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Tag Archives: Patient

Patient Satisfaction – Why It Matters and How To Improve It

Patient Satisfaction – Why It Matters and How To Improve It

Though the answer may sound obvious to many of you, the question is still worth asking: What do we mean by patient satisfaction?

Simply put, patient satisfaction is an indicator of how well the patient is being treated at your medical practice. The “how well” refers not only to the quality of care but also to how happy a patient is with the treatment he or she received. It is a measure of care quality and gives healthcare providers valuable insights into various aspects of healthcare, including the effectiveness of their care and their level of understanding.

Patient satisfaction, while always a critical factor, has recently gained momentum in the healthcare space. In the wake of the patient-centered healthcare environment, patients are demanding a bigger role in managing their healthcare, and they expect a higher level of commitment and care from their providers. Healthcare providers are adjusting their strategic plans accordingly.

Many medical facilities are starting to pay attention to patient experience and satisfaction. According to a recent survey, more than half of healthcare practitioners admit that patient satisfaction is one of their top three priorities. Should you be one of those healthcare practitioners? What steps should you take to improve your patient satisfaction score?

To answer many more such questions, we first need to understand the importance and relevance of patient satisfaction.

Why patient satisfaction matters

Improving patient satisfaction has become one of the primary goals for a lot of healthcare providers. The reason is simple: patient satisfaction level is directly linked to key success metrics for hospitals and individual healthcare providers. Patient satisfaction impacts clinical outcomes, patient retention and reimbursement claims.

Thanks to the Internet and social media platforms, patients are now aware of the care quality that their providers are offering. Patients are setting new expectations for convenience, transparency and collaboration, and healthcare facilities are developing strategies to meet these new demands.

While acknowledging the need to improve patient satisfaction is an important first step, from there it can be a tough task to understand what changes will yield the best results. Providers need to have an honest assessment of what their practice and services look like from when a patient first schedules an appointment all the way through follow-up with a doctor. Changes, big and small, during this process can improve a patient’s overall experience. There are many reasons why patient satisfaction is one of the top priorities for every medical practitioner. Here are some of the obvious ones.

Patient Satisfaction – Why It Matters and How To Improve It

1. Quick publicity: According to a report, satisfied patients share their experience with five others while unsatisfied patients will complain to nine or more people. Online reviews put gas on the fire. With increasing numbers of patients posting about their good and bad experiences online, potential patients are getting a glimpse of what is going on “behind the curtain.” If your team is delivering excellent quality of care, more people will get to know about it. In addition, if you are continually missing the mark, these negative remarks can snowball even faster, catching the eyes of even more potential patients.

2. Financial success: A number of factors that affect your bottom line are linked to patient satisfaction, including new patient growth, physician bonuses, fruitful partnerships, etc. According to industry estimates, in the U.S., loss of a patient due to dissatisfaction can result in the loss of over $ 200,000 over the lifetime of the practice. Do you want to understand just how significant is the impact of higher patient satisfaction? According to the Press Ganey study, hospitals with patient satisfaction in the 90th percentile experience nearly a one-third increase in patient volume or an additional average 1,382 patients per year. For hospitals with patient satisfaction in the bottom 10th percentile, the average volume loss was 17 percent. In addition, Rush University Medical Center in Chicago has calculated that higher patient satisfaction scores can potentially translate to $ 2.3 million in additional revenues annually.

3. Improved patient retention: Whether you are running a coffee shop or a healthcare facility, happy customers come back and refer others. As the cost of patient acquisition is high, so retaining existing patients by delivering extraordinary care is one of the sure-shot ways to reduce turnover, increase loyalty and extend lifetime value. However, failing to deliver excellent service means losing a patient forever. Moreover, even if you are losing only a single patient, that is one patient too many. Patient satisfaction is not just a bonus; it is a huge investment in the future of your medical practice.

4. Attract more patients: When it comes to our health, we tend to trust family and friends over any other marketing channel. Patient care is a double-edged sword. If you fail to meet your patients’ expectations, they may complain to nine more people. Some marketers feel it is a high-risk, high-reward case. However, if you approach this matter logically, there are no major risks at all. This is because the positive aspects of personal recommendations extend all the way to social media platforms and third-party review sites. By delivering on positive aspects, medical practices can build up their image among their existing patients and attract new ones. As a marketing strategy, word-of-mouth proves to be more efficient and less costly than other marketing tactics.

5. Charge more for better care: Studies have revealed that patients are willing to pay more to consult with a better physician of their choice. According to the Patient Satisfaction journal, medical practices with high patient loyalty can command a higher price for their superior services without losing profit or market share. In other words, greater patient satisfaction lends medical practitioners the ability to demand higher prices.

6. Better clinical outcomes: According to a study in Academic Medicine, patients who trust their doctors have better clinical outcomes. In simple terms, this means that the effectiveness of treatment depends on how much a patient trusts his or her physician. Meeting your patients’ needs will not only help you raise their satisfaction level but will also make your job easier.

How to improve patient satisfaction

In order to improve your patient satisfaction level, you will need to get in the mindset of your patients. You will have to ask yourself questions like: What do patients expect from healthcare providers? What do patients value in healthcare? Keeping these questions in mind, here are some actionable ways to boost patient satisfaction:

Patient Satisfaction – Why It Matters and How To Improve It

1. Train your employees: Make sure your employees are focused on delivering service that is not only high-quality but also delivers a positive patient experience. The first step to ensuring patient-centric care is by making sure that your employees have this common goal in mind. You should encourage your team to suggest ideas for improving patient satisfaction within your practice. You should convey the message to your staff that providing exceptional patient service is not an option; rather it is compulsory for every employee. Your staff must realize the significance of providing excellent service to patients and their families. It is critical to hold your employees responsible for the overall patient experience.

2. Educate your patients: Providing your patients with necessary information is critical to achieving a positive patient experience. A patient will feel empowered when he or she leaves your office with more knowledge about his or her diagnosis and treatment options. Not just that, studies have revealed that greater patient empowerment leads to better patient adherence, which leads to improvements in patient satisfaction and clinical outcomes.

