Why Long Term Patients Leave Your Practice

April 11, 2009 by  Filed under: Marketing 

It’s not announced. There’s no obvious warning. Usually, you don’t even know it’s happened until months too late.

And because it happens below the radar, it’s hard to see how to solve the single biggest problem that most doctors ever face …

Long term patients who are quietly leaving your practice.

In this article, we’re going to look at why some of your best patients have left – and give you some ideas of how to bring them back.

Why do patients leave?

We can boil down all patient attrition to 4 main causes

1. You did something wrong.

No, I’m not talking about negligence, or malpractice, or you doing something SERIOUSLY wrong – Though, of course, if that is the case, the patient is probably gone for good.

What I’m talking about here are the “little” wrongs that can occur – Maybe a patient felt like your staff was rude to them … or that you brushed them off … or they didn’t like the new color you painted the lobby.

In these cases, something that you or your staff did actively caused your patient to think “I won’t be going back there.”

The good news, of course, is that this is a TINY fraction of patient attrition – Many chiropractors will never have even 1% of their patients leave for this reason

2. They feel that they’ve outgrown your treatment

If your patients feel that they’ve “peaked”, or that there’s nothing more you can do to help them, then they’re much more likely to stop seeing you.

3. They’ve moved

People move – sometimes it’s just across town, sometimes it’s across the country, and other times it’s across the globe.

It would be wonderful if all of your patients were willing to get on a plane to keep their regular appointments with you – unfortunately, it’s not likely to happen

4. They’ve fallen out of the habit of seeing you

In short, they’ve forgotten about you.

The bad news? Well, it’s always bad when somebody forgets about us, isn’t it?

The good news? Because it’s the most trivial reason to leave, it’s also the easiest one to overcome to bring patients back in. And since this is usually the biggest reason patients leave …. There’s gold in your past patient list.

How to bring back patients who forgot about you

First, you need to appreciate that they likely still need to see you – Unless the underlying condition that brought them into you in the first place was magically healed, they’re probably not living in optimal health

Second, realize that they are likely facing some embarrassment at the prospect of getting in touch with you – Many patients are worried, or nervous, at the prospect of coming back after months away. They feel like they’d be asked to explain themselves, and very few people like the thought of that.

Sometimes, it just seems so much easier to stay away.

It seems obvious – All you need to do is get in touch with your patients, let them know that you miss them, imply that there are no hard feelings and that they won’t be expected to explain their absence, and ask them to come in for a re-assessment visit.

Wait – It can’t really be THAT simple… Can it?

Well… no.

You caught me.

If it were really that simple, you’d already be doing it, wouldn’t you?

Just getting in touch with past patients can be hard enough – Will you send them a letter? An e-mail? A phone call? All of the above? How often will you try to get in touch? How will you make sure you’re not annoying / alienating them?

These are all very important questions, and they only deal with the “getting in touch” part of the puzzle – never mind the “what you say” part.

These questions are important, of course – But they’re not nearly so important as understanding that even though a patient has been gone for a long while, you may still be able to help them resume treatment on a regular basis.

Summary

The bad news is that you will always lose some patients. You’re never going to have 100% retention. And you’ll never be able to bring back every patient who leaves.

BUT, when you understand why they’re leaving, you are in a much better position to bring them back.

Stay tuned for additional articles, white papers, teleseminars, and additional info geared specifically towards increasing your retention, and if that’s not an option, bringing back patients who have already left.

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