Attracting new patients is something that every general practitioner seeks. It presents an opportunity to grow your practice and improve upon the provider-patient relationship. With Australia’s population continuing to swell – up 1.6% at the conclusion of 2018, based on the most recent figures available from the Australian Bureau of Statistics – many medical offices are experiencing higher volumes of patient traffic while working to maintain the bonds they’ve formed with their current clients.
This backdrop raises the question: Is acquiring new patients better for overall growth than maintaining them? Not if the effort comes at the exclusion of the individuals you’re currently seeing.
On the surface, obtaining more patients seems like a surefire way to grow your practice. In addition to enhancing name recognition, bringing on new patients provides more opportunity for revenue. However, new customers don’t always yield more profit. As noted in a study conducted by Bain & Company, it’s returning customers who tend to yield more ROI in terms of earnings across organisations in a wide range of sectors – between 25% and 95%.
Over time, return customers tend to seek more products or services from your business than they did initially, the aforementioned study’s researchers point out.
Take the flu shot as an example, a mother bringing in her whole family for the vaccination means an incremental increase in business for the practice outside of their regular on-demand appointments.
Above: Patients expect care as well as convenience
Additionally, because return customers often refer friends who respect their opinions and follow-through, the potential return on investment is higher.
“And they’ll often pay a premium to continue to do business with you rather than switch to a competitor with whom they’re neither familiar nor comfortable,” the authors of the Bain study noted.
That’s certainly the case within the Australian healthcare industry.
According to the Australian Medical Association, close to 80% of patients have a preferred GP and 93% of Australians always go to the same practice.
Additionally, 95% of patients describe themselves as being “satisfied” or “highly satisfied” with their current GP.
And, it certainly makes sense when you look at the HealthEngine platform. With 91% of bookings on HealthEngine being existing patients booking with their preferred provider, it shows that once a patient finds a practice they like, they tend to stick with it.
So, how do you go about retaining a loyal patient base? Here are four suggestions:
1. Leverage technology
Although it may seem like a small thing, patients genuinely appreciate the reminders they receive electronically about upcoming appointments. Frequently, physicals and other exams are booked weeks if not months in advance, so text messages, emails and other forms of digital communication are great ways to inform patients regarding health visits. In fact, 81% of patients agree with the statement that “the utilisation of digital communication technology provides a more customer-centric experience,” according to our 2018 HealthEngine Industry Insights Report.
Above: Creating a strong practitioner-patient relationship is key
2. Help patients become better stewards of their health
The information age enables patients to be more engaged in the ongoing upkeep of their health, yet 88% of them say their GP doesn’t provide any guidance for how to stay in good shape beyond the basic suggestions made during the wellness visit. That’s according to a survey of 2,000 Australians conducted by MedicalDirector. Pointing clients to high-quality online resources enhances trust, which is a foundational element to refining the provider-patient relationship.
3. Reduce patient wait times
Depending on the treatment, patients can wind up sitting in patient waiting rooms for several minutes for wellness visits or several weeks for elective surgical procedures, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Time is a precious commodity, something patients can’t get back once it’s gone. See what you can do to make the most of your patients’ time by optimising their visits. This comes from providing real-time updates via text as to when patients will be seen or identifying trends for patient visits so proper staffing is available during busy hours of the day or week.
HealthEngine’s new Waiting Room feature also helps this by providing patients with a real-time update on the number of patients still waiting to see the doctor (if any) before them. And, your practice can get it for free as part of HealthEngine’s $0 Patient360 Essentials plan.
4. My Care Team
HealthEngine’s My Care Team is one of the most sophisticated retention tools on the market.
Centralising a patient’s healthcare into one seamless environment, it’s just one of the reasons why 91% of bookings on HealthEngine are made by existing patients booking with their preferred provider.
For practices, My Care Team offers an easy way to nurture and sustain your existing patient base by offering continuity-of-care.
The ability to continually book with their preferred provider allows practitioners to build a level of trust with patients that only comes from multiple visits, and that’s exactly what My Care Team promotes.
Above: The My Care Team prompt as seen by patients
HealthEngine can provide you with the tools you need to grow your practice by fostering patient loyalty and delivering a better patient experience.
Contact us to learn more.