How to Keep Your Patients

After researching you online with both your educational background and experience, as well as how well you performed on rating sites and viewing your medical website, a prospective patient has just scheduled an appointment to be seen by you.  The thing is, will that patient stay with you?

Is there loyalty between patients and physicians?

That depends.  Do you make it worth their while?

Recently, I went to a doctor as a new patient. He is a chiropractor and I felt that he could help relieve the muscle spasms in my back with certain exercises and massages. Typical forms were filled out, typical questions were asked and then X-rays were performed, followed by muscle manipulation.

I was quite impressed with his knowledge, his friendly demeanor, and his treatment. It felt great! But it did not stop there. At the end of the day, I received a text from the doctor, asking me whether I was pleased with the office, and the visit. He was looking for feedback, good or bad. At the end of the week, I received a gratitude card in the mail for choosing to become his patient. This made me feel appreciated.

Patients want to have engagement.  They want to be asked their input…what they want, what they feel, what they fear.  They want to feel that not only do they understand what is going on with them, but also understand their treatment options and what is available in both the traditional and alternative care realms.  That doesn’t mean that you necessarily have to provide alternative care but it is key that you can point them in the right direction in terms of reliable sources versus bogus sites.

Patients also want to feel important. Simple medical marketing and loyalty steps go a long way. Studies show that businesses can boost profits by as much as 100% by retaining just 5% of their patients.


Being a physician and a copywriter for the health community, I strengthen brands as part of what I do. This is what I am known for. Unlike most marketers, I am also a physician of medicine. This is unique.


Since I’ve worked in the trenches with you, I understand what you go through and what you do to attract your patients. There are various strategies that boost the perception of you being the best at what you do and it would be great if others knew more about you, the hard-working and deserving professional.


Patients want value for their experience with a physician.

Do you provide:

  • A cheerful staff that smiles and addresses patients by their name?
  • Friendly staff that introduces themselves and their positions?
  • Convenient appointment times (and changes)?
  • A short time in the waiting room before being seen?
  • The ability for patients to interact, ask questions, and most importantly, have them answered?
  • Explain solutions in a way that patients can understand without being over their head or too simplified?
  • Respect for patients as individuals?
  • Printed instructions for how to take medications with possible side effects
  • Postoperative instructions or a sheet on what to expect?

3 Loyalty Programs You Can Implement

The first is giving rewards unrelated to a business product or service, but appropriate to your customer’s demographic. A good example of this is when insurance companies reward patients for weight loss by giving them a month of free membership to a gym.

The second is a program that shows appreciation for patients. Start by:

  1. Sending gratitude cards or emails for choosing to become a patient
  2. Thank you cards for patients that were referred by current patients
  3. Birthday cards

These are simple steps that staff members can send out (with simple computer programming) or a third party can take on the task.

Thirdly, build a lifetime value relationship with patients based on mutual interests and not on the use of rewards. Once a patient climbs the loyalty ladder your brand is firmly planted in their minds. An affinity program offers special communications like a free membership in an information subscription service that you might provide.

Make patients feel that they count.   Patients don’t want to feel that they are just “a number”.  They want to feel that they count. The entire experience is crucial to retention from that first phone call setting up the appointment, to the professional encounter and beyond. The perception that you as the doctor cares is crucial.

After all, it is more economical to keep a patient and get referrals from existing patients than to have to constantly look for prospective patients. (And it is much more rewarding from a physician-patient relationship).

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Barbara Hales is a physician, consultant, and freelance writer for the medical industry. She authored 5 books and has appeared on CBS, NBC, FOX, ABC, PBS, and over 50 radio shows.  Dr. Hales produces a podcast called Marketing Tips for Doctors and can be reached at