Patient retention is a commonly-ignored part of healthcare marketing. This is true even though returning patients are likely to spend more money on your services than anyone on their first visit. Nurturing patient loyalty is the key to improving your practice’s bottom line.
Many healthcare professionals ignore the importance of retention and spend more marketing dollars on lead generation and converting leads into patients. While these strategies are essential, retention drives your medical practice’s growth and success.
What is patient retention?
Patient retention in healthcare is a set of practices to keep a patient with your clinic. Holding on to loyal patients instead of constantly replacing them with new ones is a cost-effective strategy that helps your practice grow.
Consider that the probability of patients returning to your practice for healthcare services is 60%-70%. For new patients, the chances are between 5% and 20%.
That is a lot of churn.
Why is patient retention necessary in healthcare?
According to the Pareto Principle, 80% of your revenue comes from 20% of your existing patients.
If that isn’t enough to catch your attention, the benefits of improving patient retention rates include:
- Higher patient lifetime value – a loyal patient will likely return to your practice and pay for your services for many years.
- Referrals – 90% of patients read reviews before choosing a healthcare service provider. Loyal patients are more likely to leave positive reviews and recommend your practice to their friends and family.
- Upselling – existing patients are more likely to try your other services and increase their lifetime value even further.
Retaining an existing patient can cost five to 25 times less than acquiring a new one. Meanwhile, increasing retention rates by 5% can increase the clinic’s profits by 25%-90%.
However, some healthcare providers continue to myopically focus solely on attracting new patients.
Offline Patient Retention Strategies
While many clinics see retention as the responsibility of digital marketers, offline retention strategies are just as crucial as online strategies. Patient experience in the clinic is the driving force behind a patient’s decision to stay with your brand.
Here are five ways to improve offline patient retention:
1. Make Patient Experience a KPI
Healthcare marketers use many KPIs to evaluate their progress and results. While you are probably already tracking the number of active patients (patients who schedule their next appointments), you should also consider secondary metrics, such as:
- Appointment no-show rate: a ratio of patients who make appointments to patients who don’t keep them.
- Average in-clinic wait time: the number one complaint that keeps patients from returning to the clinic is the excessive time they spend in the waiting room.
- Percent of active patients: how many patients schedule their subsequent appointments vs. those who don’t make plans for further interaction with your clinic.
- Number of overdue patients: patients who are overdue for their next visit.
- Average response time: average amount of time it takes doctors to respond to the patient’s requests.
By making the patient experience a KPI, you can figure out how to improve it. Better patient experience results in higher retention rates.
2. Emotionally Polish Your Front Desk
A patient’s offline experience begins when they enter your clinic. Improperly trained staff or uncomfortable waiting rooms can turn the patient away even if your medical services are stellar.
Simple elements that keep patients happy include:
- Clear directions to help a patient find your office
- A welcoming waiting area
- Clear communication with well-trained staff
- A straightforward checkout process
Comfort, convenience, and friendliness are key to establishing trust and improving patient relationships.
3. Provide More Payment Options
Healthcare costs are a serious barrier that keeps patients from getting all the necessary services. You can improve their experience by making the payment process as easy as possible by:
- Providing information about insurance coverage
- Offering a payment plan
- Diversifying payment methods
As we’ll soon see, there is also a digital marketing side to payment processing.
4. Prepare for Post-Appointment Scheduling
To minimize delays in getting healthcare services, you should help patients schedule their next appointment before leaving the clinic.
Even if the appointment is months away, scheduling turns a passive patient into an active patient and allows you to send reminders.
If the patient refuses to schedule the next appointment, the front desk should agree with the patient about the time they can call.
5. Use Patient Surveys
Patient surveys can provide invaluable information about patient satisfaction levels. They can help you adjust your marketing strategy and streamline retention efforts.
You can give surveys while the patient waits for the doctor or after the appointment. To strengthen patient loyalty, you should respond to concerns mentioned in surveys and act upon suggestions (if possible).
Surveys can be physical (paper and pen) or digital as part of your online retention strategy.
Online Patient Retention Strategies
Online patient retention strategies complement your offline efforts and keep patient attrition rates low. Here are five of the best online retention strategies:
1. Integrate Marketing Automation
Marketing automation can help you create extra touchpoints with the patient and ensure their engagement with your brand.
By designing patient recall and activation campaigns, you can remind existing patients about your services and bring them back to the clinic. Marketing automation allows you to strengthen patient relationships by sending them personalized messages on holidays or birthdays.
And best of all, these e-mails are sent automatically, so you don’t have to worry about it.
However, while e-mails are highly effective for marketing automation, text messages usually work better for improving patient retention rates in healthcare. You can use SMS to notify patients about upcoming appointments or the need to contact a doctor.
To ensure the success of your marketing automation strategy, you may want to consider working with a HIPAA-compliant, all-in-one patient acquisition platform. Such platforms can help attract new patients and retain existing ones.
2. Create a Community on Social Media
Considering that 70% of Americans are using social media, it’s highly likely that your patients do too. Social media platforms are an excellent place to connect with your patients. You can create a large patient community by sharing valuable content and leveraging paid social media marketing.
Social media is valuable for engaging and retaining your internal marketing audience. It’s also excellent for encouraging word-of-mouth referrals.
3. Show Up on the Google Map Pack
Being visible on Google services, including Google Map Pack, is almost as crucial for retaining patients as it is for attracting them.
Because most patients don’t memorize your clinic’s address, they’ll search online to get directions. When they do a Google search, your practice should show up in response to the query.
If you haven’t claimed a Google Business Profile or manually added your practice to Google Maps, you could lose patients simply because they can’t find you easily.
4. Offer Online, Real-Time Scheduling
To keep patients active, appointment scheduling must be as easy and accessible as possible. When a patient visits your website, the opportunity to make an appointment on the spot could help them act.
Online scheduling is an excellent opportunity to increase patient satisfaction. However, if it’s not a real-time option, it’s easy to face overbooking, which causes patient frustration.
Real-time appointment scheduling isn’t just convenient for patients, it optimizes your clinic’s operations and reduces unnecessary expenses.
5. Provide Support Through Content Marketing
Patients are always searching for information about their health, treatment, insurance options, and more. You can provide support by sharing relevant content that addresses patients’ questions.
Such content can turn your website into a knowledge base that organically attracts new patients and keeps existing patients returning for more information.
You can use your content to help patients make educated decisions about their health, insurance coverage, and wellness.
How much should healthcare providers spend on retention?
If you dedicate your entire digital marketing budget to attracting new patients, you face a major opportunity cost.
At the same time, avoiding churn entirely is impossible; there must also be a focus on lead generation and converting leads into patients.
The amount you should devote to retaining versus attracting new patients depends on the revenue you are missing when keeping the entire focus on retention.
You can calculate the amount by determining the supply (competition) and demand (treatments patients need) in your area and surrounding zip codes.