How technology can enhance customer communication and engagement
CallMiner's VP of Int'l, Frank Sherlock, talks about the value of customer communications ahead of his session at Credit Connect’s Online Collections ...
The Team at CallMiner
January 19, 2023
Retaining patients is a major part of running a successful company in the healthcare industry. Delivering the best service you can helps tremendously, but patients care about many other factors these days, including insurance premiums and coverage as well as proximity/location, among many other things. Keeping your patients over the long term stems from ensuring patient satisfaction, building trust and offering the kind of support people desire most when they are at their most vulnerable.
Patients are taking a more active approach and guiding their own healthcare journeys, and this often translates to them shopping around for better healthcare providers when they have a poor patient experience. Patients are now responding to the types of optimizations that have been prevalent in the retail industry for years. They want added value and lower friction for key services, such as medical call center interactions. As patients push towards becoming more engaged in such ways, the importance of proper patient retention strategies being put in place at healthcare providers' places of business rises.
Without patient retention being made a serious priority at your healthcare institution, you can expect to see higher and higher churn rates, yielding lower and lower revenue. Patients have higher expectations today as well as more choices regarding how and where they seek care, where they get their prescriptions filled, and other decisions. Retaining patients means lessening the pressure to aggressively pursue new ones. This often translates to easier growth and much more consistent profits.
Retained patients also act as brand ambassadors, bringing new patients to your institution and growing your reach without the marketing costs you would otherwise need to handle to achieve the same. New patient acquisition can cost practices as much as five or even eight times more than the costs associated with keeping their existing clientele. Improving your practice's patient retention rate by as little as five percent can actually increase average patient lifetime value to your organization by anywhere from 25 to 100 percent.
Lowering patient cancellations and increasing plan of care completion rates can have an immediate positive effect on your organization's financial health as well, boosting cash flow at key moments. Plus, your practice's reputation is impacted substantially by the number of patients you retain. After all, a busy healthcare provider is often interpreted as a high quality provider.
1. Monitor and analyze call center interactions. “One of the most effective ways to track the patient experience in healthcare is to monitor and analyze conversations with agents in healthcare contact centers. In these interactions, patients are more likely to share their honest opinion about their experiences and what they need and expect from their healthcare providers. Mining these conversations for insight into the patient experience in hospitals requires advanced technology for analyzing audio and text-based communications. That’s where conversation intelligence solutions from CallMiner can provide extraordinary value.” - Improving the patient experience in hospitals, CallMiner; Twitter: @CallMiner
2. Keeping patients happy involves tailoring care to their needs. "It costs less to retain patients than get new patients, returning patients drive greater ROI, happy patients can be your best advocates and that's only a few reasons to invest in keeping people coming back for your care. [...] Patients don't like to be treated with a one-size-fits-all approach to medicine, so take the time to explain why you believe your chosen strategy meets their unique needs." - 5 Ways Healthcare Practices Can Increase Patient Retention and Win Patients Back, PatientPop; Twitter: @PatientPop
3. Inspire trust and your patients will return. "A survey conducted by a marketing firm stated that nearly 83 percent of patients would recommend a practice to others if they trust the brand, while 82 percent will stick to a practice if they trust it. This means, when you build and grow trust, your patients will gladly promote your brand, without being asked to." - Patient Retention Strategies, 8 Proven Patient Retention Strategies That Work, Practice Builders; Twitter: @PracticeBuildrs
4. Aim for a down-to-earth friendship with your patients. "You want your patients to see you as a friend and if you are asking them to trust you with their health and well-being, be sure to cover everything with them including: Length of treatment (how many appointments will be needed and how long each will last) Be warm and friendly, and take the time to have a discussion." - Tyson Downs, Patient Retention: 13 Strategies to Improve Your Practice Retention Rate, Titan Web Agency; Twitter: @TitanWebAgency
5. Leveraging the right technology is key. "Building digital engagement strategies that drive consumer activation requires health systems to invest in data integration and have data-driven insights on multiple factors including SDoH, medical history, financial transactions, etc. But, according to the recent Morning Consult survey study of healthcare leaders, nearly 7 in 10 health systems are not using technology to identify at-risk patients." - Rachel Tuesday, How to Find, Guide and Keep Patients for Life, Becker’s Hospital Review; Twitter: @beckershr