3. Differentiate between medical and non-medical staff: Patients find it frustrating when they are surrounded by so many people but are not sure whom to approach when they have a concern or a request. This may become even more frustrating when the patient approaches one employee only to be directed to another employee. The easiest way to differentiate your staff is by implementing different-color uniforms so that patients can easily tell who is an RN, PA, physician, etc.

4. Empower nurses: Nurses have a critical role in patient experience and improving the satisfaction level in patients. Nurses who are more experienced and independent will provide better patient care as they feel empowered in their work. You can consider creating a staffing committee to allow your nurses to collaborate for better patient care and give them the freedom to improve their performance.

5. Be flexible: By improving the efficiency of your practice, you can reduce long wait times both for scheduling appointments and while a patient is waiting to be seen. One of the top complaints of patients is having to wait longer in the waiting room just to be seen. You can consider creating a system in which a patient is kept informed about wait times.

6. Build a follow-up mechanism: Patients are often irritated by the inability to communicate with their providers between appointments. You can use technology and build systems that open the lines of communication between the doctor and the patient. This will not only foster long-term patient relationships, but it will create better clinical outcomes by making it easy for patients to schedule appointments.

Do you have a patient satisfaction score?

For medical practices that are already achieving higher patient satisfaction scores, the next step is to leverage them. If your practice has worked hard to earn the positive word from patients, why not use these positive experiences to reach more potential patients? Not capturing positive reviews, feedback and testimonials is leaving massive opportunity on the table. Here are some of the ways you can leverage patient satisfaction to reach more patients.

1. Gather Yelp reviews: Most people read Yelp reviews before going to restaurants, buying a phone or choosing a doctor. It is critical to set up someone in the office for managing a Yelp page. You can initiate a process that encourages patients to post reviews that can serve as a well-oiled machine for your practice. Email campaigns, social media, paper handouts and iPads in waiting rooms with a call-to-action to leave positive feedback are excellent ways to build your testimonial library.

2. Social media ratings: Just like gathering Yelp reviews, getting patients to like your treatment videos on Facebook will help attract the attention of potential patients. You should gather written reviews, star ratings or be tagged in posts, and you will reap the rewards by “getting seen” by search engines on a regular basis.

3. Add patient testimonials to your website: Sharing patient success stories and building a dedicated patient testimonial section on your website is a great way to show off how satisfied your patients are. In the digital world, optimizing patient testimonials is an influential tool for building a brand name and attracting more of the “qualified” leads.

Wrapping up

Behind every great physician are employees who keep a practice running smoothly. Staff members are usually the first point of contact for patients and therefore require several professional skills. Your staff must have a thorough understanding of your services and should be trained to treat each patient with friendliness and compassion. Most of these skills are not just about good hiring practices, but also require practice-specific training.

At Practice Builders, we have created a series of custom healthcare staff-training programs to meet your practice’s unique needs. These training programs will assess your current processes, suggest and implement improvements and create a culture of exceptional patient experience and satisfaction. All training programs can be delivered individually or as a package. Call us now to understand how our healthcare staff training programs are best-suited for your needs.

Medical Healthcare Marketing

Dental Practice Marketing: The Dos and Don’ts of Patient Reviews

Dental Practice Marketing: The Dos and Don'ts of Patient Reviews

Online reputation management is an essential part of your dental practice’s success. What your patients say about your practice online has a substantial impact on your bottom line. Consider these stats:

  • 88 percent of patients read reviews to determine the quality of a local practice.
  • Merely 12 percent of patients do NOT pay heed to online reviews.
  • 72 percent of patients admit that positive reviews make them trust a practice more.
  • 72 percent of patients usually take action after reading an encouraging review.
  • 62 percent of patients are unlikely to visit a practice with unpleasant reviews.

When it comes to online reviews, the saying “If you cannot beat them, join them” applies aptly. As annoying as they can be, online reviews are not going anywhere anytime soon. It is important to accept online reviews, recognize their benefits and learn to use them to your practice’s advantage. If you are not sure how to handle online reviews, here are some dos and don’ts for dealing with them:

1. DO optimize your dental practice for service quality. Don’t optimize for patient reviews.

Instead of saying, “We need more reviews,” you should be saying, “We need more satisfied patients.”

At 27 percent, reliability is the most important characteristic a patient looks for in a dental practice, followed by skills (21 percent), then bedside manners (18 percent). Instead of focusing on random metrics such as quantity of reviews, you should focus on implementing and strengthening a process that will help you improve patients’ experience and exceed their expectations.
If you optimize your dental practice for service quality, you will get plenty of positive reviews.

Dental Practice Marketing: The Dos and Don'ts of Patient Reviews

2. DO pay attention to patient satisfaction. Don’t pay attention to the number of reviews.

The only metric that is important is whether your patients were satisfied with the overall experience at your practice – from consultation to post-treatment.

Review count is just a quantitative metric. In fact, giving unnecessary importance to review count will prevent you from your main objective of improving your patients’ experience. Coincidentally, improving your patients’ experience will lead to more reviews.

Instead of giving undue importance to the quantity of reviews, focus on quality and keep measuring patient satisfaction.

Dental Practice Marketing: The Dos and Don'ts of Patient Reviews

3. DO include reviews as a measure of patients’ experience. DON’T make reviews an ‘afterthought.’

Make reviews an integral part of patients’ experience rather than a “drive” you conduct when you “need more reviews.”

The only way to achieve this is by creating a process where measuring patient experience is the final step in every patient’s journey. Your aim is not only to measure patient satisfaction but also to encourage loyal patients to leave an online review and to identify and fix negative feedback.

Three basic steps:

A. The first step is to create a survey to identify positive and negative sentiments. You can either create a form on your website or print out a questionnaire to give to patients.
Note: In the questionnaire, stick to questions that allow your patients to grade your performance on a scale of 1 to 10. You can include the following four questions:

 

  • Will you recommend this practice to your friends and colleagues? (scale of 1 to 10)
  • What do you like best about our practice?
  • How would you describe your overall experience? (very poor, poor, OK, good, great)
  • What can we do better?

