Improving patient retention through loyalty programs

Improving patient retention through loyalty programs

Loyalty programs remain an untapped goldmine for healthcare providers and organizations. According to a recent study by Tabra, in the medical field, only 4% of providers have a loyalty program! Loyalty programs provide numerous benefits for businesses and it’s time healthcare organizations took notice. It can be time consuming, costly, and challenging to acquire new patients, especially considering the chances of a new patient visiting your office are only 5-20%. That’s a lot of work for a smallish reward when you already have a vetted patient list that you can build stronger relationships with. In the end, why not try a simple loyalty program to see if a little effort and patient appreciation can improve overall patient retention and outcomes.  


Benefits of setting up a patient loyalty program

While there are many benefits, and the benefits will keep growing as more healthcare organizations adopt loyalty programs, one of the most important ones might be improved patient retention. Patient retention is great for organizations and it helps improve patient outcomes as you are able to build long-term relationships with patients, spending more time with them and understanding their unique circumstances. When patients feel valued and heard, they are more likely to return. Not only does this bode well for the patient, your team has to spend less time bringing in new patients and can spend more time caring for the ones you already have. 

With a great loyalty plan in place and better patient retention, you can also improve your bottom line. Just by increasing your patient retention rates as little as 5%, you can boost profits by 25% to 95%! That’s huge for any healthcare organization and a great reason to implement a loyalty program. 

Finally, in terms of benefits, you’ll be a first adopter which means you can drive innovation in the field. You will also likely attract new patients as having a loyalty program makes a great differentiator as opposed to providers that don’t offer them. We all appreciate a little acknowledgement and an added incentive to practice better health, which is exactly what a loyalty program can provide. Ultimately, your loyalty program is going to make it easier to retain the patients you already have, increase your revenue, and attract new patients. 


Tips for setting up a successful loyalty program

  • Budget accordingly and don’t over discounting: A loyalty program usually has a financial component, whether you are giving discounts, giving away products or services, or partnering with other organizations, all of these activities will incur a cost to your organization. Be very clear about your profit margins and revenue to ensure that you aren’t over-discounting or jeopardizing your employees benefits or the running of your organization. While the return will mostly be worth the investment, it’s wise to start slowly and somewhat conservatively.
  • HIPAA-compliance – If you are thinking of adding a referral component or some kind of partnership with other businesses, make sure you are following all HIPAA compliancy rules! All of your patients information is protected in varied ways, so always err on the side of caution, and avoid sharing protected patient information. Sometimes, even confirming a patient is your patient can violate HIPAA. HIPAA violations cost tens of thousands of dollars and aren’t worth the mark on your reputation. 
  • Measure the program’s impact – Every time you try a new initiative, make sure to measure what it costs, how it’s being used, and what areas you can improve. Consider having your front desk staff ask patients what they think and keep track of the data closely. This will help you make adjustments and expansions or reign in spending if needed. 


Types of loyalty programs you can implement!

  • Points – With a points program, patients earn points for performing actions. This could be anything from scheduling preventative exams, making purchases, referring new patients, or leaving a review on social media, among many other things. Once they reach a certain number of points they receive discounts or special access. 
  • VIP – WHen it comes to VIP loyalty programs, you can create a tiered program or just one general VIP access program. Considering giving clients in the program unique benefits, such as special events, discounts, first-access to specialty appointments, and more. You can also create special communications with insider information from your experts. It’s a great opportunity to make your patients feel like true VIPs, rather than a half-hearted attempt to install a loyalty program.
  • Cumulative and level-based programs – Similar to a points program, with cumulative and level programs, patients get benefits the more services or products they accumulate or the more money they spend. If they reach the $1000 threshold, they may get access to special services, early access, or better discounts on their next services. It works similarly with levels, patients can unlock new levels of loyalty by performing actions, making purchases, or completing any other predetermined activity. 
  • Events – If you are in the habit of hosting events with providers or other partners, you can have a program based around providing patients access to the events. This works well for new products and services, but might be a big undertaking if you are not already doing events. 


The best ways to promote loyalty programs

  • In-person communication – Tell everyone that visits your office! Prepare your staff with a comprehensive FAQ and summary document detailing the loyalty program, and then make sure they feel prepared to tell everyone that walks in the door about the new loyalty program. Staff can also provide feedback about patients’ reactions to the program, and suggest adjustments based on interactions.  
  • Emails and SMS – Email is a great way to communicate with your existing patient base and reengage those you haven’t seen in awhile. Introducing a new loyalty program is a great way to reach out without being intrusive. Make it easy for patients to sign up and start realizing benefits! The same goes for SMS. Consider adding a short blurb about the new program every time you send an appointment reminder for a set amount of time.
  • In-office branding – During busy times, it might not make sense for your staff to bring up the loyalty program, so it’s best to have brochures and posters in your office that reference the program. Make it top of mind and easy for patients to participate by creating visual representations. 

Loyalty programs are just starting to take hold in the healthcare industry so there has never been a better time to be a first adopter and start innovating. With a simple loyalty program you can retain your valuable patient base and attract new patients! If you’d like advice as you think through the best approach to a loyalty program, reach out to MDG. We’d be delighted to help.