Improving Patient Acquisition and Retention With Digital Care Coordination

The competition among healthcare groups today is stronger than ever before. Due to events like consolidation and consumerization, hospitals, health systems, and medical groups are at constant risk of losing current and potential patients to surrounding competitors. To combat this trend, many systems are increasing their focus on patient acquisition and retention strategies and how they can improve the patient experience.

While patients generally expect to receive high-quality care during surgery, a treatment or an office visit, there are many nonclinical factors that can influence their perception of their experience. These might include billing, wait times, appointment scheduling, and even hospital food. A bad experience in any of these categories can influence how patients view their providers, how likely they are to show up for appointments, and even their brand loyalty to a specific physician group, hospital, or health system.

It is evident why the patient experience is a catalyst for patient acquisition and retention – both of which are major factors affecting a healthcare organization’s bottom line. New patients eventually turn into returning patients – and returning patients contribute to high-value visits. Without new patients, revenue remains stagnant. And without any returning patients, revenue goes down.

Here are four ways that digital care coordination technology can help improve patient acquisition and retention:

Start with scheduling

Knowing that the patient experience starts well before a visit, providers should first look to improve the process of accessing care. One easy step toward this goal is offering patients the option to schedule their own appointments on the organization’s website. Online self-scheduling is the most convenient way for patients to both find a physician or specialist and get in the door for care, all on their own terms.

In our work with The Iowa Clinic, the largest independent, physician-owned multi-specialty group in Central Iowa we leveraged online scheduling to improve access to care for patients. As our case study reveals, through self-scheduling they are now adding 8 new appointments per provider per month. Today, at least 15 percent of their appointment bookings occur online and call center volume has dropped 30 percent, which means more patients are being connected to the right physician, and faster. The show rate for patients who schedule online is 97 percent. Patient satisfaction, engagement, acquisition and retention have all improved.

Optimize care referrals

Only one-third of patients who seek referrals receive them, and of those who do, only 20 to 40 percent follow through with a visit to the referred specialist. Referrals are clearly a pain point in the patient experience. The typical process looks a bit like this: upon discharge, providers hand patients a packet of care instructions with detailed follow-up information, including whom to contact, which specialist to see, and when to be seen. Unfortunately, patients are rarely empowered to make these connections on their own, and even if they do, that referral provider or specialist’s schedule may not accommodate their need to be seen for several weeks. In such a scenario, the risk of an adverse care event or even readmission increases.

This process can prompt patients to look elsewhere for their care, outside of the health system’s own network of providers and specialists. Many organizations don’t realize the amount of money that is lost from patients seeking care from competing organizations. It’s an even bigger hit to an organization’s bottom line when patients go elsewhere for higher-value visits, not just routine follow-ups and exams.

With more sophisticated referral coordination, hospitals and health systems can transform the discharge process and ensure that patients are scheduled for their follow-up appointments, with the right provider, before they even leave the four walls of an organization.

Leverage decision support

Regardless of their size or specialty, providers already have scheduling rules that determine what patients they should see, and when. What they often don’t have is a way to automate the scheduler’s interview process before enabling patients to book online or be referred, while also maintaining full autonomy over their calendars.

When scheduling protocols are digitized, providers don’t have to worry that a patient may book the wrong appointment or that staff may forget a specific scheduling scenario. Automating decision-making criteria ensures best practices are maintained, regardless if the appointment is booked online or in person, and helps the patient connect with the right provider in the least amount of time.

The role of analytics

Digital care coordination can be made even more effective with analytics, which provide an organization with information it requires to understand what is and isn’t working for any given patient. With analytics, healthcare organizations can actively track patient conversions and see how many visits turn into booked appointments. They can see precisely when patients drop off during the process and tie together data sets with information such as lead times or wait times, and if and where bottlenecks exist.

Simple things like adjusting what questions are asked during the scheduling process or changing what appointment inventory providers make available can dramatically improve the conversion rate.

Data from a digital care coordination platform also can show how well an organization’s physicians are being utilized while presenting booking patterns for further optimization.

Digital care coordination is essential to creating a patient experience that fosters patient loyalty. The goal for healthcare providers should be to leverage advances in technology and interoperability to make it easier for patients to find physicians, access schedules, book appointments, and ultimately maintain their health.

To learn more about how Digital Care Coordination can help make access easier, download our free guide, Omni-Channel Access: Unlocking the Digital Front Door.