Patient Retention Strategies: Processes to Reduce Churn and Increase Engagement

Patient Retention Strategies

Studies show that the average patient churn rate is about 48% and healthcare facilities are notorious for high customer complaints. 

Given that most healthcare facilities are understaffed and overworked, it’s easy to understand why some elements of the patient experience may be lacking. Nonetheless, these mistakes are costing the company and making it increasingly difficult for them to create a 

As a healthcare executive, you’ve been reading patient complaints and have asked staff to improve their bedside manner, make fewer mistakes during the billing process, and improve the onboarding process. 

Though without processes and systems, these mistakes are likely to happen over and over again. Therefore, here are some processes you can put in place to improve your patient retention.

Table of Contents

Evaluate Your Own Available Resources

One of the biggest problems that companies with high churn tend to have is that they tend to lack the resources necessary to provide an excellent service. Therefore, your first question should be if you are even able to take on more patients.

If the answer is no, can you improve the efficiency of your current processes or hire more talent?

For example, if your current patient onboarding system is slow or buggy and often requires humans to come in and fix it, is there software you can purchase to better automate this process?

Many companies, like Cedar Care, can fix these problems and help you automate your systems, and improve patient satisfaction.

Or if you only have a few doctors and most patients can only be seen by a nurse or a student, your patients might feel dismissed (even if the student or nurse can handle the situation).

Therefore, hiring another doctor might be worth it as it will allow you to take on more patients and make your current patients feel heard.

If you feel that you still can’t manage the current workload, even with better software to improve processes, limit the number of patients you accept. You may even choose to focus on only patients with a certain condition or scenario that will bring you the most profit.

Survey Your Patients

Once you know that your team has the capacity to provide each patient with an excellent experience, start surveying them to find patterns in common customer complaints. 

You can also look at your reviews on Google, Vitals, and other healthcare review websites.

In fact, you can scroll through the reviews and categorize each complaint (poor interactions with staff, poor billing, etc.) into an excel spreadsheet and prioritize from there.

survey your patients

For example, if I notice that 24 of the reviewers complained about billing, I’d make that a priority.

However, only a small percentage of people are vocal about their complaints online, so it’s still important to survey your audience. 

To do so, you can use a tool like Qwary to survey your customers as it allows you to ask them survey questions and even include video responses adding a more personal touch.

survey your customers

You should also pay attention to what processes and policies patients like as that will guide you on what is working and where you can double down on your efforts.

In addition, you may want to look at reviews from competitors to understand what their patients like and don’t like so that you can understand what key industry pain points exist and better position your practice.

Target The Right Potential Patients

Now you have an excellent grasp of what your patients like and don’t like about your business. However, you might find that a certain subset of your patients tend to make up the largest percentage of your churns. 

For example, if you are an addiction treatment center and have world-class inpatient treatment services, you might not be prioritizing your outpatient services (and rightly so). 

Therefore, most of your complaints and churn might be coming from outpatient customers. While that loss of revenue may not seem important, it does have a negative impact on your brand and could cause inpatient prospects to choose elsewhere.

Therefore, you may want to eliminate that offering altogether and instead focus on growing your inpatient services.

Similarly, you may find that most of your poor reviews are from patients that are only coming in for free consultations. If so, is there a way you can better qualify patients before scheduling a free consultation?

For example, you may ask them to provide insurance information or more details on their current condition. This prevents wasting your time and theirs.

Your marketing message also has a huge impact on lead generation. Therefore, have a meeting with executives, the marketing team, and doctors to ensure that everyone is on the same page about what the ideal customer looks like and how you can better serve them.

Set Realistic Expectations

Another reason why customers often churn is that you tell them they will receive one thing, and then you deliver a lower quality result.

While healthcare is a tricky industry, given the number of variables involved with patient care, do your best to paint an accurate picture – not necessarily a rosy picture.

For example, if an athlete comes to you for surgery and is planning to compete in a competition in 6 months, you may need to tell them that it isn’t realistic. 

Similarly, never quote patients an estimate of price on the low end. Sure, it might cost you some in the short term, but your brand will be better off in the long run, and you’ll have much higher patient retention.

Improve Patient Onboarding and Portals

A patient comes in for a consultation and likes what the doctor has to say. After several consultations with other doctors, the patient ultimately chooses your practice. 

However, if the patient onboarding process is difficult and slow (the backend is buggy, it locks them out, it’s too many steps, etc.), they might change their mind and choose a different practice altogether. 

