Patient retention

Enhancing Patient Loyalty: Effective Strategies to Solve Retention Challenges

December 21, 2023
7 min read
Last updated on
  • Maintaining a steady patient base helps with practice stability and increased patient recommendations.
  • Patient retention relies on strong patient-provider relationships, effective communication, personalized care, and active listening, which together can lead to long-term loyalty and a better patient experience.
  • Klara can help practices enhance patient retention by streamlining patient engagement, offering automated reminders, and providing convenient communication options to meet patients’ preferences and needs.

Enhancing Patient Loyalty: Effective Strategies to Solve Retention Challenges

Here’s a look at important aspects of patient retention, including what it is, why it’s important, and how you may be able to improve retention at your practice.

Table of contents

Understanding patient retention

Maintaining a steady patient base is important for the success and sustainability of your medical practice.  Additionally, patients will receive better continuity of care, which may lead to higher patient satisfaction and increased patient referrals. Patient retention relies on strong patient-provider relationships, high-quality care, and meeting patient needs. By focusing on effective communication, personalized care, and addressing patient concerns, healthcare providers can foster long-term loyalty, enhance the patient experience, and strengthen continuity of care.

Definition of patient retention

So what is patient retention? It refers to your practice’s ability to keep patients coming back to your office for their medical care.

Key factors affecting patient retention

There are several reasons a patient may stay with your practice — or switch to a new provider. These factors include:

1. The patient-provider relationship: Building a trusting relationship with patients will help foster loyalty. In fact, when considering staying with the same doctor, 67% of patients place importance on how personable and engaged a doctor is.*

2. Quality of communication: Patients want more ways to talk to their doctors post-appointment. 70% of patients place importance on follow-up communications, while 47% prefer email, text or an online portal to conduct those conversations.*

3. Patient engagement: Keeping patients engaged with education, personalization, and wellness initiatives may strengthen their loyalty.

4. Convenience and accessibility: Can patients easily schedule appointments, access their medical records, or follow-up with their providers?

Benefits of patient retention

Financial gains for healthcare providers

Healthcare organizations with high patient retention rates may have higher net revenues than those with lower retention numbers. This may be true for a few reasons. According to MGMA, the following are some potential benefits to providers that focus on developing a strong patient retention strategy:

1. Lower costs per patient: Estimates show that it’s six to seven times more expensive to acquire a new patient than it is to keep a current patient coming back.

2. Operational performance improvements: More than 8 in 10 healthcare leaders report using benchmarking data to address issues in their businesses, and retention rates are specifically mentioned as an important KPI to track and analyze on a regular basis.

3. Revenue cycle management: Technologies like automated check-in, payment prompts, and methods for patients to enter their demographic and insurance data before a visit are some top ways for practices to avoid errors that can lead to bad debt and unnecessary write-offs.

Improvement in provider reputation

Your patient retention rate may be considered a reflection of your reputation as a healthcare provider. Loyal patients may be more likely to recommend your practice through word-of-mouth recommendations, on social media, or via online ratings and reviews. As a provider, you can talk about quality services, but hearing from a patient who has actually experienced your care might make a bigger difference to potential new patients. How potential and existing patients feel about your practice is only one piece of the reputation puzzle. Staffing and community engagement are worth considering as well. This can further help to attract new patients and earn patient loyalty.

Patient retention strategies: Actionable ways to increase retention and reduce churn

While the ultimate goal is to help your patients be healthy and not need your services, you still want them to choose your practice for the healthcare needs they may have. To do that, consider the following strategies to increase patient retention.

Patient satisfaction surveys

First, you need to understand how patients feel about your practice. Sure, you can gauge this by looking at your online reviews. Or, you can send patient satisfaction surveys to pinpoint key measures of success and get direct patient feedback on what’s working well and what needs improvement. This is especially helpful for patients who may have had a negative experience — if you engage them right away and try to find a resolution, they may be less likely to leave a negative online review of your practice.

Patient education programs

A great way to keep patients engaged is by educating them about their specific health conditions and treatment plans. You can do this with blog posts and e-newsletters, pamphlets and presentations, and workshops and support groups.

Repeat visit scheduling system

A simple way to get patients back in your office is by making it easy for them to schedule their next appointment. You could also encourage them to schedule their next few follow-up appointments at one time.

Strong patient-provider relationships

Patients want to know that you have their best interests — and best health — in mind. Make sure you take the time to listen to their questions and concerns. Help them feel heard and don’t rush through their appointments. Taking these steps can allow you to build a trusting patient-provider relationship — one that could help keep them coming back.

Enhancing patient engagement

Engaging with patients during and between appointments is a great way to stay top of mind. Check out our patient engagement tips here.

Leveraging technology in patient retention

Technology can help streamline a lot of your patient engagement efforts and, in turn, help improve patient retention. For example, a solution like Klara that allows you to send automated appointment reminders via text and offers self-scheduling options online may alleviate administrative burdens and show patients that you understand their expectations when it comes to communication and access. Technology can also help practices enhance contactless care and automate other key areas of the patient journey, from intake collection to follow-up engagement, and more.

Case Studies: Impact of patient retention

Practices that implement patient retention technology have seen higher rates of patient satisfaction and lower no-show rates — all of which are indicators of strong patient retention. For example:

1. Schweiger Dermatology Group cut no-shows by 38% and improved patient satisfaction by automating appointment reminders and offering patients a convenient way to reach their practice.

2. OB-GYN Dallas offers patients digital intake forms that they can complete in advance of their appointments. Now, each patient spends 25 fewer minutes in the waiting room and their staff is more productive.

3. Westside Family Medicine leveraged technology to improve the patient experience. In fact, 10/10 patients are satisfied with their experience.

4. Hetland ENT turned to technology to personalize the patient experience. Now, 10/10 patients recommend the practice’s experience to a friend.

5. Connecticut Dermatology Group upgraded their patient communication strategy to save time and reduce no-shows by 50%.

Challenges in patient retention

Increasing healthcare costs

Rising healthcare costs may put a financial strain on patients, leading them to seek more affordable alternatives or delay care. Along the same lines, changes in health insurance plans or policies may result in patients needing to switch providers so they can stay in-network. To address concerns over healthcare costs, be transparent with your patients about pricing so they know what they’ll be billed for and roughly how much they can expect to be charged. Depending on the situation, you may want to consider offering a payment plan.

Adjusting to technological advancements

The learning curve for practices and some patients to adjust to new technologies may take longer than expected. For example, practices may be reluctant to adopt technology solutions for fear of a lengthy implementation and training period. At the same time, elderly patients might be hesitant to engage with digital communications — though there are plenty of ways to keep elderly patients engaged.

Shifting patient expectations

Patient expectations are constantly evolving, so what works for you one day may be irrelevant to them the next. The key is to look for solutions that not only scale with your business, but also scale with shifting demands.

Future of patient retention with Klara

Klara’s conversational patient engagement platform is designed to help practices improve patient communication and increase patient satisfaction. By offering a range of communication and scheduling options, patients of all kinds and preferences can stay engaged with your practice — and keep themselves on your schedule when they need you most. Klara helps enhance the patient experience, which can help you improve patient retention. With automated appointment reminders, personalized messages, and convenient communication options, your practice can enhance patient engagement and satisfaction.

This blog is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal or medical advice. Please consult with your legal counsel and other qualified advisors to ensure compliance with applicable laws, regulations, and standards.

*Statistics referenced from ModMed® 2022 Patient Experience Report: What Patients Really Think

Enhance patient retention at your practice
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