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5 steps to win back lost patients

High patient retention is essential for healthcare practice success. So, too, is influencing lost patients to return.

Smiling doctor shakes hand of patient

Patient retention is crucial to the lasting success of your practice. Of course, everyone you treat won’t be a long-term fit, but you need to fight for those who are.

One in three consumers will turn away from a beloved brand after just one bad experience, according to PwC. It won’t be difficult for them to find your replacement, considering there are currently more than 1 million professionally active physicians in the U.S., according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Here’s some advice to help you win back former patients who have opted to seek care elsewhere.

Read: 11 necessary steps to grow your practice and retain patients

How to get lost patients to return to your practice

1. Survey patients as to why they’re leaving

When a patient contacts your office to request their records, this is likely a sign they’re not happy. Unless they’re moving out of town or need the information to take to a specialist, they’ve probably decided to take their care to your competition.

This is always disappointing, but it’s important to find out what happened. In addition to expressing sadness over their departure, your front office staff should ask if they can send a survey via email or U.S. mail to learn more about their decision to leave. 

Survey results can offer telling patient satisfaction insights that will help you improve your practice. After all, you can’t make meaningful changes if you don’t know what you’re doing wrong.

Look: 5 questions doctors should ask to gauge patient satisfaction

2. Make accommodations for frequent requests

When reviewing survey results, there’s a good chance you’ll find a few common themes explaining why patients decided to leave. For example, you might learn patients find it difficult to make appointments because they have to pick up the phone and call your office since you don’t offer online scheduling.

Complaints centering on the same issues should be taken as a sign a change is needed. Patient satisfaction is the key to a successful practice, so you need to give the people what they want. This might require an investment on your part, but it will pay off many times over.

Also see: 4 out of 5 doctors can improve their practices by doing this one thing

3. Let former patients know about changes to win them back

After working hard to implement changes at your practice, let former patients know their complaints were heard. Email them and announce the changes on your social media accounts to get the word out.

This is an effective way to increase patient retention because people want a provider who truly cares about them. Taking these steps shows you’re willing to do what it takes to keep them on your patient roster.

4. Offer an enticing incentive for a return visit

Sometimes patients need a little extra nudge to return to a business they previously decided to leave. Sweeten the deal by offering a free product or discounted service if they come back. For example, a dentist could offer discounted teeth whitening.

This small gesture will show patients how much you appreciate them and truly want them to return to your practice. Depending on what you offer, you might need to budget a bit for this, but it’s worth the expense to get people back in the door.

5. Keep your word

After working hard to get patients back, you need to make them a top priority. Prove you’re truly focused on improving patient satisfaction levels by making the changes you promised.

Patient retention is never guaranteed. You might get a second chance, but if you make empty promises, patients will leave your practice for good this time. Therefore, it’s important to fully commit to every change, because this isn’t something you can succeed at by only putting in partial effort.

Losing patients doesn’t feel great, but if you’re willing to put in the time and effort, you can win many of them back. Making meaningful changes will show people you value them and are working hard to improve your patient satisfaction rates.

For more on this topic, see the blog post “4 reasons your patient retention is declining — and how to fix it.”

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