Why Do Patients Switch Providers, and How Can This Be Prevented?
Patients switch practices for a variety of reasons, from getting a better deal on health care costs to receiving faster service to going with a practice that a trusted friend recommended. But regardless of the reason, practices know that the patient retention rate is a critical component of practice success. Research shows that it costs five times more to attract a new customer than to retain an existing one.
Providing excellent care and service is key to any retention strategy, but doing a good job of customer retention starts with understanding patient pain points. Why are people switching providers, and how can you do a better job of serving them? There are actions you can take to create more meaningful relationships with your current patients, foster loyalty and increase retention in your practice — but it starts with understanding why patients leave.
The cost of care is too high
The average American household is spending an average of about $5,000 per person on health care annually. When adjusted for inflation, this is a 101% increase from the $2,500 per person spent annually during 1984. The largest reason for this sharp increase is health insurance costs, which have risen 740% since 1984. However, more people also have higher-deductible insurance plans, which means they are paying a larger portion of their bill out of pocket.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 43.2% of Americans have high-deductible insurance plans. As a result, the cost of health care matters more than ever to patients, since they are footing the bill. If a patient feels your practice charges more than other practices, you are at risk of retention challenges. Even worse, many patients are not seeking care at all due to worries about cost. Estimates suggest that 64% of patients avoid care due to the high cost. So how can you make your services more affordable to the patient population worried about paying for medical services?
Consider offering personalized and flexible payment plans. ClearGage allows you to send bills via text or email, and patients can set up a payment plan directly from their mobile device. The plans are flexible, which allows people to customize the payment amount based on their individual budget. An option is provided that allows you to get paid upfront on receivables, which can greatly increase cash flow.
The practice doesn’t provide enough transparency
Patients are worried about healthcare costs and seek greater transparency with medical care. One of the most common reasons that a patient doesn’t pay a bill is because the amount owed was unexpected. In some cases, the person believed the insurance company should have paid more, but in others, he/she just didn’t realize what the care would cost. As a result, the bill is left unpaid, and this can seriously hurt a practice’s cash flow.
A recent survey found that people are getting more interested in the cost of care and doing research prior to procedures. In fact, 75% of patients look up the cost of a procedure online. What’s more, 62% of patients reported that knowing estimated out-of-pocket costs would influence whether or not they access care. And 49% reported that having a clear estimate of financial responsibility has an impact on whether they visit a certain provider.
If you want to keep your patients happy, it’s essential to provide accurate, upfront estimates. These estimates empower patients to understand their financial responsibility upfront and to enroll in a practice-approved payment plan if needed. ClearCalc by ClearGage enables you to calculate a patient’s out-of-pocket expenses with greater accuracy and to create a more transparent experience. It checks patient eligibility, analyzes the patient’s benefit plan and uses the payer fee schedule to accurately calculate the patient’s out-of-pocket expense upfront.
A tool that accesses real-time information is a critical component of providing accurate estimates and minimizing the risk of unexpected billing surprises that could result in an unhappy patient. Providing an upfront estimate also allows you to have an important conversation about how the patient will pay for care. If the patient will have trouble paying the bill, you can address any issues prior to the visit and offer payment options if necessary.
The practice isn’t adapting to technology
Patients are receiving hyperconnected experiences in all corners of their lives. They can shop online and receive products within a couple of days or, in some cases, much faster. They can order takeout and have their meal delivered in minutes. And they can get groceries delivered right to their doorstep the same day. Expectations of more simplified experiences aren’t limited to only certain industries. People expect the same level of convenience from all service providers, including their local medical provider.
Patients want bill paying to be easier. Receiving paper statements and handwriting checks is no longer preferable for most patients. Paying bills online or through mobile devices is already the norm for many, and practices that don’t adopt these types of options risk patients being less satisfied with their practices.
The right payment tools can help you greatly simplify the payment experience. For example, you can offer patients recurring payment options and send bills via text or email to make paying bills much easier. ClearGage’s AutoPay allows you to store patients’ payment information with their consent to automate and collect future payments. This greatly improves cash flow and allows you to simplify the payment process, supporting greater retention.
A lack of loyalty exists among patients
Research shows that more than 40% of patients aren’t loyal to any health care system or medical provider. What’s more, the statistic is even higher among older patients, with 68% not showing any loyalty to their health care provider.
Patients switch practices for a variety of reasons, including the ability to receive better treatment, save money or have a practice closer to their home or work. Regardless, lack of loyalty is an underlying challenge. So how can you increase patient loyalty among your current client base.
Improving the patient experience is a powerful tool to increase loyalty. Tools such as flexible and personalized payment plans, easy payment options and simplified technologies are a good foundation. In addition to these recommendations, you can also use a patient engagement system to continue engaging, interacting and communicating with patients during critical moments.
Health care providers report that only 34% of patients are highly engaged. A patient engagement system helps you build a stronger practice and nurture patient relationships. Additionally, this kind of system can help you:
- Increase cash flow and deliver a more engaging customer experience.
- Reduce patient phone calls, since patients are receiving ongoing, helpful communications.
- Reduce patient frustration by streamlining communication methods.
- Remind patients about payment tools to help ease worry about medical bill affordability and to get paid faster.
ClearGage allows you to communicate with patients digitally. You can connect with patients using their preferred communication type, whether it’s text, email or speaking with a live person. A person might have an outstanding bill and, in the past, received a paper notice in the mail. Digital communication allows you to not only remind patients of their bills using their preferred communication type but also provide them with helpful tools and resources, such as setting up a payment plan. Patients can enroll directly in a payment plan from the reminder email or text and select a personalized arrangement that works with their budget.
Moving forward with greater perspective
Patients are carefully analyzing the cost and value of their health care, and they’re more likely to look somewhere else if their practice doesn’t measure up. As out-of-pocket costs rise, this experience will only become more dramatic. One survey found that 82% of people said that medical organizations should consistently meet or exceed their expectations. And when people are paying the bill out of pocket, these expectations are critical. When a practice doesn’t make the concept of connecting with patients a priority and the experience falls short, patients will consider switching medical practices.
Loyalty starts by looking at things from the patient’s perspective. How can you make his/her life easier and more convenient? Can you help address the patient’s largest pain points, such as costs, with tools like payment plans? When you get into the patient’s mindset, you can think about things from their perspective and provide innovative solutions that make the patient’s life easier. And the natural by-product of that is greater loyalty and less likelihood of retention challenges.