Keeping Your Friends: How to Retain Patients

Greg A. Hood, MD


April 29, 2016

In This Article

Building a Practice, One Patient at a Time

Healthcare is in a constant state of transformation. The passage of the Affordable Care Act has had a tremendous influence on clinicians' relationships with patients, who weren't always able to keep their health plan, or their doctors. Changes in government interventions in healthcare and the resulting economic distortions have fueled the general demise of private practice, leading some physicians to become employees and others to retire prematurely (further restricting access), and generating a variety of changes within practice formats and styles. Some changes, such as annual wellness visits, have been worthwhile both to patients and physicians but nevertheless have changed the patient experience in healthcare delivery.

Patient continuity and retention remain a personal, professional, and certainly emotional priority for physicians. Given that primary care physicians typically spend many hours a week on face-to-face care as well as documentation and case review activities, the patient encounter also becomes a chief social outlet for physicians. Friends become patients, and patients become friends.

Traditional business estimates have always asserted that the amount of effort needed to retain an existing customer/patient is 80% less than that involved in the recruitment and processing of a new one. Of course, the dual truisms apply as much as ever in that: (A) One must do a good job taking care of patients to keep them; and (B) patients are notoriously ineffective at judging the quality of care that they receive. "Dr Google" has only compounded the stress of this dynamic. Society has moved progressively to embrace social media, online shopping, and an all-encompassing online life, and there's no reason to expect this to change.


Comments on Medscape are moderated and should be professional in tone and on topic. You must declare any conflicts of interest related to your comments and responses. Please see our Commenting Guide for further information. We reserve the right to remove posts at our sole discretion.