The Intake

Insights for those starting, managing, and growing independent healthcare practices

5 reasons patients may leave your practice and what to do to keep them

Here are ways your practice may not be meeting your patients’ expectations — and steps you can take to turn things around.

Doctors discussing reasons patients leave independent medical practices

At a Glance

  • Poor experiences with providers who rush and lack listening skills are a top reason patients leave.
  • Patients want conveniences like online scheduling, text reminders, telehealth, and patient portals. Practices need to invest in technologies that simplify access and communication.
  • Long wait times and issues securing appointments frustrate patients. Practices can reduce wait times through online paperwork and bill pay and leverage smarter scheduling platforms to maximize appointment availability.

With the changing landscape of healthcare and care delivery, patients have more options than ever before — and more expectations. 

Medical practices used to run the faithful business of local patients and their families — often for life. Today, that’s not a given anymore. Less likely to opt for blind loyalty, patients want a superb patient experience, thoughtful patient care, wide availability of appointments, and tools and technologies that simplify scheduling and communication. 

Patient Perspectives Report

Why patients may leave your practice, and how to encourage them to stay

In order to retain patients, practices must understand patients’ non-negotiables and work to meet their expectations. Below we look closer at 5 reasons why patients may leave your practice and actionable strategies to keep them.

1. Poor experience with the healthcare provider 

Providers are busier than ever, squeezed between slim profit margins and the ever-shrinking windows in which to see patients. This can lead to rushed visits and a tendency to see patients as just a number to get through, but providers must avoid this mentality.

A good patient experience with the provider is non-negotiable for many today. A 2023 patient experience survey by Tebra found that 73% said they’d leave a practice due to a poor experience with the healthcare provider. 

Being an excellent listener is one of the top 3 things patients look for in a provider. ”

Patient Retention Tip: Focus on listening to patients. Being an excellent listener helps patients feel heard and helps practitioners develop the best care plan for patients. It’s also one of the top 3 things patients look for in a provider, and more than two-thirds would change providers to have a practitioner who is a good listener, according to Tebra's survey. 

2.Lack of tech conveniences

Patients today want the same consumer conveniences when it comes to their medical care that they’re accustomed to in the rest of their lives. This includes scheduling appointments online, communicating via text message or email, and paying bills electronically. Less loyal than ever, patients may be willing to leave practices that don’t offer these conveniences.

Patient Retention Tip: Invest in a patient portal that empowers patients. Opt for a patient portal to give patients a one-stop-shop to communicate with providers, request prescription refills, access test results, and pay bills online, among other functions. A 2022 study by the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) found that individuals are using patient portals more than ever. Portals increased the most in usage during one period in: 

  • Paying bills through a patient portal (29% increase) 
  • Communicating with providers and medical staff (40% increase) 
  • Filling a new prescription (59% increase). 

3. Slow responses to questions or requests 

Laggy responses from any business are frustrating but especially so when receiving information from a medical provider related to your health. More than half of respondents to Tebra's patient experience survey found that slow or no response to questions or concerns would cause them to leave the practice. 

Patient Retention Tip: Give patients more than one way to get in touch with your practice. Tebra's survey found that 37% of patients want easier ways to contact their practice, and 1 in 4 patients say email is their preferred method to ask providers questions.

Medical practices should ensure patients can reach the office via phone, text message, email, or in a secure message via their patient portal. ”

Medical practices should ensure patients can reach the office via phone, text message, email, or in a secure message via their patient portal. Patients are increasingly turning to their patient portals as a resource, with patient logins rising 17% from 2020 to 2021, according to a 2022 practice operations report by MGMA. 

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4. Long wait times

There are few things more frustrating for patients than extended wait times. Patients make the effort to show up on time for their appointment, and expect the provider to do the same. But behind the scenes things are more complicated — something practices and providers understand but patients may not.

Patient Retention Tip: Leverage online functionality to save time on-site and reduce wait times

  • Have patients complete paperwork forms electronically ahead of time to reduce wait times. 
  • Offer online bill pay to eliminate a post-visit step. 
  • Communicate with patients if the provider is going to be late. Practices can use automated messages that make it easy to push notifications to patients if the provider is running over in a previous appointment. Even if patients are already on their way to the appointment, they’ll appreciate the heads-up. 

5. Difficulty securing appointments

Especially with specialists or for new patient appointments, availability can be hard to come by. MGMA found that appointment availability for new patients increased by 2 days from 2020 to 2021. The difficulty many patients face booking appointments makes it unsurprising that availability is key to patient retention; 62% of respondents ranked “available appointments when I need them” as the most important thing they want from a healthcare provider, apart from quality care. 

Leverage a platform that auto-confirms with patients about upcoming appointments and releases slots in real time as they become available. ”

Patient Retention Tip: Smarter scheduling goes far. Practices can’t create more appointments out of nowhere, but they can get smarter about their scheduling. Leverage a platform that auto-confirms with patients about upcoming appointments and releases slots in real time as they become available. This provides the most accurate availability to patients booking their own appointments online, and increases the chance they’ll find a time slot that fits their schedule. 

Independent medical practices must evolve

As healthcare and patient expectations change, practices must evolve as well. Understanding patients’ pain points is the first step to solving for them, and today and going forward, patients are clear about what they want and where they’re unwilling to compromise. Now, it’s up to medical practices to meet patients where they’re at, by ensuring streamlined, efficient services and thoughtful care delivery to create an excellent experience across the patient journey.

Optimize Operations
Access the free report
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Written by

Catherine Tansey, business writer and reporter

Catherine Tansey is a business and healthcare writer and reporter. She has close to a decade of experience writing and reporting on small business best practices, emerging technology, market trends, and more. Catherine has several family members who own private practices in mental health services, dentistry, and chiropractics, and she’s seen firsthand the pride and privilege practice owners feel to be able to support their communities.

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