A physical therapist's primary goal is not only to help their clients achieve their health and wellness goals but also to create and maintain a loyal patient base that sustains the financial aspects of your practice. Building a strong brand and investing in marketing efforts are essential, but true success lies in retaining your patients over the long term. Patient retention is not only important for good patient outcomes, it plays a pivotal role in the growth and profitability of any practice. Long term patients will also become your biggest advocates and end up referring more patients helping you become the go to professional in your community.
Understanding Patient Churn: The Opposite of Patient Retention
Before delving into patient retention, we must first grasp its opposite: patient churn. ‘Churn rate’ refers to the percentage of patients who discontinue therapy before completing their full course of care. Unfortunately, churn rates in the healthcare industry are disheartening, with only 30% of patients attending all recommended outpatient physical therapy visits. If 70% of patients are leaving care early, there are clear issues with patient engagement and value demonstration across the industry and likely the majority of patients are not achieving positive outcomes in their healthcare.
Measuring Retention: The Patient Retention Rate (PRR)
To quantify patient retention, clinics can calculate their Patient Retention Rate (PRR). It's a simple calculation that involves comparing the number of visits attended by a patient to the number of visits recommended by the therapist in the patient's care plan. For instance, if a patient attended seven visits out of the recommended ten, the PRR would be 70%. This can be a helpful number to monitor across other KPI’s to work out whether your patient outcomes are being met.
Addressing the Challenges: Improving Patient Relationship Management
To address a higher churn rate in your practice, it is crucial to focus on the delivery of services and patient relationship management. This process can be broken down into three key phases: experience, engagement, and empowerment.
Experience: In almost every industry you will see a focus on customer experience being key to great client and business outcomes. Yes for whatever reason, many healthcare practitioners look beyond this because the “patients need them”, not the other way around. Focus on improving the customer experience by addressing their needs and going above and beyond to make them feel comfortable and satisfied during your sessions. This could involve enhancing the aesthetics of your clinic, providing additional services in the waiting room, adding a complimentary gift, delivering something unique in the service that they have not received elsewhere. If you feel you are already doing this it can be helpful to ask for client feedback to clarify where you can improve.
Engagement: While you will be caring for the patient, it is likely a case that a great outcome is reliant on forming a partnership with your patient and motivating them to make changes or be involved in some way to achieving their goals. Buy-in to your management plan is critical to their active involvement in this partnership otherwise they are likely to just be another churn statistic. This means you may need to go above and beyond to help educate and explain your plan, track their progression with objective data, reaching out to patients in between sessions, sending emails or and reminders of an upcoming session, to do their exercises or just to check in.
Empowerment: Confidence is a powerful feeling for your patient to have, and may help them become an evangelist for your practice and refer you to their friends. This can come from a better Experience or Engagement, developing trust and rapport that you are the right practitioner for them. It can involve showing them the results you have helped to achieve throughout their whole treatment journey by collecting and interpreting meaningful data along the way using tools like the AxIT or celebrating small wins in their progress. Think about ways in which you can inspire better confidence in your patients at every touch point in your services.
Making Small Changes for Big Improvements
Data indicates that customer retention strategies not only increase engagement and reduce churn but also lead to enhanced revenue. For each additional visit beyond the initial threshold, the likelihood of patients completing their full course of care increases. Vigilant monitoring of patient experiences and timely intervention when risks of dropout are identified can be instrumental in achieving this improvement in not only patient outcomes, but also to your businesses bottom line.
The Value of Retained Customers: The Numbers Speak
A case study from Strive Labs demonstrated that raising patient retention from 85% to 88% resulted in $150,000 in additional revenue for a 14-site PT clinic. Retaining existing customers is up to five times more cost-effective than acquiring new ones. Existing customers are also more likely to try new products and spend more compared to new customers. Additionally, increasing customer retention rates by just 5% can lead to a substantial boost in profits and make it easier to continue doing the job you love to do.
Tools for Keeping Customers
As mentioned above, patients feeling engaged and empowered in their care plan can be the difference between a positive treatment outcome and more referrals. Showing a client clear and concrete data over their treatment journey can provide them with tangible proof of their improvement and the effectiveness of your services. The AxIT system is a set of tools which conduct advanced strength assessments and interpret the data to provide meaningful reports and is the perfect investment for physical therapy practices looking to enhance their patient experience, engagement and empowerment and their resultant patient retention.
Patient retention is a crucial aspect of any successful physical therapy practice. By focusing on patient relationship management, implementing suitable tools, and continuously striving for improvement, clinics can create a loyal customer base that contributes to long-term growth and success.