With growing competition and increased pressure for hospitals and health systems to run “lean,” having an effective patient retention strategy in place is more valuable than ever.

Acquiring a new patient is 5 to 25 times more expensive than retaining an existing one. Existing patients are recurring patients. Establishing and maintaining good relationships with your patients is critical to lowering the chances of uncompensated care from patients who shift from provider to provider. And that means a more predictable payment structure and a more stable revenue stream.

But keeping patients in network has more than just a financial impact. Retaining your patients also means that they have greater continuity of care, which research shows leads to more satisfied patients who are more likely to follow the medical recommendations of their providers and seek preventive care, which means better health outcomes. Having patients more satisfied and involved with their care is the key to success in the era of value-based care.

Poor experience outside the hospital can lead to patient attrition

Patients leave their care providers for a variety of reasons; identifying and addressing the most common ones can position you for improved patient retention. Poor communication and negative interactions with staff are common reasons for dissatisfaction among patients. Frequent, clear, friendly, and compassionate communication makes patients feel like they have some understanding and control over their experience.

Long wait times and cumbersome appointment scheduling systems can also result in attrition, so it’s important to address those issues immediately.

Four strategies to increase patient retention

There’s plenty of room for improvement when it comes to patient retention. Most healthcare organizations and providers say that patient leakage is a concern, but few understand why they are losing customers or how to reverse the trend. But it is not  a mystery to most patients. Here are some ways to improve your patient retention.

  1. Improve patient communication. Poor communication often plays a significant role when a patient claims to have had a bad healthcare experience. Provider communication is a primary driver and prediction of patient satisfaction, and satisfied patients are repeat patients. Ensure that all care providers are communicating often with patients and that they are doing so in a compassionate manner.
  2. Connect with patients between visits. One key to patient retention is considering a patient’s full healthcare journey, not just a single episode of care. Reaching out to patients before and after they receive care helps to bridge important gaps, allowing you to catch and address any issues of concern earlier and making the patient feel like you are invested in their overall health.
  3. Set clear expectations. Patients want to understand what is happening and what is going to happen next. They want to feel empowered in a situation where they often feel like they have very little control. To do this, you must be honest with both yourself and your patients. Be clear about next steps and ensure someone is available for patients’ questions and concerns.
  4. Develop a strong set of key performance indicators (KPIs)around customer service. Improving your customer service greatly improves your chances of gaining a loyal patient. KPIs around staff response to patient inquiries, patient response to outreach, responses to patient surveys, and ease of appointment scheduling can help position you for increased patient retention.

Harnessing data analytics to improve patient retention

Data analytics can help you better understand why your patients leave (and why they stay) and can lead to smarter, more effective expansion and growth choices for your organization. Data can be leveraged to improve patient retention in several ways:

  • Predicting patient needs: Patients who feel heard and understood are patients who return to you for care. Use data insights to anticipate the needs of your patients and addressing those care needs proactively creates a better overall care experience.
  • Gaining operational efficiency through analytics: Use data-backed operational models to streamline health system expansions. Knowing where there may be operational gaps or shortfalls can help you understand where you may need additional resources or improved workflows, which can serve to improve the patient experience.
  • Mitigating risk: Data analytics can help you identify challenges – including challenges to your care delivery model – and enable you to create proactive solutions. For instance, if your analytics suggest longer wait times than usual to see a provider, assess the circumstances and consider ways to minimize the impact before it becomes an issue for patients.
  • Evaluating tailored expansion: Leverage demographic and health trends data to develop location-specific strategies to improve patient retention. Data can help you understand the needs of a group or population of patients. Such data can help you tailor expansion plans and ensure you are delivering the specific type of care needed.
  • Predicting and addressing churn: A recent study suggests that U.S. healthcare systems see a patient churn rate of nearly 50%. When considering ways to improve patient retention, it’s important to understand why patients leave. This data can shed light on patient churn and suggest areas for improvement that may help you prevent or mitigate it.
  • Fine-tuning services: You cannot expect to retain patients if you do not understand what they want from their healthcare experience. Use patient survey data and other analytics to improve and refine your services, ensuring your offerings resonate with patients, and increasing your chances of retaining them.


Maintaining a loyal patient base is crucial to your financial success. Given patients have more healthcare choices than ever before, it’s essential that providers develop a patient retention strategy to understand why patients leave and why they stay. Data analytics can help you identify your areas for improvement, providing a competitive edge and helping you deliver on your promise of improved patient care.

While certainly not without its challenges, patient retention should be a major focus for every hospital leader.