I'll start with the assumption that you would like to see greater profitability for your practice in the year ahead. To help you formulate the strategy that will achieve that goal, I need you to answer one critical question:
Which of the following statements most closely describes your typical backlog of patients?
- Strong (Appointment schedule is fully booked two weeks ahead or more.)
- Moderate (Appointment schedule is almost fully booked one to two weeks ahead.)
- Weak (Appointment schedule is almost fully booked three to seven days ahead.)
- None (Appointment schedule is not fully booked even three days ahead.)
Every week I speak with ECPs in all of the four categories above and even those with moderate to strong patient demand often are not earning anywhere near their true potential. Doctors with weak demand obviously have even more trouble generating high income levels. Read on for a super-simplified strategy to increase profits based on your current level of patient volume.
If you answered a or b above, you have fairly strong patient demand. That is a wonderful situation in this economy and you are indeed fortunate. I view those patient appointments that are in the future as a very strong asset and I strongly urge you to convert some of it into cash flow.
- Delegate more.
- Hire more technicians and opticians.
- Use scribes.
- Consider allowing technicians to assist with refraction and contact lens fitting.
- Always follow your state law about delegation, but if your state law is holding you back, maybe it should be changed.
- Change your appointment schedule to allow you to see more patients per day.
- Hire an associate optometrist if you still have excess patient demand after implementing the above. This doctor does not need to be a partner. Pay straight salary with excellent benefits.
- Look for larger office space to allow each doctor to have at least two exam rooms.
It can be difficult to change the way things are done in your practice, but everything around us is changing very quickly and practices that don't adapt will decline. You can make changes in a step-by-step fashion over time. This type of practice is fairly easy to change because the revenue will increase right away. Just get started and make things happen.
If you answered c or d above, you are like most eye care practices and you have weak demand. Our focus is different for this practice. Increasing profitability is harder and will take longer, but it can be done!
- Be sure you and your staff are passionate about customer service. Look at everything you do from the patient's point of view. Let the patient win. You are working to increase word of mouth referrals.
- Be sure your practice has a fantastic website and a Facebook page.
- Add one or more vision plans. Of course you would rather see private pay or medical patients, but you need more demand. You can still be profitable with vision plans.
- Buy or lease a new instrument that can generate more income. A new instrument like a retinal camera or a macular pigment density test allows you to offer a new service and generate fees.
- Use your available time wisely. Ask every patient to try on a pair of contact lenses. Don't worry about finding the perfect candidate right away. Just let them have a cool experience.
- Improve your optical. Work with sales reps to bring in the best styles. Increase the size of your inventory. Get someone with decorating skills to help you give the optical a makeover.
- Drop in at the offices of primary care physicians, meet the nurse and/or doctor and drop off some business cards. Tell them the kind of patients you want to see and ask if you can refer patients needing their specialty.
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