Optometric Management Tip # 445   -   Wednesday, August 25, 2010
Short-term Strategies to Increase Patient Demand

If we get right to the point, most eye care practitioners (ECPs) need more patient demand. I cover all kinds of practice management topics in this newsletter, but how to increase business is the Holy Grail. Obviously, this is no easy matter or all ECPs would be busier. Yet some ECPs are busy and their practices are growing rapidly. Let's explore ways to make your practice one of the busy ones.

The best way to increase demand
Before I dive into short-term promotional ideas for your practice, we should review that the most important factor that drives new business is great customer service which generates word-of-mouth referrals. Many ECPs think their customer service is fine, but in reality it is not that great. Outstanding service must be in place first before you pursue other short term marketing strategies. If not, the short term promotions will be wasted because you won't retain the patients and you won't generate the word-of-mouth referrals that should occur.

Vision plans as a source of patients
We may not like the discounts that are mandated by vision plans, but we must acknowledge that some plans can deliver large numbers of patients. You should choose vision plans carefully and not become overly dependent on them, but if a plan has many members in your market area and you need to increase patient demand, you should become a panel provider. Making vision plans profitable is a topic for another article but ideally a practice will achieve a balance of billings to vision plans, medical insurance and private pay.

Short-term strategies
With those two major ingredients in place, there are plenty of things you can do to increase your patient load. The first step is to develop a marketing plan. This can be as simple as making a list of projects you can do, budgeting the cost (some are free), and developing a time table for getting things done. If business is slow, don't just sit in your office and hope it picks up; make things happen! Enthusiasm is contagious. If you have projects in place, your staff and your patients can sense that your practice is busy and successful. Review this list of ideas and decide which ones you can do.

Best wishes for continued success,

Neil B. Gailmard, OD, MBA, FAAO
Chief Optometric Editor, Optometric Management