B. If the patient was satisfied and his or her experience was good, you could send a follow-up email thanking him or her for the time and ask for an online review.

If the patient said his or her overall experience was poor, or very poor, you must follow up immediately to investigate the reason and fix the problem before the patient leaves a negative online review.

By making patient reviews an essential part of your overall patient experience, you will have better control over the conversation.

Dental Practice Marketing: The Dos and Don'ts of Patient Reviews

4. DO provide patients with a choice. DON’T be rude or forceful with patients.

In one recent study, a practice had sent more than 1,000 emails to patients asking them for reviews. Not even a single patient left an online review when given only the one choice of Google+. However, the second when patients were given Facebook as a choice, the review responses increased by 3 percent.

The top three review sites:

1. Google+ (32 percent)

2. Facebook (21 percent)

3. Yelp (18 percent)

Dental Practice Marketing: The Dos and Don'ts of Patient Reviews

5. DO abide by security and privacy laws. DON’T risk your credibility.

As a dental practice owner, it is your responsibility to comply with the safety and privacy laws related to the use and acquisition of reviews and testimonials. It is your responsibility to comply with the different review sites’ bylaws, however absurd some of them may sound.

Here is what you should not do:

  • Solicit many reviews. Most review sites will block massive waves of reviews at once. This is not illegal, but it is not an intelligent way of amassing authentic reviews.
  • Reward patients based on their public endorsement of your practice without explicitly stating the offer.
  • Ask patients for reviews on your website.
  • Incentivize reviews on sites such as Google+, Vitals or Facebook. Though you may be able to get away with it in some capacity, the long-term consequences are not worth it.
  • Use reviews on your practice website that highlight positive aspects of your dental practice and employees.

Dental Practice Marketing: The Dos and Don'ts of Patient Reviews

Key takeaways

Acquiring patient reviews for your dental practice is hard work. In fact, nearly 78 percent of patients will never leave a review for a practice and about 16 percent of patients will leave a review occasionally. However difficult it may seem to acquire patient reviews, they still play a pivotal role in how potential patients perceive your practice. Implement the suggested DOs, avoid the DON’Ts, and always remember the following key points:

  • Optimize your dental practice for credibility, expertise and professionalism.
  • Implement a process for delivering and measuring patient experience, and make it a fundamental part of your patients’ experience.
  • Don’t stress over the number of reviews. It does not matter.
  • Acquiring patient reviews is an ongoing process. This is not something you can campaign for once every few months.
  • Provide your patients the option to leave reviews on multiple sites that support both mobile and desktop.

Follow these basic guidelines, and you will be successful in building credibility and attracting more patients. Are you looking for an effective way to market your dental practice and get more patient reviews?

Discover how to attract more patients to your dental practice with our proven strategies. To learn more about how we can help you with dental practice marketing, call today.

Medical Healthcare Marketing

Patient advocates say Medicaid per capita caps would demolish long-term care for elderly

Nursing home and home-health care agency trade groups warn that Medicaid per capita caps would deprive the elderly of long-term care just as the first baby boomers reach age 80.
Modern Healthcare Breaking News

Health systems playing catch-up on rising patient self-pay

Hospitals and physicians are bracing for higher levels of patient self-pay brought on by high-deductible health plans or lack of insurance, and many aren’t prepared for the financial shift, according to a survey of health system chief financial…
Modern Healthcare Breaking News

19 Patient Referral Tips to Help Your Practice Grow

19 Patient Referral Tips to Help Your Practice Grow

Before we start, here’s some food for thought:

  • 65 percent of a company’s new business comes from referrals.
  • Customers are four times more likely to try a new business or product when referred by a friend.
  • A referred customer is 18 percent more loyal than customers gained through other means.
  • A referred customer spends nearly 13 percent more on average than a non-referred customer.
  • Offering a reward increases the chances of a referral. However, the size of that award does not make a difference.

19 Patient Referral Tips to Help Your Practice Grow

Patient referrals are necessary for growing your medical practice and expanding your patient base, and you should take advantage that. While a significant percentage of patients are empowered to find their own doctors, there is still great power behind a personal recommendation for a specialist from a trusted friend or family member. This is why building a base of patients who are happy to give you referrals is a great way to market your practice.

How can you start collecting patient referrals? Here are some recommendations to help you encourage more patient referrals to your practice:

New patients

  • Answer phone calls: Answering phone calls should be your first priority, especially when you are looking for strategic ways to generate them. The calls should be responded to in a friendly yet professional manner. Keep a reference sheet handy with answers to common questions, including office location, insurance lists and general information about services.
  • Value patients’ time: After the first phone call, the patient’s first appointment is the next challenge. Reversing the first impression is hard. Make sure patients have an easy time finding your office location and parking. Once the patient arrives, simplify the registration process by limiting the paperwork or offering a simple online registration process. Patients should know in advance what paperwork will be required, and insurance should be confirmed beforehand. Most of this information should be available on your website. People notice and appreciate your efforts when you value their time.
  • Make patients feel comfortable: Do not make your patients feel like they could get the same or better experience elsewhere. Instead, your staff must make an effort to treat patients as part of your practice family. When a patient comes to the reception desk to check in, greet him or her with a smile and call his or her by name. The way you treat your patients during their time in your office is what will help them decide whether to return.
  • Spruce up your waiting area: While you should aim to minimize the amount of time patients spend in the waiting area, make those few minutes comfortable and soothing. Make sure patients have ample and comfortable seating and have something pleasant to look at, such as a painting or a photograph. Marketing materials are okay as long as they are useful and not overly promotional.

Pro-tip

Create a ‘New Patient Guide’ for your staff. Implement and maintain a certain standard of excellence when it comes to patient care. Make appointment scheduling easy. Set up automated appointment reminders. Provide relevant and regular training to your staff on key aspects of patient care and crisis management.

