As a physical therapist, you love your patients—but what are you doing to prove it? It’s great that your services help patients get back on their feet, but outcomes alone won’t build your relationship—or your revenue stream. It’s time to take this to the next level: patient engagement. While it doesn’t require you to buy jewelry or rest on bended knee, like a good proposal, patient engagement should be thoughtful and sincere.
Not sure what I mean by patient engagement? Let me explain: Patient engagement goes way beyond small talk during therapy sessions. It covers a wide range of patient interactions, which often start before the patient even enters your practice. It also includes a variety of communication formats and platforms—from face-to-face conversations to online discussions. From the first session to the time of discharge, it’s your responsibility to make sure those interactions are positive. That way, you create loyal customers—or at least avoid creating disloyal customers. As we discovered at Ascend 2015, 88% of consumers will do business with your competitor after a poor customer experience. So, you have to make your patient encounters, well, count.
How do you know you’re capitalizing on your interactions? Tracking metrics, of course. The following metrics can help you get a pulse on how well you’re doing with your patient engagement efforts:
- Lifetime Value (LTV)
- Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC)
- Viral Growth
- Net Promoter Score (NPS)
Curious as to what these metrics mean and how to calculate them? Stay tuned; we’ll cover that in another blog post later this month.
Simply put, patient engagement helps you create and retain customers, and it can make or break your business—especially if you practice in a smaller market or a market with loads of competition. To better explain why patient engagement matters, let’s take a brief look at one of the aforementioned metrics: LTV. As we explain here, to measure LTV, you "multiply the amount you charge for a session by the average number of sessions you provide to each customer." So, to positively influence this metric, you must either increase price or retain patients for more visits. And unless you run a cash-pay clinic, you may not be able to increase the cost of your services. However, customer retention is a variable you can always influence.
There are many opportunities for providers to positively impact their customer retention rate. A couple of starting points: auditing your inbound phone call answer rate and wait times and determining how long it takes, on average, to file claims and bill patients. If your practice could use some improvement in these areas, you’re likely severely hurting your patient retention.
And don’t forget to engage patients out of the office. To do that effectively, you’ve got to do more than send your patients home with home exercise programs. Sure, these programs go a long way toward keeping patients motivated and progressing them toward desired outcomes, but social media, online reviews, and clinic website interaction can be just as critical when it comes to building and maintaining your patient base.
Patient retention—and your bottom line—hinges upon patient engagement. Like love and marriage, you can’t have one without the other, and it’s worth taking the time to develop your relationships with your patients. But patient retention is just part of the patient engagement story. While this topic might seem pretty foreign to you now, we’ll cover it all over the course of this month, so keep an eye on our blog.