When a patient has a long-term relationship with a practice or group, there are benefits on both sides. The patient receives more-personalized, more-comprehensive care, and the doctor can more easily create a bond of trust and understanding. According to June Scarlett, Formativ Health’s Chief Patient Access Officer, that bond “improves continuity of care and leads to better outcomes.”

For the doctor or group, long-term patients also mean fewer administrative hassles and a consistent revenue stream. These regular customers of your practice come back for issues large and small, and they can easily be referred to specialists and practices within your network, leading to additional revenue. Moreover, Scarlett says, “with the advent of electronic medical records and related technologies, the administrative costs related to appointments and referrals are reduced,” meaning additional revenue for the practice.

Although the benefits of lifelong patients are clear, taking advantage of those benefits can be a challenge. Fortunately, there are proven approaches to cultivating loyal patients. One of the most effective, Scarlett says, is to create “a contact center or a single point of access for patients to help them navigate across the different touch points within a network.” Offering one centralized way to make appointments, handle billing, and access records “improves the customer experience and builds loyalty.”

If you are part of a health system, Scarlett adds, “your organization might already have centralized HR and IT functions.” She recommends expanding that centralized system to include inpatient units, ambulatory facilities, and more.

Practices and groups should “think about creating centralized systems using new technologies,” Scarlett says. More and more, healthcare organizations are using online portals and smartphone apps to bring information and services to their patients. These technologies can help in many ways, as Scarlett explains: “If your patient had blood work done during one doctor visit, your practice can use technology to store that information, so it can be quickly and easily shared with another doctor in your group should that patient go for a different procedure. This saves time, improves accuracy, and saves money.”

What’s more, the patient can access this information using an app or portal. Scarlett points out that healthcare and technology experts have documented how these portals and apps work to create a kind of “loyalty program” for your customers. “Patients love having immediate access to their health records—and they love getting quick, responsive service from their healthcare providers,” she says. “Access to centralized information and services keeps patients engaged and builds loyalty.”

Interested in learning more about creating continuity? Check out our white paper, Happy Patients Come Back, to learn more.