The Ask MGMA program recently received this inquiry: “I think our practice is experiencing a high rate of patient turnover. Are there industry benchmarks for turnover rates that I can use to compare my practice?”
Patient turnover, often referred to as patient churn or attrition, can impact the financial health and stability of a medical practice. Estimates show that it’s six to seven times more expensive to acquire a new patient than it is to keep a current patient coming back. It’s also estimated that upwards of 80% of future profits come from just 20% of existing customers. Furthermore, big gains can be made by retaining patients because increasing patient retention rates by just 5% will increase profits anywhere from 25 to 95%.
While there are no universally accepted industry benchmarks for patient turnover rates in medical practices, you can still assess your practice's turnover rates and compare them to some common benchmarks and best practices to gauge your performance. Keep in mind that acceptable turnover rates can vary depending on the type of practice, specialty, and patient population.
Here are nine key areas to assess and address patient turnover:
1. Patient retention rate
Calculate your patient retention rate by measuring the percentage of patients who continue to visit your practice over time. A higher patient retention rate indicates better patient loyalty. This can be calculated as (Number of returning patients / Total number of patients) x 100 over a specific time frame.
2. Benchmark against your specialty
While specific benchmarks may not exist for average patient retention or turnover rates, medical practices can compare their established and new patient visits to others in their same specialty or even across specialties. MGMA’s Procedural Profile has data to benchmark against. The CDC also has survey data that is available to most and could be helpful.
3. Patient feedback and engagement
- Collect patient feedback through surveys or direct communication. Understanding the reasons for patient turnover, such as dissatisfaction with services, long wait times, or communication issues, can help you address the underlying causes.
- Implement strategies to engage patients and build long-term relationships. Educate patients on the benefits of regular visits and preventive care.
4. Analyze appointment data
Examine your appointment data to identify patterns and trends in patient behavior. Are there certain times of the year when turnover is higher? Is there a correlation between appointment availability and patient turnover?
5. Wait time analysis
Assess your practice's wait times, both in the waiting room and for appointments. Long wait times are a common reason for patient dissatisfaction and turnover. MGMA DataDive Practice Operations survey data has a variety of benchmarks available.
6. Continuity of care and culture
Evaluate the continuity of care provided by your practice. Patients often value consistent care from the same provider. High staff turnover can disrupt this continuity.
7. Appointment reminders
Utilize appointment reminders and follow-up calls to reduce no-shows and improve patient compliance with scheduled appointments.
8. Marketing and outreach
Develop marketing and outreach strategies to attract new patients. While patient retention is vital, a steady influx of new patients can help counteract turnover. Offering telehealth may be one way to reach patients that may not otherwise come into the practice.
9. Set goals and monitor progress
Establish patient retention goals and regularly monitor progress. Implement initiatives to address high turnover and measure their impact.
Remember that patient turnover can be influenced by a variety of factors, including practice location, competition, payer mix, and socioeconomic demographics. Your primary goal should be to identify and address the root causes of patient turnover specific to your practice's unique circumstances.