During the patient’s visit

19 Patient Referral Tips to Help Your Practice Grow

  • Make eye contact and introduce yourself: Nothing relaxes a patient better than a warm smile and a friendly gesture. When combined with eye contact, you demonstrate a sincere welcome and a willingness to resolve the patient’s problem.
  • Pay attention to non-verbal signs: Never make your patients feel that you are disgusted by anything they tell you. Never express your personal feelings about their ailment through your body language or facial expressions. If you give the impression that you are not interested, that patient may shut down on you and may never come back. Be careful about how you act and react toward your patient.
  • Make sure your presence adds value: While it takes the entire team to care for a patient, many patients see their time with the doctor as the biggest factor in whether they are getting their money’s worth. Be sure to take a moment to converse before jumping into the exam room. Ask questions, listen carefully, and be confident about your chairside manner. Never give patients the impression that you are rushing to get to the next waiting patient.
  • Encourage online patient reviews: Asking patients for online reviews and thanking them for their suggestions go a long way in ensuring patient goodwill. It is critical to maintaining transparency within your practice in order to win your patients’ trust. Encouraging your patients to review your practice online is another way of showing that you value their opinion and are open to taking suggestions. Allowing patients’ reviews and testimonials on your website or patient portal are immensely beneficial for your online reputation.
  • Ensure checkout is quick and easy: Checkout is the last touch point in a visit, so make sure the patient leaves your practice feeling positive and taken-care-of. Guide them to the checkout area and tell them what will happen so there is no confusion. Provide patients with information that will be useful after they get home. You can consider printouts with proposed treatment plans, pre- or post-treatment instructions, etc. Do not forget to express thanks as they leave your office and tell them you look forward to seeing them again.

After the patient’s visit

  • Follow up with patients: Most doctors ask patients to follow up with them after their visit. Most patients either forget about following through, or they do not realize that the follow-up visit is a part of their healthcare plan. Having an automated system that allows you to book follow-up appointments and send reminders to patients can make this process a lot easier. A follow-up visit will ensure patients are on the right path to recovery and that they are satisfied with your care.
  • Get suggestions and feedback: Most medical practices have a suggestion box for patients to drop in any feedback regarding their experience at your practice. You can take this process a step further by engaging with your patients via email or text messages using an automated system. You can also send a small survey after the appointment and give your patients an opportunity to provide feedback about your practice.
  • Provide free health monitoring: Chronic illness will require you to monitor patients continually. You can do this by setting up remote monitoring plans for chronically ill patients. Remote monitoring will help patients track their progress for your review. This will also minimize the number of visits and save patients’ time, and they will greatly appreciate the convenience.
  • Ensure a positive patient experience: When you do your best to make sure that patients have a satisfying experience with your practice, you are not only increasing the chances that they will return, but you are also increasing the likelihood that they will refer your practice to their friends and family. When it comes to patient referrals, the difference is in the way you pamper your current patients.
  • Keep the patient educated about their illness and treatment: Most patients look up information about their illness online, even after being diagnosed by a doctor. Rather than depending on unreliable sources of information, you should be their first choice for asking any illness-related questions. You should aim to educate your patients about their illness by using the patient portal or sharing information through mobile health apps. This will also give them another reason to recommend your practice to their friends and family.

Optimize your practice

19 Patient Referral Tips to Help Your Practice Grow

  • Physician outreach: In addition to recommendations from family and friends, patients take into consideration referrals made by their physicians. It is all about referral networking. Physician referrals are an important way of gaining traffic to your practice. According to studies, six out of 10 patients choose health providers based on their location. Maintaining a healthy relationship with physicians in and around your practice can ensure better referrals.
  • Get your staff involved: Even if you have the most modern website or an active online presence, it is essential to train your staff to listen to the needs of your patients. Front-office, nursing and support staff must empathize with patients to ensure they have the finest experience when they visit your practice. Reducing long waiting periods, automating appointment-booking and reminders, simplifying billing, supporting reimbursements and improving access to health records are some of the important aspects of medical practice management that can improve patient satisfaction and increase referrals.
  • Honor your commitments: It is normal for medical practitioners to have unexpected changes in their schedules, be it an emergency procedure, personal reasons or a scheduling error. Always try to adhere to your schedule, but if you cannot, it is important to notify your patients in advance in order to avoid any dispute. Your patients will understand and appreciate these gestures.
  • Provide excellent service: What will really make your patients want to refer your practice to everyone they know? Excellent service. Each new patient provides your staff with the opportunity to make a great impression. You may have great skills or graduated from a top-notch university, but if you treat your patients poorly, your referral volume will take a nose dive.
  • Thank the referring patients and doctors: If applicable, during patients’ first visit to your practice, ask whom they were referred by. Then, be sure to thank the patient or the physician who gave that referral. Whether through an email, phone call or a handwritten personal thank-you note, it will surely make a difference.

These are just a few simple patient referral tips that require a little extra work from your front office and support staff, but they can result in a significant increase in the number of patient referrals. Effective and regular communication with your referral sources is vital. If you foster healthy relationships, your referral sources will continue to send you more patients.

For more tips on successful patient referral marketing, read “The Ultimate Guide to Patient Referral Marketing,” and contact Practice Builders to speak with an experienced representative.

Medical Healthcare Marketing

Importance of Patient Retention: 8 Benefits That Every Practice Loves

Importance of Patient Retention: 8 Benefits That Every Practice Loves

Is your medical practice more focused on patient acquisition or retention? If the answer is ‘acquisition,’ then you need to think about it. Because…

Importance of Patient Retention: 8 Benefits That Every Practice Loves

The above research makes it clear that the organizations are shifting focus from ‘acquisition only’ to ‘Equal focus on retention and acquisition.’ (Source: Econsultancy)

There are many good reasons behind this change…

  • Acquiring a new customer is five times costlier than retaining an existing one. (Source: Forrester)
  • The probability of selling to an existing customer is 60 to 70 percent, whereas the probability of selling to a new customer is five to 20 percent. (Source: Marketing Metrics)
  • Globally, the average cost of a lost customer is nearly $ 243 (Source: Kissmetrics)
  • The customer loyalty management market is likely to grow from $ 1.4 Billion in 2015 to $ 4.0 Billion by 2020. (Source: PR Newswire)

The above statistics explain why patient retention is so important for practice. These numbers are a good enough reason to understand that any medical practice should make patient retention a top priority.

