Published: Jun 07, 2024
Revenue Cycle Management

Patient Retention Strategies: 5 Approaches to Optimize Revenue

Suzanne Delzio
Suzanne Delzio
8 minute read
Blog Hero Background GraphicBlog Hero Background Graphic

Business experts often repeat that winning a new customer costs anywhere from 5 to 25 times more than retaining an existing one. 

Healthcare providers face this grim statistic just as much as bankers and barbers. 

Many provider groups and MSOs invest more energy in acquiring new patients than retaining existing ones. Considering that the average patient visits their provider 3.1 times every year, all providers should respect and even nurture the current patient.  

You can grow that revenue using patient retention strategies. After all, it’s your current patients who are most likely to try any new treatments.  Review these 6 patient retention strategies to determine which your provider group or practice could double down on. With the right patient-centric moves, loyal patients boost your profitability and fuel your referrals (those new acquisitions biz dev is always fighting for). 

What is patient retention?

Patient retention is a marketing strategy that rolls out after patients have started with a practice. It involves strategies and tactics to ensure current patients remain satisfied enough to continue to choose your practice. Given the patient consumerism prevalent in healthcare these days, physician groups and practices must develop and maintain robust patient retention strategies.  

Healthcare trends necessitating patient retention

Today’s patients are quick to digital doctor-shop should they become dissatisfied with the financial or clinical aspects of their current care. Given the explosion of medical review sites, online news, websites, and more, patients can find the standouts in a few clicks. Where once, family doctors saw our grandparents for decades (and even generations), this perpetual care has become a thing of the past (or the Netflix rural doctor romp Virgin River.)

Retention strategies are one of the perks that make changing doctors less tempting. A Harris Poll of more than 2,000 U.S. adults’ feelings about their healthcare finds that – even though they might be happy with their current doctor – 69% would consider switching to another provider offering more appealing processes and services. The rise of value-based care and high-deductible health plans (HDHPs) has prompted patients to preserve their limited healthcare dollars in an inflationary economy. Healthcare leaders frequently discuss patient consumerism in forums and publications. Now that patients have become key payers responsible for 30 percent of provider revenue, providers have more of a burden to woo patients with high-value services and competitive advantages. 

Patients now expect their interactions with health systems to be fast, convenient, and digital. They also expect personalized treatment and payment options that won’t put them in too much debt. (Read about patient financial responsibility and trends in self-service patient payments to learn more about accelerating patient demands.)

Along with comprehensive care, a robust patient retention strategy complements your dedication to patient satisfaction and experience. 

How does patient retention reinforce revenue?

 1. Increased Lifetime Value of Patients

Retaining existing patients means that providers can maximize the lifetime value (LTV) of each patient. While sources vary, research conducted by Frederick Reichheld of Bain & Company (net promoter score inventor) and published in the Harvard Business Review shows that increasing customer retention rates by 5% increases profits by 25% to 95%. 

 2. Reduced Acquisition Costs

Acquiring new patients is more expensive than retaining existing ones. When you take control of your marketing and your patient acquisition cost, you’ll spend less to get new patients and enjoy more reliable revenue. 

You should be actively tracking your patient acquisition and retention costs and comparing them. To calculate patient acquisition cost, divide the amount you spend on marketing in a recent month by how many new patients came in that month. Consider:

  • Marketing salaries 
  • Facebook or Google Ads spends
  • Events
  • Newsletter costs
  • Website maintenance fees 
  • Direct mail sent to patients 

For example, if you spent $2,000 in a certain month on marketing salaries and related expenses and generated 20 new patients, then your patient acquisition cost is $100 per patient.  Many healthcare experts recommend trying to get below a cost of $200 per acquired patient. They assert that you only want to spend 20 to 25 percent of the lifetime value of the patient on acquisition. So if your average reimbursement for a patient’s plan of care is $960, don’t spend more than $240 in your patient acquisition cost! Aim for $200. 

Calculate patient retention cost

This one is a little more tricky. Add the total expenses you’ve devoted to retaining customers and divide it by the number of active customers. If you spent $1,000 per month on patient portals, educational email newsletters, and social media outreach, and maintained your customer level of 2,000, you have a retention cost of 50 cents per patient.

