Nurse owners are (unknowingly) giving patients plenty of reasons to ghost, cancel services, and never be heard from again. In our Elevated Nurse Ownership Series, I loved it when special guest speaker and Customer Experience Expert, Joey Coleman, said, “Entrepreneurs spend so much time and money to bring new clients through the front door, but then they have a customer experience that pushes those same clients out the backdoor shortly after.” And healthcare practices are no exception!
It’s common for nurse owners overlook simple things – simple things that inconvenience and annoy patients. And when enough simple things add up, patients leave. Sadly, many nurse owners attribute patient turnover to “money issues.” But money is FAR from the only reason patients scadaddle.
The good news is: these simple things can easily be fixed so nurse owners can keep more clients, longer. And they’ll be happier clients, too, which leads to more referrals and reviews!
Here are 5 reasons patients leave that have nothing to do with money (plus a bonus tip at the end!:
Poor Appointment Follow-Up
As a trained healthcare professional, it’s easy for you to remember names of medications and supplements – how they help and when to use them. You can also rattle off latin names of diseases and disorders with no problem. Your mind is trained for this. Your patient’s is not.
When patients are in the exam room (or on a telehealth call), the visit can be overwhelming and emotional. This is, after all, their health we’re talking about. It’s common for patients to forget a detail or two from your visit with them. And presents a problem, for both you and them.
If they misremember an instruction, they won’t get the full benefits of what you prescribe. Plus, this leads to unnecessary calls, texts, and emails clarifying details and instructions (re: inconvenient and annoying for your patient). This takes up your time and theirs. And all of this can be avoided with simple Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for visit follow ups.
Many practitioners don’t send any visit follow ups at all! It’s such a simple step that helps patients remember important details and gives them confidence moving forward. PLUS, they feel more at ease during the actual visit. Instead of trying to keep everything in their head, they can be present and have a real connection with you.
Being Non-Responsive about Lab Results
One thing that really annoys patients is having to follow up with their practitioner about lab results.
It’s been common for practitioners to tell patients, “No news is good news. If you don’t hear from me, then the results were normal.” Let’s think through this from the patient’s perspective, shall we?
That’s basically telling them to wonder and worry about their test results for an undetermined amount of time. Did the results come in? When are the results expected? Were they normal or not? How long should I wait and wonder? What an emotional roller coaster!
It’s simple. Make it a part of your practice to communicate with your patient about their results, no matter the result.
There’s always room for communication. Even if the results are normal, you can still connect with your patient and have a helpful conversation. (“It’s normal for now, but it’s in the high range. Here’s what I recommend….”) And in those rare times when a conversation isn’t needed, you can still communicate with them and make it a point to say, “I’m happy to discuss any of this with you if you have any questions.”
Contacting patients with lab result puts their mind at ease and gives you yet another opportunity to connect with your patient.
Anxiety Before Appointments & Procedures
You can alleviate patient anxiety by simply letting them know what to expect at each stage of their experience.
Really think through the unknowns of a new patient experience. For example: Where is the office location? Where should I park? Which door do I go to? One member in our Nurse Owner Mastermind actually puts a picture of their office door in the welcome email, along with clear driving directions, too!
The next unknown is, of course, the first appointment, followed by the first exam. Before our patient’s first appointments and prior to any procedures, we send them a “what to expect” letter. We cover everything they need to know to feel comfortable and prepared. This includes things like if they need to be fasting, if any samples will be needed, and what information we might need from them. This one tool not only helps us do our job efficiently, but it also anticipates their questions and alleviates their anxiety.
Unexpected bills are a big issue. A poorly managed billing process can be the last straw for any client. I’ve been on both sides of surprise billing – as a patient and as a provider.
I once went to the OBGYN for a visit and paid cash for the appointment. Then, after seeing the doctor, I was shown the billing sheet for added meds, tests, etc., which I paid while at the office. Then a few days later, completely by surprise and with no heads up, another bill showed up in the mail. I was not happy about it. I know how offices are run and there was no reason for me to be billed once again. So, I called and they ended up comp’ing the charge. But here’s the thing, most patients won’t feel empowered enough to call or complain. They’ll just pay the bill and you’ll never hear from them again.
We all make mistakes. I remember one time when I forgot to charge a client for a lab. So, I sent them a bill, from their perspective, out of no where. What I should have done was just eat the charge. (Which is what we do on those rare occasions when this happens.)
Surprise bills don’t feels good. And they can quickly drive a patient away, for good.
These days there are a lot of snazzy, new tech tools that can enhance your practice operations. I’m a fan of quite a few. But not all tech tools are created equal. Anytime you decide to bring in a new technology into your business, be diligent about using the tech from the client’s perspective.
User interface is key. If at any point the technology is confusing or frustrating, don’t use it. If it’s confusing or frustrating for you, it will be 10x more confusing and frustrating for patients. They will simply not use the tech, or you and your staff will constantly be fielding questions about the tool that was supposed to make your life and theirs easier. That’s not a good use of your time or theirs. And it’s just one more reason why they might find services elsewhere.
BONUS: Take Responsibility
No one is perfect. Mistakes will happen. And when those mistakes happen, it’s paramount that you and your team take responsibility and apologize. If you don’t, you patients will not feel seen, heard, or respected. And then they won’t be your patient anymore.
I’ve have my practices for 9 years with fairly smooth sailing – particularly in our scheduling operations. However, recently a member of my team made a pretty egregious scheduling mistake that left one of my longterm patients – who’s also a pregnant high-level executive – waiting for 3 hours. Once I learned of the situation, I was mortified. Even more so when I learned that the person doing the scheduling didn’t acknowledge the mistake or apologize.
I’ve worked with this patient for years, but she was so upset (and rightfully so) that she very well could decide to leave the practice. I personally contacted her, apologized profusely, and – even though it was the mistake of my team – I took full responsibility for the mix up.
When mistakes happen, it’s important that you and your team are able to acknowledge mistakes, apologize for them, and do your best to make it right. Trying to “sweep it under the rug” is not professional and will create resentments that lead to lost patients.
When you improve your processes and procedures in these areas, you craft a better experience for your patients. An experience they actually enjoy. Being a Nurse Owner means providing care on many levels – both inside and outside the office. Take charge of your customer experience and you’ll have more clients, happier clients, and clients that stay with you for years!
If you're looking for ways to take your nurse-owned practice to the next level, then you definitely want to check out our Elevated Nurse Ownership Series! We interview 13 high-level entrepreneurs and specialists on how nurses can better serve patients and grow their practice.