Healthcare Patient Retention: Importance, Strategies, & Calculation

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Most healthcare providers know that in order to keep a business thriving, they’ll need to advertise and promote their services online to reach new customers. But many practices can forget or fail to maintain their existing customers, one of the biggest sources of revenue with the lowest acquisition costs. It’s easy to believe that existing patients will return to your practice if you’ve at least provided good service. But this is a small part of patient retention, and even the best doctors and nurses could fail to see a profit if they can’t maintain their customer base.

In this short blog, we dive into patient retention, why it’s important, how to calculate your patient retention rate, and some of the best strategies to keep patients coming back.

What Is Patient Retention?

Patient retention (customer retention in the rest of the business world) is when you’re able to bring first-time patients back to your practice the next time they need healthcare. This can seem easy to do, especially if your patient needs to check in after a procedure for a recovery update or see how they’re handling a new medication. While the goal isn’t to keep current patients unhealthy and coming back forever, most specialty practices like dermatologists or urologists are seeing people who need a series of treatments.

However, patients can leave your practice for a variety of reasons, regardless of whether your staff greeted them when they walked in or if they were able to find parking at your office. A few reasons you’ve lost a patient, includes:

  1. Their health insurance could have changed, and your office is now out-of-network. They could have really liked your office, staff, and level of care, but they can’t afford to pay for healthcare out of pocket.
  2. They didn’t receive an update about a doctor being out of town and rescheduling, and they arrived at your office on the wrong day or were billed a cancellation fee when they weren’t aware of the change.
  3. Your office hours don’t align with a patients’ free time, and they can’t get out of work or school when your practice is open. They might switch to another practice if you don’t offer Telehealth and your office is too far away to drive.
  4. They were unsatisfied with your office’s wait times or how long it takes to schedule appointments. Perhaps your staff wasn’t as friendly as usual, and regardless of intention, your patient left with a negative experience, ready to look for another provider.

As you can see, patient retention involves more than one thing and requires a comprehensive approach that focuses on care, quality, timeliness, and flexibility.

Why Is Patient Retention Important

Why Is Patient Retention Important?

Patient retention is important because it provides regular customers and boosts your reputation through loyal patients’ online reviews and word of mouth, helping you acquire new customers without paying for any ads or email blasts. But every demographic responds differently to healthcare providers and their services, and a study by PNC Healthcare revealed how millennials, Gen X, baby boomers, and seniors view healthcare.

  • Patients want speed: Primary care offices are seeing fewer and fewer young patients, with 34% of millennials preferring walk-in clinics and urgent care centers.
  • Patients aren’t afraid of leaving reviews: Word-of-mouth marketing isn’t as effective as it used to be. Nearly 50 percent of millennials and Gen-Xers use online reviews (e.g., Yelp, Google) when choosing a healthcare provider, and bad reviews can deter them from calling or returning to your office.
  • Patients want to know how much they will pay: One out of five people surveyed said unexpected/surprise bills were their main billing-related issue with medical practices. More and more patients are asking for estimates and information before they go into the office. And many of them are dissatisfied when the bill returns higher than the estimate.
  • Patients want affordable healthcare: All age groups in the survey agreed that medical care is too expensive and healthcare costs are too unpredictable. More than half of millennials and Gen-Xers said they canceled appointments or avoided treatment because of rising premiums and costs.

Read more: Simple Steps To Prevent Healthcare & Insurance Claim Denials

How To Calculate Your Patient Retention Rate

Calculating your patient retention rate is a straightforward process that can help you assess the impact of changes in your healthcare practice.

  1. Start by selecting the specific timeframe you wish to analyze. For example, you may have introduced Telehealth to your office and want to see how it’s impacted patient satisfaction.
  2. Once you have that, gather the number of existing patients at the beginning of that timeframe (S) and the total number of customers at the end (E).
  3. Identify the count of new customers acquired during the period (N).
  4. With these figures, you can use the following formula to calculate your patient retention rate: [(E-N)/S] x 100 = CRR. 
  5. Begin with the number of patients at the end of the time period (E) and subtract the number of new customers gained (N) during that period.
  6. Then, divide the result by the number of customers at the beginning of the timeframe (S).
  7. Multiply the outcome by 100 to obtain a percentage. This is your patient retention rate.
  8. For instance, if you started with 100 customers (S), ended with 100 customers (E), and added 10 customers (N) during the period, your patient retention rate would be 90 percent: [(100-10)/100] x 100 = 90 percent.

Patient Retention Rate Vs. Churn Rate

Your patient retention rate represents the percentage of patients you successfully keep within a given time frame. On the other hand, churn rate refers to the percentage of patients who discontinue or leave your practice during that same period. It’s like looking at the flip side of retention.

To calculate your churn rate, take the number of patients who churned (or left) during the specific time frame, divide it by the total number of patients you had at the beginning of that period, and multiply the result by 100. This gives you the churn rate as a percentage. For example, if you had 100 patients at the start of the year, but 10 of them left by the end of the year, your churn rate would be 10 percent: (10/100) x 100 = 10 percent.

Patient Retention Strategies That Work

Patient Retention Strategies That Work

  • Make sure your loyal and happy patients leave reviews: Actively encourage your patients to share their experiences and leave reviews on Google, Facebook, and Yelp Building a positive Pay attention to what your patients are saying and what they expect from you and your team. On the flip side, negative reviews or critical social media posts can also emerge, and it’s important to effectively handle such situations and respond to negative feedback, online reviews, or any other form of criticism.
  • Accept different insurances: It can be hard to negotiate contracts with insurance providers. However, by expanding the amount of insurance your office accepts, you can increase the number of new patients and keep existing ones who change plans.
  • Treat every interaction as patient care: In the world of healthcare, it’s important to recognize that every interaction matters. It’s not solely about the initial impression or the healthcare provider themselves. Instead, it extends to various individuals and entities you engage with, including patients, other healthcare practices that refer patients to you, vendors and suppliers, insurance company representatives, and more. Essentially, anyone you communicate with or have a relationship with becomes part of the audience for the internal marketing of your practice.
  • Maintain a consistent schedule: Of course, things are going to come up and affect wait times and appointments. But staying on schedule as much as possible, reminding patients of upcoming appointments, and following up with patients when result updates is one of the best ways to express to your customer that you run an efficient and professional practice.
  • Ensure your appointment setting and online patient portal is efficient: A majority of healthcare consumer prefer online communication with their providers. They want to book appointments, pay bills, and see their chart without needing to call and wait on hold with elevator music. Make sure clients can set up appointments within just a few minutes and submit paperwork or pay medical bills online.
  • Communicate with your healthcare team: Patient retention requires team effort and coordination in order to start making changes to your practice. Meet with your staff to discuss and get suggestions on how they would improve the patient experience. By working together and focusing on your goals, you can help prevent a staff member’s bad day from turning into a lost patient.
  • Talk to revenue cycle management professionals: You certainly don’t have to figure out every part of tracking customers, revenue, and expenses by yourself. RCM companies dedicated to helping small and large medical practices grow can help fine-tune your patient retention rate, negotiate insurance contracts, and manage your medical billing process.

Read more: How CRM Helps with Patient Retention

Hansei Solutions’ Revenue Cycle & Patient Retention Management

If your medical practice wants to know more about how to improve patient retention rate and improve quality of care, contact Hansei Solutions. Our RCM team can help streamline your practice’s medical billing process and analyze areas of your practice that are successful and what can be improved. Call today to learn how we can negotiate and manage contracts with insurance companies, verify patient eligibility, appeal denied claims, and more!

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