Marketing a professional practice and converting enquiries into patients takes time and money, as most health practitioners have no doubt experienced. Once you’ve onboarded a patient, it pays to put effort into retention. In fact, losing just one patient can cost thousands in the lifetime of a practice.
That’s why knowing what will keep your patients happy and loyal is a crucial factor for the success of your practice. Once you’ve covered the basics to meet patient expectations, set your practice apart by paying attention to the details.
So what are the basics, and what do you need to put them into practice?
It all starts with positive interactions. Ensuring that a patient has a polished experience with your practice from start to finish will yield returns that far outweigh the investment. You can employ many methods to retain patients, so we’ve collected those that will give the quickest (and most noticeable) results.
What Do Positive Interactions With Patients Look Like?
Patients appreciate positive interactions with all staff they encounter at practice, from practitioners to administrative assistants and receptionists.
Strategies for Positive Patient Interactions
Let’s start by talking about simple strategies all team members can take to ensure positive interactions with patients:
1. Learn the Patient’s Name
Before a patient arrives for an appointment, learn their name and then use it, too. This will send a clear message that the patient is important to you. If you use Power Diary in your practice, it’s quick and easy to check a patient’s name before an appointment.
This might seem obvious, but it’s easy to forget to smile when you greet or interact with a patient. This even applies to phone interactions! Your tone of voice often changes if you smile while you talk, and people will notice.
3. Treat the Patient with Respect
What do you think will happen if a patient feels you’re indifferent about their situation? Don’t allow your customers to feel like they’re just a number. When speaking with them, look them in the eye, make an effort to speak clearly, and let them know you’re paying attention. This won’t only be a plus for the patient; it will also do you good!
4. Address Issues When a Patient is Upset
Sometimes, patients may appear upset, and it has nothing to do with you. Being empathetic will significantly improve their attitude towards you despite their feelings. However, if the issue is related to the practice, ensure you’re well-versed in dealing with complaints.
5. Don’t Have Informal Conversations with Other staff While Dealing with a Patient
Whether a patient is standing at the reception desk or in a practitioner’s room, never forget that they’re paying for the service and deserve your attention. Conversations unrelated to the patient should occur after hours or during lunch breaks. Use time spent with a patient to learn more about them. This brings us to the next point:
6. Remember Something Interesting About the Patient
When you’ve got a large practice, it may seem impossible to accept this advice. However, when you use Power Diary, this is a breeze, and it will set you apart from other practices. Whether it’s the receptionist or a practitioner, whoever is first to find out some interesting information about a patient can add an alert note in Power Diary. Other staff members who have access to the record will then be able to reference this in a conversation with the patient. Doing this will go a long way in letting a patient know you’re genuinely interested in their well-being. If the note is confidential and only for practitioners to use in sessions with a patient, use Client Profile > Records > Notes, add a Simple Note template and pin it to the top, so it’s always easy to view.
How Practitioners Can Facilitate Positive Interactions With Patients
1. Instil Hope
For practitioners, the first aspect of patient retention is instilling hope. As Damien Adler, Power Diary co-founder and registered psychologist explains, “the “drop-off” from the first to the second session is directly correlated to the amount of hope the practitioner instils in the patient. If the patient doesn’t have hope that they’ll improve, they’re less likely to return.”
Giving a patient hope can include agreeing on the treatment method or providing a roadmap of what successful treatment looks like. For example, a physiotherapist may explain that early sessions might help relieve pain, but that later treatment involves strengthening and prevention measures.
Throughout the treatment process, have an ongoing conversation with the patient about progress and maintain a clear view of the goal of the treatment. Treatment goals may include alleviating pain, muscle strengthening or relapse prevention. The conversation should always clarify the required measures to prevent relapse and detail the warning signs of relapse. You can outline a plan with intervention steps for the patient as needed.
2. Understand the Patient’s Needs
The second element that can promote patient retention is understanding the patient’s pattern, vulnerability, and style. For example, ask questions like, “Do you normally follow a doctor’s recommendations?” “Do you tend to drop off at the start?”.
Encourage a realistic discussion about the patient’s patterns so they don’t fall into common traps. Normally, patients who haven’t done their post-appointment homework may be inclined to disengage. But if you have a conversation about this in the first session, it becomes more of a topic for discussion during subsequent appointments rather than something for the patient to be embarrassed about.
Busy practitioners can easily overlook having this conversation, but it’s vital to understand what motivates the patient. You can facilitate this step by using treatment note templates in Power Diary. Include a section about the patient’s history of treatment adherence to use during initial consultations. (And, if you’re in a group practice, ensure that your team is also thinking about these things!) Then, you’ll be equipped to adjust your approach for the best outcomes.
3. Stick to the Schedule
When the practice stays on schedule, it’s a better experience for everyone. It may be one of the most important ways to keep patients coming back. Being on time makes patients feel like they’re valued and makes it easier for them to fit appointments with you into their day. Of course, it’s often impossible to stay 100% on schedule. But it’s a fact that staying on schedule, or as close to it as possible, is a key feature of a positive experience.
How to Create a Polished Experience for Patients
When everyone plays their part in giving patients a positive experience, technology can help you go the extra mile. Practice management software like Power Diary includes comprehensive features to help you automate or simplify tasks. You can:
- Make it easy for patients to schedule appointments with online bookings.
- Keep in touch with patients via newsletters, follow up with them after appointments, and check in with them periodically. You can either do this with features built directly into Power Diary or by using Power Diary with MailChimp.
- Make sure nothing falls through the cracks: set up tasks for reminders about events like patients’ birthdays.
- Make it easy for patients to pay their bills by taking payments online.
- Offer appointments in various formats if possible, including Telehealth. This makes your services more convenient for patients to access.
- Help patients remember their appointments by sending automated appointment reminders.
Bonus Tip for Patient Retention
There’s no getting around it, at some stage, you’ll receive a complaint. It might not be because the practice did something wrong (although it might be), it could just as easily be that your practice can’t meet a patient’s expectations. Whatever the reason, it’s important to prepare strategies for dealing with complaints successfully. This greatly increases your chances of retaining patients or at least helping them feel heard and validated.
Get Ready To See Your Practice Thrive!
As you may have noticed from these simple tips, patient retention isn’t complicated.
However, if you’re not focused on implementing them and doing so consistently, you’re setting yourself up for failure. Have a discussion with all staff in your practice and show them how easy it is to pay attention to the details that cultivate patient loyalty.
If your practice is already thriving and your waiting list is long, you’ll still want to keep these tips in mind. Patient retention strategies can help your practice to grow when you raise your rates; it’s a winning combination.
If you’re not using Power Diary yet, don’t wait! Boost your patients’ experiences while reducing the admin load on your practice. Sign up for a free trial today to explore all the amazing features that could be right at your fingertips!