Why Loyal Patients Are a Doctor’s Best Friend

Patient loyalty matters, but it’s not easy to earn. Consider the numbers:

That’s a lot of people considering a new doctor — and a lot of practices that are almost certainly losing patients as a result.

Savvy medical practices that make a concerted effort to retain patients come out ahead in the long run. These providers focus on building a long-term relationship. To thrive, a practice must consider a patient’s lifetime value (LTV), or how much they’re worth to a practice over the long haul.

Here’s why LTV is so valuable:

Repeat business saves time, effort, and money

You’ve probably seen the data — it costs four, five, or seven times more to acquire a new customer than to retain an existing one.

No doubt, the exact number differs for every industry, but the underlying truth is that practices that retain patients spend less on trying to attract new ones. They use newsletters to stay top of mind, know which social channels their patients use, and save time by focusing outreach where it counts.

Encourage ongoing relationships

Forget “one and done.” Considering the shorter downtime, lower (per-session) cost, and ever-expanding array of non-surgical alternatives, it’s no wonder that minimally invasive procedures, like Botox, CoolSculpting, and Juvederm, are booming.

Many non-surgical treatments warrant (or require) multiple sessions. Each interaction is another opportunity to provide excellent service and deepen the patient-practice relationship.

Aesthetic practices have a built-in LTV advantage

No one expects to revisit an emergency room or get a follow-up appendectomy. Many medical procedures are considered one-offs.

Elective aesthetic medicine is ideally suited to meet patients’ needs as these evolve. The patient who comes in for Botox at 30 is almost certainly predisposed to think favorably about cosmetic surgery, and may well be amenable to some invasive treatments by 40 and/or a facelift at 55. Someone’s going to get that business.

So, how do you measure LTV? Large healthcare systems rely on vast quantities of data and mind-boggling formulas to predict patients’ future use of their services. That strategy is rarely feasible for small practices. For them, tallying Net Promoter Scores (NPS) presents a much simpler way of gauging LTV and, by extension, patient loyalty.

Simply put, Net Promoter Scores are based on having patients answer a single question, such as, How likely is that you would recommend our practice to a friend or colleague? on a scale of 1 to 10. Those who respond with a score of 9 or 10 are considered Promoters, those who respond 0 to 6 are considered Detractors, and those who respond 7 or 8 are considered Passives. The percentage of responders who are Detractors is then subtracted from the percentage of responders considered Promoters. The result is the business’ Net Promoter Score.

Additionally, calculating NPS offers insights into which patients are most likely to be loyal over time. After all, if a patient is willing to recommend a practice to others, she’s probably happy with her experience and less likely to seek out alternatives. When those recommendations extend to the internet, such patients serve as independent “brand advocates” who can help shape the ongoing online conversation in favorable ways.

A high NPS doesn’t guarantee patient loyalty. Practices must still actively market to current patients to maintain their consideration, and getting them to write in-depth reviews that chronicle their experience provides information and insights no numerical score can match. Still, asking a patient to answer that one question — perhaps during her first follow-up appointment — can be a powerful tool in helping generate loyalty in fickle times.

The fact is loyalty is hard to come by. If you find it, it’s worth making the effort to keep it.

Join our May 24 webinar with Dr. Edward Dickerson on “Making the Most of Moments.” During this talk, Dr. Dickerson will discuss how he tests new marketing tools and connects with his patients.

About Rob Lovitt

Rob Lovitt is a longtime writer and editor who believes every good business has a great story to tell. He has written for dozens of magazines and websites, including NBCnews.com, Expedia.com and the inflight magazines of Alaska, Horizon and Frontier airlines.

, , , ,