Adjusting to the changing needs of your patients can be critical to your ability to retain those patients. Technology, convenience, and your availability are all factors in whether your patients stay with your independent practice. Some tips for retaining patients include reducing wait times and increasing access to information as well as to quality healthcare.
Retaining patients involves adapting to preferences and trends, particularly for younger individuals. One in five patients overall and one in two millennial patients will use an alternative site for their primary care, according to one recent study. Available options such as telehealth companies and retail clinics are growing, and you will need to offer your patients what they want beyond the basic care they need to retain them in your practice.
Strategies for retaining patients include:
Increasing availability. The study found that immediate access to care is twice as important to patients as whether they are able to see a physician or another provider in your practice, such as a physician’s assistant. Your availability for an appointment is five times more important than the distance the patient will need to travel to get to your practice.
Reducing wait time. Hand in hand with your availability is the need to reduce the wait time for the patient once they arrive at your practice. While they may be able to get an immediate appointment, they may still have to wait to see you or one of your healthcare team after checking in. Another research study found that the median total wait time to see a provider was 24.5 minutes. Recognizing this issue, 62% of the practices participating in this study reported that they were actively trying to reduce the patient wait times.
Focusing on patient-centered care. Patients want a provider who communicates clearly, who is empathetic, and, most importantly, who listens. Taking the time to be sure the patient understands a diagnosis, care instructions, or medications in a friendly and helpful manner is one of the most important tips for retaining patients in your independent practice. Most patients want to know that their provider truly cares about them and their health and well-being. They also want to be treated with the highest quality customer service by all members of their healthcare team.
Offering the convenience of online options. An online patient portal enables your patients to view their own medical information such as visit notes and lab results, schedule appointments, and pay their bills. In addition to helping retain patients, simple and convenient access to their healthcare data can actually increase your patients’ engagement in their own care, resulting in improved outcomes.
Elation’s electronic health record (EHR) enables you to strengthen your relationship with your patients and makes it easier for patients to connect with your practice, a key component in retaining those patients.
Coordinating follow-up care. When you refer a patient to a specialty provider, have a member of your healthcare team coordinate that care for the patient. Taking the initiative of finding a provider that offers the services your patient needs at a location that is convenient for the patient and then sending that information to the provider as well as the patient will increase the image your practice enjoys of a helpful caring organization.
Understanding your patients’ preferences. It’s critical to know your patients and their circumstances beyond their health status. For example, even though telehealth options are increasing, not everyone prefers that method of healthcare delivery. Your patients may not have access to the technology they need or just may not be comfortable with a virtual visit. Make the effort to understand what your patients need and want, to retain them in your practice.