With healthcare organizations competing online for the attention of potential patients, it can be easy for physician practices to get caught up in the chase and forget about the people that they’ve already worked hard to attract. This occurs despite the fact that attracting a new patient costs five times more than it does to keep an old one, an expense that many practices can’t afford now that rising healthcare costs are keeping patients from going to the doctor. Instead of investing primarily in seeking out new business, practices should value the patients they already have and commit the necessary resources to keep them satisfied.
Here are three simple things your practice can do to hang on to existing patients and to keep them coming back for more:
1. Establish a personal connection.
To build loyalty you first need to establish trust -- and the only way to gain the trust of your patients is to earn it. You can do this by showing patients that you are invested in their health (i.e., make a follow-up call to find out if the new medication you prescribed is working) and that you are committed to them as members of the community (i.e., send an email on their birthday using an email marketing tool such as Benchmark ). These small, personal touches can make a big difference by showing patients that you care. Best of all, they don’t require major physical or financial resources.
2. Be the best at what you do.
Providing a high quality service is one of the best ways to get patients to keep coming back to your office -- and it’s not just the quality of medical services you deliver that matters. Patients take into account the treatment they receive from the moment they first set foot inside your office to the time they walk out the front door. Therefore, it is important for every member of your staff to treat patients with kindness, honesty and respect. Doing so will help win your patients’ loyalty. It will also encourage them to tell others about your practice.
3. Use your website to your advantage.
A well-designed medical website can help you market your business online and attract new patients -- but it can also be a useful tool to keep existing patients coming back. You can do this by pointing patients to a section on your website where they can find educational medical content or by setting up a blog and updating it regularly with fresh content. This can include anything from:
- Interesting medical news that might be relevant to your patients.
- Updates about upcoming deals or promotions that your practice is offering.
- Pictures of your staff dressed up for a holiday or special event.
You can also integrate your website with a patient portal  to provide additional resources that are valuable to patients, such as online bill pay, appointment scheduling and secure messaging. If you make it easy for patients to contact you and make an appointment, they’re going to do it.
Amanda Guerrero is a writer and blogger specializing in EHR, health IT and meaningful use. She has a special interest in patient engagement and using healthcare technologies to increase patient involvement in their health. You can follow her on Twitter at @meanusenetwork .