4 Scheduling Opportunities to Accelerate Patient Acquisition & Retention

Reading Time: 5 minutes

By Blakely Roth | March 9, 2023

For growth-minded organizations, acquisition and retention are always at the top of the priority list. The quest to find more customers, while increasing the value of the ones you already have is a constant balance.

This challenge applies to healthcare practices as well. Increased competition and changing demographics have motivated practices in high-growth specialties, such as ophthalmology and dermatology, to get proactive when it comes to attracting and winning new patients. At the same time, these practices must put in an effort to reinforce and extend their relationships with existing patients and their families, referring providers and other partners that support patient acquisition goals. 

Winning the battle for competitive advantage isn’t something a practice can do via traditional pen, paper and phone call methods – not in today’s digital world where consumers are accustomed to having everything at their fingertips. One study shows that 89% of US adults state that “Ease of Access” is a major factor when choosing healthcare providers. 

Technology plays a massive role in executing a scalable and successful patient acquisition and retention strategy. Practices that can digitally optimize patient touchpoints at the earliest stages of the relationship are likely to see far higher long-term success rates in revenue growth, customer satisfaction and competitive advantage.  

What are the four greatest opportunities for accelerating patient acquisition and retention via patient revenue technology? They include the following:  

  1. Provide 24/7 online access to appointment booking 
  2. Automate the provider referral process  
  3. Use tools to bring in more patients and fill appointment calendars 
  4. Streamline call center operations 

1. Expand access by providing 24×7 self-scheduling

Patients across all demographics are becoming increasingly dependent on technology to conduct and navigate life as we know it, and healthcare is no exception. Given the proliferation of smartphones and consumers’ general level of comfort in using technology for day-to-day transactions, it’s no surprise that the vast majority of patients prefer some sort of digital access to their healthcare provider. High-growth practices are implementing patient engagement technologies such as digital self-service scheduling and check-in to provide patients with the access they require.  

At the same time, they’re safeguarding their practice against competitive threats. One research report noted that 80% of patients would switch providers if they didn’t offer the conveniences of an online experience – a trend that has been reinforced across other surveys. This research is backed by patient behavior. Just by implementing the right patient revenue platform™, making it easier for patients to self-schedule digitally, Pediatric Associates of the Northwest – provider of pediatric services throughout the greater Portland, Oregon, area – increased the number of patient appointments scheduled online by 20%. 

“Patients and providers — even early skeptics — have loved the new system. With full schedules, our providers are able to see more patients. We see huge potential in the platform to further enhance the patient experience and enable better utilization of staff to provide even better care.”  

Annie Cain, Technology Manager | PANW 

These are just a few of the proven reports reinforcing automation’s place among the top strategic moves that high-growth practices use to gain a competitive advantage, drive revenue and ensure a successful future.  

2. Increase patient referrals by simplifying the process for partners

Core to any growth strategy for a successful specialty practice is their referral channel – the partners, physicians and practices that will send patients for follow-up care that the referring practice doesn’t offer. More than a third of patients are referred to a specialist each year in the United States. Of course, physicians make referrals based on what they feel is best for the patient, but they also take into consideration a provider’s ease of engagement – especially since it’s a direct reflection on them as the referrer.

Consider, your referral partners. How easy is it for their patients to book an appointment with your practice? If the answer is negative in any way, a physician is likely to send future referrals elsewhere.

“Ultimately, the real benefit is: This online scheduler never sleeps, it never takes breaks, it never goes on lunch, it never gets sick – it’s always there.”   

Ben Seals, CEO | Thomas Eye Group 

Thomas Eye Group, a provider of eye care services across the metro-Atlanta area, uses an online patient scheduling platform to let patients and providers schedule appointments online and in real-time. Today, 30% of the appointments scheduled online are for new patients, most of whom are referrals, and that number continues to grow. Thomas Eye Group made it a priority to create a simple and efficient process for providers to refer their patients. Today, the Thomas Eye Group is reaping the financial benefits as a result. Hear more about their story and how your practice could take a similar approach.

3. Use real-time online scheduling and an automated waitlist to manage patient demand efficiently

According to recent data from Merritt Hawkins, it takes roughly 26 days for a new patient to secure an appointment with a new provider. Prolonged wait time – either to book an appointment or to see the physician once you’re on-site – has a negative impact on a patient’s outlook on the practice as well as their attitude toward treatment. Lengthy wait times also set the stage for patients to go elsewhere if a competitive practice will get them in sooner. 

With an intelligent patient scheduling platform in place, practices can effectively manage daily patient flow. Patients can schedule themselves online, but only in timeslots and with physicians who are ideally suited for their specific situation, thus reducing the likelihood of appointments running beyond their allotted time or being scheduled with a physician who might not be the proper fit. At the same time, the system can automatically identify and offer more immediate openings due to last-minute cancellations, so that every appointment slot is utilized and generates revenue.  

At Pediatric Associates of the Northwest, 61% of appointments scheduled online are booked at the last minute, filling schedule gaps and recovering revenue leakage.

4. Digitize and optimize call center scheduling to lower patient acquisition costs

High-growth practices that employ call centers to assist with patient scheduling are focused on dramatically cutting down on call volume, training time and operating expenses.  

With smart scheduling logic provided to their call center, Thomas Eye Group expanded its number of physical practice locations – and increased the number of patients it processes per day – but they did so without any increase to call center or full-time employee (FTE) costs. Their streamlined approach even decreased the length of patient call time by 70%. Learn more about how the practice digitized its scheduling process for call-center agents, making it faster, simpler and more intuitive to service patients calling for an appointment.  

Choose a Patient Revenue Platform that Specializes in High-growth Practices

In each of these opportunity areas, providing an automated and simpler form of interaction between patients and practices is what ultimately drives the increase in acquisition and retention. Identifying the right digital tools and partnering with a vendor can fast track this process for businesses who seek to increase revenue and profitability but aren’t sure where to start.  

Clearwave Core is the patient revenue platform for high-growth practices. Set your practice on the right path to accelerate patient acquisition, retention and growth, by making patient engagement a competitive differentiator and revenue generator. Learn more about Clearwave Core.

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