While it would be ideal for every patient to stay with your practice for years, the truth is many will come for two visits and then never show up again. Regardless of the specialty and location of your practice, you will need to grow and develop your patient base in order to be successful. Repeat business is critical to your long-term success.

In a similar context, why is patient loyalty important for a medical practice? The following eight reasons make patient loyalty so important:

1.Repeat business: Loyal patients are more likely to come back to your practice and buy your products than new patients. According to a study, existing customers are 50 percent more likely to try new products than new customers. Now the question is, how can you motivate your existing patients to do repeat business with you? Many factors help practices to build customer loyalty as well as bring repeat business. Here are the key points to remember:

  • The first impression is the last impression: This is right for your medical practice as well. When you provide services for the first time to a patient, make sure everything is in proper order, including welcome greeting and remembering the patient’s first name. This will generate confidence and trust between you and your new patient. It will also help to build loyalty and eventually bring repeat business to your practice.
  • Stay in touch: Always stay connected with patients using their preferred mode of communication. Let your patients know that you are accessible and available to address their problems.
  • Improve customer service: This is because nearly 67 percent customers are likely to stop buying products from a brand due to bad customer experience.
  • Introduce a loyalty program: Every time a patient visits your practice, give him or her loyalty points or incentives. You can allow patients to accumulate these points and redeem for a free service or consultation. This will motivate your patients to come often and collect loyalty points.

2. Long-term patients tend to spend more: Loyal patients already have a relationship with your practice, and they trust you more than a new patient. A long-term patient is likely to spend more with each visit than someone new who walks into your practice for the first time. This is because accumulated trust built through the years will make the patient more confident to consider recommendations and other valuable services. This increased trust and confidence gives you an excellent opportunity to up-sell products and services. This will help in increasing sales volume without much effort on acquiring new patients.

Importance of Patient Retention: 8 Benefits That Every Practice Loves

3. Reduced marketing costs: This is one of the most significant benefits of patient retention and loyalty. Despite all your efforts into the online presence and social media marketing, people are strongly influenced by referrals from trusted friends and family. Word-of-mouth is the cheapest but the most effective marketing tool as it helps increase brand awareness, engage patients and attract potential patients. Loyal customers play an integral role in word-of-mouth marketing. Loyal customers talk about your brand publicly, share positive feedback, refer their friends and families, and like or share your posts on social media.

4. Minimum service cost: Long-term patients are easier and more profitable to serve. This is because they are familiar with a practice’s product and services, which helps them to solve most of their issues by themselves or by using an online knowledge base or FAQ. Not just this, long-term patients can help to address other patients’ problems as well. However, in order to achieve this, you will need to build an online community where your patients can share their experiences, problems, and solutions. Gradually, you can introduce more patients in that community. You can even consider offering loyalty points to patients who solve other issues successfully. There are many benefits of creating an online community:

  • New patients will get tried-and-tested resolutions of their problems from experienced patients.
  • Patient loyalty will eventually increase as existing patients will get incentives for providing successful solutions to new patients.
  • Lowered service cost
  • Round-the-clock support without any significant investment

5. Forecast accuracy: Forecasting plays a critical part in planning and running a medical practice. It will help you to get an overview of future expenses and revenue. The accurate forecast will help you calculate expenditure, growth rate, discounts, and plan for the contingencies. Without an accurate forecast, it will become difficult to plan for business investments and partnership opportunities. But how can long-term patients help in forecast accuracy? Feedback from loyal patients can provide valuable information about the average patient volume, product and service pricing, and help you build your USP as a medical practitioner. Therefore, more loyal patients you have, more precise forecast you can prepare.

6. Enhanced brand image: Your brand image is your patients’ perception about your products and services. A positive brand image will help you to acquire new patients, sell more, increase profitability, reduce marketing cost and attract business partnerships. Your brand image is one of the most valuable assets that you possess. It will convey to your patients what they can expect from your practice and services. However, building a brand image is an expensive and time-consuming process.

Patient loyalty and brand image are interconnected. Patient loyalty will help you improve brand image. On the other hand, a strong brand image will help you attract and retain more patients. Patients that are pleased with your practice are far more likely to refer you to their family and friends and spread the word on social media. When you think about it, patients that are satisfied with your services will help you bring in more business.

7. Stand out from competitors: In today’s competitive landscape, it is a challenge to differentiate your products from competitors. Your best product may get suppressed by your competitors tomorrow. Patient loyalty can help here because loyalty towards your brand will influence the buying decision of your patients. If your competitors have similar products as yours, but you have better customer loyalty, your products will be more popular and profitable among customers and prospects.

8. Honest feedback: According to a report, nearly 70 percent of businesses that deliver excellent customer experience use customer feedback. Similarly, loyal patients will provide an honest opinion about your business and services. Patients’ opinion can help you improve products and services, launch new services, measure patient experience and satisfaction, and retain patients and reduce attrition rate.

Increase patient retention with mobile apps

According to research by Solution Reach, every five years, physicians lose about 50 percent of their patient base. Obviously, you would never want to lose patients. But you will especially not want to lose patients because your competitor did a job better at attracting them than you did at retaining them. Medical practices of all sizes are adding mobile applications to their patient retention strategies in order to get an edge on the competition.

The need for a healthcare technology that seamlessly fits into your patients’ daily lives is greater than ever before. Practices are now demanding apps that can be accessed directly from a patient’s smartphone. These apps range in capabilities from monitoring health data to paying bills. Whatever the scenario, the most important factor is how the apps are incorporated in your patient retention strategies. If you are looking to add a mobile health app to your patient retention strategies, here are a few things you need to keep in mind:

User experience: The thumb rule is, any patient-facing technology should be easy to use. Complicated instructions will confuse and scare away any user. You should optimize the user experience with easily identifiable navigation buttons and text that is easy to read.