Even if it’s relatively easy to set up the portal, a customer might churn if the portal lacks information, is difficult to navigate, and is an overall nuisance to the patient. In fact, statistics show that while 90% of healthcare institutions offer a patient portal, only about a third of patients enrolled, and only about 20% of those patients actively use it. However, this also makes it one of the best opportunities to improve patient retention.

Improve your patient portal

One simple option is to invest in a debugging tool like DataDog or Embrace (if it is heavily mobile-focused). These tools can send error alerts to your development team whenever an issue arises. 

You can also use a heatmap tool like Hotjar to understand where users click and bounce. For example, if you see that they all click on the Billing tab, scroll up and down, and then bounce, the billing might be poorly displayed or difficult to understand. 

patient retention strategies using hotjar

In addition, make sure it’s easy to navigate to key pages. For example, “billing” isn’t prominently displayed on this portal, so patients may become frustrated:

patient retention strategies user friendly

You can also have live chat in the portal. That way, customers can actively tell the support team what they are struggling with.

Simply improving your patient portal is one of the best ways to improve patient retention. As long as it’s easy to use, it shouldn’t be difficult to adopt. 

Make it Easy to Contact a Human

If you’ve ever had to deal with flight cancellations or a large internet outage, you know how frustrating it can be when you can’t talk to a human!

Well, that’s how your patients feel when they can’t talk to someone on your support team! Automating your processes is still an excellent idea. However, you should always have a live person for patients to talk to if they can’t figure it out. In addition, nearly 90% of people still prefer to speak with a live support provider.

So even if you’ve automated most of your processes, make sure that your patients can still call you and talk to a live representative.

The same rules apply to chatbots. You can have a chatbot that answers the majority of your questions. But, if it answers the question incorrectly or can’t answer the question, it should redirect to a live agent. 

chatbot patient retention

If you make it easy for patients to always contact a human, you’ll already have an advantage over most of your competitors and you’ll watch your retention rate soar.

Establish Patient Experience Protocol with Staff

Angry reviews typically include a line mentioning how the staff was “unprofessional” or “rude.” 

angry reviews patient retention strategy

While you are probably very careful to hire pleasant and helpful people, poorly defined processes may leave staff to tell patients, “there’s nothing I can do” or, “I’m sorry, I can’t help you with that.” Ultimately, this causes patient retention to plummet, and it won’t be long before you have a host of negative reviews.

Empower staff to create a better patient experience

First, make sure they understand exactly what you offer and what the ideal customer for your business looks like. For example, the negative review above could have had a better outcome if the staff understood what the business offered.

In addition, empower your staff to make executive decisions. If there is an issue with a patient, give them the power to make a decision on how to resolve the issue. This strategy is more effective than forcing them to say, “you’ll have to speak with the doctor.”

In addition, don’t be dismissive about any issues that occur. For example, if a patient is concerned about a certain symptom or pain, make them feel understood. Continue to do this even if it seems like a very minor issue to you.

Even though the scenario below may not have been serious, it’s still important to approach each patient’s problem with empathy. Some situations don’t really require any additional attention. Therefor, you should have the doctor talk to the patient personally and address the concern.

Finally, avoid using medical jargon that your patients won’t understand. If your friends and family at a barbeque wouldn’t understand what you’re saying, your patients won’t either!

Improve Your Billing Processes

A whopping 80% of medical bills have errors, so you can imagine that about 80% of your patients are at least somewhat dissatisfied. 

So how can you improve your billing processes?

First, use software (like Cedar Care). This will help you automate most of the billing process and reduce tedious manual tasks that require expensive human labor and invite human error. 

In addition, try outsourcing your collections as you don’t want that to take up the majority of your time. While it may seem important to obtain that money, it may not be worth the resources required that could be otherwise put towards current customers.

Implement Retargeting

If a patient calls the office or even comes in for a consultation, they are definitely interested in what you have to offer. Therefore, set up a retargeting campaign for customers that have called the office or visited the site. This is also much more profitable as the CTR for retargeting campaigns is 10 times higher than regular display ads.

how to retarget patients

Source

This could be a display campaign through Google AdWords, or a Facebook retargeting campaign.

If you choose to do Facebook retargeting ads, you can also create click to messenger campaigns that then enable you to retarget patients through Facebook Messenger.

facebook retargeting ads for patients

Source

Even if they are a current patient, this keeps it top of mind, especially if they are comparing other options.

If you need help setting up Facebook retargeting, you can see this guide here. There’s also a guide to remarketing with Google AdWords here.

Or, if you’d rather have someone just do it for you, you can contact us here and we’ll run a remarketing campaign for you.