6. Be more flexible with your schedule. "Try being open during times that no one else in town is. It never hurts to ask your patients what they would like your practice to change or improve. [...] Say someone on your staff gets a flat tire and will be an hour late in coming in, that impacts your schedule for the entire day. If possible, call your first appointments of the day and see if they are flexible and would like to come in later or reschedule for a different time." - 34 Ways To Increase Your Patient Retention, Weave; Twitter: @getweave
7. Reminders make a world of difference for your patients. "According to Accenture, without an effective reminder system, your practice and your patients are losing out: 57 of patients expect medical care providers to send automated text or email reminders urging them to schedule appointments. [...] In fact, the majority of patients even your most organized patients expect your office to remind them. [...] Be sure to check in with patients to confirm the accuracy of the contact information you have on file." - 3 Strategies to Ensure Patients Keep Their Appointments, GoReminders; Twitter: @GoReminders
8. Systematize your scheduling system. "In my practice, I would have special times set aside for our new patient appointments and the report of findings would be outside of the adjusting hours (these would all be stacked around the adjusting hours). For example, if my hours for adjusting were 3-6 p.m., my special appointment times would be 1:30, 2:15 and 5:50 p.m. The team would know to book the 5:50 or the 2:15 first so that there wouldn't be any blocks of empty time in my schedule." - Miles Bodzin, How to calculate cost per patient visit, retention principles and more, Chiropractic Economics; Twitter: @ChiroEcoMag
9. GIve remote consultations a go for the right patients. "Offering the option for virtual care visits to patients, through the use of telehealth technology, makes it a more convenient option for patients to receive care on demand or for follow up appointments. Telehealth platforms provide immediate access to specialty care for rural populations so patients can connect with a remote specialist for a quick video consult. [...] Patient retention strategies will naturally vary from practice to practice, but telemedicine is a flexible system that can help improve most of the major patient points of contact that influence their overall experience with your practice." - How to Keep Your Patients Coming Back: A Guide to Patient Retention, AMD Global Telemedicine; Twitter: @AMDTelemedicine
10. Work with the tactics you already employ. "The most obvious strategy to increase patients in your physical therapy clinic is to pinpoint what you're already doing well and see if you can push the boundaries of those methods." - 6 Strategies to Increase Patients in Your PT Clinic, MWTherapy; Twitter: @mwtherapy
11. Adjusting tactics with data-backed action works well. "The first step in dealing with churn is determining just how big a problem it is. By analyzing relevant data points from past patient visits to household makeup to family income you can identify your active patients who are at risk and your active patients with no risk. [...] By analyzing the results of your marketing campaign and making adjustments as you learn, you can develop a program that you know will work to attract new patients and keep them coming back for years." - Understand Your Patient Retention with Analytics, Buxton; Twitter: @Buxtonco
12. Engagement feeds into patients' willingness to return to your practice. "When patients trust and understand the recommended guidelines given to them, they are more likely to see the efforts and results as worth it. For example, a study revealed that when patients received educational materials, 67 of them were compliant with their treatment. [...] Patients are more motivated to participate in a treatment they helped decide on. Planning and communication need to not only come from their care team but the patients own input and collaboration." - 5 Essential Patient Engagement Strategies to Drive Better Outcomes, Wellbox; Twitter: @Wellbox_care
13. Conduct small surveys to learn what it is your patients need most from your practice. "Every business needs to know how its doing, and asking patients is the best way to find out. Whether you ask them on their way out as they schedule their next appointment, send them an email survey or text message, or call them a day or two after their appointments, the best thing you can do is ask your patients how things went, what they thought of their patient experience, and if there's anything your team could improve for their next visit. [...] Most people like to be heard, and while not everyone may be willing to complete a survey, you wont know unless you ask. If you have a patient referral program, let patients know about this when you ask them how their appointments were." - Christine Alfano, 4 strategies for attracting new dental patients and keeping the patients youve got, Dentistry IQ; Twitter: @DentistryIQ
14. Avoid simply telling patients what to do instead of engaging with them on a deeper level. “One of the most important changes to patient care over the last 20 years or so has been the move away from the all-knowing physician dictating all care, with patients passively nodding assent." - Lori O’Brien, 6 essential strategies to improve patient engagement, Becker’s Hospital Review; Twitter: @beckershr
