By Michael Tetreault | Editor-In-Chief | Concierge Medicine Today (CMT)
MAY 7, 2013 – While most concierge medical practices maintain a very high patient retention average of approximately 92%-94% (Source: CMT Poll, March 2010-2013), I think it’s important to tell you about what we hear each week from patients reading our stories, news articles and people across the U.S. looking for doctors accepting new patients in their area.
When we analyzed over 1,000 prospective concierge medicine patient search requests received by our site (www.ConciergeMedicineToday.com) in recent months — nearly 30% of patients who are searching for a concierge doctor are leaving one physician simply to find another concierge doctor. What’s wrong with this picture? The retention rate is high, but what’s happening to those that are leaving and more importantly, why are they leaving your practice?
So, we asked them the question ‘What, if anything, could be improved or would you change regarding your previous concierge/direct medical practice?’ The findings may surprise you. I’ve listed them in order of importance according to the patient responses. They include:
- # 1) RUDE OFFICE MANAGER and/or STAFF.
In some cases, physicians employ their wives as front office staff. In most practices, this is great. However, in some practices, when the patient knows that it is the doctor’s wife that is being curt or ill-tempered, the patient is much more reluctant to tell the physician about their experience.In other cases, the physician has employed his/her front office staff for many years and is aware of the problem but unwilling to make a change because of emotion, history or finances.
- # 2) PERSON SCHEDULING APPOINTMENT(s) IS ILL-TEMPERED and SEEMS ANNOYED…MORE THAN TWO TIMES IN A ROW.
The first time might be acceptable. But if it happens again, the patient starts rethinking their decision, the leadership of the physician and their membership in the practice entirely.Everyday, people turn to friends and colleagues for recommendations regarding services, especially healthcare services. And, because word-of-mouth referrals are free, you can’t beat the return on investment.If the person who is scheduling your appointments is not friendly, inviting, warm or knowledgable, you should consider correcting this person(s) quickly or consider a replacement.A TRUE EXAMPLE TOLD TO CMT. A physician in the suburbs of Atlanta, GA recently let his unfriendly Office Manager go and hired a friendly person to fill this position. The Office Manager recently told CMT how many negative comments they receive about the former Office Manager and how this change made a big difference.They also stated that the physician is receiving verbal praise about once a day for their new hire from current patients. Former patient appointments are also picking up dramatically at the practice.
- # 3) OVER-PROMISED and UNDER-SERVED + Appointment Scheduling Wasn’t Any Easier.
The rule to remember here, don’t promise more than you can deliver. In 2012, this was the number one reason why patients were searching for another concierge physician, according to patient surveys received by CMTs DOC FINDER. This complaint has dropped to third on the list of complaints in 2013 thus far. An improvement, but still something about which patients are concerned.A TRUE STORY TOLD TO CMT >> One former patient of a retainer-based physician in Florida told CMT that they paid for their annual membership fee for the entire year. Upon calling to schedule their first apointment, they were put on hold for 19 minutes. The appointment calendar was full and she couldn’t get into see her physician for three weeks.Three weeks later when she arrived at the practice, the waiting room was full. Nothing about the new business model or practice seemed to have changed whatsoever.When her name was called, she was visited in the exam room by the Nurse Practitioner, not the physician she paid and/or signed up to see. ‘This was not in the brochure…’
- # 4) Economic Conditions of Households Under $100k (Combined)
In a concierge medical practice you are marketing a relationship-based service product which is essentially accessed for a fee. It’s a specialized, personal and relationship-based service that not everyone knows is affordable — but it’s beginning to catch on.
- # 5) Patient(s) Didn’t Use The Membership As Much As They Thought. This was particularly common in households with a combined income between $100k-$150k/year.
Be that as it may, we are not suggesting any price change to reflect inflation in your service. However, CMT does believe practices gain a competitive value advantage when the following Value Added Services are provided without changing your annual fee. Patients will perceive that they are receiving additional value at no additional cost, which will encourage them to continue their relationship with you. Considering incorporating these ideas into your practice on a weekly, if not daily routine:
- Hand Written Cards: i.e. Thank You’s; Thanksgiving; Christmas; Birthday; St. Patrick’s Day; Bereavement Card(s), etc.
- Cost Reduction Specials On Tangible Items;
- Texting Availability Directly To The Physician’s Cell Phone;
- Text message appointment reminders;
- Access To Safe, Secure, Online Interactive Medical ID Bracelet; Wrist Band; Tag; Shoe ID; Ankle ID or Executive ID Bracelet.