 This number is mostly useful in comparison, however. 

Should your number of active patients continue to increase, then your retention costs go down. Watch for downward trends over time. These indicate your retention strategies are worthwhile. 

 3. Enhanced Patient Satisfaction and Referrals

Patient retention strategies often improve accessibility through extended office hours, telemedicine options, and user-friendly appointment scheduling systems. These conveniences make it easier for patients to access care when they need it, which boosts satisfaction.

Consistent retention strategies help patients feel supported and cared for. This familiarity leads to higher patient satisfaction as patients feel more comfortable and secure with their care team.

Finally, strategies that include measures to reduce wait times, both for appointments and in-office visits enhance the overall patient experience, contributing to higher satisfaction.

Satisfied patients are more likely to refer friends and family to the practice, providing a low-cost method of acquiring new patients. Research and CMS has established that the following services are popular with patients: 

  • Personalized care
  • Tailoring care to suit patient needs as much as doctor opinion
  • Prompt communication
  • Patient involvement in all healthcare decisions
  • Flexible payment options, including payment plans, Venmo, Apple Pay, Google Pay, etc. 
  • Upfront payment estimates
  • Online patient portals
  • Self-service payment options
  • Mobile payment options

With services like these in place, patients are more likely to refer your organization to friends and relatives, increasing your patient volume. 

 4. Improved Compliance and Health Outcomes

According to a study conducted by academic researchers and published in Health Affairs, retained patients are more likely to comply with treatment plans and attend follow-up appointments, leading to better health outcomes. Many healthcare organizations accept this finding as common sense. While ideal health outcomes are providers’ primary goal, they also limit costly complications and readmissions.

 5. Streamlined Administrative Processes

As documented in a recent CAQH study, long-term patients typically require less administrative effort because their medical histories are well-documented. This streamlining can reduce the administrative burden and associated costs, freeing up resources to focus on patient care and revenue-generating activities. The AHA concurs

Given that patient retention improves revenue at a low cost, providers and MSOs should prioritize.  

5 patient retention strategies to stabilize and grow revenue

Keep your patients coming back with these protocols: 

1. Simplify patient interactions with an easy-to-use, all-in-one portal


When patients can turn to your portal for scheduling, communication, information, and payments, they centralize their medical care. When moving away from their medical access habits becomes too burdensome, patients are reluctant to leave. Further, while on the portal to see lab results, they will most likely run across their current bill and scheduling reminder as well. 

Accenture recently surveyed over 8,000 U.S. consumers aged 18 and older who had sought or received healthcare services in the past year. The survey aimed to evaluate healthcare providers' performance across 10 key consumer touchpoints and to identify the primary factors influencing patients' choices and their reasons for switching providers. The survey is called, “How can providers drive patient satisfaction and loyalty.” The key factors according to Accenture are access, ease of doing business, digital engagement and trust. All of these are furthered on a patient portal. 

In this report, Accenture studies why patients switch providers. 

Image courtesy of Accenture

See that 89 percent? The biggest reasons for switching were NOT value or even clinical experience, but relationship interaction and navigation, all factors simplified by the patient portal. Specific complaints included:

  • “They were difficult to do business with
  • I had a bad experience with the front desk or administrative staff
  • The digital/online service and support solutions do not meet my needs” 

Seamless communication and connection executed online provide the easiest access for patients. Life is busy, and patients relish the power and flexibility of scheduling and changing their own appointments. Customer scheduling is now considered a key “patient-centric” tactic. In fact, according to Clearwave CEO Mike Lamb writing in Medical Economics,  

“...patient self-scheduling has gone from a nice-to-have to a deal-breaker for prospective and existing patients. In an era where patient empowerment and convenience are at the forefront of healthcare trends, patients no longer want to take time out of their workday to call practices, wait on hold or go online just to ‘request’ an appointment.” 


Patient portals significantly enhance patient communication by providing a centralized platform where patients can access their health information, schedule appointments, and communicate with their healthcare providers. According to a study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, patient portals improve patient engagement by allowing users to view test results, request prescription refills, and receive timely responses to their queries​. This transparency and accessibility foster better patient-provider relationships and enable patients to take a more active role in their healthcare.  

