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What’s Your Churn? A Smart Approach for Patient Retention

Patient churn is an ongoing challenge for practically every health care system in the nation. Recently, Buxton analyzed sample data from a range of U.S. healthcare systems and found a new patient growth rate of 45% – but a patient churn rate of 48%. Obviously, these numbers would significantly impact the sustainability of any organization over time.

In dealing with patient churn, health care systems often have more questions than answers. However, healthcare analytics can provide insights that can help you understand your patient churn and develop a plan to address it. By examining past patient behavior and other variables, you can determine what patients are likely to do in the future. The actions you take will depend on your unique circumstances, but there are certain practices that will benefit any organization.

Quantify your churn rate

The first step in dealing with churn is determining just how big a problem it is. By analyzing relevant data points – from past patient visits to household makeup to family income – you can identify your active patients who are at risk and your active patients with no risk. You can also monitor patient retention at a variety of levels, from overall, system-wide churn all the way down to specific physician practices. Where are you winning, and where do you have an opportunity to improve? What will happen in the coming year if you don’t take steps now? Why do some urgent care clinics have higher churn rates than others? Data analytics can help you answer all of these questions. You can even compile your data into an easy-to-use patient dashboard that lets you view the situation from a variety of perspectives.

Appoint a C-suite sponsor for your initiative

Everyone bears responsibility for patient retention, from support staff to clinicians to management. We have found, however, that organizations that make a top leader accountable for patient retention have a much greater likelihood of success. If possible, this should be someone from the C-suite, such as a chief operating officer or chief marketing officer. That way, everyone knows clearly “where the buck stops” when it comes to patient churn. It’s also vital to develop key performance indicators (KPIs) that help monitor the progress and results of your patient retention initiative.

Develop a strategic road map for the entire organization

In a healthcare system with multiple hospitals, urgent care clinics, specialty practices, and primary care physicians, it’s important that everyone is on the same page. Once you develop a top-level plan, these strategies and objectives can be applied across the board down to the local level. In executing your plan, be sure you allocate the time and dollars necessary to maximize its impact.  Part of your plan is deciding what kinds of patients you want to attract and retain. You may want to define the characteristics of your “ideal patient” – those who have the most value to your organization and help you support your organizational mission. Once you know what those patients look like, you can take steps to retain them and acquire more patients like them.

Adopt a multi-pronged approach

In managing patient churn, there’s no “silver bullet” that works in every case. Depending on your circumstances, you’ll want to adopt a variety of tactics to address the issue – from email to direct mail to social media. Knowing where patient churn is occurring, and which types of patients you want to retain, will often dictate the content and frequency of your messages. By analyzing the results of your marketing campaign and making adjustments as you learn, you can develop a program that you know will work to attract new patients and keep them coming back for years.

Buxton’s blend of healthcare and consumer analytics can be a vital component of your patient retention program. Request a consultation today to find out more.

Journey Awareness Persona C-Suite/Finance Healthcare

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