Attracting new patients to your practice is one thing, but keeping them can be an entirely different issue. The days when you got to treat all members in a family from the cradle to the grave are long over, and regular attrition is an ongoing concern. You may not be able to avoid losing patients who move from their current location to another city or state, but you can try to avoid losing patients to other medical practices.
From primary care physicians through optometrists and gynecologists, patient retention is an important factor in the success of the practice. Here are 7 tactics you can use to keep your patients coming back for more.
Tactic #1: Think of Your Patients as Clients
Let’s face it, your patients need you probably more than you need them. Far too often, however, medical professionals treat patients as if they are doing them a favor by seeing and treating them. Even if it isn’t true about your practice, how certain are you that your patients feel as if you value them? By thinking of them as clients and fostering a customer service attitude among your practice staff, you can ensure that your patients feel important and cherished. The customer doesn’t always have to be right – he just always has to be king!
Tactic #2: Live Up to Your Promises
Personalized health care? 24/7 Accessibility? No waiting for appointments? Make sure you live up to your claims if you want patients to stay with your practice. No matter how much your patients love you, they’re going to get fed up if you’re constantly overbooked or late for appointments and they have to spend 30 minutes or more waiting for you to see them. The best marketing strategy in the world can’t overcome poor service, so keep the promises you make when you come up with your unique differentiators.
Tactic #3: Be Personal
For truly personalized attention, maintain records about your previous consultations so you can refer to former discussions during appointments. You can never remember the dozen patient conversations you have every day, but your patients can remember every discussion they have with you. Use whatever tools you have to in order to make patients feel like you have a personal interest in them. Also, go the extra mile to be pleasant and train your staff to do the same – people prefer to do business with service providers they like.
Tactic #4: Stay in Touch
Include regular communications in your medical marketing strategy. If the only time your patients ever hear from you is when they are sick or you need them to pay a bill, there’s little reason for them to stay with you. Stay top of mind by sending them quarterly newsletters, birthday and holiday greeting cards and reminders about vaccinations or annual checkups. A basic patient relationship management program will provide all the tools you need to automate much of the process, but your patients don’t need to know that fact. Remind patients the day before their appointment with a telephone call, email message or text to their mobile phone.
Tactic #5: Be a Resource
Stats show that 85% of people use search engines to look for information on medical conditions and healthcare issues. Much of the time, the material they find is inaccurate and misleading, which makes your job harder because they come to you with preconceived ideas and beliefs. You can both prevent this and cultivate loyalty by creating resources for your patients by:
- Blogging regularly
- Publishing educational materials such as eBooks and white papers
- Providing links to authoritative websites
- Offering an online forum for discussion and questions
- Setting up virtual support groups for various patient categories
Tactic #6: Manage Your Team
You may be fabulous, but if your employees aren’t then your team will let you down. How often have you heard of patients leaving a practice because of the rude receptionist or the unfriendly nurse practitioner? It happens more than you think, because your staff have good days and bad days and to them it’s a job – not their professional reputation that’s on the line. Conduct regular training sessions to create awareness among your employees of specific issues. Start a recognition program to reward random acts of kindness, or let patients vote for the team member of the month and present the winner with a small gift.
Tactic #7: Get Reviews and Testimonials
Testimonials and reviews are a hugely important aspect of a comprehensive medical marketing strategy, so ask your patients to tell you what you’re doing right. Get feedback by means of online and email surveys, your social media profiles, in-practice feedback forms and personal requests. Publish positive testimonials anonymously so others can read them – on a board above your front desk, on your website, in your email signature and on your regular newsletters. Address any negative reviews individually and manage your online reputation by setting up alerts and responding to anything you find.
Include these patient retention tactics in your medical marketing strategy to improve the success of your practice.
About the Author: Greg Fawcett is President of leading North Carolina medical marketing firm Precision Marketing Partners. In this capacity Greg helps healthcare service entities to research their target markets, build their brands and develop creative strategies to reach patients.