Disclaimer: This blog article was written by an AdvancedMD partner. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of AdvancedMD.
To maintain your practice’s competitive advantage, you’ll need a clear understanding of what patients really want. PatientPop’s 2021 patient survey highlights these four takeaways to help practices drive loyalty, satisfaction, and retention.
4 key takeaways for attracting & retaining patients
When it comes to healthcare, today’s discerning patients have more options than ever. From large health-system physician networks to big-box retailers and employer-sponsored telehealth platforms, increased competition puts pressure on smaller independent practices when it comes to attracting and retaining patients for sustainable practice growth. Like any business, understanding what’s important to your customers is critical to growing your healthcare practice.
PatientPop, a leading developer of practice growth technology, released its third annual patient perspective survey report earlier this summer. Here’s how the latest results can help guide your practice’s patient retention and long-term growth strategies.
1. Meet patients where they spend their time: online.
Patients spend much of their time in a digital world, with the average US adult spending six hours online each day. Healthcare practices that seize the opportunity to meet patients online drive greater practice awareness and make meaningful connections — both of which drive patient acquisition and retention.
Action: Enhance your practice’s web presence.
When looking for a healthcare provider, nearly three-quarters of patients will do their research online. If prospective patients are online, your practice needs to be there with a strong web presence that makes a positive and lasting impression. Doing so requires not only a powerful website design, but a robust online presence that reaches beyond your url.
Your website is often the first place a prospective patient will land when they’re getting serious about choosing a doctor. In fact, PatientPop survey results indicate that 54.8% of patients say a healthcare provider’s website is very or extremely important when they’re choosing a healthcare provider. Your website should load quickly, be easy-to-use, and optimized for mobile devices. In addition, it should feature accurate and updated information related to your specialty and the services you provide.
From there, you need a strategy to ensure your healthcare practice is displayed prominently on search engines. With 88% market share, Google is one of the most powerful tools to help you connect with prospective patients. The search engine giant is now displaying a wide variety of business information that helps online searchers learn about your practice without visiting your website. That’s why it’s imperative to claim and optimize your practice’s Google My Business (GMB) profile. This unique platform allows your practice to rise to the top of Google’s coveted local pack, local finder, knowledge panel, and other search results.
Aside from GMB, there are numerous other online directories worth using to enhance your practice’s web presence. From Facebook and Yelp to WebMD, Vitals, and other local directories, claiming and enhancing these profiles helps your practice connect with more new patients. Nearly 35% of patients indicated that these profiles also play into their decision-making process when it comes to choosing a provider. Be sure to include pertinent details such as your practice address, phone number, hours of operation, top services/procedures, as well as photos or videos of your practice and providers.
2. Make a great first impression.
While word-of-mouth used to be enough to help healthcare practices land more new patients, consumers today are looking online to read what others are saying about your practice and your providers. Having a positive online reputation can help your practice attract new patients in today’s competitive landscape.
Action: Optimize your online reputation.
Before choosing a healthcare practice, patients want to make sure they’re going to get the exceptional care and service they deserve. In fact, about 3 out of 4 patients say reviews affect their decision-making. And when it comes to reviews, Google is once again the top source. The 2021 PatientPop patient perspective survey indicates that 61% of patients are most likely to look at Google’s online reviews above all other sites — with the practice’s average star rating playing a highly influential role. In fact, 69.1% of patients won’t consider a provider with an average star rating of less than 4.0. Furthermore, one in five patients will only consider providers with a minimum of 4.5 stars.
To enhance your star rating and overall online reputation, consider implementing automated patient satisfaction surveys. This will strengthen the patient-provider relationship by signaling to your patients that you’re listening. Even more importantly, it will enhance the frequency and volume of your online patient reviews. PatientPop survey data shows that patients who have been asked for feedback are twice as likely to proactively submit an online review.
3. Modernize the patient experience.
Practices that focus on enhancing the patient experience will be better positioned to meet long-term growth goals. But what do patients want from their healthcare providers? According to the survey data, patients’ top priorities include a provider who is a good listener and practices that keep wait times brief and have a welcoming staff. Also on patients’ wishlist are prompt responses to questions, available appointments, online booking, and flexible hours.
Action: Implement automated tools for patient engagement.
By making it easier for patients to do business with you, you can improve patient satisfaction and retention. Survey responses confirm that most patients prefer a digital experience for five key interactions with practices, including:
- Scheduling an appointment
- Filling out registration and other forms
- Accessing health records
- Asking the provider a question
- Paying their bill
From online scheduling and digital registration/intake to automated appointment reminders and telehealth services, prioritizing patient convenience can drive patient loyalty while supporting your practice’s long-term growth strategy.
4. Regularly communicate with your patients.
Unlike most businesses that relentlessly spam their customers, healthcare providers often do very little to communicate with or stay engaged with patients in between appointments. Enhancing the patient-provider connection is important for both loyalty and retention. Not only do patients appreciate hearing from their healthcare providers, but they also trust the information you provide about maintaining their health. They also want to be able to reach you when they have questions or concerns.
Action: Offer a wide range of communications options.
Some patients prefer the convenience of digital communication channels, such as text messaging and email. Others gravitate toward traditional tools, such as the phone. Offering a wide range of options means you can meet your patients’ preferences, whatever they may be. PatientPop research found that two out of three patients prefer appointment reminders via text message, with 59% also preferring text messages for reminders to book their next appointment. In addition, 26% of patients prefer to use text messages when they have a question for you or your staff. Almost an equal amount of patients prefer to ask questions via email (26%) and over the phone (22%).
This tells us that when it comes to communication, there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach. Practices that accommodate a variety of preferences can maintain the personal touch many patients want along with the digital convenience today’s busy consumers need. To further strengthen that connection, practices can implement email marketing campaigns designed to keep patients engaged in between visits. Targeted messages with valuable condition-specific information, relevant practice updates, health reminders, and more can let your patients know you’re thinking about them all year long.