Use case: This refers to how the patient will use these apps to interact with your practice. For instance, if you are losing patients because they get frustrated with billing policies, consider adopting an app that will allow patients to monitor and manage their finances.

Patient feedback: You should understand the need and effectiveness of an app by asking patients for their feedback. You can take the patients’ survey by creating an anonymous using a tool like SurveyMonkey. This way, patients will feel comfortable giving their honest feedback about the effectiveness of the app. Keep your surveys short to increase your submissions further.

Importance of Patient Retention: 8 Benefits That Every Practice Loves

Cost: While this is a no-brainer, but worth including. Any mobile app you offer to patients should be free of cost. Patients should not be asked to pay for tools that are meant to help them take control of their healthcare experience. In addition, you will end up hurting patient retention if you offer apps that cost patients.

Ongoing Communications: The ability to be in constant contact with the patients is an added benefit of most healthcare apps. Patients will appreciate the convenience of mobile apps to get in touch with you and find solutions to some of their problems. A mobile app can be a great platform to push notifications about upcoming appointments, due bills, lab test results, etc. Staying in constant touch with your patients is essential to retaining them.

Focus on improving patient retention

In those eight benefits, we have covered lots of profitable business activities – repeat business, profitability, lowered costs, increased brand image and many more. Each of these benefits is a natural byproduct of focusing on patient retention.

Rewards and loyalty programs, promotions, discounts, advanced CRM systems, and even employee incentives are different ways to invest in patient retention.

Having a retention strategy means it is not up to patients to remember you… it is up to you to remember them. It is important not to ignore your current patients in pursuit of new ones.

Medical Healthcare Marketing

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A Deep Dive Into Patient Journey

A Deep Dive Into Patient Journey

Today’s patients are more unified and have a louder voice than ever before. They are demanding to be a part of their healthcare processes by asking more questions and demanding copies of their medical records.

However, despite this growing confidence, we must not ignore their primary reason for visiting us –something in their body is causing them problems. Making that first call to your medical practice would have taken courage and should not be taken lightly. Throughout their experience, most patients may feel outside of their comfort zone, and we must keep this in mind at every step of their journey and carefully craft our responses to their questions.

Healthcare is steadily becoming a top-of-mind priority for millions across the country. In a survey early this year, more than 60 percent of patients said waiting to see the doctor was an awful part of their visit. Patients have started paying closer attention to the experience they receive when interacting with healthcare providers and their staff.

According to research, medical practices with “excellent” HCAHPS patient ratings had a net margin of 4.6 percent, as compared to just 1.7 percent for those with “low” ratings. Moreover, this is one of the compelling reasons why mapping the patient journey is steadily gaining momentum.

What is a patient journey?

By now everyone in the healthcare community has probably heard of the term ‘patient journey.’ It can be described as the quality of experience delivered to people who engage with a medical practice either as a first-timer or as a regular patient. It includes everything from the first time they hear about your medical practice from a friend or Google search to the time they post an online review of your practice.

Analyzing the patient journey and identifying any obstacles or roadblocks is essential to the diagnostic process.

In order to deliver an unmatched patient experience at every stage of the patient journey, medical practices must understand what patients need and what they might appreciate. It is essential to create trust among patients and convince them that medical staff is focused on helping them stay healthy. Medical practices need to focus on improving the patient experience through effective communication.

Journey mapping

Numerous factors and considerations influence the decision process of the potential patient. As a medical practitioner, your role is to identify and remove any potential barriers and ensure that the patient’s health remains the focal point of everything you do. Your objective must be to make each step of the patient journey as pleasant as possible, allowing the patient access to all of the information needed to help them make an informed decision.

Typically, the patient journey begins with the patient identifying his or her health issues and taking the decision to address them. This is where your journey should start, too.

Mapping your patient’s journey will help you identify his or her needs and fears. It will provide you insights on how to help the potential patient take the next step. In order to understand where your potential patient is on his or her journey, you must try to make things as easy as possible and consider asking a few simple but relevant questions. These questions can help you build your patient’s journey map.

Question: How much does your patient know about his or her health situation?

Tip: This question will help you decide your potential patients’ level of knowledge about their health situation. Is your patient well-researched?

Question: What should your prospective patients know about their situation?

Tip: You can make your patients learn about their health issues by providing resources or educational material. Your patients must get a basic understanding of their illness, symptoms and ways to address them. This process will also be helpful in establishing you as a trusted source.

Question: How severe is the illness? Is the patient feeling comfortable or in distress?

Tip: Your patient may expect immediate answers or resolution if he or she is in distress. This conversation will allow you to understand the stages of illness, symptoms, emotional needs, if any, and points of pain.

Question: Is your patient scared, or in pain?

Tip: Your patient could be feeling vulnerable, overwhelmed, uncertain, urgent or hopeful. Your patient may want to know specifically how his or her health concern will be addressed.

Question: What is your patient expecting from the treatment plan?

Tip: Most patients will expect an explanation or an understanding of their health issue. The most common expectation is relief or control of persisting symptoms or discomfort, and the most common disappointing outcome is being told not much can be done. Many patients expect further medical investigations and changes to the existing medication.

This conversation may make your patient feel hopeful and confident. You can help him or her get back to normal life by reducing pain and worry.

These five questions can play a significant role in bringing your potential patient to life. By asking these questions, you can gauge your patient’s heart and mind. These questions may also help you make thoughtful decisions about the channels, touchpoints and milestones that are most relevant to your patient’s current state and future outcome.

Essential steps in a patient’s journey

Do you know that 73 percent of patients think healthcare practitioners are responsible for providing patient support services?

No doubt the journey toward a patient-centered approach is on the fast track today. However, the challenge is to transition from the existing brand-centric model toward delivering services that allow patients to participate in their own healthcare.

Here are the seven steps in the patient journey, and how medical practitioners can offer patient support services at each step along the way.

  • Pre-diagnosis: The patient journey begins well before the official diagnosis. During this stage, patients feel anxious and nervous while going through multiple rounds of tests and examinations, in addition to consulting physicians.

