One of the biggest challenges facing new clinics–or established clinics, for that matter–is often retaining patients after the initial appointment. While a patient tends to be loyal to a practitioner they have been seeing for years, it’s more difficult to get brand new patients on the bandwagon enough that you can use them as a beneficial tool for referrals, reviews, or even just return appointments.
There are a few things clinics are doing differently to retain patients, so I’ve created a small list of things you can begin adopting to get on the right track.
Collect Patient Feedback
Not to beat a dead horse, but let me tell you again: Clinics of every vertical should be asking patients for feedback at every opportunity. This gives your practice staff very clear direction about what they can do differently to improve the level of service patient experience they provide. The most important factor is offering quality care, and a quick survey to new patients is a powerful tool for understanding how you are doing. Some practices choose to ask 3-5 questions before the patient leaves the practice, but the best practice for surveys is to let the patient know a survey will be coming and immediately send one to them via email. Beyond just giving you direction, you automatically let your patients know that you value them–another great retention tool.
Implement a New Patient Follow-Up Plan
Immediately following up with new patients is always a smart idea. You can use your automated service to send a special “New Patient Survey”, or elect to take the time to reach out personally. Keep in mind that patients are more and more receptive to digital communication, so cater to these preferences by considering emails and texts in the place of calls and voicemails. New patient follow-up helps to build faster and stronger patient relationships, building loyalty and increasing retention.
Create and Implement a Referral Program
Offer rewards, discounts, or other incentives for patients who refer friends and family (or even strangers, for that matter.) A solid referral program is not only great for generating new patients for your practice, it is also a beneficial tool for encouraging stronger patient-staff relationships; when a patient has a tangible benefit for referring other patients, they are less likely to switch providers themselves.
Make the Wait Convenient
A visit to any clinic is often a stressful experience. The more comfortable you make them before they enter the exam room, the sooner you begin establishing a positive patient experience. Take steps to show them that their time and comfort is important to you by carefully creating a positive waiting room environment. Simple changes like upgrading your TV selection, offering water bottles, and setting out fresh flowers are a good place to start.
Help them Remember their Appointment(s)
Most missed appointments are caused by simple memory-malfunction. Their time is just as valuable as yours, and realizing they have forgotten an appointment can be nearly as frustrating for them as it is for you. The best practice is now reminding patients a day or two before their scheduled appointment, which is of course made easier (and more effective) with PRM solutions like Solutionreach to do it automatically.
To boost patient satisfaction, and effectiveness, ask patients which reminder method will work best for them, when they would like to be reminded, and what time of day will be most convenient. Remember: The more you cater to them, the more loyalty you build with new and old patients alike.
Because many new clinics struggle with retaining patients at first, figuring out what works best for your practice (and your patients) is paramount to your success. However, the most successful practices get off the ground, growing, and thriving by implementing effective referral strategies, patient follow-up, convenient communication, and little touches to show you appreciate and care about them. These are the keys to giving them what they need, and an experience they won’t forget.