How to increase patient retention in your healthcare business

Connecting with your patients is a great way to keep your practice top of mind, especially during and after a course of treatment. Here are a few ideas to help you get started increasing patient retention in your practice.

Michelle Geslewitz·

An illustration of a person wielding an over-sized magnet.

Maintaining your healthcare business is about more than just making it easy for new patients to find you online. Sure, marketing techniques like optimising your clinic for local SEO and refining your Google presence are important, but your practice’s success is based on much more than the number of new patients coming through your clinic doors, be it in person or via virtual consults!

Focusing on the patients you already have is just as important as finding new ones (if not more so), and nurturing your existing client relationships can actually be more valuable for your clinic in a lot of ways: from boosting your reputation to ensuring clients come back to you for help with their future problems.

This post will offer five simple marketing principles you can use to strengthen your bond with your clients and make it easier for them to keep their bookings and continue to revisit your clinic in future.

Some of these ideas can be broadly used by anyone, but we’ll also cover some special techniques just for Cliniko users.

Refresh your fundamentals.

When it comes to marketing decisions, you should almost always begin by considering your patients and their needs. Retention is certainly no exception!

Your patients’ daily routine, working conditions, and personal circumstances can all have an influence on what they need from you, and these needs can change over time. So, even if your clinic has been around for a number of years, it’s worth periodically asking yourself, ‘Is there a way I can better meet my patients’ needs? Are there external factors that may be influencing what my patients most need from me? How can I communicate that I am here for them?’

For example in a post-lockdown world, you may find a portion of your patients prefer to continue virtual telehealth consults over in-person appointments. Or maybe there’s a specific condition or demographic you work especially well with. Answering these types of questions can help you build a more efficient patient growth and retention pipeline.

Even if you don’t have a marketing team at your disposal, taking some time to think about and note some of the unique qualities of your client base can help you prioritise your efforts and inspire you through the next steps.

Monitor patient retention through data.

There’s a saying in the digital marketing world: What’s measured is managed. And one of the big advantages of using a practice management system (PMS) is that you can keep track of your clinic’s growth through reporting. Using reporting tools will help you quickly and easily spot changes in repeat booking rate or average patient value.

With Cliniko’s marketing and patient reporting features, you can see exactly which patients joined your practice each month, which haven’t yet booked their next appointment, who has missed an appointment, and who your most valuable patients are. All of these reports give you valuable clues about your patients behaviour and are an excellent starting point for your retention efforts. You’re most likely to see a return on your efforts by focusing here first!

That said, data alone isn’t everything. It’s one thing to monitor how your clinic is doing, but it’s another entirely to know what to do with the information. Individually calling or emailing patients who haven’t yet booked their next appointment could work, but it takes a lot of time and effort. Fortunately, there’s a better way to get the same results for less effort. We’ll discuss how in the next section.

Automate your retention efforts with digital tools.

Recalls

If you’re a Cliniko customer, you may already know we integrate with MailChimp. If not, it’s worth your time to give it a look. More than just an email platform, MailChimp offers a suite of automation tools that can be synced directly with the data in your Cliniko account. At first, using these tools can be a little bit intimidating because the platform has become so sophisticated, but you don’t need to learn every single thing to make a big impact.

We have a step-by-step guide on how Cliniko users can set up an automated recall campaign for some of those high-reward patient lists you identified in your reports. It’ll take a little time to set up your first campaign as you’ll need to create your emails. But once you’re done, messages will be sent out automatically based on your specifications. A well-timed recall (or even set of recalls), for example, could make life easier for your patients who would otherwise forget and help you increase your revenue.

Never designed an email? MailChimp has some best-practice pointers available on how to create an effective email campaign.

And if you’re not a fan of MailChimp or DIY marketing, don’t worry. There are other applications you can use to automate your recalls, like CliniqApps and Peptalkr. Both of these connected apps have been specifically designed for healthcare businesses and integrate with Cliniko.

Surprise and delight

The number one rule of patient retention is to provide a great experience. Most of that happens in the treatment room, of course, but sometimes it’s worth going above and beyond to help maintain your client relationships.

Similar to the automation you can use for recalls, you can also send automated birthday emails for each patient. This is a small touch, but it’s another way to show you care and foster loyalty. If your margins allow (and it’s appropriate for your business), you may even consider offering a special discount or gift for customers that book an appointment during their birthday month.

Focus on communication—inside your clinic and out.

Once you have the basics of automated retention down, it’s time to take a closer look at the less obvious ways you can delight your patients.

Surveys

There’s no better way to find out what you can do better than by asking your patients directly. Surveys can help you uncover important information like how likely patients are to recommend you to others (also known as your net promoter score), whether they’d like to see you offer a particular service, or have their own ideas for how you can make their experience better.

Writing surveys is an art, and it’s important to keep the number of questions you ask to a minimum (up to 12 is usually a good rule of thumb). So how do you narrow down what to include? This is where your insight into your patients can come in handy, as you’ll get the most benefit from focusing on questions that will have the biggest impact on your business and help you understand your core patients.

There are a couple of ‘freemium’ survey tools out there that make it easy for you to create a survey using pre-written questions, like SurveyMonkey and Typeform. If you are a Cliniko user, you can amplify your survey insights by connecting your account to AskNicely, a platform designed to help you collect and measure customer feedback,so you have a constant read on how clients feel about your practice.

Broadcast emails

Actions speak louder than words. Letting your patients know you’re listening to what they want and making the changes they need is a great way to build goodwill. Sending a regular clinic newsletter to all your patients at once is not a must, but it can certainly help you connect with them efficiently and keep your clinic at the top of their minds if they’re between treatments.

If you do decide to send a newsletter, you’ll need to make sure your patients have opted-in to receive this kind of contact from you. This is not only considerate, but in some countries, it’s the law.

When asking customers to opt-in to receive your newsletter, be clear what they can expect. Let them know what type of content you plan to send and how often. This will help you avoid having your emails marked as spam down the line. And that’s important because it can have a domino effect leading to fewer emails from your domain reaching your patients’ primary inboxes. Always include an unsubscribe link in any newsletter! If you use MailChimp, this will be added by default to every message you create.

Inbound communication

Communication is a two-way street. Make sure your patients can easily reach you with any off-the-cuff feedback they may have, or to ask any questions about your service. Your practice’s email, address, and phone number should all be in obvious spots, like in the bottom section of your website or emails (known as the ‘footer’).

If patients do get in touch, let them know you are happy to hear from them and will get back to them as soon as you can. If you are active on social media, make it clear whether you check your messages there—then make sure you follow through!

Further reading.

This is just a small sampling of ideas you can use to improve your patient retention in the long term. For more information and inspiration on various aspects of customer retention, check out:

Author information

Michelle was born in Chicago and now lives in Leamington Spa, UK. She currently helps with growth marketing for Cliniko, working with Kate to look after paid marketing channels, content and more.

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