Create an Email List

You’ve probably already heard about the ROI statistics of email marketing such as one study that showed you can earn $44 for every $1 invested in email marketing.

However, there are so many different ways to run an email campaign. So, how should you structure a campaign for patient retention?

Instead, your retention emails should:

  • Provide value to the reader by showing how you can help solve their pain point
  • Entertain with a storyline and grab the reader’s attention
  • Provide social proof that your product or service works for others

A great example of a copywriter that writes excellent retention emails is Ramit Sethi. While he isn’t in the healthcare industry, you can apply similar tactics. 

Fortunately, most healthcare facilities fail to create excellent retention emails. In fact, most of their retention emails are simply newsletters that look like this: 

email campaign for retargeting patients

Notice that there isn’t a call to action or a clear value proposition within the email. While it provides a brief overview of the treatments offered, it doesn’t really dive into what those treatments do. It provides no real value.

Finally, there isn’t really any story or social proof to separate them from other treatment providers. 

Remember that you are likely one of hundreds of emails your customers receive daily. Make an effort to entertain them so that they look forward to reading your emails. 

In addition to writing great emails, be sure that you are collecting emails from existing patients. Put them in a different sequence from prospects. You can use a tool like Convert Kit to segment, manage, and send all of your emails.

Remain Active on Social Media

Social networks are the new television, and it’s also one of the stickiest forms of media today. Therefore, it’s a perfect place to retarget current customers and ensure that you remain top of mind.

While Facebook retargeting is certainly one way to increase patient retention, building a strong organic following and creating entertaining posts is a great way to stay top of mind and retain patients.

So what does an entertaining post look like, and how can you build a strong organic presence?

First, think about social media posts from your friends that tend to generate a lot of engagement. These posts generally:

  • Include some form of media (whether that’s a picture or a video)
  • Include some kind of story
  • Are posted by a person that has a strong network of friends and is relatively active on social media

Given that social media users like to see this type of content from friends and family, your brand should focus on in producing this type of content. 

A great example of a brand that is nailing its social media strategy is New York-Presbyterian Hospital. Rather than just promoting its services, sharing professional media (such as blogs or podcasts), and sharing memes, they write real stories about both their patients and staff. 

Heartfelt patient story

patient story on social media

Notice that this has a very social media-friendly human element to it and therefore receives a lot more engagement than a generic post that’s selling:

social media patient retention strategies

While selling your service every once in a while is okay, it likely won’t help your engagement metrics and selling too often will cost your brand.

If you are trying to create stories and it still isn’t working, it may simply be that your copywriting skills could use a refresher.

For example, this post below tried to create a story, but it only earned two shares and zero likes or comments. My prediction is that some editing in the copy could make it much more compelling. 

avoid these social media mistakes

For example, rather than starting with an ask (join us on Monday), start with the story that he became addicted to drugs in 7th grade. Once you finish the story, then you can transition to a CTA.

I would also eliminate dry sentences like “He first showed signs of physical addiction to alcohol at a very young age”. Instead, just start with “Jeff McIntyre hadn’t even reached the age of 16 by the time he was living on the endless hamster wheel of looking for the next drink – and doing anything to get it.”

In the early days, you might not have a lot of engagement. However, keep posting intriguing patient and staff stories. Also, be sure to partner with influencers that have a loyal following on that social media platform.

If you can become a popular brand to follow on social media, improving patient retention won’t be difficult. Your quality posts will constantly remind them of your brand.

Track Your Churn Rate

Finally, track your churn rate and understand which types of patients churn the most. For example, is there a particular procedure or service that tends to produce the most churns? Or is there a particular customer profile that generates churns (for example, a specific type of insurance, or lack thereof)? 

Depending on your clinic’s size, you can probably track your churn rate in a Google Sheet or your CRM.

Schedule Your Next Visit and Set Follow-up Reminders

Finally, one of the easiest ways to increase patient retention is to schedule the next visit at the office the day of the appointment. Then set follow-up reminders prior to the appointment.

You can ask the patient if they prefer a voicemail, text, or email reminder, and you can use a tool like Appointment Reminder to automate the process for you.

Prioritize Patient Retention Now

Whether you’re an established brand or a growing startup, patient retention is one of the biggest challenges in healthcare. However, it’s also one of the greatest opportunities. 

For example, even if you improve patient retention now, your processes will change as you grow. You’ll have to find new ways to improve the customer experience at scale.

If you want a marketing agency to help relieve some of the burden of improving patient retention, you can schedule a free consultation with Stodzy today.

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