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Patient Retention is Key to a Healthy Healthcare Practice

Reading glasses and pen on print outs of sales report graphs with logo

To retain patients, it has to be easier and better to receive care at your practice than to go somewhere else, or even stop care entirely. We want to always be improving because stagnant practices dry up. The good news is that small changes satisfy this need for progress; we just have to keep looking for and making them. Here is a list to keep you progressing: 

  1. Make it easy. Go through every step of your processes and look for places it’s tedious or difficult to be your patient: finances, schedule times, getting booked, parking, wait times, aftercare instructions, knowing where to go next, or even when to pay. Solve them.

  2. Are you reminding patients about their appointments? Are you doing too much or too little reminding? If you have a confirm button on your reminder, is it required? Is it obvious to the patient if it is? Be clear in communications.

  3. Ask someone detail oriented and unafraid to hurt your feelings to take a critical look at your website, social media pages, lobby, treatment areas, uniforms, processes. Decide what you’d like to work on from this list. Do it again every couple of years 

  4. Sit in your lobby for 5 minutes quietly and make notes of what doesn’t feel 100% aligned with the patient experience you want to provide. Repeat for your education space, treatment space, therapy spaces, etc. Listen to your scripts being used, your staff speaking with patients and find things that you could do better. Repeat this routinely. 

  5. If you are considering adding or removing things in your practice, for example online scheduling or automated payments, poll patients to see if it would actually be needed and wanted. 

  6. Without making it awkward, find out what’s happening with patients. Here are some examples:

  7. Text: Hi! I noticed you haven’t reviewed us. We strive to always be improving. With that in mind, is there an area we could have done better during your visit? 

  8. In-person with patients with good rapport: We’re always looking to level up for our patients. What’s the one thing we could do to provide better care or make it easier to receive care here?

  9. Call/vm to patients who left without communication: We don’t want to bug you - but excellence is important to us. Is there anything we could have done better in your care or our communication with you? We would welcome your honest feedback, positive or not. 

Take their feedback, do NOT argue or dismiss negative concerns! Use it to improve. 

  1. Find out how well educated patients feel they are. Ask if they understand their condition and plan of care. Ask if they know what improvement or goals they can expect. Ask if they want more information on nutrition, health, or anything else. Make sure you’re not only educating on what you’re selling. Care about your patients overall. 

  2. Make a list of monthly rudiments and make sure they’re ‘in’ each month. Add things like on-time verifications, recalls, reminders, referral asks, patient call-backs, proper scheduling, referrals, adequate staffing, etc. Look back each month and find the holes you need to get filled and then work to prevent them from opening back up. 

  3. Introduce the Disney experience to your staff. We want every single encounter to be positive for patients: above and beyond, looking for and solving issues before they mature into problems, delivering first -class service. Anyone on your team who doesn’t agree with that and isn’t excited to participate should not be in contact with patients. 

  4. Streamline. Every action having a process will help ensure only good things happen. Your staff should know what to do confidently. If your staff feel confident in what they’re doing, your patients will feel they’re receiving high level care they will value. Have GOOD procedures and teach your staff to follow them. Ask where staff feel they can’t deliver confidently, what doesn’t feel good - and fix it.

  5. Patients have a family - they don’t need yours, no offense. They want professional care that makes them feel like a VIP, not a distant cousin. Ditch the “family approach”. Treat and require your staff to treat every single patient like the VIP they are. 

  6. Tell patients what to expect. Are you telling them what they’re going to do on day 1? Are you telling them that you’ll go over any tests, diagnosis, and treatment plan next visit? Do they know what it’s going to cost them? Do they know what their treatment plan is? Informed patients feel comfortable continuing care. 

  7. Be proactive with upsets and train your staff to be. If you hear something, say something, but in this setting, we mean a small comment is an opportunity to make things go right. Letting patients hear you address small comments like they’re cold, for example, shows you care about them, overall.

  8. Put visual reminders up. Disney logos in your staff room, “smile” signs where phones are answered, etc., help to remind you and staff on long days to stay plugged in fully.

  9. Address ‘small’ things because they add up. Touch-up paint scuffs, replace roughed up magazines, refill paper products promptly, handle grumpy or ill staff, turn ringers down so they’re not abrasive, keep your floors clean, etc. ALL the details matter. You will attract and retain to the level you produce. 

  10. Staff including doctors should never interrupt when a staff member or doctor is communicating with a patient unless it’s an emergency or about that patient.

  11. Cell phones have no place in front of patients and neither do personal conversations. Talk to patients about their life, their health, their goals, their progress, not your own.Train staff to do the same. If you notice patients know personal details about staff, training should be conducted to redirect that. Stay patient focused during the times you’re with patients. This also applies to your patients that are harder to love or tend to bring professionalism down. 

  12. Tracking retention tells you how well you are retaining patients over a given time. The formula is [(E-N)/S] x 100. Begin with the number of patients at the end of the time period (E) and subtract the number of new gained (N) during that period. Divide by starting number of patients (S), and convert to a percent ((Feb. patients - Feb new patients) / Jan patients X 100.) You also can look at avg no.of visits per new patient by dividing patient visits by new patients and track this. Both are helpful to watch trends on and know if the changes you are making are paying off. 

  13. Keep at it. Keep working to improve your practice. Don’t let yourself get jaded. KEEP improving, every single day. When you go through hard times, dust yourself off, friend, and start again. 

One final thought: business success is 80% mental, 20% hard work. You won’t outwork the mental aspect, so address it. Handle your own mindset issues and handle your money blocks and success blocks. Handle control issues and anger issues and fear. There is an unlimited supply of help available to figure out and handle anything you’re struggling with. Invest in your personal growth because your practice will reap the rewards and so will every area of your life. Handle your own personal weak areas so you show up as the amazing human you are. Your future and your patients deserve it.


Have anything to add? Please send me your thoughts!



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