Great strategy guides have been created for increasing patient referrals to new and growing diagnostic imaging centers, but much less is written about strategies for diagnostic patient retention.
Focusing only on marketing your imaging center to gain new patients may mean failing to nurture existing patients, which can hinder your efforts to build your imaging center’s reputation. And a good reputation is key to gaining new diagnostics patients and growing your imaging center overall.
Patients who slip through the cracks may suffer negative consequences of disrupted care, while your center loses the rewards of all the hard work that has gone into your outreach and reputation-building efforts.
Thankfully, there are many ways to keep your patients engaged with your imaging center, and they won’t break your bank. If you set them up carefully, many can even be automated!
Increase your patient retention by staying connected.
Quality Care is the first step to increase patient retention for an imaging center
This one may seem obvious, but are you going about this with the right mindset?
You take pride in your staff’s training and dedication to current best practices, as well as the safety and rigor of the technologies they use. However, other metrics of quality may be an even more effective method to increase patient retention for an imaging center.
The patient’s understanding of their care and active engagement in decision making, the perceived goodwill of the staff, and ease of appointment making are just a few facets of patient experience that can make or break a patient’s relationship with your center.
Ensure that your diagnostic patients understand their exams
Although it is easy to assume that smiling, nodding patients understand what your staff is telling them, this is often not the case.
A study of patients about to undergo imaging exams found that less than half could correctly indicate whether radiation was involved in their exam, about 28% were less than satisfied with the explanation they had received about their exam, and over half wished they could discuss the exam with a radiologist beforehand.
Taking the time to help a patient understand the choices and services that they are being offered may help them to not only play an active role in making decisions for their health but also to stay engaged in their care.
How can you help imaging patients play an active role in decisions about their health?
- Consider asking the patient open-ended questions to encourage them to describe in their own words what you have discussed so that you can check for understanding.
- You may also think about using patient decision aids such as this online tool to help patients decide whether to be screened for lung cancer.
- Motivational Interviewing is a well-researched set of principles and tools that can help healthcare providers to avoid taking a paternalistic role with their patients, as this can result in the power struggles and ambivalence that lead to no-show’s as well as poor adherence to recommendations and follow-ups. Instead, these simple but powerful techniques help you to take on a collaborative partnership with your patients to keep them engaged.
Empowering your imaging patients to understand and take part in their health care will result in positive outcomes, including patient satisfaction and an increase in patient retention for an imaging center.
Retaining imaging patients by training your staff in rapport-building
Every staff member has an impact on how patients will perceive any outpatient imaging center as a whole. We also know that patients who think the staff and providers are “nice” will be more likely to come back. What might not be so obvious is how, exactly, to accomplish this, particularly in the face of time limitations or patient complaints.
Techniques such as reflective listening and asking open-ended questions will empower your staff to use every interaction as an opportunity to build rapport with each and every imaging patient that comes to your facility.
Centers that train all staff in these tools know how to keep radiology patients. Fostering rapport can also help to reduce negative consequences of service failures. No center is perfect, and strong relationships with your patients will help you to weather the storm when mistakes are made.
Embed small kindnesses into the center itself
Integrating warmth and continued connection with the patient into your center’s processes is one of the best ideas for patient retention. It turns out it’s the little things that make a big difference. Multiple studies have shown that small touches such as mailing patients postcards and letters can actually reduce suicide attempts. This highlights just how powerful small kindnesses can be.
- Keep in touch with your patients, for example by mailing birthday or holiday cards. Not only does keeping in touch with your patients show them that you care, it can also help remind them to take stock of their health, which could mean coming in for a follow-up.
- Make your patients comfortable while they are at your imaging facility for their visit. You can further strengthen your relationship by keeping your waiting room hospitable and having small conveniences available.
Many times it’s the little things that people remember. If you’re struggling with how to keep radiology patients happy, don’t overlook the details.
Retaining imaging patients means giving your patients resources that matter to them
When considering strategies for diagnostic patient retention, providing value to your patients is crucial. And we’re not just talking about a low price here. Help your patients make the most of their time with you, as well as the interactions you have with them outside your imaging facility.
Schedule quickly to help your patients to keep their appointments.
A large study of 54,652 radiology exam appointments showed that no-shows were more frequent if there were more days between the appointment and the day it was scheduled. Not surprisingly, patients who had missed appointments in the past were also at higher risk for missing them again. Get patients scheduled as quickly as possible, and use reminders to help patients remember their appointments. If a patient has no-showed previously, consider using multiple reminders to assist them.
Stay connected with your patients through radiology email marketing
Radiology patient retention can benefit from some of the same automated email strategies that help other businesses. These may include:
- Emails welcoming them to the imaging center
- Emails providing requested content
- Example: A potential patient enters their email address into your center’s website so that they can receive an e-brochure on screening recommendations for their age group
- Emails that invite the patient to get to know the center better. This could be an invitation to like or follow your facility on social media, or an invitation to a community event the center is hosting or sponsoring.
- Emails that ask the patient questions that would help to inform your patient care and/or marketing strategies and help the patient to feel heard and valued
- Example: A patient satisfaction survey after an appointment visit
- Example: Asking patients what their biggest concern is about a particular imaging exam
- Emails that ask the patient to review your center online (e.g., on Yelp, etc.)
- Although positive reviews will help you to engage new patients, writing reviews on your behalf may also help your patients to be even more committed to your center!
- Newsletter emails
- Example: Patient stories about how your center has helped them, news about how the center is improving and growing, information about how your center helps the local community
Tip: Make your emails even more effective and memorable with these Diagnostic Center Email Signature Tips
These strategies for diagnostic patient retention will lead your facility to success
There are a wealth of strategies for diagnostic patient retention, both human-centered and technology-assisted, that can help you make sure you keep your patients happy.
These retention tools require some investment or training up front but can become an automatic part of your imaging center’s daily routines. Not only will they help you with patient retention, but they also help to foster a positive workplace culture at your radiology center!
Growing your imaging center doesn’t have to be hard!