The established patient base for any healthcare organization, practice or group is never permanent...and may not be as firmly established as you might think. The process of improving retention is grounded in the internal communications skills of doctor, staff and everyone who works there. Surprisingly, the essentials are all about caring.
In healthcare, "retention" and "attrition" are always part of the Internal Marketing mix. And with both, the true question is: how much?
It's pretty obvious that your want a high retention and low attrition. Perhaps less obvious is that these factors can be quantified so you know the actual score.
If you haven't done this lately, put pencil to paper and calculate how many patients you are losing each year and compare that number to your active patient base to come up with your attrition rate. Of course, reasonable percentages vary by profession and specialty. Also, keep in mind too that some attrition is inevitable — after all, patients die or move all the time.
Once you have uncovered your attrition percentage, calculate (or guesstimate) what that represents in lost revenue. It is one thing to say you have an annual 18% attrition rate. It is quite another to translate that into lost revenue and discover you are frittering away $250,000 (or millions of dollars) away each year.
Worse, remember that all of your efforts to increase new patients will be fruitless and even frustrating if you end up with as much or more patient attrition as you achieve in new patient volume. If you achieve 10% growth in new patient volume, but you simultaneously experience a 20% loss in your established patient base—the net result is definitely not in your favor.
Good businesses know that they cannot afford to take for granted the established relationships with current patients in their quest for new. So how do you organize your processes in a way that insures higher levels of patient retention?
In business in general, upwards of 70% of people who take their business elsewhere do so because they perceive an attitude of indifference. Admittedly, their perception may not have been due to a deliberate slight or discourtesy, but the result is staggering anyway.
In virtually any healthcare environment, the essential elements of interaction (improving retention and reducing attrition) are proactive steps to avoid the "indifference" message with your internal public.
We've found seven key elements, in our experience, that are vital to office procedures or processes in order to insure higher levels of retention.
Of course, your attrition might be a VERY expensive problem. It is not uncommon to uncover attrition rates that translate into lost revenue of hundreds of thousands of dollars — or even millions of dollars — annually. In that event, it makes economic sense to bring out expert help.
We have many resources that can help you, both within and outside of our company. Spending a few thousand dollars to fix a six-figure problem is the best return on investment you'll find anywhere.