15. Even for clinical trials, patient comfort and clarity are key to keep them coming back. "How do patients who have withdrawn from a study compare to those who have completed one? Based on a survey asking study participants about their experiences: 35% of patients who dropped out of a study early thought it was difficult to understand the Informed Consent Form compared to just 16% who completed the trial. [...] More than double the percentage of patients who dropped out of a study reported that it didn't meet their expectations compared to those who completed it. More than half of patients who completed a study said it exceeded their expectations. [...] 38% of patients who dropped out of a study early thought the site visits were stressful compared to 16% who completed the trial." - Retention in Clinical Trials: Keeping Patients on Protocols, Advarra; Twitter: @advarra
16. Choose PRM software carefully for best results. "The right PRM software can help practice owners improve their retention rate by decreasing patient churn and increasing their percentage of loyal customers. [...] Here's what else the data says about the value of retained customers (highlights from an excellent infographic found on this blog): It can be up to five times more cost-effective to retain an existing customer than to acquire a new one; yet, only 18 of companies put their primary marketing focus on customer retention." - Ann Wendel, The Physical Therapists Guide to Patient Retention WebPT, WebPT; Twitter: @WebPT
17. Leverage conversation analytics to gain insights into patients’ needs, wants, and opinions. “To improve patient experiences, healthcare organizations need insight into patients’ needs, desires, opinions, and feelings about their interactions throughout their care journey. Medical call centers are the best source for this information, as they handle much of the communication with patients. Yet traditional methods for gleaning information such as surveys or manual call monitoring are often limited in scope and skewed by polarized responses. That’s where conversation intelligence from CallMiner can help – by capturing and analyzing 100% of interactions with patients.” - Improve the patient experience in healthcare with CallMiner, CallMiner; Twitter: @CallMiner
18. Offer bonuses for retention rate improvements. "One way to incentivize care is by providing bonuses or other financial incentives to providers who can show improvement in patient retention rates." - Charlotte Grant, How Modern-Day Techniques to Improve Patient Retention, SymbeoHealth
19. Clarify payment details and reasoning behind bills for better results. "It would be best if you made it convenient for your patients to not only pay, but to understand their financial obligation to the office with a professional care plan with your recommendations included." - Miles Bodzin, The 4 Fs of a patient retention strategy, Chiropractic Economics; Twitter: @ChiroEcoMag
20. Get to know your patients to keep them coming back. "While clinical basics of personalization involve understanding the patient's particular issue, you want to go above and beyond to demonstrate that the patient is important to you. One technique is to include personal notes along with treatment notes so that you can ask about children, offer them their favorite drink when they arrive, wish them a happy birthday or ask about a vacation they recently went on. Remembering important people and events can really make your patient feel special and that will keep them coming back." - Daniel Ruscigno, Patient Retention Techniques, Accupuncture Today; Twitter: @accupuncture2day
21. Embrace digital platforms to connect with patients. "From SMS marketing for healthcare to social media to telemedicine, embracing a digital presence will help attract and retain many patients. Start with social media and have fun. This will help support that personable feel of your practice and your patients will feel more and more loyal to you because they feel like they know you." - Drew Wilkinson,5 Patient Retention Strategies That Work for Healthcare Practices, SimpleTexting; Twitter: @SimpleTexting
22. Try email to keep in touch with patients. "Using email to stay in touch with your patients makes it easier for them to manage appointments, refill prescriptions, and do other routine tasks. With email, they can talk to you on their schedule, and you don’t have to spend time away from other patients to answer phone calls and have long, unexpected conversations. Make sure you use a secure platform to stay HIPAA compliant." - 5 Tips for Creating an Effective Patient Retention Strategy, Demandforce; Twitter: @demandforce
23. Provide patients with a web portal for all of their healthcare needs. "Many practices are having success using patient portals, which are online hubs where customers can go to access medical information, pay bills, and schedule appointments. Online portals make it easy for patients to provide self-service and communicate with medical staff members between visits (e.g., reminding patients about appointments)." - 3 Timeless Patient Retention Strategies to Keep Them Coming Back, CollaborateMD; Twitter: @CollaborateMD
24. Follow up on missed appointments. "Follow up patients who missed their appointment and book them in to maintain their care plan as soon as possible." - Ben Lynch, Patient Retention Strategies: Keep Your Books Full, Clinic Mastery; Twitter: @ClinicMastery
25. Data-driven systems build better patient retention. "I'll add that continuous improvement can be assisted and, to some extent, automated thanks to artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML). As you can see, there's a strong connection between patient retention and data-driven automated systems." - Alex Membrillo, 3 Strategies to Improve Patient Retention, Cardinal Digital Marketing; Twitter: @CardinalDM