In today’s highly competitive markets, your eye care practice cannot afford to lose any patients. But in the drive to attract new patients, many practices forget about what could be one of their most valuable assets – their existing customers.
Existing customers are important for a number of reasons. You have likely built a relationship with them over the years, and you also likely spent a considerable amount of money to attract them in the first place – from advertising to drip and nurture email campaigns and more.
Unfortunately, an eye care practice’s established patient base is never permanent or guaranteed – and in times of flux like these, it could be even more ephemeral than you think. That is why patient retention is so difficult – and complicated.
This blog takes a look at patient retention and spells out some key strategies you can use right now to keep the patients you’ve got even if you are on the lookout for more.
Patient retention vs. patient attrition
Patient attrition is a normal part of any eye care practice’s operations – after all, it is only natural that some patients will move, no longer need care, change providers, or pass away.
But calculating lost income due to patient attrition is a relatively easy process. Simply use your electronic health record system software to find your total patient load at the beginning of the year and then compare that to the number at the end of the year. Then, multiply that figure, if it is a loss, by your average patient annual spend. You could find that number to be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars per year.
High-performing practices know that they cannot take any of their customers for granted. That is why you need to do everything you can to make sure you keep the patients you have, and that means focusing your efforts on activities that ensure a high patient retention rate.
Why do patients switch doctors?
Your patients are exactly like you are – they are always on the lookout for a better product, a better deal, a better price, or better service. Providers, however, tend to underestimate the propensity of patients to switch providers. Here are some common reasons why patients leave one practice for another:
- Better location
- More convenience
- Better level of care
- Shorter wait times
- Better treatment
- Less expensive
- The patient moved
- The provider’s office moved
- The provider stopped accepting their insurance
- Another life event made the change seem like a good idea – getting married, having kids, changing lifestyles, and more
Patient retention strategies: Time-proven tactics to try
If the list above drives just one point home, it should be that patients have plenty of opportunities to leave. That means you need to have a concerted focus on things that will prevent them from looking for a new provider in the first place.
Here are some tips for patient retention:
- Treat every encounter with care: Patients want to be treated well, and they are likely to remember even a slight mistake. You can not afford to mess up patient encounters – ensure that every single touch point is treated with care and as if it is important for your bottom line – because it is!
- Stay on schedule: Your time is important, of course, but multiple your time by the number of people in your waiting room right now. Things happen, last-minute emergencies are given priority, and computers crash – you just have to keep in mind that staying on schedule or close to it is a key factor in keeping patients happy and feeling that they are important.
- Confirm your appointments in advance: Remind your patients a day or two before their appointment is scheduled. This helpful reminder is another touchpoint you can optimize. Appointment confirmations are tedious, but this is where your optometry practice management software will come in handy – a good system will have features that allow you to automatically send reminders.
- Make it easy to make an appointment: Launch an online appointment scheduling feature on your website and promote it in your office and on social media. This should be easy to do through your optometry practice management software.
- Let patients access their health records: Patients are better these days at taking control of their health proactively. You can facilitate this by granting patients access to electronic health records through your practice management software.
- Launch a nurture campaign: Patients may appreciate a quarterly newsletter from their eye care provider, one that includes news about the office, a spotlight on office employees, insight on new technology, and even personal news about family or recent travel. Similarly, an email campaign can keep your office top of mind with customers and let them know about upcoming office hour changes, receive holiday or birthday greetings, and more. No time for this? A marketing agency with a focus on the eye care field can easily craft and deploy a newsletter or nurture an email campaign.
- Survey your patients: Want to ensure your patients are happy receiving their care from you but are not sure what will do the trick? Try simply asking them. A simple post-visit survey sent out by text or email could gauge reactions, ask for feedback, or open the door to a more detailed conversation about what you could do to make your care experience better. Again, your optometry practice management software may be one way to make that kind of a text or email campaign take place.
- Reach out if patients are overdue for a visit: Another thing your practice management software should be able to do easily is to survey your patient base and find those who are overdue for their regular visit, then arrange for text or email reminders to be sent out. Not only is this an easy and affordable way to get patients into your door, but it can be a thoughtful reminder for patients who may have genuinely forgotten it was time to come in and would appreciate a simple message alerting them to that fact.
Patient attrition, as you can see, is an important factor you should not be overlooking. With the right tools and insight on your side
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