Whether you’re an established practice with over 2,000 patients on your books, or a newly opened clinic starting out, one key issue is constant – how do you keep your patients coming back?
Patient loyalty is key to running a flourishing medical business. Yet the environment in which practices operate has rapidly changed, particularly with the advance of the ‘experience driven economy’.
With access to more information and more choice than ever before, healthcare is fast becoming more like a retail environment, with patients the customers.
Once you adopt a customer mindset, you can start to benchmark your customer service against not only other practices, but other successful brands too – something your patients are already doing.
Now, more than ever, the experience you offer patients is crucial to building a relationship that drives loyalty.
As Australia’s most respected authority on patient-centred growth strategies, Shelley Thomson, states, “in today’s world, delivering an excellent patient experience is no longer a choice. It is a necessity.”
With that in mind, here are 3 key areas you can focus on to create a pre-, in- and post-practice experience that keeps your patients continually coming back.
It all begins with the booking experience you offer your patients. Take a moment to consider the process they typically go through when trying to book at your practice:
- Waiting on hold for long periods when the front desk is busy?
- Continuously bouncing timeslot suggestions back and forth until their diary aligns?
- Asking you to explain which other practitioners are available if their regular one is on leave?
We book so many elements of our lifestyle online that it has now become second nature – from movie tickets, holiday rentals and plane trips, to a ride home or takeaway food delivery. Efficient, on-demand service is the new norm.
When they or a family member falls ill, your patients want to be able to view their doctor’s availability and secure an appointment in the moment; rather than having to delay until the next day or spend time waiting on hold.
Put simply, online booking has become a patient expectation, not a luxury, and is now an essential tool in inspiring patient loyalty.
Incorporating an online booking system into your website is a cost-effective way to not only make your practice appear modern and professional, but allow your patients to easily view availability by practitioner and book the most suitable to their needs.
Plus if you list with HealthEngine, your patients can add your practice to their My Care Team, putting you front and centre every time they open the app to book an appointment. This is a great way to encourage continuity of care too. Make it easy for your patients to come back to your practice!
Once you have online booking set up, it’s easy to complete the loyalty loop with customisable appointment reminders via SMS, email or app – helping to reduce no-shows and improve efficiency.
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Patient care begins the moment they enter your front door. Your waiting room is your shopfront.
No one wants to get sick. For a patient, taking time out of their day to attend a medical appointment is usually a disruption, either to their work, family time or study routine. Finding ways to alleviate the inconvenient aspects of their visit will go a long way towards reducing this friction and improving their satisfaction. Here are our top tips:
Everywhere from car service departments to your local pizza shop offer free Wi-Fi in customer waiting areas. This is a low cost, high value perceived item that will appeal to more than half of your customer base.
Like it or not, people are addicted to their modern technology, so it’s a good idea to facilitate their use of it whilst waiting for their practitioner. Not only will this take their mind off the wait, but keeping up with work emails or browsing on YouTube may help them de-stress whilst feeling unwell.
Upset children can make a waiting room experience unpleasant for parents, staff and other patients. Providing a dedicated child-sized table and chairs, books, toys or drawing equipment will help keep the little ones happy. And in turn, all of your patients will appreciate it.
No one wants to sit on stock standard, cramped, metal-armed waiting room chairs; especially when they are not feeling the best. Invest in comfy chairs or sofas, and remove any torn or damaged ones.
Install a coffee machine. Offer free fruit. Have a chilled water cooler. Patients remember the little things, and if your waiting room feels welcoming, they’ll be happy to come back.
3) Clock management
Time is an equally valuable resource to you, your staff and your patients. An efficient patient visit is one that inspires a return visit and fosters long-term patient loyalty.
Time management can be tricky to manage, as patients require undefined levels of interaction during their consultation. So how can you best manage your practice to ensure that your patients are not frustrated by wait times and your practitioners are not stressed by running behind?
Here are a few tried and tested tricks to decrease wait times:
Reception staff training
Making use of simple phone scripts can help the front desk determine the patient’s general needs, enabling them to book the appropriate consult length. For example, “Do you mind if I ask the general nature of your issue, so that I may book you the appropriate amount of time with your doctor?” With the right wording and tone, your receptionist will come across as caring and thorough.
Show practitioners their wait times
Most PMS will allow you to show your practitioners their average wait time. This can help you to focus on assisting those who routinely run late. Establish a signal you can give if they are running excessively late. For example, buzzing the consult room and hanging up can notify them of a need to speed up.
Nurses can be highly valuable in improving efficiency of patient care and the resulting timeliness. They can also give attention to patients whose doctor is running late by giving them a quick blood pressure check or other ‘value add’ procedure. Nurses play a great role as a second stage waiting room, keeping patients happy and feeling like they are progressing in their visit.
Focusing on providing a convenient, comfortable and caring environment for your patients will generate loyal customers likely to recommend your practice to their friends and family.