Patient loyalty in the digital age: How to win over millennials
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4 reasons millennials switch doctors (and how to develop patient loyalty before they leave)

It can be a hard pill to swallow about the healthcare industry: Winning patient loyalty is more challenging than ever. Predictably, you can trace this trend to millennials. They’ve surpassed baby boomers to make up the largest slice of the American workforce. Today, they’re the fastest-growing demographic making decisions about care — and not just for themselves. As new parents, they’re responsible for their children’s health, and they’re more often in charge of making appointments for their own parents, who are getting up there in years. Since millennials are less loyal to doctors than previous generations, some providers are in the dark about why their practices are failing to bring patients back.

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By understanding the driving forces behind patient churn, you can start to reverse the damage. Read on for common reasons millennials ditch their doctors as well as the right prescription for retaining their business.

1. The wait to see you is too long.

Millennials grew up alongside the internet, so they expect information at their fingertips and prioritize convenience above all else. This is mirrored in their interactions with doctors. When someone schedules an appointment months (or years!) in advance, they don’t want to wait all that time only to sit even longer in the waiting room…and then again on the examination table until their doctor finally walks in.

One dermatologist Doctor.com works with learned that wait time was a common complaint among patients after reading their reviews of her practice online. To address the issue, she set up an educational station in her waiting room where patients can learn more about their skin conditions while waiting to be seen. Her ratings for wait time alone jumped from two to four stars after installing the station, and she continues to take action on feedback in online reviews to keep improving the patient experience. Read more about how she turned patient sentiment around here.

2. They don’t feel heard.

In a Doctor.com survey, communication was cited by 62% patients as influencing their loyalty to a healthcare provider. To that end, “told” is the word most commonly associated with negative hospital reviews . These findings suggest that a breakdown in communication can frequently be attributed to a patient’s lackluster experience — and drive them to a competitor’s practice.

For patients, care isn’t a one-way street. They want their doctors to spend time with them, listen to them, and address each concern in a way they can understand. They don’t want to be bombarded with medical jargon, and they don’t want their questions dismissed or rushed through. Patient retention will hinge on your ability to make your patient feel heard during their appointments and in any follow-up engagement.

3. You didn’t address feedback in their online review.

If a patient is unhappy with their experience, it may not come to light until after they leave your office and vent their frustrations on review sites or social media. If their complaint goes unrecognized, they’re much more likely to switch providers.

Of course, no doctor wants to hear they’ve let a patient down! The good news? By responding to their feedback, it’s possible to reassure your patient, turn their sentiment around, and even win their loyalty. Acknowledging their frustration is the first step toward fixing an unsatisfied patient’s problem. Remember to reach out publicly but resolve the issue privately. This helps you avoid exposing any patient information or dragging out their complaint in full view of others. For more insight into how to respond to patient reviews, download Doctor.com’s free ebook on the subject.

4. It has nothing to do with patient loyalty. They just forgot.

Not all patients are on top of their healthcare. Scheduling an annual physical or follow-up appointment may slip their mind, especially if they put it off too long. By then, you might not have any room in your schedule, prompting them to find another provider who can fit them in sooner.

It’s important to capture follow-up appointments while the task is still top of mind — before a patient leaves your office. Then, proactively reach out with automated, digital reminders as well as confirmation or rescheduling tools. Streamlining this process into a digital experience is more convenient and patient friendly than traditional, old-school phone calls. According to Doctor.com proprietary research, 70% of patients prefer digital appointment reminders, and almost half agree that digital communication at this stage impacts their loyalty to a healthcare provider.

Earning patient loyalty is no easy feat. But, by understanding the common pain points that cause them to leave your practice, you keep retention high and give patients the best possible experience. Your patients will thank you for it — and your practice will flourish.

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