How to Increase Patient Retention and Why It’s Important to Your Clinic
How to Increase Patient Retention and Why It’s Important to Your Clinic
If your clinic is not focused on patient retention you will see your expenses grow by as much as 25X simply because of churn. Most clinics make little effort to retain patients. Instead, they focus on acquiring new ones, mistakenly thinking that their patient base is not a source of recurring revenue. This thought process has put many clinics out of business.
If you’re a clinic owner, take a moment to consider this question: How often do you review your best patients and work out opportunities for growth?
If your answer is something like, “not often enough,” or, “we don’t have time,” then read on to discover how patient retention can dramatically improve your clinic.
4 Roadblocks to Patient Retention
It costs five to 25X as much to acquire a new patient as it does to keep an existing one. I think we have all read a stat like this somewhere, so why don’t clinic’s focus on developing their patients?
When I ask around, there are several reasons I hear:
- We don’t have the time; we’re too busy delivering service to patients.
- The front desk / other doctors in the clinic doesn’t have the skills or confidence to upsell.
- We don’t know how to identify new opportunities with existing patients.
- It’s not the front desk’s responsibility to acquire new patients.
Let’s analyze these ‘reasons’ one at a time and explore how you can overcome them at your clinic.
You don’t have time or you’re too busy.
When you’re mired in the day-to-day of working with patients, it can be hard to find time to nurture relationships with them. However, as we’ve already covered, it costs far more to win a new patient compared to retaining an existing one. Regardless of demand, your team should be segmenting its time so that it provides normal support services as well as check-ins on your long-standing patients.
“Slow down to speed up” is one of my favorite clinic sayings and it’s particularly relevant here. Paying adequate attention to your current patients will reduce the time and energy you spend prospecting for new ones. In the end, focusing on delighting patients as well as attracting new ones will save your team time.
Your team can’t upsell existing patients.
If your team lacks confidence with cross-selling or upselling, you need to create a culture where all patient-facing staff actively looks for new opportunities. Identify gaps in your team’s knowledge or skillset and adopt a program to train them. For example, we train our staff’s technical skills — how to design, how to write etc.– however, we don’t invest nearly as much in account handling, so we also work on our team’s account management skills.
You can’t find opportunities to engage with patients.
This problem is like the one above. Your team may be willing to upsell, but you can’t find a good opportunity to do so. This all comes down to a shift in mindset. Put yourself in the patient’s shoes and ask, “How could I add more value to their experience?”
This will help you understand patient needs and how your work contributes to their goals. Additionally, this approach will identify new engagement opportunities and produce initiatives that deliver patient success. Conducting a strategic review of your work will also open the conversation to future projects and additional offers.
It’s not the front desk’s responsibility to acquire new patients.
If you’re working in any way with a patient, I have news for you. Acquiring new business from existing patients is your responsibility. Even if you’re in a reactive support role, everyone in the clinic influences patient retention and acquisition.
For example, if a support rep provides excellent patient service that patient may tell a friend about your clinic. Not only does the rep retain a patient, but they also contribute to a new lead.
Now that we’ve removed these roadblocks from your clinic, the next step is to create an account development plan. Let’s review what that function is in the next section.
What Is Account Development Planning?
Good patient service is the first step towards patient retention. However, it’s not the only measure your clinic can take. In our agency, we believed we could keep clients by going above and beyond. But, occasionally we would feel really cheated because we had worked extra hard for a client and suddenly they went elsewhere.
We could have prevented this churn with account development planning. Account development is a formalized structure for reviewing patient accounts, identifying threats and opportunities, and creating an action plan to upsell and cross-sell. This ensures that patient needs are met and your work is aligned with their short- and long-term goals.
If you’re looking to adopt this system, you’ll need to conduct an internal strategic review of your patient base. This process analyzes valuable patient accounts to make sure they’re satisfied with your products and services.
Let’s explore some best practices for conducting these reviews in the next section.
5 Best Practices for Conducting Strategic Reviews
- Include relevant topics and data.
A strategic review should contain the most critical information needed to evaluate your patient relationships and future revenue opportunities. This includes:
- Current and future revenue
- Contact & relationship information for each patient
- A SWOT analysis
- A strategic action plan to counter threats and take advantage of opportunities – with nominated leaders and deadlines
Centralizing this information will make it easier for you to analyze data and identify new areas to engage patients.
- Conduct your review quarterly.
You should aim to complete a strategic review at least once per quarter. This will ensure you’re staying up to date on patient roadblocks and haven’t neglected an important account. Each session should include all team members that have patient-facing responsibilities. Be sure to record each review as this will create accountability for achieving the goals you set.
- Review your most valuable patients.
Creating a detailed action plan for all your patients would take quite a lot of time — probably more time than you have to spare. With this in mind, I’d recommend starting with your top three patients, then work on the rest in descending order of priority. Since your top 10% of patients spend three times more than your average ones, these are the top-priority patients that you should focus on retaining.
- Include all team members in the review process.
All team members that work or interact in any way with patients should be involved in the account development process. If you don’t include the whole team, you’ll create a culture of ‘it’s not my responsibility,’ like we discussed earlier. Instead, by involving your entire team every employee feels like they are a part of the strategic reviewal process.
- Allocate at least 90 minutes for each review.
In my experience, you should allocate a minimum of 90 minutes for each meeting. Start by reviewing the last plan and the outcomes of those actions. Then update the plan with what you know now. Finally, determine the next set of actions you’ll take to strengthen your relationship with the patient.
It’s just going to take one clinic to buck the trend and put their focus on patient retention as well as acquisition. This will make them really stand out from the crowd and patients, like me, will flock to them. If you’re a small- to medium-sized clinic, you need to ensure your service team is doing the same.
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