The #1 Reason Patients Leave and How to Make Them Stay

Posted on Jul 06, 2017 by Solutionreach

Patient switching can be traced back to wait timesEverything seems to be going just fine in your practice. Patients come and go on a daily basis and seem to enjoy your care. They like you. They like your staff. For the most part they come back. At least, you’re pretty sure they’re coming back. 

But after taking a closer look at the books, you realize that things aren’t quite as rosy as you thought. You are losing patients at a far faster rate than you could have imagined.

You’re not alone. These days patient retention is on everyone’s mind. Practices are losing patients at an alarming rate. In fact, patient retention has become such a hot button issue that Solutionreach recently commissioned Patient-Provider Relationship Study, which examines this dynamic across generational preferences. The results were even more dramatic than expected.

The average healthcare practice—across all specialties—can expect to lose 1 out of 3 patients in the next couple of years. Ouch.

Attracting Patients Is Challenging

Let’s take a closer look at those numbers. Let's say your practice has around 1500 patients. What does that mean? Well, the research shows that you are on the verge of losing 500 patients. Can you imagine needing to attract that many patients just to maintain—not grow—your current patient base?

(Want to find out more surprising facts from The Patient-Provider Relationship Study?  Read it here. 

Between calling or emailing patients to remind them of appointments, scheduling visits, adjusting the schedule for cancellations, and working the front desk, there is very little time to strategize on attracting such an incredible number of new patients. The very thought is exhausting.

Do you know why your patients are breaking up with you? Do you know you could make them stay? 

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Patient Retention is Much Easier

A much more time (and cost!) friendly option is to simply make sure the patients you already have stick around. Many practices assume that patients only leave when they move to a new location or change insurance companies.

Not true. A growing number of patients who switch do so because of service or provider issues. What can be done? What is it that makes a patient move on to greener pastures? And, more importantly, how can you help them stick around?

Learn to Speak their Language

Americans like things fast. We eat fast food. Pay bills automatically. Order groceries online. Try a 10 minute workout. Pay extra for overnight shipping. Change lanes to find the fastest one. We even save time typing—LOL, FAQ, BRB, or TGIF!

In such a culture, it’s easy to see why the #1 reason for patient dissatisfaction is long wait times. Patient wait times have a big impact on online ratingsWhether a patient is waiting to be taken to an exam room, waiting for the doctor, waiting for a phone call to be returned, waiting to set up an appointment, or waiting for test results, the result is the same. 

It doesn’t take long for irritation and frustration to set in.

So just how long is too long? According to experts, the magic number is right around 20 minutes. Go past that point and you’re in trouble. Ratings fall, reputation is damaged, and patients start looking elsewhere.

What can you do to offset the frustration associated with wait times?

Four Easy Treatments for “Wait Rage”

  • Automate, automate, automate.
    • Fortunately, with today’s technology, there are many ways we can cut wait times down to more manageable amounts. Add an automated check-in kiosk. Instead of calling every patient, send a quick text. Let patients quickly access test results via an online portal. Even saving 30 seconds in each step of the process may make the difference between a happy and unhappy patient.
  • Give control back to the patient.
    • One aspect of waiting that can be a bit tricky to handle is waiting to be seen at all. Many doctors have calendars booked out for months in advance. Again technology to the rescue. By allowing patients to schedule themselves, they can quickly see which doctors are available and when. Since 41 percent of patients would be willing to see another doctor in the practice to reduce their wait, this is a simple solution to reducing wait times to getting into the office.
  • Stay in constant contact.
    • Sometimes you do everything in your power to reduce wasted time and yet still have long waits. All is not lost. Studies show that 80 percent of patients would be less frustrated if they simply knew how long the wait would be. If the office is running slow, send out an email or text letting clients know how long they might wait. Follow-up every visit with automated surveys so that patients have a place to voice their feelings on how the visit went. It could be the difference between a four star and five star rating online!
  • Save patients time through text.
    • Texting is a no-brainer when it comes to saving patients time. Patient-Provider Relationship Study found that an incredible 73 percent of patients want to be able to text their doctor’s office. That does not even take into account the patients that want to RECEIVE texts from their doctor, just those looking to SEND texts. The number wanting to receive text messages is even higher. And it’s easy to see why. Research shows that it only takes around 4 secondsto send a text message. Compare that to the several minutes it takes to make a phone call (and the HOURS it feels like for patients on hold) and you have significant time savings. Frustration levels for your patients (and your staff!) is much lower.
    • Unfortunately, just 15 percent of practices have the ability for patients to text them. That is a huge gap. If your practice is not one of the very few that have texting enabled for your patients, you may well lose out to the competition who does. It's time to start texting. 

It’s time to reexamine what is happening with your patient relationships. With these simple tips and tricks you will find that your happy patients are happier and your “less-than-satisfied” patients are becoming more and more loyal each day.

Find out more fascinating trends uncovered by the Patient-Provider Relationship Study.

Learn More