Experian’s 2023 State of Patient Access Survey highlights these benefits. The survey found that patients are significantly more likely to adhere to care plans when engaged through positive, streamlined, and user-friendly self-service patient portals. Enhanced patient satisfaction with their healthcare experience leads to increased loyalty and a higher likelihood of referrals.


Many patient portal providers, such as ATouchAway, Klara, and HealthCloud, offer integrated portals with varied payment options. This integration allows healthcare providers, including physician groups, to offer seamless self-service payment experiences within the same portal used for medical records and appointment scheduling. While some integrations may require collaboration with external payment processors or financial services, vendors strive to deliver a comprehensive platform that encompasses both medical and payment functionalities, thereby eliminating the need for a separate vendor for patient payments.

A comprehensive review of 3,456 records conducted by the Journal of Internet Medical Research concludes that patient portals significantly enhance the doctor-patient relationship, improve awareness of health status, and increase adherence to treatment protocols. This positive impact is attributed to the sense of empowerment patients feel from being able to track their healthcare through these portals.

2. Offer accurate patient payment estimates

Given the precipitous rise in patient payment responsibilities, patients want to know exactly what their procedures and prescriptions will cost before they undergo them. 

Most patients today actively seek pre-service estimates. According to a 2024 study by Patient Rights Advocate, Inc. and Marist, 94 percent of 1,130 American adults support true healthcare price transparency. This trend is driven by the rise in consumerism among patients, with 91 percent expressing that knowing upfront prices is crucial for shopping for the best quality care at the lowest price. Many other studies reinforce these findings, highlighting the increasing demand for transparency in healthcare costs.

As patients are increasingly responsible for a larger portion of their medical bills, they seek clear information about their financial obligations to better prepare and plan. Healthcare providers can become more comfortable with upfront collections when they understand that it doesn't have to be confrontational. Clear communication and transparency about costs can enhance the patient experience and improve financial outcomes for both patients and providers.

 Take a quick tour of how you can automate eligibility verification and estimate generation here:

3. Focus on Your Front Office

As you will read in the above Accenture survey, patients take their treatment at the front desk very seriously. The front desk is the first and last stop patients make, plus it involves the sensitive subject of payments. Healthcare organizations can easily share statistics about how important the front desk experience is to patients, reinforcing the meaning and importance of these roles. 

One study of nearly 35,000 online reviews of physicians nationwide has found that customer service is patients' chief aggravation, not physicians' expertise or bedside manner. The study found that 96 percent of patient complaints are related to customer service, while only 4 percent are about clinical care quality. 

Is it time for training at your practice or provider group? Often, providing staff with the language and skills proven to defuse contentious situations brings meaningful improvements. We all have to learn to temper our defensiveness and say the right words to indicate compassion for (an often frightened) patient’s plight. 

Poor Presentation

Establish clear guidelines and expectations for your staff regarding front desk organization. The front office should be kept clean and free of clutter, staff should dress appropriately for the workplace, and consumption of food and beverages at the front desk should be discouraged.

Manual Processes

Your front office staff should not have to spend most of their time booking and confirming appointments. With the help of practice management software that enables online booking and automated booking confirmations, your staff can spend less time on tedious tasks and more time interacting with patients.

Long Hold Times

Patients should remain on hold for no longer than 10 minutes. Respect patient time so they won’t go elsewhere. Your office is busy, but so are patients as they juggle work and family responsibilities. 

Improper Insurance Charging or Billing

Given the complexity of insurance plans and the widespread staffing shortage, billing errors have increased. Still, overcharges and incorrect information about insurance coverage lead to patient frustration. To prevent billing errors, all front-office employees are knowledgeable about the various insurance plans the practice accepts and understand how each plan operates. Again, is your front desk fully apprised of current payer contracts and preferences? 

