Running a successful practice not only requires you to provide top-quality healthcare to your patients, but you also want your patients to be fully satisfied with your service. Your patients can choose whom they visit for their healthcare needs, and one poor experience could mean they don’t come back.
But by taking proactive measures toward patient retention, you can inspire long-term relationships with each and every patient. Here are our tips to increase patient retention rates in your practice:
Find a Compatible Communication Style
As with any relationship, trust is the foundation of a successful physician-patient relationship. However, there are many layers to trust — and it doesn’t happen overnight.
“Trust has many components,” says Dr. Shirie Leng, an anesthesiologist and former nurse. “It is based partly on compatible communication styles.”
To build trust with your patients, you must make sure your method of communication meshes with their communication style. For example, some patients want their doctor to choose the best treatment path while others would prefer to share the decision-making.
Invest Time in Relationship Building
You’re busy. Chances are your patients are busy, too. Your time and their time are of equal value, so respect the fact that they’re choosing to spend their time at your office. If a patient spent 20 minutes in the examination room waiting for you, she deserves more than a five-minute chat and a rushed exit. Sit down and spend a minute or two asking about her day, her job and her family.
Finding the time to focus on relationship building may seem impossible when your days are filled with back-to-back appointments. But, even just an extra couple of minutes can make a huge difference in the mind of your patient. The more time and effort you invest in the relationship, the longer and stronger it will become.
It’s easy to become frustrated or disgruntled by patients who object to your recommendations. But it’s imperative you keep your emotions in check and consider their motivations. For example, if a pre-diabetic patient refuses to give up processed food and sweets, it could be due to a lack of nutritional education. By patiently taking time to explain how you arrived at your conclusion, you’re likely to achieve better patient buy-in.
Make Follow-Up Calls Standard Practice
After a patient leaves your office, there’s always a chance he may not return. Maybe it’s because his issue is resolved, but it also could be due to a poor experience. A follow-up call offers the patient an opportunity to voice any questions or concerns about his visit, and offers you the opportunity to deepen the relationship.
Create a Concern Resolution Process
In the customer service industry, concern resolution is integral to brand reputation and company success. While some standard business practices don’t apply to the healthcare industry, concern resolution is critical to success. Draft a plan for handling customer complaints, including an escalation and documentation process. Ensure each member of your team is well-trained on this process.
Address Negative Online Reviews
When a patient posts a negative review about your practice, your first instinct might be to defend your business. Instead, take time to consider what may have caused your patient to feel negatively and how you can resolve the situation. If you’re going to respond to online patient reviews, do so in a way that will show the patient — as well as other prospective patients — how much you care about concern resolution and patient satisfaction.
According to an article in Forbes, “Patient reviews provide doctors with honest and incredibly valuable feedback about what they are doing right with their practice and what aspects they might want to revisit.”
Take Patient Feedback Seriously
If you hear multiple complaints about a member of your staff, it’s probably not a coincidence. A receptionist using a clipped tone during the appointment-making process may seem insignificant, but this behavior can drive patients away. The care you provide may be top quality, but the rest of your office needs to follow suit. Take time to review patient feedback, and address any issues or staff behaviors before they cause additional problems.
A solid physician-patient relationship is more important than ever in healthcare today. By following these practices, you can increase retention rates, regain old patients and maintain a positive reputation.
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