Urgent Care Clinics have proven extremely popular in the last several decades. Patients love the convenience and speed with which they can find care. For clinic managers, this is good news but has also led to increased competition for patients.
As with any business, acquiring new customers is vital, but retaining existing customers is just as important. For urgent care clinics, increasing retention rates can drastically improve overall profitability.
Here are two big ideas you can use to improve patient retention for your urgent care clinic.
Background: Why Retention matters
What is patient retention?
Finding new patients for your urgent care clinic is called acquisition, and often happens through marketing, referrals, or walk-ins. Retention is when a patient re-visits your clinic after that initial acquisition.
Although acquisition can be expensive (especially if you spend a lot on advertising) it is in some ways simpler than retention. In an ad, you make a promise. If the ad doesn’t work, you can adjust your promise and try another ad.
With retention, your patient has already been to your clinic. Your promise matters less to them now than their experience. Therefore, if your retention rate is low, you can’t simply tweak your messaging to fix it; you may actually need to make substantive changes to your business.
Why retention matters
Retention is all about dollars and cents. If your clinic can increase its retention by 5%, that can translate into a 25% - 95% increase in profitability because you aren’t paying acquisition costs. It’s 6-7x more expensive to find a new patient than it is to retain one.
Long-term patients are 50% more likely to try new products or services and are also more likely to recommend your clinic to others, which in turn leads to new patients without acquisition costs.
To sum it up: it’s worth doing whatever you can to retain patients!
How can I calculate my retention rate?
The average clinic loses about 10-30% of patients every year. Over 5 years, about 50% of patients will move on to another provider.
It’s important to know how close to that average your clinic is landing. Establishing a baseline will give you a point of comparison so you can tell if your policies are working.
Customer retention is a simple number: how many patients does your clinic retain over a given period of time, as a percentage?
If you have 100 patients on January 1, have 120 patients on December 31, and obtained 40 new patients throughout the year, then you have an 80% retention rate.
Your churn rate is the opposite. If your retention rate is 80%, then your churn rate is 20%. Monitoring your retention rate is critical, so take some time now to go back over your clients for the last year and establish a baseline for yourself.
- Long-term customers are much more profitable
- Clinics lose about 10% of patients every year
- Measure your own retention rate to establish a baseline
Big Idea 1: Communicate Better (And More Often)
A number of studies have found that patient satisfaction is closely related to the quality of communication in your clinic. Here are some easy wins you can implement to improve communication with your patients.
Start with Surveys
The first place to start is with patient feedback surveys. This will let you know why your patients may be leaving. You need to know what your patients like and dislike about their experience at your clinic.
You don’t need to over-complicate these surveys, either. Something as simple as “thumbs up or thumbs down” will still give you ample data. A 2021 survey from Zendesk found that 50% of customers will switch to a competitor after just one bad experience, so pay close attention to those thumbs-down replies.
Make it easy to find information about you
Not all communication is verbal. Your website should quickly and easily communicate relevant information like clinic hours, location, parking, insurance accepted, and services provided.
Make sure this information is correct across the internet, too, using our free Online Presence Scan tool. It will automatically show you everywhere your clinic is listed, so you can quickly check for accuracy.
Make sure you’re being understood
Communication is a two-way street. If your doctors tell patients something, do the patients actually retain that information? A survey found that patients retain more when they’re asked to re-state what they’ve been told, which leads to higher patient satisfaction overall.
To improve patient satisfaction, Mark A. Zen Ruffinen, RN, CMSRN, MS notes that it’s important to make sure that patients fully understand any tests or procedures you’re doing, and how long they can expect everything to take.
Reach out proactively
If you’re already sending patients text and email reminders about upcoming appointments, think about other ways you can leverage digital communication to improve your patients’ overall experience and retention.
Proactively get in front of their issues by reminding them of services they might need. For example:
- In the summer, remind your patients that you treat rashes and bug bites.
- In the winter, remind them that you can help with colds and flu
- In the spring and fall, remind them about seasonal allergies and how to treat reactions
Go down your list of services and find other connections that you can communicate to your patients.
- Regularly survey your customers to know how happy they actually are
- Not all communication is equal - make sure you’re being understood
- Reach out proactively when possible
Big Idea 2: Build More Emotional Connections
Consumers that have an emotional connection to a business are much more likely to stay. The same is true with your patients. Building genuine emotional connections and feelings of goodwill can encourage patients to stick around.
Start with your clinic managers
Building a strong relationship between managers and patients is the best place to start. In this area, we can learn a lot from the retail model, where high competition means retention is vital for profitability.
Jieun Kim and Jae-Eun Kim write in Making Customer Engagement Fun it does two things: first, it makes a huge difference in the perception of the patient. They feel validated and important. Customers want approachable leadership, and transparency in your organization will increase patient loyalty and satisfaction.
And second, when managers work to build relationships with patients, they also optimize the performance of other staff by demonstrating expected behavior and setting the right tone for others to follow.
Then, train your frontline staff
Especially with COVID, many frontline staff in clinics are feeling burned out. But their behavior is a crucial part of your retention rate. If your patients feel appreciated, listened to, and respected, they are much more likely to build an emotional connection. Many of your patients likely keep coming back just because they love the front desk person so much!
If your staff is struggling with this, think about ways to incentivize them. If you start taking surveys of patients, you can reward staff each month or quarter that the surveys hit a certain goal for positive feedback. This helps staff feel rewarded for connecting with their patients (and can help with front desk staff retention, too.)
Make the connections official with a loyalty program
You can capitalize on patient loyalty and emotional connection by building a loyalty program for your clinic. Try offering customers discounts on future visits or services if they come back, or if they refer other patients.
- Clinic managers should communicate directly with patients when possible
- Model good emotional behavior for front line staff
- Reward staff to incentivize them to build relationships with patients
- Formalize these relationships with a patient loyalty program
Conclusion and Next Steps
Measuring your urgent care clinic retention rate is a critical part of your overall success. Your existing customers are much more likely to leave you positive reviews and refer other patients.
They’re likely much more profitable, and the more your retention rate climbs, the more your profitability will grow in turn.
As you work to improve your patient retention, don’t forget about finding new patients, even during seasonal surges and dips in patient volume.
Want more tips? Dig even deeper into managing your clinic’s patient volume. Click here to download and read: Bracing Your Business: The Complete Guide to Managing Your Urgent Care Business Through Surges and Dips in Patient Volume.
In this free eBook, you’ll dive into fresh strategies to brace your business for whatever patient volume trends bring.