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Stephen O'Connor

By: Stephen O'Connor on August 14th, 2015

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4 Things That Drive Patients Away

Healthcare Advice

shutterstock_221326597A National Institutes of Health (NIH) study conducted several years ago revealed convenience was the most common reason patients change primary doctors. More than half of the 1423 patients responding to the survey (53%) were willing to find a new general practitioner that was closer to their residence or easier to visit.

The same study revealed that recommendations from trusted peers and family members (36%) and positive expectations of service (37%) also ranked high among the stated reasons that a patient was willing to leave one doctor for another.

What is driving patients from your practice?

1. Ambiguity and Fragmented Relationships

Sustaining continuity of care is essential for geriatric patients and people who suffer chronic illness, but people are less willing to work on maintaining a long-term relationship today if they perceive the quality of service is not meeting their needs. The provider-patient relationship today is not only, or even primarily, about medical needs. Patient-consumers expect transparency about costs, treatment plans and medical necessity for tests.

2. Demand for Standardized Quality of Care

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act's (PPACA) onerous regulations intended to improve quality of care have created “unintended” negative consequences for physicians and patients. While reimbursement schedules disincentivize extended patient visits, if doctors want to maintain acceptable per/hour rates, patients want more face-time with their providers.

3. Disorganized Workflow and Poor Communication

Many practices today are struggling to remain solvent due to new restrictions and reporting demands. Private practice and small-group staff members may assume dual-role positions. Adding to the burden is the fact that more health plans are implementing referral-before-service and pre-certification requirements. The pressure to do more with less may lead to less efficiency.

Disruptions in workflow prevent prompt referral to specialists or surgeons and ultimately delay treatment. Patients expecting service within a reasonable time, are not willing to wait weeks, or months, to see another provider, especially if the delay is due to inefficiency in a centralized referral office.

4. Billing Errors and Payment Options

As the number of self-pay patients continues to rise, accuracy and transparency become more important than ever before. Billing and coding errors, failure to post co-payments collected at the time of service and difficult to read statements create stress. Stress lowers consumer confidence. Patients expect an easy to digest statement and multiple payment options.  The key takeaway from a patient-consumer focus group sponsored by the Healthcare Financial Management Association was that medical providers must consider the billing process as an extension of patient care and branding activities.

Key Considerations: Patient Experience, Continuity of Care, Relationship Building

As 2016 draws closer, many physicians may be weighing the consequences of failing to comply with the PPACA “quality of service” documentation and reporting mandates. Research shows patients expect more face-time with their primary physician, but the PPACA regulations place continually increasing burdens on providers to invest more time filling out paperwork and submitting reports. More time for documentation means less time for patient engagement. Failing to participate fully, by submitting data on quality measures, will lead to a 2% reimbursement deduction.

With so many factors driving operating costs up and profit margins down, sustaining long-term relationships is critical. Reduce the number of patients leaving your medical practice with policies and processes that enhance patient experiences and improve satisfaction, reduce unnecessary burdens and incentivize timely payment.  

  • Be transparent. 
  • Provide multiple payment options for self-pay patients.
  • Streamline workflow processes to improve efficiency.
  • Improve communication with patients and intra-, inter-office departments.
  • Evaluate billing and coding processes.
  • Openly discuss reasons for prescribing or not-prescribing tests medications.
  • Build a brand. 
  • Invest in training and professional development. 

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Sources:  ncbi.nlm.nih.govTheihcc.comhfma.org

About Stephen O'Connor

As a Director of Digital Marketing at Advanced Data Systems Corporation, Stephen spends his day's planning, writing, & designing resources for the modern healthcare professional. He has a strong affinity for snow crab legs, the ocean, and Rutgers Football.