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Is Your Healthcare Practice Retaining Existing Patients?

During a strategy meeting with an orthopedic surgery and sports medicine practice, I asked my new client how well he retains his patients. Since he is in sports medicine, athletes often have to see orthopedics for an array of injuries throughout their career. Embarrassingly he told me a story that he recently saw a former patient who got her knees done by him, but her shoulders done by another surgeon. She explained that she thought he only did knees, and despite a positive outcome, she sought another surgeon due to her lack of awareness of his service line.

This brings me to a series of questions. How much of your marketing resources are focused on attracting new patients? How much time do you put into strategies to develop new business or attract new target groups? Most likely your answer is you spend a lot of time and resources in the creation of new strategies and in the implementation of these strategies. How much time and resources do you spend in determining and implementing strategies for the retention of existing patients? It is very common for practices to overlook the retention of patients but by looking at four components of retaining patients your practice will see a great impact.

Components of patient retention

There are four main components to retaining patients….Educate, Ask, Measure and Communicate.

Educate:

To avoid a similar situation, make sure you educate your patients on all the services you offer. Develop a service brochure to leave with your patients and give them the URL to your website. Both should be complete and current. A practical swag item also helps keeping your practice name and contact information in your patients home. Post-it pads or magnets are a relatively inexpensive way to have your contact information at hand for all of your patients.

Ask:

Ask your patients to stay with your practice whether is to consider them again for other procedures or even by signing up to your newsletter. We know you value your patients and the trust they have put in you, but let them know that as well: “Thank you for your trust. I hope you had a good experience and recommend us to your friends and families”

Measure:

Your patient has left your practice and you did all of the first steps by educating them on your service line and asking them to return to your practice for any further needs. But what if your patient had a bad experience and you did not know it? No matter what the reason was you have to be aware of it and need to know the reasons. Do not let these details go unnoticed or it will hurt your reputation and business.

Increasingly, healthcare providers are measuring patient satisfaction. I believe that in today’s healthcare market this is a pre-requisite for every good patient management. However, measuring patient satisfaction is one thing, but driving conclusions and improving based on the learning’s is even more important. Points Medical has developed a product for practices to survey their patients online. What we found was that by “slicing and dicing” the results, the clients are able to pin-point the key issues that impact their patient satisfaction. In addition it provides the patients the ability to get heard, even when they were not satisfied.

Communicate:

Communicating with your patients while they are with your practice and keeping lines of communication open when they are gone is very important. Upon check-in, collect patient emails and let them know what it will be used for, such as satisfaction surveys or newsletters. Send out quarterly newsletters to your patients but only with relevant information. Topics can include education on a health topic, new techniques or services added to your practice, a new physician joining your practice or an invitation to an event you may be holding. This is a great way to get all of your information out to your patients at once.

For a more personalized touch, send out birthday emails to your patients,or call your patient after having a procedure done to see if they are recovering well.These personal gestures will make a great impact on the way a person views your practice or talks about your practice. It can even become a conversation piece if someone was touched by your birthday remembrance or concern and will be more likely to talk about it with friends and family.

Retaining patients is often an overlooked marketing tool but it can be highly effective if done right. By educating your patients, asking them to come see you again, measuring their experience and keeping open communication, your practice will be sure to see an impact.

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