Six Ways To Improve Your Patient Retention

Estimated read time 5 minutes

If you had a chance to read our last blog, you’re aware that lack of patient retention leads not only to worse outcomes, but also to a major loss in clinic revenues. On average, 70% of patients fail to complete their plan of care while 12-20% drop out after the first session of care. This costs the average clinic over $150,000 per year in lost revenue!


The good news is that patient retention is an issue you can begin to address today! Below are six easy methods that you can use to make a significant impact on your patient’s engagement!

Emphasize Your Value

It may come as no surprise to you, but physical therapy works. Numerous studies have shown the benefit of physical therapy and in recent years the physical therapy community has been making a concerted effort to communicate this to the general population. 

Whether through their #ChoosePT campaign or through the 4 key elements of their strategic plan, the APTA has made it clear that communicating the value of physical therapy should be in the forefront of the minds of clinics and therapists alike. As you’ll see in the tips to come, therapists should constantly be reminding their patients why therapy is important and of the benefits it can bring.

Welcome Emails/Packets

Whether a simple email or a full welcome packet with intake forms included, sending a welcome is a good way to make the patient experience feel unique and personal from day one. This welcome packet can also be utilized to help emphasize your value right from the start. For tips on how to create a great welcome email, check out this post.

Align Expectations Immediately

Every therapist has dealt with patients that come to their first session thinking they will be healed in a week. Not only are these patients most likely incorrect, but often when they’re recovery fails to meet their expectations they feel their plan of care is ineffective and discontinue therapy. This is one major culprit of patient dropout. 

To combat this, many therapists have seen success in clearly outlining expectations during the initial evaluation. Ensure that the patient fully understands the expected length of care, number of sessions, and the reasons behind these numbers. 

Imagine a scenario like this: You go to a restaurant and are told the wait is 10 minutes. How happy are you if you are seated after waiting for 30 minutes?

Now imagine this: You go to a restaurant and are told the wait is 30 minutes. Now how happy are you when you are seated after waiting for 30 minutes?

Likely you would be fairly upset to wait 20 minutes longer than you expected, but happy to wait 30 minutes as long as you expected the wait! The same holds true for patient’s expectations; aligning expectations can play a major role in a patient’s perspective on their care and whether they feel it is effective. So be sure to clarify exactly what one can expect on the very first visit!

Set Goals and Show Patients Their Progress

When it comes to keeping patients happy and motivated, goal setting and progress tracking are a must! The research on goal setting and positive emotion is quite clear: seeing progress towards a set goal provides individuals with a burst of positive emotion. 

Not only will showing patients their progress make them happier, but setting concrete goals has been shown to increase patient adherence. Further research shows that goals should be, “positive, challenging (yet reasonable), and focused on rehabilitation processes (e.g., completing home exercises) rather than on rehabilitation outcomes (e.g., walking without pain).” Research also shows that goals should be set at least weekly, if not daily. So consider taking a few extra minutes at the end of each session to talk with your patients and see what goals they would like to achieve for the week. Then write them down and work to hold your patients accountable.

Patient Education - What Are You Doing and Why

Patients need to know exactly what you are doing and why these specific activities are important. If a patient does not understand why they need a strong core to help their knee injury they likely will not adhere to their home exercise program. Therefore, quality patient education is a must.


Educating your patients can also be a good way to emphasize the value your care has to offer and build a patient’s confidence in you through your display of knowledge. Educated patients are also more equipped to help in decision making and are more able to take control of their own care! At the end of the day, having a well educated patient benefits everyone.

Allow Patients to Help Make Decisions

Including patients in decision making is key to engagement. People want a sense of autonomy and control, especially when it comes to their own health. Rather than simply telling patients what to do, work to find ways to include them in the decision making process. An effective patient education program will prepare the patient to make choices about how to integrate their recovery into their current lifestyle. You should coach and educate your patients while encouraging them to take the reins as much as possible. This way, patients will feel more involved and in control of their own care. A simple way to do this is by allowing the patient to have some control over their home exercise program. This is more than just a way to provide your patient with a unique experience. Research shows that patients who feel they have autonomy and control over their healthcare are significantly more likely to be compliant in their care!

Take Action!

Engaging and retaining your patients is critical to maximizing the healing and benefit you bring to your patients as well as the success of your clinic. Now that you know a few steps you can take to prevent patient dropout and increase your patients’ engagement, make a commitment to incorporating these methods into your current practice!

Six Ways To Improve Your Patient Retention

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