Friday, August 16, 2013

How Can I Increase the Patient Loyalty in My Practice?

Patient LoyaltyToday’s patients may fill out your satisfaction survey with high marks for you and your practice, but they will leave you for another provider for multiple reasons not clearly revealed in their survey responses. This post shows smart practice leaders how to anticipate the factors that bolster patient loyalty and encourages them to develop a “branding” philosophy that cultivates and nourishes that allegiance.

For patients, a great gap exists between satisfaction with your practice and loyalty to it. Physicians who consistently see good satisfaction ratings on patient surveys often relax—unwisely—thinking their patient base is unshakable. Then something shakes things up: A new clinic with “open access” scheduling provides same-day appointments that easily fit around patients’ busy schedules; a bigname clinic opens up a branch inside the market area; or perhaps a major employer switches health plans not serviced by the “comfortable” physicians. Suddenly patient numbers begin to drop, and “satisfied” patients begin to drift toward the competition.

According to experts such as Press Gainey Associates of South Bend, Indiana, patient satisfaction indicates that the care experience is “good enough for me.” But to test loyalty, you must ask patients if they’re willing and likely to recommend your practice to friends and family. Press Gainey asked patients both if they were satisfied and whether they would recommend the practice, and by combining the responses discovered the following top factors that affect patient loyalty (ranked from highest to lowest priority):
  • Confidence in the care provider;
  • Concern care provider showed for patient’s questions or worries;
  • Overall care received during visit;
  • Care provider’s efforts to include patient in decisions about treatment;
  • Instructions given about follow-up care;
  • Information given about medications;
  • Overall cheerfulness of practice;
  • Amount of time care provider spent with patient;
  • Concern nurse/assistant showed for patient’s questions or worries;
  • Helpfulness on the telephone;
  • Sensitivity to patient’s needs;
  • Convenience of office hours;
  • Comfort and pleasantness of exam room;
  • Promptness in returning phone calls;
  • Waiting time in exam room before being seen by care provider; and
  • Length of wait before going to an exam room.
What does this tell providers about fostering loyalty? Look at the top five factors: Patients become loyal to doctors who demonstrate sensitivity to their needs. A lower co-pay, more convenient hours, and better parking may lure patients away, but knowing that you are loyal to them as people you care about will bring them back - or prevent them from wandering off in the first place! Finally, don’t shy away from the concept of “branding,” which is much more than hiring an ad firm to develop a snazzy logo and slogan for your practice. It’s about cultivating a reputation among your patients and the community at large as THE place to go for your specialty. Purposefully showing patients you care about them and that you are concerned about their needs, then letting members of your potential market know that’s what they’ll find when they come to you for treatment will develop your practice into a household name: Everyone will know where to go when they need your particular specialty.

photo credit: francisco_osorio via photopin cc

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