Keeping and Growing a Patient Base

April 3, 2016

In order to improve customer satisfaction to attract and retain patients, practices can take these three basic steps.

In today’s world, patients have many options for picking a general practitioner, no longer restricted by proximity. If a doctor has an excellent reputation, a high score on zocdoc.com, or come recommended by a neighbor, people will travel.

For that reason, it’s important for physician practices to pay attention to customer satisfaction and how it can positively or negatively impact the health of their practice. After all, a medical practice shares many goals with any other business -profitability, consistency, and customer service.

Here are some steps you can take to get new patients and keep them happy:

• Ask questions

Asking questions about how a patient is doing can be scary, but it can make a huge impact on their satisfaction. One way is to initiate patient satisfaction surveys. Don’t wait until the patient has left the office, have patient satisfaction surveys at check-in, so patients can fill them out during their visit. This will give a good picture of the overall visit from beginning to end. Patients can finalize their survey at check-out, so they can provide feedback while the visit is still fresh in their mind.

By having surveys, patients are also more likely to point out potential issues or bottlenecks. Do you know the average wait time in your waiting room? You’ll be surprised at the things patients notice and what matters to them. It also gives you an opportunity to reach out to the patient and thank them for their feedback or address their concerns. Either way, they will know you’re listening.

Keep in mind that every one of your patients has an opinion about your office. Of course it’s great to think about them bragging about how great you are, but if they have any issues, it’s better to be able to hear their feedback directly than to wait for them to complain to other patients, neighbors, friends, and relatives, which will damage your reputation and chances of attracting new patients.

• Make your employees proud

Happy employees lead to great customer service. Positive reviews of staff and physicians should be shared! Create a wall in the break room where staff can see the positive comments from patients - it’s a small thing that goes a long way to increase morale.

Also, employees (particularly your front-office staff) can spend a lot of time listening to complaints and general dissatisfaction issues, so be sure to provide them with tools and support to reinforce their ability to manage any complaints thoughtfully. Even the most caring doctors will lose patients if the front-office staff is grumpy and dismissive.

• Make things easy for your patients

Having online appointment scheduling, payment options, refill requests and even a store where patients can purchase those insoles that they bought a year ago will create an environment of convenience for them. Ideally, your practice should have a patient portal that enables easy access to these items.

Happy patients are loyal patients and patient turnover can be costly to practices. Keeping your current patients happy and satisfied and coming back costs way less than spending time and money trying to get new patients. Strengthening your patient services through technology is a relatively easy way to keep patients on board.

• Pay attention to potential referral sources

Every physician practice experiences natural attrition - patients move away and pass on. That’s why you need to put some attention into getting new patients. It’s important for managers and physicians to reach out to potential referral sources. If a new physician refers a patient to your practice, send them a handwritten note thanking them for the referral. And, of course, if a patient refers a friend or family member to you, your office staff should add a small note to your PMS or EHR system to help you remember to thank the patient for the referral.

Identify potential referral sources within your affiliated hospitals and in your local area, too. Giving nurses and office staff your practice information with a pamphlet about your services as well as your social media presence can go a long way to attracting new patients.

From referral sources to the patients themselves, potential marketers for your practice are all around you. Make sure you give each of them the attention and gratitude they deserve.

 

Michelle Tohill is Director of Revenue Cycle Management of Bonafide Management Systems and oversees all billing programs and processes. Her specialty is conducting AR audits to expose inefficient billing practices that fail to fully reimburse physicians for their work. She conducts AR audits and provides Bonafide customers with training and consulting on how to improve every aspect of billing and practice management to maximize revenue.