A lack of patient loyalty could be costing your practice more than you might think. According to one study, a patient leaving due to dissatisfaction can result in a financial loss of $200,000 over the life of a practice. The same study also found that one in eight patients claimed they had left their healthcare provider in the last year, and that one in three were planning to leave their current providers sometime in the next two years. In a healthcare marketplace where consumers have taken more control of their healthcare choices, it can be easier than ever to lose patients due to a poor patient experience.
Needless to say, practices should be doing everything they can to encourage patient loyalty. But how? In this blog, we will look at five proven methods for improving patient loyalty and boosting patient retention.
1. Gather Patient Feedback (and use it)
Before you can begin taking steps to encourage patient loyalty, you first need to know what, if anything, is negatively affecting it. This means gathering feedback from both new and longstanding patients. the simplest and most effective way to do this is with patient experience surveys. An overall picture of current patient satisfaction can be gained by sending a survey to all of your patients. You can also gain insight of first impressions for new patients by giving a first visit survey.
Of course, the feedback gained from these surveys will do your practice little to no good if you do not use it to create ways to improve the patient experience.
2. Set Clear Patient Experience Standards
Now that you have gathered patient feedback, take the time to identify trends and common complaints. Are patients not feeling welcome when they arrive? Are they being left to sit in the waiting room too long? Do they not feel their issues are being properly addressed? Create actionable items to remedy each issue in the form of patient experience standards that are enforced throughout your practice.
Set clear goals with the intention of creating an excellent patient experience. For example, that patients should be verbally greeted when they arrive or that they should always be asked if they have any issues that they feel have not been resolved at the end of a visit. These should not be used as suggestions, but as an operating policy that all clinicians and staff are expected to follow.
3. Make Reducing Wait Times a Priority
Long wait times can be one of the most destructive factors when it comes to losses of patient loyalty. In fact, one study found that 30 percent of respondents claimed they had walked out before seeing their doctor for a visit because they were faced with long wait times. Yet another study found that 1 in 5 patients had switched doctors due to frustration over consistently long wait times. Long story short, excessive wait times will cause patients to leave your practice.
To encourage a high level of patient loyalty, it is imperative to make the reduction of wait times a top priority. This may mean making modifications to scheduling or require you to look at check-in/checkout procedures to see what can be optimized.
4. Simplify the Digital Patient Experience
Digital features such as patient portals and telehealth visits have become common staples in the current healthcare market. However, if these tools provide frustration and confusion instead of convenience and simplicity, they can quickly turn what should be a positive patient experience into a negative one.
This is especially true for younger patients, such as those of the Millennial and Gen Z age groups. In fact, one survey of 1,600 younger Americans (age 18-24) found that 41 percent of them said they would consider switching to a different provider who offered a better digital experience if they were dissatisfied with that of their current one. The same survey also found that younger patients demand better digital tools overall, with 41 percent expecting consolidated bills across multiple providers or episodes of care and 38 percent desiring immediate digital customer support for billing questions.
This is why you should take care to leverage digital tools in ways that are as direct and uncomplicated as possible. Your patient portal should offer patients simple access to do things such as pay balances and schedule appointments, and your website should offer quick links to support and FAQs. Telehealth appointments should require patients to little nothing more than click a link to start their visit.
5. Hold Clinicians & Staff Accountable
All of the abovementioned methods for encouraging patient loyalty will achieve next to nothing if they are not enthusiastically adopted by everyone in your practice. Creating an environment that fosters a sense of community and patient loyalty is not the responsibility of any one person, but of every single member of your staff (including clinicians).
To encourage this enthusiasm, you might even consider creating financial incentives or an award program (or both) for staff. For example, you could create a monthly “Patient Experience Rock Star” award where you highlight a staff member who has done something noteworthy to ensure patients are being treated respectfully and feel cared for. You might even consider a financial incentive to go with this award, in the form of a gift card or modest pay bonus.
Patient loyalty doesn’t just happen. Like most things, it takes work. However, with mindfulness and dedication, you can create an experience that instills loyalty and improves patient retention.
To learn how Nextech’s team of Professional Services consultants can help your practice adopt new methods for improved patient retention and overall success, fill out this form and we will contact you soon!