9 Tips On Improving Patient Loyalty

Happy_Doctor_Loyal_Patients

For many companies, I represent the ideal consumer. Why do I say that and how do the below “ideal consumer qualities” relate to your practice? I’ll explain that shortly. As the ideal consumer,

  1. I do my research before purchasing anything so I am well versed on the product or service and seldom have too many questions after purchase.
  2. Because I have done my research and read reviews, I typically have positive experiences. As I am myself a business owner, if I do have negative feedback, I rarely choose to relay this information publicly because I feel that it could have just been an anomaly in production. Instead, I will call the company and speak with a manager in charge to privately explain what I would have expected from them. For services, I usually try and look at a negative experience from the provider’s point of view. After all, everyone has good and bad days. I’ll try again hoping that the next time will be better.
  3. I am what you would call a “sneeze marketer.” When I like a product or service, I will sing praises from the highest mountains. If I like a particular piece of technology, I’ll happen to mention it in conversation. If I like a restaurant, I’ll let people know that this is a place they must try and even offer to take them to lunch. If I like a service provider, I will make sure to send them referrals. For example, when my back started to hurt, someone recommended me to a certified massage therapist a few miles from my office. I was so impressed with their cleanliness, professionalism and skills, that I have referred around 10 people (all of whom are now loyal patrons) to them within 2 years.

So, how do these qualities relate to your medical practice?

Well, it shows how essential people like myself are to your success and how those patients need to be given extra attention, simply because they will do the marketing for you. Relating to the above ideal consumer qualities, with more and more patients going online to research doctors, you can guarantee that they are well versed on your practice, they will place reviews online and if completely satisfied, they will eventually market your practice to friends and family. However, note that one of the biggest misconceptions in patient retention is that high scores on a patient satisfaction survey, or even perceived patient satisfaction, correlates to loyalty. It isn’t difficult for a provider to make a patient happy; true patient loyalty is when the patient actually recommends your practice to someone else. Here are 9 tips on how to increase patient loyalty and patient satisfaction.

  1. If your schedule becomes overwhelming and you need to pass your patients to a partner physician, make sure to speak with the patient afterwards or write to them from your patient portal to let them know that their welfare is still your concern. Not reaching out can give patients a feeling of disloyalty from their doctor, which will make it easier for them to leave.
  2. If your staff routinely makes billing errors, first and foremost, speak with the responsible party and ensure that the issue will be resolved. The staff should be sympathetic about the error and have a demeanor that fits into the patient’s idea of good customer service. What will truly help prevent errors is to hire a certified professional coder or a company like Health Prime International that can help manage your revenue cycle.
  3. Typically, the busiest practices have the lowest rates of loyalty. Physician recruitment initiatives or adding a nurse practitioner or physician assistant will help to make sure you don’t sacrifice high quality in order to achieve higher quantity.
  4. It is cheaper to retain old patients than spend money replacing the ones who left. If you know why a patient left, use that as a learning experience.
  5. Sometimes it takes a doctor seeing a patient through a major illness to build true loyalty, but this is not a necessity. Take the extra time to double up on patients that need extra TLC, not only for the purpose of building loyalty, but because it is the right thing to do.
  6. When the wait time gets excessive, personally come out and apologize to everyone waiting and explain the delay. This small gesture will be appreciated.
  7. Brand loyalty begins with the patient making the appointment. Cheerfulness from the staff will translate a positivity over the phone and in person.
  8. It is okay to provide a very straightforward patient satisfaction survey questions. Questions like these will help you assess what sets you apart from other practices – and perhaps more importantly – what sets other practices apart from you.
    • “Do you feel you can have an open conversation with your provider?”
    • “What would prompt you to switch providers?”
    • “Would our practice be your first recommendation to friends and family? If not, why?”
    • “What can we do to make your visit more satisfying?”
  9. See the healthcare market research survey below by Press Ganey Associates. Of the 1.4 million patients treated at 5,400 sites nationwide, the top requests of patients to physicians are 1) be sensitive, 2) overall cheerfulness of practice, and 3) overall patient care. "Mean" = average percentage of satisfied patients and "Correlation" = patient’s likelihood of recommending another patient to a physician or hospital. Both of these numbers were used to come up with final priority numbers.
Press_Ganey_Patient_Satisfaction_Survey

I am confident that implementing even half of these suggestion will help you see a measurable increase in improving patient loyalty and satisfaction and loyalty. If you’d like a sample patient satisfaction survey, email me and I'll send it over!

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