view from the top - Measure Twice, Cut Once

Put this old adage to work in your practice and you'll be glad you did.

view from the top
Measure Twice, Cut Once
Put this old adage to work in your practice and you'll be glad you did.
By Gary Gerber, O.D.

I recently received an e-mail about my article that discussed why most recall systems fail. The doctor emphatically stated that patients should address recall cards in their own handwriting because that way they'll read them.

My first thought was, "Sure -- they'll probably read the card, but will they respond?" After all, isn't getting responses the goal of the recall program in the first place?

Our client research has shown us that when patients hand address their own recall cards, there is no measurable difference in the likelihood of their response compared to responses from cards addressed by computer or another hand. But this article isn't about recall cards. It's about why we know we're right.


Measure your procedures

My company has measured the response rates both ways in multiple client offices. Measuring things you do in your own office is how you learn what works, what doesn't and how you grow as a business.

Getting back to recall as one of many measurable entities, consider that you can (and should) measure each of the following parameters:

The media. Measure the method in which you recall patients (phone call vs. postcard vs. letter vs. e-mail).

The recall message, part I. Phone script vs. text of a letter vs. message on a postcard

The recall message, part II. Is your recall letter printed on stationary or on plain white paper? Is it signed by your recall assistant or by you? Is it printed in black and white or color?

Timing. Do you phone, mail or e-mail patients one month, two weeks or one week before their appointments? If patients don't respond, do you communicate again? If so, when and how? If a patient doesn't respond to an e-mail, do you send a second e-mail or call him?

The system. To pre-appoint or not to pre-appoint. That is the measurable question.

The venue. Do established patients have a higher propensity to return at times different than new patients? Do they prefer the same day/time as their last appointment?

Keep measuring

You can measure other indices in your office. Beyond quality of life issues, why do you close your office (for example) at 5:00 p.m. on Tuesdays? What would happen if you opened 15 minutes later and closed 15 minutes later? Might you consistently see one more patient? Experimenting and measuring are one sure way to find out.

Setting and tweaking fees is another area that is certainly worthy of your measuring. "If I raise my fees 50 cents I'll have an exodus of patients." I've heard that refrain all across the country. And yes, there is a price point beyond which patients will leave the practice. But until you set up a system to measure patient retention and how fee changes impact them, you'll never know what that price point is.

Contact lens fees and the number of boxes you dispense are also something you should fine tune after carefully configured experimentation and measurement.

The best plans are thought out

Shooting from the hip and guessing at ways to make your practice more profitable aren't effective ways to run a business, regardless of its size. Carefully configured and measurable plans are the best way to continually ramp up a business. And with a bit of forethought, the dividends can be profound. How do I know that? I've measured it!

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.