    How can you make it better? As a medical practitioner, you can provide educational content through your practice website, or popular third-party sites, to help the patient gain knowledge about his or her illness.

  • Diagnosis: After an official diagnosis from the physician, patients often feel anxious, shocked and scared. Most of the time they have no clear understanding of their illness and treatment options. Also, patients do not know how to discuss their illness and symptoms with their doctor, family or friends.

    How can you make it better? You can help the patient by providing online and offline discussion guides with proper support resources. You can also encourage the patient to start interacting with friends and family in order to seek emotional support.

  • Obtaining insurance coverage: Sorting out insurance matters can be confusing and frustrating for patients. There are instances where the treatment is not covered, or the patient is underinsured or not insured at all. Insurance companies can help patients obtain the right insurance coverage for counseling, online support and reimbursement support.

    How can you make it better? You can act as a consultant for offering support services.

  • Access to therapy: There are cases where a patient decides to stop taking his medication because he or she does not want to put any financial burden on the family. Some therapies can be very expensive and may prohibit patients from starting or continuing the treatment.

    How can you make it better? You can offer patient assistance programs and discount programs to pay for part of or the entire treatment. This may encourage patients to start and continue the patient journey.

  • Treatment: During treatment, most patients experience tremendous impacts on their physical, emotional and financial state. It becomes difficult to manage time constraints, family obligations, social pressure and work balance.

    How can you make it better? You can offer disease management tools, peer-to-peer support, attendant services and social media support. You can even try to partner with pharmaceutical manufacturers in order to help patients feel at ease with their illnesses and treatments.

  • Adherence: One of the most common roadblocks in the patient journey is a failure in adhering to treatment guidelines. Unexpected side effects, medication mishandling and the emotional rollercoaster may cause patients to quit therapy, resulting in failed outcomes.

    How can you make it better? You can deploy traditional and modern techniques for providing medication reminders, refill instructions, nursing support for drug administration and emotional counseling. You can even attempt to provide transportation services to patients who live in far-flung areas.

  • Continued support for healthy living: Staying healthy requires the patient to fully commit to a new lifestyle as well as form productive relationships with healthcare providers.

    How can you make it better? You can seize the opportunity to partner with patients for developing innovative approaches to keeping them healthy.

Make every step count

Patient journey mapping is a strategic process of capturing and communicating patient interactions. When done correctly, this activity builds knowledge and consensus across your medical practice, which are the foundation to creating seamless patient experiences. The experience is empowering for both the patient and physician, enabling insights to help make informed decisions.

As you walk along the patient journey, keep these tips in mind to help you build fruitful interactions:

  • Create a patient persona: Your patients are human beings first, and you must get to know them before treating them. A potential patient experiences illness within the context of a complete life – in the middle of fears, hopes, dreams, children to raise and bills to pay each day. That is why it helps to create a persona to visualize the patient journey. You can start with basic factors such as gender, age, ethnicity and lifestyle.

  • Respect but don’t judge: We all tend to judge people who are not our loved ones or close to us. It is advisable to confirm your assumptions. According to Pew Research, 64 percent of Americans above the age of 65 use the Internet. Moreover, while millennials may not feel convinced about the idea of a primary-care physician, older adults are willing to engage online with healthcare practitioners.

  • Caregivers are important, too: Almost 40 million Americans adults provide unpaid, necessary support to another adult. These people feel additional stress and concern about their loved ones. The influence and importance of such caregivers are often ignored in healthcare marketing. You must consider how you can help them on their caregiving journey.

  • Avoid technical jargon: The biggest roadblock in healthcare marketing is to convert professional medical information into useful and engaging content for the patient. For instance, health literacy is a big concern as most of the Americans are unable to understand instructions from healthcare providers. Even the most educated person may get confused when searching for health information online.

  • Encourage patients to take the next step: At each step on the journey, the patient has different needs. Those needs can be as simple as making an appointment or connecting patients with others on a similar path to share information. You may want to make the next step as clear and straightforward as possible. You must link to patient stories and offer multiple ways to contact you.

    Practice Builders’ prides itself on helping our clients boost outcomes and improve the patient experience. We promote the best practices in healthcare innovation along the patient journey. The result is more leads, increased sales and continuous improvement. Contact us to get a free demo today.

Medical Healthcare Marketing

The Ultimate Guide to Patient Referral Marketing

The Ultimate Guide to Patient Referral Marketing

Developing a strong referral network is critical to ensuring the success of your medical practice. In order to grow your medical practice’s revenue, it is important to attract new patients consistently. In addition to advertising and connecting with insurance agencies, establishing a reliable referral network is an excellent way to bring in new business.

However, as healthcare practices merge and consolidate, it can be tough for small practices to build and nurture referral relationships. Moreover, even if a referral channel is set up, sustaining it becomes a challenge. While you may be playing your role well by referring patients to specialists, you need to make sure other doctors are returning the favor by referring their patients to you. This is where networking plays an integral part as other doctors will only feel comfortable referring patients to your practice if they trust you. The more well-known your practice is, the more likely other doctors will refer patients to you.

What drives physician referrals?

In the last decade or so, the rate at which doctors have referred patients to a specialist has more than doubled. Professional referrals have not grown just because doctors want to expand their practice, but for a multitude of various factors that drive physicians’ decisions. The following are some of the points that are contributing to the increased referral rate:

1. Too few doctors: There is a shortage of primary-care physicians in the United States, which means they lack the time and resources to pay attention to patients with complex illness. So rather than decreasing the quality of patient care in order to maximize revenue to balance expenses, these patients are referred to specialists who have sufficient resources for handling their complex symptoms. According to published reports, the availability of primary-care physicians is not going to improve for the next few years at least. Therefore, in the years to come, the rate of professional referrals will grow as physician availability declines.

