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Can you put a price on patient relationships?

Medical Economics JournalDecember 10, 2018 edition
Volume 95
Issue 23

Including funds in your budget dedicated to technological investments that improve the patient experience will be worth it in the long run.

Let’s face it-today’s patients are flighty. They’re significantly more likely to switch practices than patients of just a few decades ago. In fact, experts estimate that one in three medical patients will leave their current provider within the next couple of years. A surprisingly large number of these are not switching due to insurance change or a household move, but because of unmet expectations. Driven by the experiences they’ve had in other industries, patients are looking for innovations and advances in their patient experience. Unfortunately, many providers are failing to meet these expectations. 

Practices that ignore the needs of today’s patients will quickly lose them. These losses are extremely costly, with research showing that losing a patient due to dissatisfaction results in the loss of over $200,000 in income over the lifetime of a practice. Multiply that by the “one in three” patients who expect to switch practices and you can quickly see just how much those patient relationships are actually worth.  

Technology helps practices retain patients 

To build strong relationships with your patients, you have to meet their expectations. One of the main things they are looking for? Technology. Ninety percent of patients say they won’t stay with a practice that doesn’t provide the digital experience they want. And 83 percent of those looking for a new provider say they’re hunting for one that offers the latest in digital technology. 

The PwC Health Research Institute recently conducted a widespread study to look at the defining issues of the healthcare industry in 2018 and the years to come. This report advised, “Organizations need to educate both patients and clinicians how to use available tools and integrate them into care.” 

Adding technology to your practice will strengthen your patient relationships and improve patient retention, ultimately increasing your bottom line. Including funds in your budget dedicated to technological investments that improve the patient experience will be worth it in the long run. 

The following are the most popular technologies patients are seeking. 

Digital self-scheduling. Research shows that 77 percent of patients want to book their own appointments. Online self-scheduling tools allow patients to view the physician’s availability and select an appointment time that best suits their schedules at their convenience.  This minimizes the need for rescheduling, eliminates phone calls, and reduces frustration for patients and staff members

Online billing and payment. Patients are looking for digital options when it comes to both billing and payment. Around 80 percent of patients say they want to pay their healthcare bills online. Unfortunately, 90 percent of surveyed providers still use paper patient statements and as a result only 20 percent of patient make any online healthcare payments. 

Mobile communication. Patients are looking for digital access to their doctors’ offices and want to remove the need for a phone call. They want to be able to request a prescription refill or ask a health question in a more convenient manner. A recent Harris Poll found that 59 percent of insured patients and 70 percent of millennials would choose a primary care provider who offered mobile options over one who did not. Enabling practice texting (especially two-way texting) is an easy way to meet this demand. 

Access to medical records. Easy access to medical records is one of the top requests of today’s patients. While health information is now available electronically more than ever before, over half of patients (55 percent) say that they have little to no access to or control over their medical information. If you haven’t given your patients’ electronic access to their medical records, now is the time to do so. If you choose to make the switch to online patient medical records, be sure to educate your patients how to access these records, because there is a good chance your patients will not know how to access their records without initial instruction.

Running a business successfully, regardless of industry, is all about creating strong, long-term relationships by meeting the demands of your market. And the healthcare market is demanding additional technology. So as you create your budget for the upcoming year, take an assessment of your practice. Are you offering the digital experience today’s patients demand? If not, see where you can make some changes. A small investment in those patient relationships now can lead to great dividends in the future. 

Josh Weiner is the chief operating officer at Solutionreach. As an operator and investor, Weiner has deep experience helping healthcare and technology companies scale operations and access new markets. Before joining Solutionreach, he served as vice president at Summit Partners, a leading global growth equity firm, and advised a wide range of healthcare and technology companies. Prior to that he was a consultant with McKinsey & Company. He has been recognized by Utah Business Magazine as CXO of the Year and 40 Under 40. Weiner is a graduate of Stanford University. He writes and speaks extensively on patient relationship management.

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