Why Patients Leave Your Practice and How to Encourage Them to Stay
When it comes to growing your practice, you have a TON of marketing strategies to lean on – building a compelling website, showing up consistently on social media, staying involved in your local community, providing patient workshops, …. The list goes on!
But there’s one superstar strategy that can easily be overlooked. And it’s one that costs you nothing but saves you tons of time.
What’s this magical tactic, you ask? Well, my friend, it’s all about keeping the patients you already have and figuring out why patients leave your practice.
It’s a well known fact that keeping your existing patients is far easier and less expensive than constantly having to attract new ones. So, how can you create raving fans who are loyal to your practice and would never consider leaving? Keep reading to find out!
1. Shorten Your Wait Time
You’re busy. I’m busy. Your patients are busy.
We’re all busier than ever, and time never seems to be in abundance. So, imagine the frustration a patient feels when they take time off work to come to your office, only to spend more time in the waiting room than they do seeing you. This is the #1 reason patients will find a new practitioner!
So what can you do?
Well, the obvious answer is to shorten your wait time. But how do you do that? The first step is to find out what’s causing the problem in the first place. So, for an entire week, measure everything:
- Keep track of how long a patient is in your office, from the moment they walk in your door to when they leave.
- Note how long their actual wait time was before seeing you.
- Document their check-in and check-out process. This includes how long it took to find their name in the system, locate their file, complete their paperwork, sign in, etc… Whatever the steps you have them take when arriving and checking out.
- Record everything in-between – how long before a room was available, the average time a patient was seen, and so on. Hint hint: if your office has an intern or a volunteer, this is a perfect project for them.
Once the week is over, spend time reflecting on the data you’ve collected. Look for which parts of the patient experience are taking longer than they should. Notice if certain times of the day were slower than others. This can be an eye-opening exercise that will help you uncover a potential reason why patients leave and get to the true root cause of your long wait times.
A caveat: Sometimes, you simply can’t help a long wait time. When this happens, make sure you or your office staff keep your patients in the loop. Let them know that you are working as quickly as you can and will be with them shortly. Most often, patients will understand once they have enough context. Offer them some water or hot tea, and continue to keep them updated as much as you can.
2. Take Time to Listen to Your Patients & Speak How They Speak
One of the most important things you can do as a practitioner is listening – really listening – to your patients. This builds trust and shows that you respect what they have to say. It also allows you to provide the most effective treatment because you’ve taken time to gather all the relevant details from that patient.
Your patient is coming to you because of a health concern that has yet to be resolved. They want help, and chances are, you may not be the first practitioner they’ve seen for their condition or concern. The most important thing to your patient is to feel listened to and cared for – not dismissed, ignored, or rushed.
And when you’re running behind, it’s tempting to want to hurry things along but after having to wait a bit longer than usual to meet with you, your patient will appreciate the little bit of extra care you put forth to listen attentively.
But there’s one more piece to the puzzle. When speaking with them, use language they’re familiar with. Avoid the temptation to toss around medical terms they may not be familiar with – this might be just the reason why patients leave. Be that exceptional practitioner who takes the time to speak to patients in a way that upholds their dignity and ensures they understand.
3. Make Sure Your Systems Are Efficient
You want to make it as easy as possible for your patient to come in and be seen by you. Part of that is setting up systems in your practice that will keep things super simple; complicating things could be a reason why patients leave – they’re too overwhelmed! You should implement systems that can help your patients:
- effortlessly schedule a time to come in and see you
- quickly check-in for their appointment
- complete their new patient paperwork easily and conveniently as possible
Think of all the different touchpoints your patients have with your clinic. And then, ask yourself, “How can I streamline this so that it’s even easier for them to work with us?”
What to Do if Your Patient Decides to Move On
Sometimes, despite our best efforts, a patient still chooses to go elsewhere. I know how disappointing this can be. It can leave you feeling discouraged and wondering what you may have done wrong. It can be hard to look into the reasons why patients leave but if you ever find yourself in this situation, remember…
- Breathe. This happens to the best of us. We’re not meant to serve everyone, but for those who do come to see us, we should give them the best care possible. This also means ending the relationship with compassion if a patient does decide to go elsewhere.
- Ask for regular feedback. Make it a point to regularly ask your patients and staff what’s working well during the entire process and where you could make some adjustments.
- Continuously improve your patient experience. All that feedback you get from your patients and staff is absolute gold. So, put it to good use! This shows your patients that you’re serious about improving and that you really do listen to their feedback Plus, this will encourage them to share more openly with you the next time they’re asked.
Remember, all you can do is your best. And as you strive to provide the best care possible, more and more patients will stick with you and ultimately turn into raving fans.
Create Loyal Patients for Your Practice
Building patient loyalty doesn’t happen overnight. It takes small actions done every day over time. But the reality is, patients move on. Some of them may tell you why while others just flat out disappear.
But don’t let that deter you. Keep building a patient-centered practice and developing new relationships. If patients are leaving your practice and you aren’t sure why, let’s talk. Sometimes it takes an outside pair of eyes and ears to spot what’s holding you back and get you unstuck.
As a practitioner myself and a business coach for holistic healthcare practitioners, I’ve seen it all. I’d love to help you, too. Let’s get you on the road to building patient loyalty and improve your practice so you have less turnover and more retention.