Hack Patient Retention with These Four Tips

By: Molly Maloof, MD One of the most important things for a successful medical practice is patient retention. These four tips can make current patients long-term ones.

Is your practice plagued with no shows, cancellations, and a schedule filled with blanks? Are your waiting rooms only half filled? Well, let me ask you this question: Do you have the contact information for all of your patients in a place that is easily accessible? I'm guessing it's somewhere in your medical record going unused. Let me teach you how to hack one of the most important things to a successful practice: patient retention.

I promise if you follow these instructions, you will be well on your way to marketing automation and this will keep your patients in your practice for the long term.

Okay, so let's get started.

1. Make a list of the four most important data points you need for every  patient:

Your patient's name: If you don't have a list of every single  patient that has ever walked into your practice, you're losing patients. Every  single piece of communication needs to be personalized to them. Period. Look for  a marketing solution that can do this automatically.

Your patient's cell phone number: Patient's don't actually want to be called. Most of them would prefer to get a text message than a phone call from their doctor.

Your patient's e-mail address: Did you know patients check their e-mails on their phones an average of 34 times every day?

Your patient's birthday: Who doesn't love getting a reminder they are getting older? Just kidding. But, seriously, getting a happy birthday shout out from you is really sweet and says how much you care.

It's astonishing the number of doctors who do not have this information handy, and it doesn't surprise me that their retention rates are so low. Task one of your staff to see if your EHR provides the ability to easily export this data. If it doesn't, you can make an Excel spreadsheet, but it might be better to change your EHR.

2. Automate your patient appointment reminders via e-mail and text.

Now that you have your patient list, it is time to consider a solution that can automate your communications. This solution should allow you to quickly upload your patient data so you can send automatic reminder e-mails or texts and follow up requests to review your practice. Most patients don't miss appointments because they don't want to see you; they miss them because their lives are busy and they forget. Reminders can cut no shows in half.

3. Schedule a patient's next visit before they leave the office.

Take a tip from the dentists who are great at this: At every preventive visit, make a habit of scheduling the patient's next annual visit before they leave the office. You save the time and hassle of follow-up calls for recalls, keep your schedule filled, and with automated reminders, you can also make sure the patients show up.

4. Send out a monthly newsletter with health education and practice updates.

If you don't have a way to securely communicate via email to your entire patient panel, you are missing out on one of the easiest ways to reactivate patients: the monthly newsletter. In this newsletter, you can explain all of the interactions a patient should be having with your practice including all services and touch points. This newsletter can be your conduit for teaching patients how to engage with your practice online through social media, making appointment requests, and receiving text and e-mail reminders.

About the AuthorMolly Maloof, MD, is passionate about using technology to improve the lives of patients and healthcare providers. She graduated from the University of Illinois College of Medicine and was a pediatric resident in the Kaiser Permanente Oakland/Berkeley MPH program before making a career shift into digital health. She advises and directs early stage health technology startups with her carefully honed skills in communication, strategy, research, and product development. She is a licensed California physician and runs a boutique medical practice in San Francisco specializing in health optimization.