Attracting and retaining new patients is essential for the financial stability and growth of any healthcare organization. According to June Scarlett, Formativ Health’s Chief Patient Access Officer, both physicians and patients benefit from a long-term relationship. “Having a long-term patient allows a provider to manage clinical care in a more comprehensive way,” she says. Moreover, there are financial upsides for a practice. “Because you can send patients for services within your system, there is tremendous downstream revenue associated with managing a patient over a lifetime.”

Here are a few tips for attracting and retaining new patients:

Make appointments easy. Studies say the top priority for patients who are choosing a doctor is their ability to get an appointment. The longer the wait time between the initial contact and the actual visit, the more likely it is that the patient won’t show up. Scarlett says this problem can be addressed by “making sure your administrative staff answers calls from new patients quickly and courteously.” In addition to phone communication, make text messaging and other modes of communication available to increase convenience. Hold blocks of appointment times open for new patients, and book visits within a reasonable time frame, preferably a week.
Stay connected. Build strong relationships with your patients by reaching out between visits. Send regular messages about health education and preventive and follow-up care, along with reminders about upcoming appointments. Be sure to match the outreach method with the patient’s preferred way to communicate, whether it’s mail, email, phone, or text.
Meet their needs. Scheduling a patient visit is about more than just picking a convenient day and time. It’s about matching the patient with a provider who accepts the patient’s coverage, speaks the patient’s language, and has the appropriate skill set. “Comprehensive scheduling systems are available to help practices make the right patient-to-provider match,” Scarlett says.

Be proactive. Although a patient may come to an office visit to address one specific issue, most patients have more than one medical need. To build lifelong relationships with patients, flag issues that may require follow-up visits. For example, patients with chronic conditions like diabetes or asthma will need multiple visits and check-ins. Proactively identify gaps in care and help patients schedule regular appointments.

Plan their next visit. At the end of each office visit, schedule the patient for the next one. Discuss needs and expectations, update the patient’s demographic and financial information, and arrange for any necessary procedures, such as lab work. This pre-visit planning increases efficiency in your practice and creates a positive experience for the patient.

Centralize communications. Scarlett says it’s important to create a “centralized communications system to help the patient navigate across different touch points within a network.” An ideal system eliminates dropped calls and responds to surges in demand. A centralized system allows your staff to concentrate on patients in a calm and friendly manner, improving the customer experience and building loyalty.

By incorporating these approaches, your practice can attract long-term, even lifelong, patients. The longer a patient stays in your care, the better you can manage that patient’s needs—and the longer your practice and network can enjoy the financial benefits of having a loyal customer.

Interested in learning more? Check out our white paper, Happy Patients Come Back.