2. Fear of malpractice: Recent studies have revealed physicians’ constant worry over malpractice. This concern is one of the strongest drivers behind requesting lab tests and referrals. According to a study, physicians’ fears of being sued for malpractice are disproportionate to the risk of being sued. But as long as malpractice remains a concern for physicians, it will influence their referral patterns. Also, patients often demand to be referred to a specialist. In the past, a patient with shoulder pain might be told to take a Motrin and wait for a few days. However, now the patient demands to be referred to a neurologist. So, a larger portion of referrals is coming from patient requests as well.

3. Keeping the patient satisfied: Patients are more informed today than they were a decade ago. Healthcare websites, online reviews and heaps of online information have increased patients’ role in their healthcare decisions. Some patients even walk in to the physician’s office determined what specialist they want to be referred to. In such cases, in order to make the patients happy, the physician usually refers them to the desired specialist.

Why do you need professional referrals?

Studies show that referral marketing can trigger the growth of your medical practice. Moreover, that is what doctors want. Industry experts believe that referred patients tend to be more loyal and profitable than regular patients. This means that getting including a referral program in your marketing strategy toolbox is essential for every medical practice.

While there are many more reasons to consider a physician referral program for growing your practice, here are three primary ones:

1. Attract new patients: The most significant benefit of a physician referral program is that it creates a continuous stream of new patients. Your patients will come looking for you rather than you having to find them.

2. Increase brand recognition: Once your referral sources start referring patients to your practice, brand recognition is an apparent benefit. The more happy patients you will have, the more personal referrals you will get. This will result in increased traffic through your practice website and social media profiles. All of this is bound to boost your brand’s image.

3. Higher ROI: Online networking, eNewsletters, online discussion groups and social media groups have made it easier for smaller practices to promote themselves and become a trusted source. These referrals programs have considerably higher ROI than traditional marketing methods.

Some valuable tips to get you started

Physician referrals are a critical component in growing your practice and attracting new patients. However, just waiting for patients and other doctors to refer to you might not be sufficient for filling your appointment book. You will have to go after them.

Here are some expert tips for small medical practices that are looking to establish, maintain and strengthen their referral relationships:

Create a plan and adhere to it: You will need to create a plan or work in close collaboration with a healthcare marketing expert to help you design a referral marketing plan and then execute it. It is critical that you have perseverance, discipline and trust in the plan. Many practices expect instant results from such plans. You must understand that developing a referral network is a process and not an event. An effective referral marketing plan requires time and effort. Too often, practices change their priorities or suspend their referral-building plans before they have time to yield results.

Adopt technology: In the healthcare business, you must be technologically savvy in order to share electronic information with networking doctors for improving efficiencies and delivering better patient care. The ideal solution for hosting and sharing patient-related information is cloud-based. This solution will not only allow the physician to receive referrals electronically but will also streamline the referral process and eliminate paperwork.

Communicate often: You will need to keep communication channels open for your referrers to discuss any patient-related issues. This will improve the quality of patient care and support your relationship with the referring doctors.

Know your target audience: The most important criteria for building patient volume is your practice’s specialty. For instance, growing a primary-care practice requires a patient-friendly approach, while creating a dermatology practice requires a targeted approach to physician referrers.

Welcome new physicians: You must have a plan to contact and welcome any new doctors in your area. You can call, write a personal letter of introduction and provide your contact details. You can also offer to serve as a resource and a friend, whether for professional or family needs.

Meet your referrers: When you are looking to increase your referrals, a face-to-face meeting with the referring physician can make a huge difference in enhancing your relationship. Also, networking and maintaining cordial relationships with the referring physician’s staff is a good way to increase the number of referrals.

Advertise your practice: You must advertise and promote your practice locally and make yourself available. Join your local medical societies and chambers of commerce, and become known. In order to determine your largest resource pool, keep track of where your maximum ROI comes from and invest efforts in enhancing it accordingly. Network with other medical practitioners as they may turn out to be sources of referrals.

Keep the referring doctor informed: Usually, referral doctors want to work with specialists who do not require constant follow-up on paperwork or the patient’s treatment. Also, providing excellent patient care makes the referral doctor’s life easier because they will not need to see the same patient again.

Re-evaluate and revamp relationships: This is the most important part – to regularly evaluate and update your relationships with referral sources. To be successful in a referral marketing programs, you have to be aware of the changes occurring around you. For instance, what may have been a good referral plan in dermatology three years ago may not be suitable today as facilities and equipment change.

Avoid these mistakes

The quality of your referral network can impact your income, patient experience, information security and your medical career. That is why it is critical to building a strong referral network from the very beginning. Moreover, once you have established your referral network, you must maintain and upgrade it regularly. Just a few mistakes can damage the reputation of your medical practice. Here are some of those mistakes:

1. Not monitoring patient satisfaction: While there are various ways to control the health of your referral network, patient satisfaction is one of the most important ones. Just because your patients are interacting with other healthcare providers as well, you should not stop monitoring their satisfaction. The more satisfied your patients are, the less chance of you being involved in a lawsuit.

2. Choosing challenging referral partners: This is an easy mistake to make. If you are not careful and selective while choosing your referral partners, you could find yourself neck deep in a sea of unhappy patients and bad partner relationships. It may seem tempting to sign on with any provider with good reviews, but you must spend some time getting to know them and their practice. If you are looking to form long-term partnerships, find partners who have similar goals and target audiences.

3. Poor communication: Communication is the foundation of the patient experience. Patients want to feel cared for and welcome, and not that they are being shuffled from one office to another. Therefore, it is critical to have rules around your communications. Your staff should be trained to communicate effectively, and they should be regularly evaluated.

4. Listen to your patients: You must manage their expectations around the referral process right from the beginning and make sure their doubts and questions are resolved. Patients expect smooth and flawless communication from their providers, and you must make the effort to live up to this expectation.

Even if you think your medical practice is doing well and that a physician referral program is a waste of time, think again! Your medical practice is a business, and it is critical that you think of the future. You must implement a systematic method to identify, create and maintain healthy relationships with prospective referrals.

At Practice Builders, our referral development experts will ensure your referral network is giving you the best-quality patients rather than an office full of low-quality patients. You can call us to take advantage a free referral marketing evaluation for your medical practice.

Medical Healthcare Marketing