4. Digital loyalty marketing campaigns

Staying connected with patients between visits is crucial for improving retention and fostering long-term relationships. Various methods to engage patients include social media, email, direct mail, blogs, phone calls, and text messages. Here are some effective automated marketing campaigns:

New Patient Campaigns

Objective: Welcome new patients to the practice.

Strategy: Send a friendly e-blast encouraging appointment scheduling or exploring online resources. Follow up with automated emails providing checklists, guides, and educational materials on relevant healthcare topics.

Patient Recall Campaigns

 Objective: Encourage patients to schedule follow-up appointments.

 Strategy: Target patients who leave without scheduling their next appointment. Utilize a mix of postcards, emails, phone calls, and text messages. For example, send an automated postcard reminder, followed by a friendly recall email, and then an automated phone call to prompt appointment scheduling.

Patient Reactivation Campaigns

 Objective: Re-engage patients who haven't scheduled an appointment despite recall efforts. Ecommerce companies achieve great success using these “win-back” campaigns. 

 Strategy: Implement a consistent flow of messages without overwhelming the patient. A typical campaign might include a “We Miss You” email, a “Special Offer” email, followed by a paper mailing, phone call, and text messages.

Patient Referral Campaigns

  Objective: Leverage satisfied patients to refer new ones.

   Strategy: Send a referral solicitation email to satisfied patients, thanking them for their feedback and asking for referrals. Include an automated option for the patient to send the referral via email.

Birthday and Holiday E-Cards

 Objective: Show patients you care with personalized greetings.

 Strategy: Use automated systems to send e-birthday cards and holiday e-cards directly to patients' inboxes. These cards can be updated annually.

Remember to keep all communications compliant with HIPAA guidelines regarding the use of patient health information for marketing purposes. Healthcare providers can use their patient list to send communications about their own products or services if utilizing a secure, HIPAA-compliant platform.

5. Build a social media presence

Social media humanizes clinicians and staff and reminds patients of their medical needs. It also makes it easy to inform and educate both current and prospective patients about seasonal challenges (allergies, dry skin) or current medical news. Social media is also a convenient way to showcase “social proof” or the experience happy customers have had at your organization. This “user-generated content (UGC)” should focus on communication, connection, and comfort.

A good social media strategy should include the following five features:

  • Educate customers with pictures, comments on medical news, and health tips
  • Educate about new services and even new payment plans
  • Someone monitoring to respond to comments and questions
  • Humor when relevant
  • Tagging of partner businesses 

Use patient surveys to gather experience data

Patient surveys are essential for gauging patient satisfaction and gaining insights into your organization from the patient's perspective. They help uncover the most critical pain points of your current patient population. 

Align surveys with times patients are conducting other administrative tasks, such as during electronic medical record (EMR) updates. Effective patient surveys should be brief, clear, concise, and consistent. According to QuestionPro, your survey should also consider the following aspects:

  • medical outcomes and care quality
  • bedside manner
  • ease and clarity of communication
  • ease and clarity of financial aspects of care
  • ready access to care

If these comments follow a theme, make your team aware of them and work on a change protocol. Thank the patient or patients who brought up the issue and explain the changes you’ll be making because of their feedback. Patients – and all customers really – appreciate service providers that listen to them. Patients who participate in their care in this way are more likely to feel connected and therefore stay with you. 

Use patient-focused payment estimates to fuel retention

As healthcare grows ever more complex, patient retention will become more important. You can reduce your patient churn and be the reliable healthcare organization patients depend on.  

Sophisticated, patient-centered payment options are essential in today's rapidly evolving financial landscape in healthcare. MD Clarity's Clarity Flow system provides precise and easy-to-understand cost estimates for patients, allowing them to pay in advance and boosting early collections. These interactions foster trust in your services, enabling patients to make well-informed payment decisions. Whether it's enhancing patient payment processes or analyzing payer contract efficiency, identifying your prime opportunities for reclaiming revenue is crucial.

Schedule a demo to see how you can deliver this critical aspect of care to your patients. 

Accelerate your revenue cycle

Boost patient experience and your bottom line by automating patient cost estimates, payer underpayment detection, and contract optimization in one place.

Get a Demo

Get paid in full by bringing clarity to your revenue cycle

Full Page Background