Tips to create an effective patient loyalty program

Jamie Frew
Jamie Frew
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Overview of patient loyalty programs

As the healthcare industry grows increasingly competitive, more and more businesses are looking for ways to widen their clientele and improve their patient retention rate. A frequently used method of doing this involves implementing sophisticated practice management software that can generate progress reports to identify areas requiring improvement, including patient retention. As such, patient loyalty programs have begun to be implemented within a wide range of different healthcare fields. Essentially, these programs are a marketing strategy designed to both attract and retain patients. They should be customized to suit your specific needs, allowing your business to flourish and grow despite the often harsh demands of the healthcare industry. In this guide, we’ll highlight some of the reasons why patient loyalty programs are important and then outline some key strategies to help you build and implement a successful program within your practice.

Importance of having a patient loyalty program

Putting time and effort into boosting patient loyalty at your business will result in a wide range of benefits. These include:

Improved referrals

Patient loyalty programs are designed to increase patient satisfaction at your business. The happier a patient is, the more likely they are to recommend your services to their friends and families, which can lead to a higher number of referrals.

Customer satisfaction

Increasing customer satisfaction should always be a number one priority at your business, particularly given the healthcare industry’s gradual shift to value-based care models. In addition to ensuring patients return to your business, a loyalty program will boost their overall experience with your services.

Better patient engagement

It can be difficult to find ways to elevate patient engagement whilst you are also abiding by patient privacy laws and ensuring treatment needs are being met, yet introducing a loyalty program is one of the best ways to do this. Patients will feel more connected to their healthcare experience and involvement in the treatment process, which has the additional benefit of improving clinical outcomes.

Higher revenue

Businesses should always be looking for ways to increase revenue. With an effective patient loyalty program, your practice can monitor its Patient Average Visit (PVA) and see a higher rate of returning patients and a broader clientele, essentially contributing to increased revenue.

Stronger reputation

High levels of patient satisfaction are good for business. Not only do they encourage patients to return and increase referrals, but they lead to the development of a strong and successful reputation.

Sustains and helps grow your practice

With the right patient loyalty program in place, your business can focus on expansion and growth without compromising the health of its patients. As these programs generate revenue, they also contribute to profitability and an increase in patient retention. 

Tips to build loyalty and increase retention

In order to implement a successful loyalty program, there are a few strategies that you should keep in mind. These are all related to improving patient satisfaction and overall experience, thus encouraging patients to return to your business.

Send automated appointment reminders

With the right software in place, your business can send out automated appointment reminders to patients prior to their upcoming bookings. These reminders help reduce the number of no-shows whilst also showing patients that their presence at your practice is important. 

Get patient feedback through surveys

One of the easiest ways to improve patient satisfaction is through feedback surveys. It is a good business policy to create customizable surveys for practitioners to give to their patients following appointments. The information that you collect on these surveys can be used to identify areas that require improvement so you can focus on optimizing the patient experience in every possible way.

Facilitate communication 

Communication is key to a good patient experience. Patients want to feel as though their needs are being met, and that they are being heard and this cannot be achieved without effective communication. Being honest and open with your patients, encouraging feedback, and making the treatment process as transparent as possible should help facilitate improved communication.

Address staff issues 

Although this is a problem that practices want to avoid as much as possible, it is highly likely that staff issues will arise at some point. If there are any disputes between staff members and other practitioners or patients, it is critical that these are addressed and resolved promptly. This shows your patients that you are listening to their concerns and helps to establish a positive physical environment policy for your practice.

Be empathetic

When a patient is seeking healthcare treatment, they want practitioners to listen to their needs and validate their concerns. In addition to focusing on communication, this can be achieved by being as empathetic as possible. 

Build personal relationships

Although you should be maintaining professionalism at all times, you shouldn’t underestimate the power of building personal relationships with your patients. This will facilitate open and honest conversations and ensure your patients are comfortable with your services.

Promote patient engagement

Patients want to be involved with their healthcare experience and the only way to achieve this is to ensure they are engaged. Communication is a top priority, particularly when it comes to the billing process and setting prices for your practice. The more transparent the healthcare experience is, the more engaged that patients will be!

Patient feedback

Methods of implementing patient loyalty programs

So how exactly do you implement a patient loyalty program? Although there are many different answers to this question, we’ve outlined some key methods that have proven to increase satisfaction with healthcare services, generate higher revenue, and reduce the likelihood of dealing with difficult patients.

Point based program

A point-based program essentially gives patients points if they complete a task. These tasks could include spending money at your pharmacy, leaving a review online, or following your social media pages. Once a certain number of points have been collected, these can be redeemed for discounted treatments or procedures. 

Cumulative patient loyalty program

Cumulative loyalty programs offer discounts to patients based on the amount of money that they have spent at your practice. For example, if a patient spends $350, they will be eligible for a 2% discount. 

Invitations to social events

Inviting patients to social events is a less common form of a loyalty program, yet is nevertheless effective. These events could be educational seminars, webinars or workshops - anything that may spike patient interest and encourage them to frequent your business. 

VIP loyalty program

VIP loyalty programs are a highly effective way of showing your patients that you truly value them. These not only reward patients who frequently use your services but can also help with practice waitlist management as it encourages patients to commit to your business.

Collaborate with other businesses to reward patients

Collaborating with local businesses is a fantastic marketing method and tool to increase patient loyalty. These could be local restaurants, music venues, art centers, or gyms; or any facility where patients would be interested in receiving a discount.

Cashback

Cashback refers to literally returning money to a patient’s account after they have paid for a service or treatment at your business. To ensure this brings patients back, you should limit the cashback funds to only being spendable at your practice. 

Use retention rate to identify if your loyalty program is working for you

After you have implemented your loyalty program, you need to identify whether it is working. The best way to do this is by calculating your retention rates. The basic equation to find out your retention rate is bonuses used/bonuses awarded = retention rate. If your calculated RR is above 20%, then your patient loyalty program is working. If it isn’t however, then you will need to consider making changes to boost its effectiveness. Frequently determining your RR will allow you to determine how loyal your patients are and whether or not you need to invest more into marketing.

Conclusion

Figuring out ways to improve retention in your healthcare business is hard, but it is also critical. Having loyal patients is one of the best ways to generate revenue, and with the right loyalty program in place, this should happen in no time. You should always keep in mind the patient experience - this means ensuring the booking process is easy, making your waiting room pleasant, simplifying payments, and most importantly, giving them a reason to keep coming back!

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