Running a practice nowadays with a pandemic in the way is much more challenging than it used to be. And one could make the mistake of thinking that the loss of profitability is due to that. In fact, it could be a small part of it, but there are a lot of other factors that could have snuck in under the radar and perhaps you should look at these to see what can be improved.
From our experience with about 60 practices that we are currently consulting and growing, here are some of the most obvious places to work on first (in no particular order):
For many practices, this is the prime culprit for losing income currently. But it doesn’t need to be. 90% or more of the patients who call in to cancel can be handled to keep their appointment. The problem has been found to be untrained practice owners and staff (no matter how amazing they are) on how to get the patient to see that their health at this time is super important and that they need to come in more than ever and let you help them achieve that. Of course, if they are legit sick with Covid-19 symptoms, they need to be cancelled and to go immediately to a testing centre THAT DAY (if they haven’t already). Tell the patient that you will follow up with them in 4 days by which time they should have the test results. Chances are extremely high that they do not have Covid-19 according to published stats, and so you follow up with them by phone in 4 days and if fine, put them on your Short List and get them in pronto for their treatment.
(We have a 2-hour training webinar for Handling Covid Cancellations of any kind plus the Covid-19 related ones.)
A fair number of practice owners are still relying mainly on word-of-mouth referrals. Another bunch are hoping for success with their social media efforts and SEO actions but may be using the wrong company or be missing key elements to their marketing plan including at least 15 free and easy marketing ideas. (We have a 2-hour webinar called Free Ways to Expand Your Practice, plus about 100 articles on marketing ideas on our website at www.amican.com)
Handling a “shopper” is an art form and surveys have shown that every receptionist loses an average of 2 – 5 shoppers every week. This is not done on purpose and is why we do sales training on this for the front desk team. In a nutshell, a shopper is someone who needs something or they wouldn’t be bothering you with a phone call. If you just quote a fee or an approximate fee and ask would they like an appointment, a high percentage of shoppers will be lost as these are the two things you NEVER do. Instead, finding out all about the problem the patient has, and how long it’s been bothering them, if they are in pain currently, how is this affecting their life, and so on, shows that your practice CARES. Take a few minutes to get to know this person and be interested in who they are. And then tell them “It sounds like we need to get you in to see the doctor fairly quickly. I can offer you an appointment for 10 a.m. tomorrow or 3 p.m. today, which works better for you?”
(We have a webinar on sales called “Why Don’t Patients Go Ahead” which includes a section on handling shoppers (coming soon); plus, there are articles on our website on shopper handling.)
Patients Rejecting Treatment Plans
It would be a perfect world if every patient went ahead with the ideal treatment that you are able to deliver to them. Of course, you always work towards that. Sometimes, however, you may find yourself just throwing it “out there” what the patient should be accepting and a bit hopelessly expecting them to say yes. Or perhaps you pre-judge that they won’t “go for it” and don’t even bother to present it. Wayne Gretsky once said that you fail to score 100% of the shots you don’t take, and this is a good motto to use to push yourself to care enough about your patient to WANT them to have the best possible care they deserve to have and that you can deliver. When patients have not been properly presented to so that they WANT to go ahead with the necessary treatment, they will sometimes use the Covid excuse, “I think I’ll wait until lockdown is lifted,” or “I’ll wait till the pandemic is finished.
(We have a 1.5 day Sales Workshop to train healthcare professionals and their staff on successful presentations. Call us for more information.)
No Short List
These days, it is not uncommon to have a few, or some, or even a lot of holes in your day due to cancellations. Having a really good Short List is vital. Some staff are amazing at this while others are at a bit of a loss. Going through patient charts and doing an audit to see who hasn’t been in for a long time and formulating a different or fun approach before contacting the patient can increase the chance of successfully scheduling them.
A lot of inefficiency can be found in the method of scheduling patients. Although the pandemic regulations for your practice do dictate changes in how you control the flow of patients in and out of your practice, there may be slippage. Sometimes appointment times are set too long or too short. On other occasions, there are unnecessary gaps of 10 or 15 minutes between patients that could have been legitimately avoided. Have a look at your scheduling for the next few days and see what could be tightened up.
We work tirelessly with each client to help them gain full control of their profitability. The bottom line is that, as a healthcare professional, you did a lot of technical training and gained some fantastic skills but the management tools necessary for a highly successful practice were omitted. And that is what is eating your potential profitability.