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The 6 best communication channels to drive patient retention

Consider these communication channels to increase patient retention and improve overall patient marketing.

Communication channels to improve patient retention

In the age of technology, postcards are no longer an efficient communication channel to remind patients of their appointments. According to the Family Practice Research Journal, postcard reminders do not improve patient arrivals or impact no-shows or cancellations, and they do not inspire patient loyalty. The study shows that the postcards were received by patients, but did not change the rate of no-shows.

So how do doctors ensure patient retention if they can’t reach their patients via postcards after they leave the office? Check out a few other communication channels today’s patients prefer.

1. Email

Email is one of the easiest and quickest communication channels. Email can be used to send appointment confirmations, reminders, and post-visit surveys. According to the Litmus State of Email Report, 72 percent of people still prefer email communication. Additionally, results from the Adestra’s 2016 Consumer Adoption & Usage Study showed that 73 percent of millennials prefer email, as well. Physicians can also take advice from the retail industry because, according to ClickZ, the top 100 US e-retailers are using welcome emails as a marketing strategy.

Sending out a survey through email can help engage patients and strengthen your reputation by listening to your patients’ feedback. Email can also help reduce late appointments, no-shows, and cancellations — leading to higher patient retention. When sending patients an email, be brief and succinct, and give patients all the information they need. This should be an easy read for patients, and will answer frequently asked questions.

2. Text

Text messages are a quick and easy way to say, “Please confirm your appointment,” or “Don’t forget your upcoming appointment!” Patients will appreciate this in their busy lives, especially the millennial generation. According to Forbes, millennials appreciate text messages because they are instant and can be read or exchanged at any time. Millennials also think that texting is a good form of communication because it is more likely to be read immediately compared to other communication methods.

According to the International Journal on Pediatrics, text message reminders and confirmations have been proven to be successful in improving show rates for appointments and improving patient retention. The study showed that 75 percent of families use text messaging daily, and 85 percent have unlimited text messaging on their plans. Sending a text message reminder can help reduce no-show rates by 7 percent.

Text messages can be used in addition to other communication channels mentioned here. Send a text confirmation to confirm your patient’s appointment, and then again right before they are supposed to come into the office.

Read More: 5 Reasons Patients No-Show for Healthcare Appointments

3. Patient Portals

Patient portals allow patients to access their medical information at their own convenience. The accessibility and the effortless use of communication channels like patient portals lead to positive attitudes from patients and can help improve practice success.

According to a Annals of Internal Medicine study, patients are happy with patient portals not only because they can use it at their own convenience, but also because of the security and privacy aspect of it. Here are a few important ways a patient portal can improve patient retention and patient marketing:

  • Access information at personal convenience
  • Less administrative clutter for the office
  • Immediate responses to FAQ’s
  • 24/7 access to medical records

4. Social media

Statista shows that almost 70 percent of the population is active on at least one social media platform, so why not reach your patients through social media? Social media is a communication channel that can be used to share helpful information related to your practice and specialty, answer common patient questions, and can also be used to promote discounts offered by your practice. You can include photos, links, and blog posts to keep your audience engaged.

Related: The Healthcare Provider’s Guide to Getting Started with Social Media

5. Blog

A blog can be a good source for patients to read more about your specialty. It can also be helpful for patients to learn more about what’s going on in current news topics, and can be a good source for them to learn more about their own health. You can even promote your blog through emails and social media.

To keep your audience engaged, you should keep your blog up-to-date and post on a regular schedule. You can include information about what’s new at your practice, current deals, or current news topics about your specialty or the health field.

Look: Why healthcare providers aren’t blogging — and why they should be

6. Review Websites

Many providers avoid using review websites, often because they don’t know how to handle negative feedback. But studies show patients — particularly those looking for a new provider — check review sites often, so providers should integrate them into their patient marketing efforts.

To get the most out of review websites, always remember to put your best foot forward. It can be beneficial to reply to your reviews, both good and bad. Use review websites to tell patients more about you, and correct any misperceptions about you or your practice. And remember to never violate HIPAA guidelines when replying to reviews.

Improving communication with your patients can always prove valuable. Try a new method — or multiple — and see what works for your patients. This will help your long-term relationship and increase patient retention.

For more tips on how to engage with patients outside of the office, check out “How Healthcare Providers Can Connect with Patients Out of the Office.

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