Consistently searching for new patients isn’t the key to a successful clinic (unless you’re new to the game). Jerry Durham, owner of a company that helps physical therapy practice owners engage patients for greater results, shares that clinic success is three-fold.
A successful clinic focuses on getting people to keep their appointments, streamlining the payment process, and patient retention.
Patient retention is the area clinics struggle with the most.
Here are some facts:
- Patient churn rate in the US healthcare system is a whopping 48%
- 36% of patients have left a healthcare provider in the past two years, with 80% of these patients doing so because of a poor in-person experience and/or lack of access and communication.
If you don’t want patients to leave your practice and never return, keep reading to learn tips that will help you use appointment scheduling to boost patient retention. But first, let’s look more closely at what customer retention is and why it’s important.
What Is Patient Retention?
Patient retention is about helping your existing customers have as many positive experiences with your clinic as possible. It’s divided into three main buckets:
- In-office patient retention — This is where you make all aspects of the appointment experience as seamless as possible. It should be easy for patients to schedule new and follow-up appointments and avoid spending too much time in the waiting room.
- Patient loyalty — Train your team to keep customers happy and at ease. Also, don’t allow patient calls to go unanswered or take too long to respond to a patient’s request. Make it a priority to follow up with patients after their visits.
- Patient interaction — Communicate what’s happening and why to make your patients feel as comfortable as possible, and send best wishes for birthdays and other special events your patients have shared. Do whatever you can (big or small) to make every interaction with your patients a positive one.
Why Is Patient Retention Important?
Patient retention impacts your ability to attract new patients. Dissatisfied patients either leave bad reviews on sites or tell their friends and family members about their bad experiences. According to research by Patient Pop, 74% of patients find online reviews very or extremely important when choosing a healthcare provider, and 69% won’t consider a healthcare provider with an average star rating lower than 4 out of 5 stars.
While new customers are important, your clinic can’t survive on new customers alone. It costs far more to win new patients than to keep the patients you already have. The cost to win new patients is based on your Patient Acquisition Cost (PAC) — the amount of money spent to convert a possible patient into an actual patient.
Appointment Scheduling And The Customer Experience
Appointment scheduling can shape your patient’s view of your brand. That’s why it’s important to be aware of your patient’s appointment scheduling preferences:
- 67% of patients prefer online booking while 22% prefer to book over the phone
- 68% of patients say they’re more likely to choose a medical provider that offers the ability to book, change, or cancel appointments online
You need the right technology and the right team for your appointment scheduling process to work well. As Maggie Bergeron shares, the seamless integration of technology helps put the ‘care’ back in healthcare.
Technology-centered appointment scheduling can make a huge difference to your clinic. Here’s how.
How Appointment Scheduling Tools Can Improve Customer Retention
Your appointment scheduling process is an extension of your customer’s experience. Here’s how the right booking system can appease your customers and keep them returning to your brand.
1. Create A Better Booking Experience
Appointment scheduling makes it easier for patients to book appointments at times convenient to them, thus making the process more efficient. Patients can easily see when you’re available and book an appointment at a time that works best for their schedule. Setting an appointment is as simple as clicking a link and choosing a date and time from the calendar.
A great booking experience must also be followed up by an informative appointment confirmation message. An appointment confirmation message is sent immediately after a patient schedules an appointment to ensure the details are correct and to provide any other relevant information. This helps keep the appointment top of mind for your patients and helps them to avoid missed appointments.
2. Personalize Your Patients’ Relationships With Your Brand
With the right appointment scheduling system in place, you can provide a more personalized customer experience just through a booking. A dedicated appointment scheduling system will be able to troubleshoot any customer booking issues, questions, or comments, thus making the booking more aligned with what they need.
The trick with adding the personalized touch is to look beyond an appointment scheduling tool and add a virtual receptionist to the appointment scheduling process. Appointment scheduling technology makes it simple to book appointments, but the human connection that virtual receptionists provide helps your clinic make the right impression. Smiledog’s virtual receptionists provide an appointment scheduling system for personalized bookings with enhanced customer service
3. Keep You (And Your Team) Focused On Customers
Having a set appointment scheduling system keeps you and your team available to focus on the quality of your customer’s experience. A good thing to do is include a feedback survey with each re-booking link to track how patients feel about their experiences. This feedback allows you to work with your staff to quickly address concerns and nip any issues in the bud.
Make Appointment Scheduling A Natural Part Of Your Business
Appointment scheduling helps you provide patients with the booking experience they want. It’s one part of the patient retention process that reduces patient frustration and no-shows. Pair your appointment scheduling tools with a caring and friendly virtual receptionist, and your clinic will stand out in a sea of competitors. Check out Smiledog’s appointment scheduling services to learn more.