Across the healthcare spectrum, the last few years have been difficult for just about every participant. Independent practices have faced declining patient volume and revenues, staffing shortages, and even layoffs. Patients missed or skipped appointments in 2020 and, in many cases, put their health on hold. Physician and healthcare worker burnout has been at an all-time high.
Amid these challenges, consumers have been relying increasingly on digital conveniences in just about every facet of life, from restaurant and grocery store delivery apps to the widespread use of remote tools like Zoom and telehealth medical appointments.
These factors have come together quickly during COVID-19, causing patients to reevaluate whether their healthcare provider truly meets their needs. According to the PatientPop 2021 patient perspective survey, more than one-third of patients have left a healthcare provider in the last two years.
To thrive in today’s increasingly complex and competitive healthcare landscape, private practices must deliver an exceptional, accessible patient experience — or risk losing patients.
Frequent mistakes that can lead to dissatisfaction and patient attrition
While practices can take plenty of proactive steps to improve the patient experience, it’s equally important to avoid common missteps that can lead to patient frustration and dissatisfaction. Here are four mistakes practices should avoid to prevent patient attrition.
No. 1: Not having a patient engagement strategy.
Healthcare providers know that most of what drives better health and patient outcomes happens outside the exam room. What a patient does in between visits is key to their good health.
Sadly, patients often fail to follow their physician’s plan of care — not because they don’t want to, but because life gets in the way or they forget, and their health falls to the back burner.
Keeping patients engaged in between appointments is every bit as important as delivering great care during an office visit. How can you keep patients engaged? By sending out relevant, well-timed email campaigns, practices can help improve patient outcomes, drive patient loyalty, and strengthen the patient-provider relationship. Here are some ways you can use email to stay connected with patients, and deliver year-round value.
- Send seasonal health-related information, such as the availability of flu vaccines, tips for managing seasonal allergies, and healthy holiday recipes
- Remind patients to schedule routine appointments, annual physical exams, screenings, and vaccinations.
- Highlight any new services or offerings, or introduce new providers.
- Deliver valuable education to help patients manage specific health conditions or concerns such as diabetes, asthma, and hypertension
The segmentation can also lead to more booked appointments, since you have the ability to reach just those patients due for a certain appointment type or service. Be sure to include a clear call to action that will make it easy for patients to schedule their next visit.
No. 2: Continuing to do things “the way they’ve always been done.”
Old habits may die hard, but today’s consumers are frustrated by healthcare’s notoriously slow technology adoption. People are accustomed to modern conveniences across all other industries, and want the same when connecting with their healthcare providers. Recent data reveals at least half of all patients prefer digital interactions such as text messaging, online access or email for key interactions such as scheduling an appointment, filling out paperwork, accessing health records, asking their provider a question, or paying their bill.
By implementing these technologies and other automated practice management tools, your practice can also save serious time and resources while avoiding patient and staff frustration.
Practices that offer digital tools such as automated appointment reminders, electronic registration, and online intake forms won’t waste time making outbound reminder calls or manually inputting data from hard copy registration forms. Instead, staff can focus on a better patient experience, even if it’s just greeting patients warmly and returning phone calls
No. 3: Not listening to your patients
What do patients want most from their doctor? A good listener.
In the 2021 patient perspective survey, 67 percent of patients said it is most important when they assess a healthcare provider. Similarly, 47 percent of patients listed getting a “prompt response to questions” as important to their experience.
Providers who take the time to truly listen to patients are immediately delivering the connection and experience patients want and deserve. Consider ending each appointment with a wrap-up question to demonstrate you’re being attentive, such as “Have I answered all of your questions today?” or “Have I addressed all your concerns during today’s visit?” This is a clear signal that you are listening, and can even cut down on the chances of negative feedback.
Other ways to let patients know you’re focused on them and prioritizing communication: introduce automated patient satisfaction surveys to solicit ongoing feedback; and, offer email and text messaging as a means to communicate with your providers and staff.
No. 4: Failing to book your patients’ next appointment at check-out
Practices that don’t secure that next appointment at check-out not only risk losing patient volume, they’re also creating a tedious task for patients. After a patient leaves the office, they’ll first have to remember when they’re due for another appointment, and then set aside the time to book their visit.
Make it easier on your patients by hardwiring appointment booking into the process. Ensure your providers indicate when the patient needs to be seen again on their check-out paperwork, and get the appointment booked before the patient leaves.
Seal the deal by sending an automated appointment reminder via text and/or email. If patients are hesitant to schedule in advance, remind them they’ll have more options at time slots when they book well in advance, and make it simple and convenient by offering online scheduling.