You can devote a huge amount of time and resources to marketing your practice, but if you aren’t keeping the patients you’ve got, it all goes down the drain. Most of the time, when a patient jumps ship, you never get an explanation, but the real reason may not be so far under the surface, if you know where to look. Here are 5 of the most common reasons patients switch doctors.
It’s just a fact of life, and there’s nothing you can do to prevent this. But just because a patient moves across the country doesn’t have to mean the end of your working relationship. If they leave on a happy note, they are more likely to continue recommending you to the friends and family they leave behind. You’ll also be the first one on their mind if they need medical assistance on a visit home. If your patient tells you they are planning a move, be proactive. Offer your contacts to assist them in finding a physician in their new town. Facilitate the smooth and speedy release of their medical history and file. Thank them genuinely for their time with your practice and wish them well.
They are irritated with consistently long wait times.
This matters in and outside of the office. If your patients feel that they can’t get a convenient appointment when they need one, or if they arrive on time only to be left languishing in the waiting room for the better part of an hour, they are going to lose patience. When someone feels as if their doctor doesn’t respect their time, that ill-will seeps over into other aspects of the patient experience and will begin to color the way they see your practice. Occasional delays are normal and understandable, but communication and courtesy go a long way toward smoothing things out.
They are fed up with billing hassles.
Patients are already stressed about dealing with the complexities of health insurance companies, Medicaid and Medicare. Your office should make paying for healthcare as easy and streamlined as possible. You should stay up to date on what’s covered and what’s not, and be ready and able to suggest alternatives and payment plans. The intersection of medical care and money is complicated and emotional, so whoever deals with your accounts must be compassionate, respectful, and clear.
They’ve had bad encounters with staff.
Sometimes the reason patients change doctors has nothing to do with the doctor at all. A testy receptionist, rudeness over the phone, a lack of patience from the nursing staff-every interaction your patient has with anyone at your practice contributes to the overall patient experience, for better and for worse. Good service is an indispensable factor in providing a high level of care.
They perceive a breakdown in doctor/patient communication.
According to patient surveys, the two most important qualities of a doctor are thoroughness and empathy, and one is no good without the other. It’s vital that patients feel that their doctor knows them, understands them, and listens to them. How available are you to your patients? Do you consciously practice reflective listening techniques? If the doctor/patient relationship is healthy and working well, most people will be loyal to the practice. When it breaks down, patients begin to disappear.
Put systems in place to track patient visits, and when it looks as if someone is on the way out, take the time to call them personally. Sometimes just hearing the doctor’s voice and feeling valued can begin to rebuild the relationship. If you don’t succeed, at least you may gain some very valuable feedback about where you may be going wrong. Ultimately, keeping your patients coming back is more cost-effective for your practice, and leads to better healthcare outcomes.
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