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How to manage patient relationships with a CRM

We can talk about improving patient access, increasing patient volume, and patient satisfaction all day long. Almost all of this really ends up pointing us in the direction of patient relationship management. While it sounds like a new buzzword that is used to generate revenue for consultants, product developers, and speakers – and for some, that may be the case; however, for a medical practice endeavoring to stand out from the competition – i.e., to attract the patients the practice owners want and to retain existing patients – patient relationship management is necessary.

Patients are not as loyal as they used to be. They are bearing a higher percentage of their healthcare costs. Being educated consumers, they are shopping around for the highest value for their healthcare dollars. If you do not invest heavily into patient relationships, you will certainly see dwindling patient volumes.

Patients are also looking for doctors with highest levels of patient access. If it takes weeks to get an appointment with you, you are pretty soon going to lose patients.

In the past, doctors and patients used to have a very personal relationship. Patients did not switch doctors very easily and the doctors knew their patients, their families by name. There were much more solo practitioners and the volume of patients seen by a single solo practice wasn’t high. A CRM was not needed.

That’s no longer the case.

Why you need to invest in patient relationship management

The “fee for service” world continues and solo practices continue to dwindle. An AMA study showed that a majority of physicians are now employed by larger hospitals or health systems. In other words, that personal relationship between a doctor and patients no longer exists as it used to in the past.

Much like with any large brand and corporation, customers (patients, in this case), simply are “not a name, but a number”. Unavoidable.. especially since running larger healthcare organizations requires higher volumes (and transactions).

This has had a direct impact on the no-show rates, patient access, increasing patient volume, and patient satisfaction.

Due to the nature of healthcare, there is something unique about the provider-patient relationship; nevertheless, patients are, in the end, consumers that are looking for value when spending their healthcare dollars.

In the era of high-deductible health plans, increased cost sharing, and increased interest in concierge medicine it is more often the patient’s – not their employer’s – money that is being spent on healthcare. Despite the intimacy of the patient-provider relationship, patients do switch providers, and their propensity to do so is underestimated by providers.

There is a significant disconnect, according to the Altarum Institute’s study (cited above).

Patients do switch healthcare providers

You need to cement your relationships with your patients.

In a survey, nearly sixty percent of patients that responded stated that they would switch providers for quality or service reasons; whereas fewer than one-quarter of the doctors that responded felt that a patient would switch providers for those reasons.

The study’s results also showed that there was a disconnect between how satisfied that providers thought their patients were – they estimated that roughly three-fourths of patients were satisfied; whereas, patients themselves, when asked, stated a satisfaction of roughly forty percent.

The increasing consumerization of healthcare along with the strong disconnect between providers’ perception of a patient’s willingness to switch providers and their overall satisfaction indicates that there is a gap that is currently not being filled with existing patient management tools.

Patients are being marketed to digitally

Back in the day, there were no digital tools, no digital ads. Marketing was a lot more expensive and involved print and media (traditionally, pretty expensive). As a physician you could rest easy that you were the “only game in town”.

Now, you have doctor offices popping up on every corner (whether they are solo practices or owned by a hospital). Competition has increased.

Doctors can treat patients even if the patient does not reside close to their office location(s). Consider even telemedicine as a threat.

Your patients are all on google and facebook all day long. They are seeing ads all day long.

If you are not reminding your patient that you are their doctor of choice, someone else is going to steal your patient. We can guarantee it.

Patients expect instant gratification

There’s no getting around this. Ask yourself – what do YOU do when you see that something on Amazon.com is not available to be shipped for 15 days from now? Do you order it and wait? Or do you simply move to the next vendor?

That’s exactly what patients are doing to you.

Take your patient access seriously. A LOT more seriously.

It’s great to add new patients to your practice each month, but keep in mind that repeat patients typically make up 80% of your business. The more you lose patients, the more marketing dollars you have to spend in acquiring new patients.

Net-net : If you want to remain competitive, invest in improving patient access and certainly start investing heavily in patient relationship management.

Patient relationship management – basics

Think about how ecommerce vendors treat you. They:

  1. Wish you happy birthday
  2. Wish you various seasonal greetings
  3. Send you relevant articles or blog posts to read once you purchase something
  4. Send you timely offers
  5. Greet you with your name when you login to their website or mobile app
  6. Remember your account and credit card information so you don’t have to remember them each time
  7. Allow you to interact with their brand 24×7
  8. Provide stellar customer service each time you contact them
  9. Send you regular updates when you purchase something
  10. Keep you in the loop about the status of an inquiry or purchase
  11. Ask you how satisfied you were with each transaction you make
  12. Make it SUPER easy for you to do business with them
  13. Make recommendations based on your past purchases or interests
  14. So on and so forth.

That’s what you have come to expect from your favorite e-commerce vendor. That’s also why you are loyal to your ecommerce vendor… because they invested in you.

Do you invest in your patients?

Time to get started is NOW.


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