Article Date: 1/1/2010

How To Boost A Weak Schedule
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How To Boost A Weak Schedule

These five steps can turn slow months into some of the most profitable.

RICHARD S. KATTOUF, O.D., D.O.S.

Q My patient schedule is very weak during certain months. November and December are the most difficult. Any preventive or corrective measures?

Dr. M.V. Karp
via e-mail

A: You describe a nation wide problem. Optometrists have responded to changes in medicine, lens and frame materials, lens designs and instrumentation. Yet when it comes to management, many owners operate their practices in the identical fashion to many years past.

Corporate and commercial optometry, ophthalmology and independent optometry all want the same patients. This competition can create slow months for your practice. To solve the problem, pay attention to the following areas:

Internal marketing. The doctor and staff must work as a team to develop loyal patients and replace every patient who leaves the practice with another patient. This requires the technician and doctor to script all patients for each procedure. Each script must answer: What are you doing to me? Why are you doing this? Why must this procedure be performed every year? This internal marketing requires no investment — it's simply words that educate and motivate patients. Use the scripts as a standard operating procedure. They enable you to control your schedule. If you do not want light schedules, this technique is a must. Don't simply wait for the phone to ring.

Managed care. Notify all families with managed care vision insurance in late October of each year. Let them know how many family members have not used their coverage in the calendar year. Include a dollar amount. For example, if three family members have not used their coverage, you would inform the family that it has $375 of unused coverage. Emphasize, “if you fail to use it, you loose it.” Many of my clients who have implemented this technique now report that November and December are some of their most productive and profitable months.

Medicare. Start reviewing Medicare charts at mid-year. Make a list of those patients who have medical diagnoses. This group can be notified in late October to schedule a medical examination. Normally, no refraction is necessary. Since there is a significant medical diagnosis, Medicare and supplemental insurance will cover the fee.

Medicaid. Handle this group in the same manner as the managed care patient. Use a message similar to “use it or loose it” but stress preventive care, as dollar amounts do not apply to these patients. Call Medicaid patients in late October and schedule them in bundles (compressed visit times) since historically, they have a higher no-show rate than other patient groups.

Product courtesy. Identify a slow month — the same month every year. During this month, promote mid- to high-end products, not professional services. This policy applies only to those patients who make private pay purchases. Your patient population will look forward to the promotion. Most will want a current refraction and will make appointments for comprehensive examinations.

We all pay close attention to the changes in optometry. In order to be more successful, it is critical that you change your management techniques and control your practice instead of having it control you. OM


DR. KATTOUF IS PRESIDENT AND FOUNDER OF TWO MANAGEMENT AND CONSULTING COMPANIES. FOR INFORMATION, CALL (800) 745-EYES, OR E-MAIL HIM AT ADVANCEDEYECARE@HOTMAIL.COM. THE INFORMATION IN THIS COLUMN IS BASED ON ACTUAL CONSULTING FILES.

Optometric Management, Issue: January 2010