Patient loyalty is essential to all types of healthcare, but especially urgent care. These centers are traditionally seen as “on-demand” facilities that patients don’t necessarily plan to use, or return to, unless their primary care provider is not available. Herein lies the challenge—how do urgent care centers get patients to keep coming back?
Improving the Patient Experience
The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality defines patient experience as all the interactions a patient has with a healthcare system, including payers, physicians, nurses and other staff. It also includes different aspects of healthcare delivery, such as scheduling and communication. Therefore, the patient’s journey begins long before they ever enter your center.
This journey typically begins online. The internet has become an invaluable tool for patients to discover and compare urgent care centers as well as schedule appointments and engage with chatbots. In addition to improving the quality of in-office care, you’ll want to control as many of these online interactions as you can. True satisfaction comes from a holistic approach to the patient journey. Ensure healthcare consumers have an exceptional experience from when they first find your website to billing, so they’re more likely to return.
Following Up With Patients
Following up with patients is one of the most important aspects of urgent care marketing. Many urgent care centers only follow up with patients on a case-by-case basis, but this isn’t a profitable strategy. You won’t know if the patient is actually feeling better without post-appointment communication. For example, if you prescribed someone a medication and it didn’t work, the patient likely won’t come back to your center for additional treatment. Instead, they may go to your competitor or leave a negative review on social media or do both. By checking in after the appointment, you can proactively address these issues.
Post-appointment communication takes time, which is hard to come by when the staff is stretched to their limits during high-traffic seasons. PatientBond’s digital communication platform can help you follow up with every patient, no extra headcount needed.
Plus, PatientBond takes follow-up a step further. We know that we can’t communicate with every patient the same way because some won’t answer a phone call or open an email. By communicating in “wrong” ways, you could be missing out on repeat visits, feedback, or marketing opportunities.
PatientBond uses a proprietary psychographic segmentation model to group patients based on their attitudes, lifestyles and preferences. This data helps us communicate with patients via the channels they respond to most.
For example, according to the 2018 PatientBond Consumer Diagnostic, a nationally-representative study on healthcare consumers in the U.S., a group called Willful Endurers, which live for the here and now, were less likely to want to receive a live phone call compared to the other four segments. Self Achievers, on the other hand, were more likely than any of the other four segments to prefer printed mail, which makes sense since Self Achievers take a proactive approach to stay on top of their health.
Follow-ups are crucial, but they’re only effective when patients actually respond to them. You could be missing out on additional visit revenue by not following up with patients via their preferred channels. Don’t let an incomplete or non-existent patient journey cause you to give that revenue to your competitors.
Determining How to Follow Up
Besides identifying the best channel for follow-ups, what should you include in your post-appointment communications?
First of all, you should send a patient satisfaction survey to every patient. While these surveys aren’t always perfect indicators of loyalty, the responses will help you understand what patients are thinking and feeling about their last visit. In turn, they can help you pivot your services or urgent care marketing efforts to meet consumers’ needs.
Patient satisfaction surveys are a piece of the patient journey, but they are not clinical follow up. You need to connect with your patients post-visit, let them know you care, and verify that they are feeling better. You should also follow up with billing information. Yes, billing is part of patient satisfaction and loyalty.
Think about your current billing process for a moment. Are there multiple ways for patients to make a payment, including both traditional and digital methods? Are your billing terms clear? Do you set the proper expectations at the time of intake or discharge? If you answered “no” to any of these questions, it might be time to rethink your protocols.
By taking a holistic approach to the patient journey and leveraging technology with the right cadence, you increase the likelihood that a patient will remain loyal to your urgent care center—rather than your competitors.
For more patient loyalty insights, download our case study.