What to Do When Your Patient Volume is Down

by | Jul 19, 2021 | Featured Editorials, IDOC | 0 comments

From time to time, I’ll have a call that goes something like this: “Help!  My revenues are down, and I don’t know why!”

If this happens to you, it’s useful to remember that your collected gross revenue is a function of three variables, which we could express in a formula that looks something like this:

Collected Gross Revenue = # of Patients Seen x Revenue Per Patient Visit x Rate of Collections

In benchmark terms, you might think of patient counts as comprehensive exams and revenue per patient visit as revenue per comprehensive exam.

Let’s consider a couple of ways to triage the first issue: revenues are down because of decreased patient volume.  One of the most important things you should do is to explain why your practice achieved its results – good or bad.

Doctor Time is Down

Did you take a vacation last quarter?  Get injured and were unable to work?  In single-doctor practices, sometimes this is the simplest explanation for why revenues are down.

How to avoid this issue? Either hire a fill-in OD while you’re away, or just front- and back-load your patient load on either end of your vacation.

Recall Is Broken

It’s possible that something has gone wrong with your recall.  If you pre-appoint your patients, make sure your confirmation process starts early and doesn’t end until your patients actively affirm that they will make their appointments.

If you’re doing mail, email, or text recall, consider pairing that with phone calls to schedule annual exams for your existing patients.  Patients are the lifeblood of your practice, and private practices are going to deliver the highest level of care to their patients.  Don’t be shy about asking your patients to come back.

New Competition

A big box retailer or corporate chain store has moved in next door.  Now what?

First off, you will have patients go dip their toes in the water. Most will come back sheepishly 18 months later and tell you how much better your practice is.  So, don’t panic.

Second, you’ll want to take this opportunity to refine your brand and be sure you’re differentiated from your competitors.  Articulate your standard of care and specialty services that your patients can’t get at the ‘new guy in town’.  And how the glasses you sell are higher quality and will have better fitment because of your opticians’ prowess.

And here’s a bit of counter-intuitive advice: if your new competitor has a low-cost strategy, raise your prices.  And then script out for your team all the ways an exam in your practice and the products you sell ARE better, charge more.

Negative Online Reviews

If you’re not keeping track of what’s being said about you online, start now. Read all reviews out loud in your staff meetings and debrief them with your team. What went right?  What can you and your team do better the next time.

Most new patients will strongly consider online feedback on a business before going, so this is mission critical.  And while you will get the occasional ‘crazy’ patient leaving an off-basis review, if you get consistently mediocre or negative feedback – hard as it is to admit it – the problem is probably your practice.  Always ask how you can put customer service ahead of ‘what’s convenient’ for you and your staff.

Patients First, Always

Fundamentally, a business that isn’t growing its customer base isn’t healthy.  Track your patient volume regularly and remember that the best way to keep your current patients and grow your practice is to deliver a uniquely friendly patient experience and just be kind.

By Nathan Hayes, CEPA

Managing practices to maximize income, free time, and professional satisfaction.

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By Nathan Hayes, CEPA

Managing practices to maximize income, free time, and professional satisfaction.