When you committed money and resources to attracting new patients, you justified the investment based on your expected returns. On the investment side, your calculations included the cost to attract potential patients and the cost and resources needed to convert those into patients who set, fill, and pay for an appointment. However, one visit by a patient does not provide a sufficient return on investment (ROI). On the value side of the equation, you must also include the full expected lifetime value of each patient. This is how much value the patient will bring to your practice over the lifetime of your relationship with that patient.
While that is the most valid way to justify your investment, attrition is a reality in any practice. This means that you cannot count on every patient to provide a full lifetime value. For each provider in your practice, you likely have 1,000 to 2,000 patients who showed up for that one or maybe a few appointments, but then they quit responding to your outreach for patient recall or fell through the cracks for any of myriad reasons. In other words, they are not returning that lifetime value you expected.
Three Ways You Should Respond to Attrition
Don’t accept attrition as a business norm. Remember that it is five to 25 times easier and less expensive to retain existing patients as to acquire new ones to replace them.((https://hbr.org/2014/10/the-value-of-keeping-the-right-customers)) You can take action.
Identify and correct deficiencies in your practice.
Patients fall into the attrition black hole of your database for multiple reasons. Some are impatient, and if availability is limited, they might go to a competitor. Your front-desk staff might be new and inexperienced and thus might not have the knowledge to answer insurance and other questions. Sometimes employees are so overworked that they become disengaged. Wait times can also be an issue when your practice is too busy, and patients are either left waiting or are rushed through. These are a few examples. The first action you should take is to identify reasons patients are leaving your practice and correct these problems.
Replace patients with new-patient marketing.
Some patients move away, pass away, find a caregiver who fits their situation better, or just don’t need recare. Okay, you have no control over these situations. You will need to replace these patients through new-patient marketing.
Focus more energy on the rest of your inactive patients.
A significant number of the inactive patients in your database haven’t gone inactive for any of the reasons listed above. Despite their best intentions, staff members might have neglected to follow up on no-shows and cancellations, or they let patients who needed a follow-up appointment walk out the door without scheduling one. A large number of inactive patients are overdue with no good reason other than that they didn’t respond to your emails, texts, and autocalls for recare, and your current efforts ended prematurely. These patients were happy with the care you provided, they still live in the area, and they need care. We found that some 25 percent ((Breathe New Life into Patient Reactivation, slide 11. 25% of patients come back eight months to five years after first contact. Most of the benefit comes in the first 2 ½ years: 16% in 32–63 weeks, 7% in 64–127 weeks, 2% in 128–255 weeks. ALOHA Study: More than 20% of patients return in the first 30 weeks of contact. )) of your inactive patients will return to your practice even if they have been inactive for as many as five years. You just need to apply the right outreach strategies. For example, many practices rely completely on the low-cost automated emails, texts, and autocalls to contact patients while avoiding labor-intensive live phone calls. Our research found, however, that live calls are the single most effective method for returning overdue patients to a practice. ((Brevium Analysis of Lost, Overdue, High-Risk, Absentee Patients (ALOHA) Study.))
Start with a Patient Reactivation Strategy
Create an outline of your practice’s needs for patient reactivation. For example, if you have an office or a provider whose schedule has too many open spots, put it at a high priority. If you opened a new office and need to fill it with patients, list this as a priority. Then build a reactivation strategy to work alongside any new-patient marketing you plan. Go to your patient database. It contains a host of information that you can use to customize your patient outreach. The database includes when the patient last visited, when and how you contacted them, their provider, their insurance, and so on. In your strategy, you can focus on those patients who previously visited your provider who now has open appointment slots. For the new office, you can target inactive patients who live in the office’s service area. You can also avoid spending resources on certain patients, such as those who have insurance you no longer accept. Familiarize yourself with the information in your database, and use that information to build your reactivation strategy.
Attrition is a common problem among all medical providers. Many providers accept it as a part of doing business, but you can minimize the attrition in your practice by first making sure you are providing patients with the best care possible, and then by building a strategy to bring back the lost patients who have ended up on your inactive-patient list. The results will be a more robust lifetime value of each patient and an ROI equation with a higher value on the return side.
Brevium is the pioneer in patient reactivation. Brevium’s software mines its clients’ patient databases using customized algorithms to improve the patient appointment lifecycle™. Hundreds of practices have found Brevium to be a trusted partner, with personalized training and unlimited support. Through original research and software development, Brevium helps ensure that patients return for the care they need, and practices derive the greatest financial benefit from the patient appointment lifecycle™.