In the current health care landscape, many patients have a lot of choices and may simply find a new doctor if they don’t like their current provider, while other patients with limited provider choices may simply forgo seeking future care.
23% of patients see three or more primary care physicians every two years, according to a study by Johns Hopkins. While, for example, 29% of transgender patients were refused to be seen by their providers, according to a study by the Center for American Progress. What could make a difference for patients in both of these situations is showing them that you care.
There are a number of essential ways to encourage patients to stay at your practice:
- Consider the patient’s POV. We talk about empathy a lot at Violet, because it is a crucial skill for building trust with your patients. By putting yourself in the patient’s shoes, and reflecting on their experiences, you can gain a much deeper understanding of a patient’s behavior. For example, a patient who seems “withdrawn” or “non-compliant” has their own valid reasons for distrusting medical professionals, and their attitude may stem from fear and anxiety. A simple (but big) change could be starting every appointment with, "How are you?"
- Prioritize transparency. Many patients, especially young adults, will do online research before booking a doctor. Making important information easy to access can help foster a long-term patient-provider relationship. It’s important that your website has all of the key information for patients, including accepted insurance, cost breakdowns, up-to-date clinician bios, and policies (e.g. current COVID protocols, whether or not children can accompany parents, etc.).
- Create a welcoming, safe environment. Walking into a clinician’s office is not the same for everybody. Not all patients have navigated the health care system easily, and many of them may have had past experiences that were traumatic. However, making all patients feel safe and comfortable can go a long way and encourage better patient retention.
Here are some proven strategies to improve patient retention:
- Have information available in other languages. Make sure the front-desk staff knows how to interact with patients with limited English proficiency and how to get the help of a translator.
- Show your allyship with diverse communities. Through year-round signage in the office and on your website, display seasonal celebrations like Lunar New Year, Black History Month, Pride, etc.
- Introduce yourself with your pronouns and encourage patients to do the same.
- Carefully check the accessibility of the building's entrance and lobby, as well as within your office. There may be stairs on the sidewalk that present a barrier for patients in wheelchairs or for those with limited mobility.
- Make it clear that you value the patient’s privacy beyond what is stipulated by HIPAA. It may not seem like a big deal to have other staff overhear your conversation with a patient, to have medical students observe your appointment, or to weigh patients in the hallway, but these actions can create an unwelcoming, or even hostile, environment. While some patients may be ok with the bare-minimum of privacy, don’t assume that everyone feels the same way.
- Wherever possible, make things available digitally. At times it’s necessary to speak with patients on the phone, but for those less important interactions, many patients will appreciate not having calls during office hours. Incorporating patient portals for scheduling and non-emergency questions is hugely helpful. If there is a large amount of information to take away (e.g. postpartum info, preparation for an upcoming procedure) make it available digitally. Many patients use their phones as their primary source of gathering information and prefer having everything in one place, rather than having to keep track of paper printouts.
- Ask for, and use, feedback. The best way to find out how to better serve your patients is by asking them for their input. Regularly survey your patients for qualitative feedback. Giving patients the choice to respond via email, text, or on paper will also increase the amount of feedback you receive. Also, consider how you appear on social media, as well as in reviews on Yelp and Google. What are people saying? Are there good or bad reviews? Is there any kind of pattern to what people are saying? Once you have gathered feedback, have a team-wide conversation on what you’re doing well and how you can implement strategies for areas that may need improvement.
There are many tools at your disposal to improve patient experience. These improvements can dramatically boost patient retention, satisfaction, and outcomes. Violet has health equity tools, including clinical continuing education and provider-patient matching for inclusive, identity-centered care, that lead to better patient retention. Book a demo with Violet today.
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