The Role of Digital in Patient Retention

Oct 22, 2015 | 3  min
author Pyxl Development

Maintaining a steady patient retention rate can be difficult, due to the sheer number of practitioners and specialists that patients have to choose from. Increasing patient retention rate can be even harder, especially if your practice or organization either isn’t embracing the latest technology or doesn’t have a digital marketing plan in place (or both). In today’s digital age, patients expect to be able to find what they’re looking for online, and want to be able to interact with their healthcare providers’ offices digitally.

If you think about patient retention in terms of the inbound marketing methodology (attract, convert, close, delight), you should be focusing on the “delight” stage, where you’ll ideally turn your customers (patients) into repeat patients and evangelists for your practice or organization. So, how should you do this? We’re glad you asked.

How are you interacting with your patients?

First, think about how you interact with current patients. Do you still send snail mail postcard appointment reminders? Does your front office staff spend hours calling patients, leaving voicemails and asking them to call back to confirm? Patients crave digital. In fact, according to a recent survey, 90% of patients prefer doctors who offer email communication. Similarly, a study done on dental patients found that 58% prefer either text message or email appointment reminders as opposed to snail mail or phone calls, and we think it’s safe to assume that many medical patients have similar thoughts.

When are you interacting with your patients?

Next, think about when exactly you’re interacting with your patients. Is their appointment reminder the only time you contact them in between seeing them face-to-face at their appointments? Let’s say your patient’s best friend, Katie, tells your patient, Sarah, about her doctor who sends her a birthday email each year, a monthly newsletter and content personalized to her needs. If Sarah hasn’t heard from you in awhile and you’re providing a sub-par experience, she might think about switching to Katie’s doctor.

To that end, consider adding additional points of contact that will keep your practice or organization top of mind with your patients throughout the year. You could contribute to a blog or create premium content such as checklists or guides, and then send patients a monthly newsletter that includes links to these pieces of content. Providing current patients with valuable, educational information when they’re healthy can help build their trust in your organization and ideally keep them coming back.

Where are your patients spending time?

Thinking about how and when you’re interacting with your patients is key, but you’ll also want to identify where your patients are spending time. In many cases, the answer will be “on social media.” Developing a presence on social media can help you reach your patients where they already are. Similar to the power of blogging and email newsletters, social media helps keep your organization in front of them throughout the year, too. Sharing educational information via your social media accounts – such as links to your own blog posts or industry articles – will help further establish your organization as a thought leader, and trustworthy in the eyes of patients. This is incredibly important when it comes time for them to schedule their next appointment and can keep them from looking to one of your competitors – 41% of people say that social media would affect their choice of a specific doctor, hospital or medical facility.

Once you’ve established a presence on social media, ensure that it’s maintained. Social media isn’t something that you can “set and forget” – it needs constant attention. Across the different social media networks that you’re a part of, patients might be asking questions, requesting information, leaving a review or even complaining. 49% of people expect to hear from their doctor when requesting an appointment or follow-up discussion via social media within a few hours.

How can you make your patients’ experiences even better?

In addition to digital appointment reminders via email or text message, additional points of contact throughout the year and an enhanced social media presence, you can also implement a digital patient portal. A portal can allow your patients to view their medical information and test results, pay their bills, schedule appointments and communicate with your office, all in one place. Talk about pleasing today’s digitally-minded patients.

And finally, ask your patients what they want. You’re not mind readers, after all! Conducting a survey of your current patients will help your organization figure out what’s most important to them, and can also give you ideas that you may not have thought of.

Delighting patients with all things digital can be intimidating, especially if your medical practice or hospital organization is one of the ones that still sends paper reminders and doesn’t have much interaction with patients, aside from seeing them at their appointments. Start by thinking about how and when you’re interacting with them and do some research on where they’re spending time and what their digital healthcare preferences are. This will give you a good starting point for crafting your digital strategy and send you well on your way to increasing your patient retention rate.

Interested in learning more or ready to get started? We’d love to help – contact us today!

Updated: Apr 13, 2022

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