Thriving successful practices have mastered the challenges of patient and client retention.
A question that needs to be asked, answered and fully understood is, “Where does patient or client retention start?”
The truest and simplest answer is: the point when the patient is procured!
You could say that patient procurement and patient retention are two sides of the same coin.
Let’s delve into this in a bit more detail.
A practice, in essence, has a systematic way of obtaining, onboarding, and treating patients and collecting payment for services rendered.
In amongst all of this is the human element or the patient or client themselves. This is where the complexities of patient retention begin and end.
The Key Points That Determine Patient Retention.
How a clinic addresses the human element is really the crux of succeeding in the challenges of patient retention.
Always keep in mind that underlying retention and patient satisfaction issues are usually issues with service, delivery, and the interaction with the staff.
There are several key points in any practice that determine the outcome of patient retention. This applies to new patients as well as existing patients. These are as follows:
- Overall Clinic Environment and General Staff Interaction with the Patients
- Front Desk – Patient Arrival
- Patient Prep
- Physician Interaction
- The Front Desk – Patient Departure
- Interim Period – The Time After the Patient Leaves Until the Time They Return.
- Dealing with Patient/Client Upsets
Each of these elements, when properly set up and organized, will lead to a higher degree of patient satisfaction and will result in better retention and better reviews.
In the next article, there will be some tips and strategies to help improve patient retention and treatment satisfaction.
Overall Clinic Environment
Clients/patients know you first by the appearance of your space. Uniforms or staff attire should be impeccable and professional at all times. Waiting areas, procedure spaces and any office visible to newcomers should be kept neat and clean.
Outside the practice, use professionally designed signs and these ought to be kept clean of filth or debris. Restrooms also say something about your practice that may go unspoken but never unnoticed.
Dealing with Upset Patients/Clients
Are there clear strategies, procedures and precise policies in place to deal with people who are upset or dissatisfied with some aspect of the clinic or the service they received?
Is there a person in the clinic who is trained on these policies and designated to handle upset patients/clients?
Staff that come into direct contact with patients and clients should be trained to recognize signs that the person in front of them is not satisfied, and deal with them in accordance with clinic policies. This is particularly important to address before they leaves.
Is there a private place in the clinic where an upset can be addressed? Taking the person aside can make them more likely to open up than if you attempt to deal with the problem in a public space.
Are Surveys Being Used?
Perhaps the single most important tool to improve the patient experience is the survey.
This often overlooked but powerful tool, when used properly, can determine the exact course of action to take to directly improve retention and improve other aspects of the practice.
The use of surveys in a practice can also result in creating better promotional response in the acquisition of new patients. Other beneficial information can be derived from the use of surveys.
New and existing patients should be surveyed.
The actual subject of creating surveys and surveying is a rather involved technology. The entire subject of surveys would be impossible to cover in this article.
Ideally, there should be someone in the clinic who has at least a basic working knowledge of the technology of surveying.
There is much more to manners than just being polite. This is very important, but there may be other factors to consider on the subject of clinic manners.
Are patients being communicated to in a way that makes them feel understood and acknowledged?
Be Aware of and Sensitive to Personal Beliefs and Concerns
Treat each patient as the unique individual they are. Every patient or client likes to be made to feel special and important. One method of doing this is to have staff review the schedule each day so they can refer to the patient/client by name.
Be sensitive to those who may have particular customs, beliefs and ideas about medicine and treatment. It is always better to ask than to assume! It would be very wise for a practice to survey their patients/clients to discover any important information in this regard.
Develop a culture in the clinic of compassionate care, patient importance and service orientation.
All of these things when done should add up to a patient or client who feels that they are important and appreciated. Doing so, addition to good retention may mean the clinic will also get rave reviews to boot!
Dealing With The Interim Period
In this age of digital advertising & social media, the average American sees 5,000 ads per day (2018). This leads to distractions and plenty of opportunity for competitors to capture your patient or client’s attention between the time they leave your office, and their next scheduled return.
Handle this by encouraging loyalty. Reward referrals, offer a reminder system of texts, email and phone calls, and keep your practice top-of-mind with a social media presence and email newsletters.