Article Date: 6/1/2003

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Increase Your Follow-Up Visits
Stimulate your profits by focusing on the patients you already have.
By Gary Gerber, O.D.

The most powerful practice-building strategy of the next millennium isn't raising your fees or seeing more patients. It has nothing to do with new technology, staff meetings, dealing with managed care or delegating. No, it's much simpler than any of those topics. It's to change your recall system from a yearly program to a daily program.

Think about it

You'll no longer need your recall postcards because you'll have conditioned your patients to return to your office for their yearly exam every day! Wow, what a great idea -- instead of seeing 2,000 patients each year, you'll just see the same 2,000 patients every single day!

No, I'm not serious. But this admittedly extreme example does illustrate the most overlooked concept you can use to build your practice. When I lecture, I often ask the audience, "Only three methods are effective in increasing your practice's net -- what are they?" Virtually every group immediately knows the first two: See more patients and raise your fees. From there, most doctors are at a loss for the third item and start expanding on the first two ideas.

"Sell higher-end products" (raise your fees), "Set up referral programs" (more patients). Indeed, it's rare that anyone responds with "See the patients you already have in your practice more frequently."

The concept here isn't simply another attempt to get you to focus on your recall program. Hopefully, you're already doing that.

Rather, my point is to further explore the impact of this third axis of practice building -- the one that happens over time. You see, in the final analysis there really are only three ways to increase your practice's profits: Charge more money, see more patients and see them more frequently.

Getting them to return

First, of course, you should have a firm and credible recall philosophy and program in place that your staff understands and consistently delivers to your patients. Beyond that point, consider the benefits of new technology.

It's widely agreed that compliance with daily and monthly continuous wear contact lenses is far superior to more commonly prescribed two-week lenses. Therefore, taking the product margins out of the equation (which are generally higher with the former lenses than the latter anyway), two-week lenses are significantly less profitable because patients will return for professional care less often.

Newer diagnostic equipment is also a great way to stay in touch with your patients. Nearly every diagnostic test we might perform for a patient has more clinical value when we perform it a second time. So explain to patients from the outset that the tests you're ordering today are part of a continuum of tests that you'll repeat in a few months.

Schedule regular tune ups

Most patients don't care for their eyeglasses as well as we'd like them to. Consider scheduling "eyeglass tune ups" to keep their glasses comfortable and properly adjusted. These visits usually take minutes, yet further cement the relationship between your practice and your patients. Furthermore, they allow another opportunity to remind patients of their next regularly scheduled visit.

Business a bit slow? Avoid the knee-jerk reflex of attempting to get new patients to join your practice. Remember the third overlooked axis and communicate with the patients you already have!

Dr. Gerber is the president of the Power Practice, a company specializing in making optometrists more profitable.  Learn more at or call Dr. Gerber at (800) 867-9303.


Optometric Management, Issue: June 2003