just over 20 minutes. That means many patients end up waiting even longer than this. About 30% of patients say that they have left a doctor’s appointment because of an unusually long wait. Most practices are actively taking steps to reduce wait times. Patients are getting annoyed, and they will find somewhere else to go if you cannot solve the problem.

3. Poor Patient Relationships

Nurturing patient relationships is one of the simplest ways to ensure patient retention. You only need to ensure patients can recall your name when they need you.

You should come up with an outreach plan to show patients you care. That goes beyond sending out appointment reminders via email and SMS. The little gestures mean a lot – from calling to check up on how well a medicine is working to asking whether their child is feeling better. Patients remember that you took the time.

A large part of maintaining a patient relationship includes marketing. Build your brand through social media and update previous patients so that they come back to your practice and recommend you to friends.

4. One Bad Patient Experience

One bad experience can ruin patient loyalty. While there are some experiences you can’t bounce back from, you can learn from those experiences and prevent them from happening again.

Think of a time you’ve had a poor experience that kept you from going back to a particular business. Maybe you shared the experience with friends who had similar complaints. Or perhaps you went online and found that lots of people had left similar reviews. When patient retention is low, you could probably to associate it with a shared experience driving people away from your practice.

Check your online reviews and find out what patients are saying about your business. Better yet, automate the reviews so that you can quickly review feedback and respond if need be. Part of marketing any practice means being willing to change your methods to keep up with what patients need.

5. No Patient Retention Plan

If you don’t have a plan in place for patient retention, you can expect to run into trouble at some point. Patient retention should be part of your overall marketing plan. You can’t expect your patient volume to stay the same forever, but with a retention plan, you can see the drop-off and react much faster.

Physicians ensure patient retention by merely being proactive, which means having a strategy for staff training, maintaining patient relationships, process improvement, reviewing and responding to feedback, and much more.