How To Reduce and Respond To Last Minute Appointment CancellationsPosted: May 17, 2023 - By Health Dev
Medical practices need patients to stay alive. Increasing patient volume — the number of patients seeking care at a practice — is essential for doctors and their staff since they need the revenue generated by these visit fees. Healthcare providers constantly need to pay attention to a few factors when it comes to the balancing act of keeping patient volumes up while also making sure sick patients get well. These factors may include:
- Cost-effectiveness: They need to ensure services and procedures remain cost-competitive compared with those of other providers in the area. Otherwise, patients may look elsewhere when they need a provider.
- Referrals: They need to utilize their best patient advocates by encouraging word-of-mouth referrals through customer loyalty programs or direct campaigns like email marketing for existing customers who are likely to recommend them.
- Staffing resources: They need to make sure staffing levels match the number of patients. This equilibrium is key for maintaining high-quality service and reducing wait times as much as possible so that every visit feels pleasant and rewarding for each individual customer.
Regardless of how well you juggle these factors, it’s a constant truth that you’re also always on the lookout for ways on how to increase patient volume.
7 Effective Strategies for Increasing Patient Volume
McKinsey predicts that healthcare profit will improve dramatically post-COVID, with a focus on payer and services segments. Providers should expect a rise in efficiency as the trend moves away from acute sites of care, which are characterized by lower margins than other settings not involving an actual hospital. In comparison, non-acute sites carry much less cost and have double or triple the margin compared to facilities that require hospitalized treatment.
This shift has been largely propelled forward due to COVID’s effects since it means fewer patients queuing at hospitals and doctors being more interested in remote and convenient options for their clients instead.
But don’t take improved annual patient volume growth for granted. You could still use some creative ways to increase patient volume.
1. Improve Your Quality of Care
One of the most significant strategies to increase patient volume isn’t a strategy, per se, but a business objective.
Positive patient experiences result in repeat business, referrals, and more people seeking out your services. By understanding customer needs, investing in technology, and implementing clinical best practices, you can ensure that each interaction between a medical practice and its patients is positive for all those involved.
The quality of care provided by a medical practice has an enormous impact on its volume of patients. Customers want to feel valued and respected, receive personalized attention from well-trained caregivers, and access efficient services that meet their healthcare needs. When practices invest in the quality of their services, such as by providing excellent customer service, patient satisfaction is improved, resulting in more customers returning for additional treatment or referring new patients.
Adopting clinical best practices can also have a major effect since they focus on improving health outcomes while keeping costs low, thus providing value to both providers and consumers. Examples could include using evidence-based protocols across multiple specialties or integrating critical information systems into medical offices so providers can quickly find patient records whenever they need them without spending hours searching through paper folders manually.
In addition, taking full advantage of existing technology like cloud storage solutions ensures data accuracy and money savings since all pertinent information is electronically stored, eliminating physical files that require time-intensive manual processes. This way, staff members will be able to commit more time treating patients than dealing with paperwork, thereby enhancing efficiency for everyone involved and resulting in increased patient volume at the practice over time.
2. Decrease Wait Times
Delays in health systems deter patient satisfaction. Decreasing wait times has a direct, positive impact on patient volume. People don’t like to wait, and even small improvements can make a difference in gaining new patients or retaining existing ones. Medical practices that prioritize decreasing the time it takes patients to receive care are more attractive and beneficial.
Furthermore, when waiting is inevitable, it should at least be pleasant. Waiting rooms should be relaxed environments. Consider adding comfortable seating arrangements (as opposed to hard chairs), ample lighting, decorative artwork, digital signage that sets friendly educational messaging around health habits, healthy food options, and related subject matter. All these elements enhance how inviting and pleasant your waiting room is. That, in turn, positively impacts patient volumes over time.
3. Schedule Follow-Up Appointments
Your facility’s capabilities should allow you to schedule follow-up appointments easily. This ensures that current and potential clients are consistently revisiting the medical practice to get any needed treatments or medications on time. It allows doctors to not only build strong relationships with their patients but also to keep track of changes in health over time, making sure necessary adjustments are made during future checkups.
Practices using a computerized scheduling system are more successful at increasing patient visits than those still relying on paper systems. This has been proven since before the 1990s and is even more significant today, so if you’re not actively using technology, you’re around three decades behind. Timely appointment reminders can also function to inform existing clients about important medical advice or additional services available at the clinic location. For example, appointment reminders from gynecology clinics can include information concerning breast cancer screenings or other preventative measures alongside relevant lab test recommendations.
4. Provide Potential Patients With an Online Scheduling Option
This is one of the concrete ways you can decrease wait times and therefore improve patient satisfaction. An updated online registration option for new appointments instead of lengthy paperwork at reception desks makes the process easier for potential customers who may appreciate dealing with fewer obstacles when seeking medical attention. If appointment scheduling is automated, people get reminders ahead of their visits via text messages, emails, or phone calls. This also strengthens customer relations, as they stay informed of changes to their itinerary, potentially saving extra trips to your practice.
