The most effective ways Doctors can retain patients to their medical practices is by making their routines and procedures simple to make life easy for patients. The patient experience begins with an instant demerit. People who need an appointment are already dealing with a measure of stress. And medical providers should not make it difficult for patients to access the care they need.
When calling a medical practice to make an appointment, there should always be someone to answer the phone at all times of the day even during lunch hour. There should also be an option to leave voicemail or make an online appointment.
It’s bad customer service, not poor clinical care, that drives patients away…
National studies agree that most patient complaints (over 90 percent) are about customer service issues. And among these, service issues are mainly about communications, long wait times, practice staff, and a small percent about billing matters. Doctor reviews are largely positive; it’s the service issues that damage reputation, referrals and new business development.
So picture this: Competition, and efforts to win new patients, are serious challenges. Yet, when someone—a new patient or an existing patient—calls to bring their business to your office—they run headlong into roadblocks and delays. Does that make sense? In the retail world, the business would be out of business before the dawn.
Below is simple ways to win and retain patients and revenue. Fair warning: In an old-school, traditional practice model, these will sound like radical ideas. But, to be successful, today’s competition demands a radical departure from the old routine. Clear your mind, don’t close down for lunch, forget about “always-done-it-this-way, and serve the patient at the center of your practice:
- Deliver easy access to care: Make appointments available within a day or two or even same-day.
- Flex your office hours: Include late day, evening or Saturday options. Is there a time when you can deliver service when the competition is dark?
- Evaluate online appointment systems: Software for calendars and booking is increasingly sophisticated. Patients can use it anytime (24/7), plus it automates reminders and confirmations.
- Make a great, forever first impression: Find one special idea, personal trait or particular about each patient and use it in conversation. It’s an icebreaker that warms the heart.
- Expand your digital handshake: Find patient-useful ways to expand your Internet presence, as well as finding greater use for text and email communications.
- Don’t let anyone wait: Minimize delays and in-office waiting, maximize process steps, and eliminate any “unoccupied time.”
- Design and use a follow-up and follow-through system: Consider an after-visit phone call, or a personal welcome note, or a check on medications or treatment. One extra touch point supports the relationship and patient-practice bonding.
Retain patients from the patients’ perspective…
It’s a sure bet that practices are losing business and new patient opportunity when they turn off their phone for an hour and a half lunchtime. A mid-day meal is a wonderful thing, but going dark when patients need appointments might lead to a permanent downsize. Conversely, the Harvard Business School tells us that increasing retention by only five percent lifts profits by over 25 percent. Which strategy has the best payoff?
I know it’s a drastic departure from tradition, but consider this…
If you give patients and customer service greater importance than a 1 hour lunchtime, you successfully step ahead of many competitive practices, plus you retain patient goodwill and engagement.