Eight Ways to Retain Old Patients and Attract New Ones

January 24, 2015

Just a few changes in your operations can create a whole new atmosphere for your patients and encourage them to return to your practice.

I've recently read an article about how to find the right physician for your personal use. I found the perspective interesting, but would like to swap it around a bit. I know what I look for when choosing a physician, but do you know what I look for? What if changing a few small things in your practice could attract more patients, and have those patients return when the need arose? Here are some points to consider:

1.The person answering your phone represents you, and gives a potential patient his first impression of your practice. Are you happy with patient comments about that person? Has that person had conflicts with other staff members? It's so important that the voice answering the phone is professional, caring, and sympathetic. How this person treats your patients or potential patients is key in patient retention.

2.The next impression your practice will make on patients is how they are treated when they walk into the clinic. Do staff members acknowledge your patients? Are they friendly? Do they know how to explain the process of being seen (collecting copays, explaining patient paperwork, etc.) This person can cause a patient to turn away regardless of how great a physician you are.

3.  Are HIPAA guidelines being met appropriately? I was sitting in a triage area waiting for the nurse to take my blood pressure, heart rate, and temperature. The back-office staff were speaking very loudly about my appointment, and using my first and last name repeatedly. I stood up, walked over, and explained that speaking loudly and discussing my personal information publically was unprofessional and also a HIPAA violation.

4.Teach your staff to speak quietly and carefully.

5.Is the waiting room and restroom clean? I know this seems like a silly question, but how these areas are kept is a true reflection on how the rest of the office is managed and kept. As a patient, this is very important to me. Besides, who wants to use a messy bathroom?

6.Does your support staff listen to your patients? I understand there is a limited amount of time to see patients, but reading over the chart and coming up with a conclusion prior to speaking with the patient is not the best way to help the patient feel heard.

7. Is your billing process solid and intact? When patients complain about the billing company, their staff, or their process, listen up! This is your opportunity to fix those hidden issues that you would not know otherwise. If it's one patient and one issue, it's probably an isolated incident. If you hear a complaint more than once, go after it.

8. What does your online presence show? Do you have Yelp reviews? Are they positive or another opportunity to modify practice behaviors? The best thing you can say at the end of a visit is "If you had a pleasant experience with us, please tell your family, friends, and coworkers. You can also leave a review on websites like Yelp and ZocDoc." I know that if I am going to see a new physician, I Google them first. If one or two negative comments come up, it's understandable. If there is a clear history of negativity and a bad reputation has been created, I will not see that physician.

There are so many little things that you can do that cost you nothing more than a few minutes of your time, that make all of the difference in the world. Think about your practice and little tweaks you can make, that will make all the difference when it comes to your reputation.