5. Encourage Patients To Leave Positive Online Reviews
Patient reviews are typically a mark of a healthy relationship between medical practitioners and their patients, which makes them excellent for social vetting. Reviews are incredibly beneficial to any medical practice, but especially those that rely on patient volume. Reviews give potential patients the opportunity to gain insight into what your practice is like and how it feels for existing or former patients. Positive reviews show doctors’ competence, compassion, and communication skills — all of which translates into more interested people calling in for appointments.
Your reviews will serve as testimony from happy patients straight from their mouths telling others why they should choose you. Help your existing patients make the decision to leave positive online reviews by making it easy and convenient. Offer incentives by providing repeat visit discounts or pitch bonus services when someone leaves an online review.
Additionally, select certain customers who leave exceptional feedback to become brand ambassadors via social media platforms. Actively use their feedback on social media posts that focus on their experience at your practice, providing current and future clients with a deeper level of information about you that they cannot get from your official online postings.
6. Earn Referrals
Earning patient referrals remains one of the best ways to increase patient volume directly. By providing your patients with high-quality care and an outstanding experience, you’re far more likely to get them talking about your practice and spreading the word. Encourage them to do so and proactively ask if they know anyone who would benefit from your services. Word-of-mouth recommendations are especially valuable because people tend to trust their friends, family members, or colleagues more than traditional advertising when making healthcare decisions. Plus, they don’t have any financial incentive in many cases, which adds extra trustworthiness.
Besides providing quality service, there are other activities that promote referrals, such as:
- leveraging existing relationships with referral sources like doctors’ offices
- discount offers on services via email campaigns or social media sites
- incentivizing current clients (e.g., refer a friend/family member program)
- free check-ups as rewards
7. Run Email and Ad Campaigns
Of course, the good old healthcare marketing and advertising can also prove to be valuable.
Healthcare practitioners can grow their businesses without breaking their budgets by targeting the right demographics for a certain time period with emails and ads optimized for conversions. Use advertising platforms like Google Ads or Facebook Ads to reach your target audiences effectively. Create targeted campaigns by location, interest area, and age groups to increase the chances of converting audiences into patients while saving on cost per click.
In addition to these paid advertising options, email marketing is also incredibly effective when handled correctly. Email templates that feature a compelling call to action can easily get the attention of potential patients. Meanwhile, automated routines that send out timed or scheduled reminders and campaigns re-engage patients between bookings or can even target people who’ve only interacted with your practice on digital touchpoints like a web search and click-through.
Mistakes That May Stunt Your Patient Volume Growth Rate
Now that you’ve gone through some strategies on how to increase patient volume in medical practices, you should also be aware of pitfalls that can do the opposite.
Not Making Your Patients Feel Heard
Your patient population isn’t just a number. Each patient wants to feel heard.
Providing a good patient experience is essential for increasing patient volume. When people don’t feel heard or understood in their medical care, they won’t return and may even spread negative word-of-mouth about the practice. Ensuring patients feel seen, supported, and respected in every encounter at your practice gives them confidence that they’ll get the highest quality of care.
Add extra touches like providing helpful resources throughout their treatment experience to make appointments more productive, boosting patient satisfaction ratings and overall volume growth over time. Also, consider patient engagement platforms that help you scale your patient advocacy efforts.
Not Using Survey Data To Improve Your Care Processes
Diagnosis and treatment aren’t necessarily the end of your relationship with patients. There are aftercare activities for the healthcare side and post-interaction activities for the business side. These include surveys.
Without surveying customers about their experiences (good or bad) at your practice, there is no way of knowing what areas need improvement or what additional services would bring more people through the door. Survey results shed valuable insight into customer expectations, giving healthcare providers a critical understanding of how they can adjust policies and procedures to meet those needs better while driving up patient volumes in the process.
Not Training Staff To Inquire About a Patient’s Experience
This is an extension of not making patients feel heard and goes hand-in-hand with not using surveys. Without taking the time and effort to inquire about a patient’s experience, any red flags will go unnoticed until it’s too late. This could result in negative reviews circulating online or losing out on referrals due to high levels of dissatisfaction with your service.
Increases in patient volume aren’t automatic. Growth will stagnate after a certain period without your proactive involvement. It only takes a few moments for staff members to check in with each individual at key points along the customer journey. This small change can make all the difference when growing and maintaining successful relationships between healthcare practices and patients.
Focusing Solely on Gaining and Not Retaining
Patient volume capacity doesn’t need to be reached through new patients alone.
Even if the practice is successful at gaining new patients, their volume will eventually plateau as those same patients are not retained for future care. Retaining existing customers shows loyalty and helps cultivate strong relationships with both established and new clients. This demonstrates your commitment to quality medical care that encourages more individuals to give your service a try.
Additionally, regular contact between staff and former or current clients allows practices to identify underlying issues that may prevent an individual from returning, as well as boost customer satisfaction levels by addressing potential problems before they arise. Patient retention practices indeed have many implications beyond just maintaining your bottom line.
We’ve Got All the Tools You Need To Boost Your Patient Volume
Increasing patient volume relies upon taking advantage of thoughtful strategies and tools that bolster patient experiences while streamlining operations. Demandforce can help you bring both existing and new patients into your practice with its suite of healthcare provider marketing solutions.