Oldie but goodie! This post was originally published in Sept 2015 and updated in Oct 2017 as part of an on-going series highlighting popular past posts.
Almost every healthcare provider knows the old saying: It’s cheaper to keep your patients than to find new ones.
But is this really the case? According to an article in the Harvard Business Review the cost of acquiring a new patients can be anywhere between five and 25 times more expensive than retaining an existing patient. That’s a significant investment with a significant impact on your bottom line. However, research done by Frederick Reichheld of Bain & Company (the inventor of the Net Promoter Score) shows that when you increase patient retention rates by as little as five percent, you can see an increase in profits of 25-95 percent.
Thinking Small to Drive Patient Retention
The investment you make to keep your current patients happy doesn’t have to be expensive. Simple things mean a great deal to patients, so consider the following suggestions as a means of helping you keep current patients happy. You may even attract a few new ones.
Share the Love: When you receive positive feedback, show it off! Niceness is contagious, and posting nice reviews, thank-you letters, and other good vibes is a great way to remind current patients of the wonderful work you do. It shows prospective patients how happy your existing patients are.
The Nose Knows: Patient retention means paying attention to details. Be aware of odors that your patients may find offensive. Too much cologne (some patients are allergic), someone’s leftover tuna casserole in the microwave, lingering cigarette smoke- many patients find certain odors unpleasant enough to find a new healthcare provider if they encounter them in your office. Make sure that you and your staff are sensitive to the sensitivities of your patients.
Avoid the Taboo Topics: Obviously, getting into discussions about politics or religion is not a good idea, but there may be other topics that could pose an issue as well. Discussing former patients or staff is not likely to impress your patients, nor is a conversation about your new car, house, or boat, or your next vacation. Patient retention includes developing awareness of your patients’ circumstances and being mindful of what may seem hurtful to them.
Stay Curious: Your patients are searching the Internet to learn about new treatments, conditions, and techniques in your field, and they will come to you with questions. To enhance your patient retention, you should not only anticipate their questions, but you should have checked the best sources so you can provide your patients with more than they expected.
Recognize Your Patients’ Lives: Whether you send a birthday greeting, acknowledge a wedding anniversary, or congratulate a patient on their graduation, your kindness will go a long way toward cementing your relationships with your existing patients. Patients leave because they feel unappreciated. A small amount of appreciation means a higher percentage of retention.
Be Good to Yourself: When you’re feeling sluggish, sniffly, or just run down, you aren’t really able to give your best care to your patients. Sometimes, being honest and taking a day to rest is the best thing you can do for yourself and your patients.
Switch Up The Schedule: Patients are demanding more flexibility and convenience because of their crazy lives. The growth in retail clinics is a shining example of what patients are looking for. Extended weekday and weekend hours mean that patients can get care when they need it. Consider a few extended hour days or being open on a Saturday and watch how excited, and loyal, your patients get.
Don’t Talk Over Your Patients: This one works on two fronts. First, don’t talk when your patients are talking. Listening is the most important tool you have. Patients want to be heard, and when they aren’t, the chances are good they’ll look for another provider. The second part of this is not using language that is too technical or sounds too complex for your patients to get. If they can’t understand what you’re telling them, they won’t follow instructions, and ultimately they’ll choose to go somewhere else.
Get Involved in Your Community: Visit schools in your community as a speaker for career day. Join in on a community festival or event. It’s great marketing for you, and it shows your patients that you care about the community you serve.
Educate Your Patients: Providing your patients with access to information on your website, through your portal, and even in the office is an inexpensive service to offer, but it is so rewarding! Your patients are rewarded with access to reliable information from a source they trust. Your practice is rewarded with patients who will stay loyal to you because of the great resource you are for them.
Keeping your current patients happy is the most cost-effective means of growing your practice. Happy patients will refer other patients, and they will become loyal to your practice as well. Instead of spending tens of thousands of dollars to attract new patients, spending just a fraction of that on keeping existing patients happy will pay off exponentially.
To learn more about patient retention, click here!