Do you know how to keep patients in your practice?

December 13, 2013

Features such as short wait times and convenient location are not what keep patients coming back, according to a new study

Want to keep your patients’ loyalty? Then make sure they have confidence in your abilities as a healthcare provider and that your staff works well together in caring for them.

Patients’ overall confidence in their provider and the quality of care coordination are the two most important predictors of patient loyalty to a medical practice, eclipsing even issues such as wait times, ease of access, and practice amenities, according to a recent study by the healthcare management consulting firm Press Ganey.

While keeping patients has always been important to medical practices, the study notes that the growing amount of-and patient access to-data on provider quality could lead to more movement of patients among practices. Patients having to find new physicians, or who will be seeing a physician for the first time as a result of the Affordable Care Act, will add to the level of churn.

 In response, Press Ganey identified risk factors that might cause a patient to leave a practice and developed an algorithm that practices can use to benchmark their risk of losing patients, and take appropriate steps to reduce the risk. Based on an analysis of patient records and reasons given for leaving a practice, the firm identified five variables likely to determine patient loyalty to a practice:

 

  • confidence in the care provider,

  • coordination of care,

  • concern care providers show in responding to patients’ questions and concerns,

  • listening, and

  • courtesy of care providers.

 

Researchers then developed a “decision tree” analysis, dividing patients into groups with higher or lower degrees of risk of leaving their physician. For example, patients who expressed “high confidence” in their provider were at a 1.9% risk of changing practices, compared with a 74.6% risk among patients with “low confidence” in their provider.

Among patients expressing high confidence in their provider, those who felt there was good care coordination among care providers were at a 1% risk for leaving the practice, versus an 11% risk among patients who did not think care coordination was good. For those patients who lacked confidence in their provider but felt the practice had good care coordination the defection risk was 28%, and patients with low confidence in their provider and who were critical of care coordination the defection risk was 90%. Similar risk levels were assigned to the other three factors determining patient loyalty.

“This analysis suggests that coordination of care and demonstrating concern for the worries of patients represent key opportunities for physicians and their associated medical practices to improve patient care, while also enhancing patient loyalty and supporting financial viability,” the Press Ganey researchers say.

 

 

 

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