Empower Your Practice
Journal for Practice Managers

The Role of Practice Management Software in Patient Retention

Michael May
November 29, 2019

The Role of Practice Management Software in Patient Retention

Changing the medical software you use to manage your practice can make or break your business plans depending on how you do it. One crucial aspect of this transition is the patient experience. Whether you are going paperless for the first time ever or you are learning a new way of handling your workflow, your patients should be at the forefront of your mind.

Practice management systems are designed to enhance your workflow and automate many of the mundane but essential tasks that you used to do manually. By selecting a system that improves your colleagues’ job satisfaction, it will have a knock-on effect on your patients. Think about the last time you visited a doctor about your own health. The less stressed the reception staff, the better the overall experience you would have had regardless of the rest.

Many clinics make the mistake of going digital just for the sake of it. You may have been advised to do so by your peers but haven't considered what this actually means. It is vital that you carefully consider your current paper-based workflow and understand that there is likely to be plenty of ways to optimise it for the digital world. It’s worth thinking about if only for the effects it will have on patient experience.

The right PMS should improve your workflow in these crucial ways amongst myriad others:

  • Disrupt your workflow in a positive sense
  • Optimise your workload and improve job satisfaction
  • Energise your colleagues to contribute to your transformation
  • Boost patient experience and engagement with treatment

Automate Patient Communications for Higher Attendance

Patients fail to attend appointments for all sorts of reasons. Regardless of the specifics, the guilty party is often your clinic even when it doesn’t seem like it. There’s plenty you can do to ensure that your patients attend their appointments and keep coming back to you time and time again. Make sure that you learn why no-shows and cancellations are occurring and do everything you can to put things right.

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No-shows and late cancellations typically happen for these reasons:

  • Patients forget to attend
  • Services are set at the wrong price point
  • Patients no longer believe they need your help
  • A competing clinic has taken your patient
  • Patients were not sufficiently engaged with you

By automating your patient communications and yet keeping them as personalised as possible, you ensure that patient retention is as high as can be.

Guarantee that your patients are maximally engaged with your clinic in advance of attendance by:

  • Setting up automated confirmation and reminders via email and/or SMS
  • Timing your reminders to match cancellation periods, e.g. 2 days before an appointment
  • Providing a Google Maps link and public transport information
  • Sharing the best places to park vehicles close to your clinic
  • Demonstrating your value on social media

Market to Individual Patient Subgroups

Since patients come in all shapes and sizes with their own unique combinations of medical problems and personal characteristics, you need to address their expectations precisely. This is true of the whole patient experience, of course, but it particularly applies to the process of patient acquisition and retention. Being able to promote the most appropriate services to the correct patient subgroups could not be more important.

Your clinic should understand which subgroups exist among your patient cohort because:

  • Private patients often know exactly which service they need, e.g. a scan they would expect to wait months to have under the NHS
  • Advertising services used by certain groups boosts patient acquisition, e.g. flu jabs in the elderly
  • Promoting treatments that patients are likely to want improves patient engagement

By showing patients that you understand their needs in this way, your clinic will experience:

  • Increased patient acquisition and retention
  • Higher revenue per visit
  • Boosted cost-effectiveness of marketing channels

To make sure you get the information out there in the open so the right patients learn about the services most useful to them is quite easy when you have the correct tools at hand. Medesk provides a number of ways in which you can learn more about existing and prospective patients who are visiting your website or other digital presence.

To target specific patient groups and raise retention rates, you will need to accomplish the following:

  • Mark patient records and appointments with colour-coded digital tags
  • Create reports to understand the connection between individual patients and services
  • Quantify your reports to learn which patient groups are most common
  • Draft specially-written marketing emails and texts for each subgroup
  • Integrate your PMS with Text Magic to send out messages in bulk
  • Tag patient acquisition channels to see which ones really work

Actively Seek Patient Feedback

The only real way to know whether you are meeting your patients’ needs is to ask them. Many clinicians are hesitant to be so direct as to outright request a patient’s opinion of the services rendered. It’s far better to bite the proverbial bullet and find out what your patients think, so don’t be shy! You would surely prefer to know how to improve than to remain in the dark.

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There are several ways to collect patient feedback in an organised manner. Try these:

  • Give receptionists a concise list of open-ended questions to ask
  • Develop email templates to send out after appointments
  • Separate feedback forms into categories, e.g. reception, doctor’s office
  • Make it easy for patients by giving links to online forms
  • Use buttons and drop-down lists to make data entry simple
  • Encourage constructive criticism, e.g. preferred solutions

It goes without saying that you should act upon any reasonable feedback if at all possible. Aside from making such improvements, it’s crucial that your patients, both existing and prospective, realise that you have made specific changes based solely on recommendations. Even in the case of negative feedback, you may still retain the patients in question by showing that you have listened and learned.

To demonstrate to old and new patients alike that you have changed, use these steps:

  • Directly inform the patient who complained of what you have changed
  • Announce on your website what has changed
  • Explain on social media what you have done and why
  • Repeat that you are always open to criticism and desire to improve

Making the leap to a new practice management system can offer great benefits to your patients in terms of keeping them up to date with their latest appointments and your newest services. Take a proactive approach to patient engagement and do everything you can to get the most out of your new digital tools.

Take Home Checklist for Boosting Patient Engagement

1. Consult your colleagues before you make wholesale changes

2. Consider the patient experience as a whole, not just the clinical aspect

3. Remember that seemingly small matters are not always so insignificant

4. Automate your appointment confirmations and reminders

5. Use email and text messaging to boost attendance rates

6. Make your patient communications as attractive and informative as possible

7. Use colour-coded tags to identify and record patient subgroups

8. Run detailed reports to understand each aspect of your patient cohort

9. Tailor your engagement approach to individual patient types

10. Listen to your patients and actively request their feedback and constructive criticism

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