While COVID-19 is no longer driving volume and changes to your business, it’s long-term impacts changed urgent care along with your patients’ expectations. And as you return to a sense of normalcy, it’s important to leverage the resources you have to retain the new patients you saw when visit volumes were skyrocketing. So how do you retain patients in a world that has been turned upside-down?
Aside from delivering exceptional care, getting people to come back is all about impressions and engagement. Here are some helpful approaches to both.
Whether you’re trying to attract new patients or trying to get existing patients to come back, their impression of you during the decision stage plays a critical role in repeat business. Here’s why:
For first time visits: Obviously, you want to represent your clinic in a way that wins business to begin with. But if you can impress people before they even walk through the door — with things like online registration, mobile technology, and even in-depth blogs — you’re setting a good tone for the entire visit. The happier a patient is when they see the provider, the easier it is for the provider to deliver a great experience. Your first impression will influence the last impression — make them want to choose you again.
For existing patients: No matter what services you provide, some patients just won’t need to see you again for a while. The longer it takes, the more likely they are to forget your name. But if your ad or listing appears in their online search, that can be the reminder they need to see you when they need urgent care.
So what’s the decision stage and how do you succeed here? Make everything easy when a person is searching for urgent care.
If you get the first impression right, it will help you manage the wait expectation, which plays a major role in the patient experience.
Learn even more about how to keep patients happy in this blog >>
Online scheduling and real-time queues will certainly help make waiting easier. Even a long wait is more tolerable when the expectations are met. This is extremely important because there is a clear link between perceived wait times, level of service, and patient satisfaction.
Online scheduling solutions don’t necessarily cover all your bases, though. There is actual psychology behind how waiting affects patients. When waits are perceived as uncertain, unexplained, or unfair, satisfaction drops quickly. Richard Larson from MIT identified that “the real problem isn’t just the duration of a delay. It’s how you experience that duration.” In an age of online reviews, this can impact a center’s reputation. So not only could patients not want to return, they may make it more difficult to get new patients in.
What can you do to manage wait experience? Here are some ways to prevent a wait from being perceived as uncertain, unexplained, or unfair.
You can’t always manage the wait times. But you can manage expectations. And that makes a difference.
Even though this is mostly episodic care, your relationship with a patient does not end when the bill is paid. You have an opportunity to stay in touch for several reasons that can improve retention and your clinic’s reputation.
At the very least, you should follow up with a thank-you email or text. Express genuine appreciation for their business. A patient’s final impression of a single visit should be sincere and caring. This also gives you the opportunity to do more:
Urgent care visits are generally stressful for patients. They already don’t want to be there, so they really need you to make the rest of the experience as pleasant as possible. Their episodic event is likely a significant one in their own lives, and they want to feel like it’s significant to you, too.
But not every reason to visit has to be painful. Like with COVID-19 testing, urgent cares are a bigger part of people’s lives today than years past. That’s because urgent care centers do more than fix what’s broken. Primary care services and Occupational Medicine fit nicely into the modern urgent care business model. They’re also great ways to build repeat business. Learn more about How to Grow Your Urgent Care in a New Era.
How else can you prepare for the new era of urgent care? Visit our info hub for all our expert-approved content.