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Why Patient Retention Matters for the Future of Your Medical Group

Costs are rising faster than profits for roughly 90% of healthcare providers. Inflation has resulted in price increases in administrative supplies and services, building and occupancy costs, professional liability insurance expenses, and more. 

The staffing shortage certainly hasn’t helped, either. Median support staff in physician-owned primary care practices have dropped by more than three full-time-equivalent (FTE) roles

It’s difficult to see more patients — including new ones — when there isn’t enough staff to go around. That’s why focusing on patient retention is more important than ever for medical groups and other healthcare providers

How to Calculate Your Patient Retention Rate 

Calculating your medical group’s retention rate is simple. First, set a fixed timeframe. Next, subtract the number of new patients acquired during that period from the number of patients at the end of that timeframe. Divide the result by the number of patients at the start of the period. Multiply that number by 100, and that’s your patient retention rate. Here’s an example for a six-month period:

You start the timeframe with 500 patients. You acquire 50 new patients but lose 75 by attrition. 

Number of patients at end of period (475) – new patients (50) = 425

Patients at the start of the timeframe (550) ÷ patients at the start of the period (500) =.85

.85 x 100 = 85% 

That means your medical group’s retention rate is 85%, and your growth rate is -5%. 

Reasons for and Results of Poor Patient Retention 

Patients leave a physician practice for various reasons, from long wait times and billing issues to a poor experience with the provider or staff and slow response to questions or concerns. The long wait times can refer to how long it takes a patient to schedule an appointment, how quickly they get an appointment, or how long they’re waiting in the office to see their doctor. 

Patient attrition isn’t a small problem. More than 35% of patients left their healthcare provider in the past two years, and 42% of Millennials say they are somewhat likely to switch primary care physicians in the next two years. Every five years, physicians lose roughly 50% of their patient database

What happens when your medical group doesn’t bother with patient retention? Some patients will quit making appointments with your practice — especially if they experience lengthy wait times. They may cancel scheduled appointments, or they might not show up for them at all. Patients with a negative experience will most likely tell family and friends about it through word-of-mouth or bad online reviews. 

Don’t forget that all-too-important practice revenue. A negative patient experience has the potential to cost your medical group through a lower retention rate, a damaged reputation, and decreased profitability. And, it can cost a physician practice an average of five to eight times more to attract a new patient than to keep an existing one. 

How a High Patient Retention Rate Benefits Your Practice 

Medical groups that engage in retention strategies are more likely to have loyal patients, which in turn results in improved adherence to medical advice and treatment plans. Those patients typically are more satisfied with their provider, and practices with satisfied patients are more productive and experience reduced turnover and a better reputation. 

Patient retention also is a less costly and sustainable method for growing a physician practice. Research shows it costs 90% less to retain current patients than it does to attract new ones. By increasing patient retention by a mere five percent, a medical group has the capability to increase the value of an average patient in lifetime profits by 25-100%. 

Another practice perk of patient retention? Continuity of care, which has a notably positive impact on healthcare outcomes, including prevention or reduction of physical, mental, and social disabilities and reduced aggregate healthcare spending. 

Recommendations for Improving Your Patient Retention Rate 

Utilizing patient engagement strategies and tools is one of the best ways to improve — and maintain — your patient retention rate. More engaged patients often have a better overall patient experience and therefore won’t be as likely to switch medical groups. 

Another tip for increasing patient retention is decreasing wait times. As we mentioned in a recent blog, roughly 40% of patients start feeling frustration when wait times exceed 20 minutes, 30% have walked out of an appointment due to a long wait, and 20% have changed doctors because of wait times.  

Perhaps the most important thing medical groups can do to retain patients is meet their specific preferences, one of the biggest of which is convenience. As highlighted in the new 2023 Care Access Benchmark Report from Kyruus, the majority of patients place high importance on being able to conduct appointment-related functions online. The survey found that 61% of patients say the availability of online appointment scheduling is extremely or very important when choosing a new provider, service, or location for care. Also, 77% of patients are extremely or very interested in completing pre-visit questionnaires online

Schedule a meeting with us to find out how the end-to-end patient access and engagement offerings of Kyruus + Epion can help your medical group meet patient preferences to promote patient retention.