Tips for retaining patients at your independent practice

An independent physician’s practice is much like any other business, in that it must attract and retain customers – in this case, patients – to remain financially viable. While attracting new patients is largely a matter of marketing and ensuring that the community knows about you and your services, retaining patients at your independent practice involves a slightly different set of activities.

Communication is key. Before, during, and after the visit, you and your staff should communicate with the patient in a manner that is customer-focused and informative. Be available to answer questions and to ensure the patient understands follow-up instructions.

Schedule the follow-up appointment. As the patient is checking out and is still in the office, schedule an appointment for the next well-check or to follow up on the current visit. Be proactive rather than relying on the patient to call back and schedule an appointment.

Emphasize prevention, regular visits, and checkups. Helping patients understand that “prevention is better than cure” can not only help you retain those patients but can also benefit the patients themselves. As one expert put it, “youngsters and healthy adults often don’t value this message (and) are reluctant to go for regular visits to their doctor.”

Use the latest technology to maintain patient data. Electronic health records (EHRs) enable you to track your patient’s medical history and input visit notes easily and seamlessly. Less time searching through paperwork means more time to spend with the patient.

Ensure the patient’s total experience at your independent practice is positive. From the initial phone call to the time the patient leaves the appointment, everything affects how that patient views your practice. Front office staff should be customer-focused, meaning pleasant and courteous. Wait times should be at a reasonable minimum. The visit with the independent physician should be informative and productive. And the check-out process should be easy and likewise customer-focused.

Retaining patients is crucial to the success of an independent physician’s practice. Everyone on the team can participate in making it happen. A bonus for the practice with satisfied, returning patients is that they will quite often share their experiences with friends and family, who may become new patients!