As a healthcare practice, improving patient retention should be an utmost priority. High patient retention demonstrates a positive patient experience and a high quality of care. From a business perspective, it's also easier to retain current patients than acquire new ones.
Most physicians acknowledge this truth but still, struggle to keep retention up. In order to keep their patients (and get new ones), healthcare practices need to meet patient demands, and one of the greatest demands is telehealth.
Why Patient Retention Matters
Before diving into improving patient retention, it's important to understand why it is so valuable. As mentioned, a high patient retention rate usually indicates that your practice is doing something right. With a growing number of options for healthcare providers, if your patients are willing to stay at your practice, they're likely happy with the level and quality of care provided. This speaks well of your practice and indicates that things are running smoothly.
On the other hand, if you have a low patient retention rate, it means that many patients are seeking care elsewhere. This typically indicates a problem within your practice. After all, finding a new provider is not convenient, so if patients are going through that effort, they are clearly unsatisfied.
In terms of business, it is in a practice's financial interest to retain patients rather than acquire new ones. While a 2% decrease in patient retention may seem small, it has the same effect as decreasing costs by 10%. With each new patient your practice tries to recruit, you're spending time and resources. In losing even one patient, practices can waste 7x the resources used in attempting to convert them.
Consequently, losing patients not only costs you financially but can indicate a problem within your practice. It's evident that patient retention matters, but how do you improve it? First, you must determine why patients are leaving.
Why Patients Leave and How to Address it with Telehealth
Some patients will inevitably leave your practice, but the issue arises when there is a clear pattern of patients leaving - seemingly without cause. So, why do patients leave?
Well, 35% of patients would consider leaving their current physician for one that offers telehealth or hybrid healthcare services. While it may seem as though one additional service shouldn't make or break a patient's loyalty, telehealth helps providers to address most of a patient's issues with their current provider.
One of the greatest influences on declining patient retention is inconvenience. Patients are ultimately consumers, and in today's day and age, consumers want immediate gratification. The longer patients wait and the less convenient your services are, the less satisfied they will become with your care.
Consider the process that patients have to go through to receive care at your practice:
- How convenient is it for them to get to your office?
- Do you offer remote care?
- How convenient is it to make an appointment and receive care?
- How long do patients have to wait for each appointment?
Each of these questions poses a hurdle for patients, and with too many hurdles, patients will stop coming. If a patient finds that they are inconvenienced each time they seek care, they'll find a more convenient provider.
Fortunately, one of the most significant benefits of telehealth is convenience. As patients can receive care remotely, they can do so from any location and essentially any time. Patients can receive care from the comfort of their homes, saving them from long commutes and tedious wait times.
On average, telehealth visits save patients 106 minutes of their time compared to in-person visits. As a result, patients get the care they need significantly faster, without compromising the quality of care. Through telehealth, patients get the care they need without interrupting their day. After all, providers aren't the only ones who are busy.
Hand-in-hand with inconvenience is administrative headaches. Unfortunately, a significant aspect of receiving care is taken over by administrative Hoola-hoops, such as scheduling appointments, long wait times, and billing complications.
While necessary, these tasks can hinder the patient experience if not conducted efficiently. Even in terms of your front office staff, consider how they are contributing to the patient experience. If they are contributing positively, they're doing more harm than good.
Many providers make the mistake of believing that there is no way to get around the headache of tedious administrative tasks. After all, patients need to fill out forms and schedule appointments to get proper care. While true, telehealth can dramatically optimize these processes and even automate them.
With telehealth, patients can schedule their appointments online, making for a much more seamless experience. Those with chronic conditions can even set automated recurring appointments to facilitate regular care.
Telehealth platforms also store all patient cases and records, ensuring that providers have accurate and up-to-date information without making patients fill out the same form for every appointment. Patients can even pay bills and refill prescriptions online, furthering convenience.
But, not to worry. The automation of these tasks won't replace your front desk personnel. Instead, it will help them stay more organized and work more efficiently. As a result, everyone in the practice can work more efficiently, and patients benefit from more accurate care - and fewer administrative headaches.
Lack of Communication
As a patient, it can sometimes seem impossible to get in touch with your physician. For many patients, they must play phone tag to even schedule an appointment and then spend hours commuting and waiting just to receive a mere 10 minutes with their provider. Such limited communication can be frustrating and often does little to actually address a patient's needs.
Suppose your practice is failing to regularly and effectively communicate with patients. In that case, you will not only fail to build a relationship with patients but also fail to give them proper care. Consequently, patients will go where they feel valued and attended to.
Even if providers recognize that they aren't communicating efficiently with their patients, it can seem impossible to do so more effectively. That is - until they try telehealth. Even though telehealth visits tend to take less time than in-person visits, it doesn't mean that patients and providers communicate less. In fact, it's the opposite.
As telehealth is more convenient for patients, they tend to schedule appointments more regularly. More regular appointments result in a better patient-provider relationship and even better care. Plus, as it's easier for providers to pull up patient records, they can get to the point of the appointment faster, ensuring that patients receive the care and attention they need.
Whether communicating in a video conference or direct messaging with their providers, telehealth makes it easier for patients to communicate with their providers. As a result, they feel more valued in your practice and are more inclined to stay.
Better Care Elsewhere
Perhaps the most significant reason patients choose to leave one practice for another is that they believe they can get better care elsewhere. More often than not, that's because another provider can offer the benefits that we've listed above - likely achieved through telehealth.
Following the COVID-19 pandemic, patients quickly grew acclimated to telehealth and hybrid care, and they recognized its benefits. Consequently, patients are now willing to leave their current providers for a provider that offers telehealth.
As the saying goes, "if you can't beat them, join them." Adopting a telehealth platform is one of the most effective ways to improve patient retention, as well as address the issues that practices worldwide are struggling with. Through telehealth, providers can cater to patient preferences and needs while drastically improving care.
If you're struggling to improve patient retention or simply want to future-proof your practice, adopting telehealth is the solution. In doing so, your practice can meet the needs of not only the current generation of patients, but generations to come.
If you're interested in learning more about Medicai, our telehealth platform, book a demo or contact one of our team members.