Low patient retention hurts both providers and patients. Doctor-hopping patients miss out on the consistent quality of care they get from developing long-term relationships with providers — as well as the in-depth knowledge of their medical histories that comes with that. Providers suffer too, since acquiring new patients typically costs a lot more than keeping the ones you have. Not to mention, high turnover affects your bottom line.
Some patient turnover is normal. After all, patients might move away or age out of your practice. And, if you’re a specialist, some patients may only need your care on a short-term basis. But if you’re regularly shedding patients, it could be a sign that something’s wrong.
Chances are, the issue is the way you brand and market your practice, rather than the quality of care you provide. And that’s a good thing — revamping your branding isn’t difficult, and it will let you better serve your patients.
Grow your practice with our weekly newsletter.
Make Your Branding True to You
If you think of branding as a marketing buzzword, then it’s time to update your mindset. Branding is all about making a warm introduction to your practice. It helps prospects get a sense of who you are before they become patients, so they know what to expect when they arrive for that first appointment.
Improve your branding by thinking about what distinguishes your practice, and communicate that to prospective patients. Are you a third-generation dentist running a no-frills family practice? Play up your extensive experience and highlight your straightforward approach to dentistry — this will appeal to patients who want a top-notch dentist without all the bells and whistles. On the other hand, if you’re a high-end practice that’s heavy on the amenities, make sure prospective patients know about the cashmere blankets and TVs in every room. Emphasizing these special features will attract patients who want the luxury experience you provide.
When your branding reflects your core values, you naturally match with the patients who are the best fit for your practice. And those are the patients who will keep coming back.
Keep Your Branding Consistent
Once you’ve identified the features that set your practice apart, make sure to communicate them in all of your marketing materials. Your website copy, professional biography, and ZocDoc profile — as well as any print, digital, and radio ads — should all emphasize your practice’s distinguishing attributes. They should give prospects a sense of your personality and bedside manner, so they can gauge if you’re the right provider for them.
Branding, however, goes beyond written words; don’t underestimate the importance of the visuals you choose to represent your practice. That family-run dentist, for example, might choose stock photos of happy parents and children for their website to communicate their wholesome atmosphere. They might also feature a photo of their parent or grandparent working in the practice to drive home their multigenerational expertise. Posting a few photos of your practice on your website gives patients a glimpse of your office ambiance. And, of course, a photo of yourself is crucial — otherwise, you’re just words on a page.
Hire Support Staff Who Share Your Core Values
Receptionists and other support staff are the ultimate brand ambassadors for your practice, since they are often the first point of contact with prospects. Invest time in hiring support staff that share your practice’s core values and train your staff to provide exceptional customer service. Receptionists, in particular, should be trained on how to address patient concerns and disputes. Competent, smooth dispute resolution can make the difference between forming a strong relationship with patients and losing them entirely.
Invest Time in Market Research
Every large business on the planet uses market research to help with branding, and you should too. Patient feedback is the most important tool you have to address patient turnover, since honest reviews can give you a sense of where and how a provider-patient relationship goes wrong.
Encourage your patients to leave honest feedback, with the option to submit comments anonymously. If you’re having trouble soliciting feedback, a small promotion — like offering patients $5 gift certificates to a local coffee shop in exchange for reviews, or entering reviewers’ names into a raffle — might help.
In the end, branding is all about communicating your values and incorporating them into every level of your practice. Consistent, authentic branding improves patient satisfaction and retention — so both you and your patients can reap the benefits of a long-term relationship.