Reasons Patients Don't Come Back

How to address problems that turn away patients

Is your practice experiencing a lot of no-shows? Are your patients requesting their records be transferred to another physician? Are your patient's not coming back? If you said yes then there may be something your practice is missing. Here are five reasons your patients may not be coming back.


The Wait Time Is Too Long

Patients waiting in dentist office
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Long wait times are the number one complaint of patients regardless of whether they are visiting the emergency room, a physician office, or the dentist. No matter what a medical office manager does to prepare for patient appointments or visits, wait times can be difficult to reduce to the acceptable "15 minute" time frame. In a perfect world where things nothing go wrong, this can still be an impossible task to accomplish. While we strive to respect our patient's time, time is one of those elements that can't be controlled.

There are a few ways that can minimize wait times to less than 30 minutes.

  • Create a balance between seeing enough patients to meet the financial needs of the practice but still allow you to offer a high level of quality patient care.
  • The types of patient visits vary depending on the practice specialty, the diagnosis of the patient, and procedures being performed during the visit. This means that a different time requirement should be allocated to each visit type.
  • When developing each day's schedule, consider disruptions to patient flow such as late arrivals, walk-ins, and no-shows.

Not Enough Time Is Spent With My Doctor

"Not enough time spent with my doctor" seems to be the fastest rising reason that patients don't come back. Patients are reporting in higher numbers than ever before especially for new doctors. Several studies have confirmed that new doctors are spending an average of eight minutes per patient.

Patients have already endured a wait time longer than eight minutes, so it is frustrating to spend so little time with the physician. They don't see the time you are spending before and after their exam performing documentation, reading labs and x-rays, and entering orders. All of these tasks are crucial in making sure patients get the treatment they need. How can this issue be resolved?

There may not be a simple answer to this one. A suggestion is to be fully attentive and present with each and every patient. It's not the time spent that matters to most but how it's spent that truly matters.


The Doctor Is Ignoring My Concerns

The majority of patients only visit the doctor once a year, if that. So when they come for a visit, they consider this as their opportunity to bring up every concern they've had about their health all year long in one short visit. To the doctor who has a full schedule of patients, he or she may feel the urge to rush through the visit to keep other patients from waiting too long. To the patient who has the opportunity to voice his or her concerns, he or she may feel that they are being rushed or the doctor is uncaring.

There are a few ways to avoid "the doctor is ignoring my concerns" scenario. Some physicians choose to reschedule the patient for another visit to discuss other issues they may be having. The best way is to find out what issues the patient has during the scheduling of the appointment. The scheduler should be prepared to ask key questions that can help determine whether the patient needs a 15-minute appointment or if the patient needs a longer time slot. This way, the slot is available for all the patient's needs to be met in one visit.


My Medical Bills Are Getting Too High

Patients typically complain about medical bills being too high much like drivers complain about the gas prices. Unfortunately, there is not much that can be done about either of them. The fact is that medical care costs money. It costs the patients, the doctors, the insurance companies, the hospitals, and so on. Unless a law is passed that provides free universal healthcare to all US citizens, medical bills will continue to be a part of our reality.

Although there is no way to satisfy all patients who have cost concerns, the medical office can reach a large number of patients regarding medical bills through effective billing communication.

  • Simplify patient bills to improve patient understanding of billing and collection materials.
  • Rather than waiting until the collections stage of the revenue cycle, take advantage of discussing financial issues and collecting patient payments early in the process.
  • When patients become familiar with the processes you have in place through repetitive reinforcement, over time a certain level of understanding can develop.

My Treatment Plan Isn't Working

More likely than not, the "my treatment plan isn't working" scenario comes from not fully communicating with the patient. Sometimes patients don't have a full understanding of what they should expect from their treatment plans or medications. Patients may not know the right questions to ask and often assume what types of results they should expect. Providing patients with a written treatment plan can encourage them to continue whatever method of treatment the physician has ordered.

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