Our industry’s trusty watchdog, Michael Tetreault over at CMT, conducted some helpful surveys to get to the bottom of patient dissatisfaction. He says, “… Most concierge medical practices maintain a very high patient retention average of approximately 92%-94%*…” But adds that patients are writing in weekly looking for new doctors in their area. So what’s the deal?
He then analyzed over 1,000 prospective concierge medicine patient search requests that were submitted to CMT’s website and he found that nearly 30% of patients are leaving one concierge doctor and seeking another. Something’s obviously wrong here. Patients are sticking with concierge medicine, but what’s forcing patients to leave one for another? It looks like it all comes down to the “front desk” so to speak.
When asked, “What, if anything, could be improved or would you change regarding your previous concierge/direct medical practice?” patients cited issues such as:
• Rude office manager and/or staff
• Person handling scheduling was routinely ill-tempered and annoyed
• Patients were over-promised and under-served
• Appointment scheduling wasn’t any easier
• Patients didn’t use the membership as much as they thought
We’d like to clarify one thing here, and that’s the subtle difference between concierge medicine and direct care. Technically, you could run a concierge medicine practice and also see insurance-based patients. In certain cases, the concierge patients are paying extra to see you off-hours, to text you, to come in as often as they want for no extra charge, etc. (offers vary by practice). But if you notice something, you still have the same office staff, you still have the same insurance obligations, and possibly the same rigmarole and headaches from the insurance system rubbing off on your insurance-free patients. Again, this isn’t absolutely the case, but still a possibility worth considering when you run a hybrid practice. Sure, you’re offering an exceptional service to the person who’s paying extra, but are you offering the exceptional customer service they demand. Secondly, is it fair to offer the high-paying customer BETTER service? Shouldn’t all of your patients be met with courtesy in communication?
Also, we understand that concierge and direct care practitioners might be feeling overwhelmed about handling admin stuff themselves, and may have actually hired their spouses to fill in at the front desk. In this case, patients have confided that they are nervous to complain about rude service because they don’t want to upset the existing marital relationship. And that makes perfect sense. That’s one more reason we’re excited to launch Atlas.md. It might sound rudimentary, but we’ve developed an integrated calendar feature so you can manage your professional schedule the same way you manage your own schedule on your iPhone or Android phone. Whether you’re working with your spouse or not, we can guarantee you that your scheduling will run smoother than it would unaided.
Our main takeaway from Tetreault’s research is that once people are doing insurance-free medicine, they want to continue doing it. Only problem is that they will flock to practices with good customer service. Funny, right? It sounds like every other service industry.
* Source: CMT Poll, March 2010-2013