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Finding New Patients or Nurturing Existing Patients?

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Guest blog post by Christine LaPointe Co-Founder, Aesthetics 360.

Recently, while working with a practice, we reviewed their opportunities to find lost profits within the practice with the administrative team. During the discussion, the doctor’s wife also brought up the subject of “finding new patients.” Finding new patients appears to be a recurring concern within every practice we engage with and a focus of vendors that approach the practices.

Do any of these scenarios sound familiar?

  1. Internet sales representatives, who position themselves as specialists in paid search advertising, call your practice constantly to tout their abilities to bring fresh leads to the practice. They brag of their accolades and proceed to tell you what is wrong with your website, your marketing strategies and your Internet ranking (and how you must pay them to fix all of these problems).
  2. Medical device representatives call your practice to offer their sage advice and insist that they will bring added value by showing you what other practices are doing and then attempt to replicate it within your practice.
  3. Doctors who have returned from yet another meeting or conference are full of enthusiasm for what they learned. They have spoken to their peers and met with numerous vendors and guest speakers, and they have brought back with them the latest and greatest ideas, systems, practice management programs and surefire tools. They are sure that they will not only take their practice into the electronic age but also make them more profitable.

These resources, with the best of intention, often lead to increased stress and confusion. They promise overnight success and a floodgate of new patients, yet they lack knowledge of your practice and a real plan for implementation. It is our job as consultants to roll all of these resources up into a plan of action.

Step One: Work From the Inside Out

New patients, new patients, new patients. Let’s talk new patients.

  • Are these cash-paying patients?
  • What type of insurance do these patients have?
  • Have they been referred to you?

Another way to think about it is: are these patients qualified leads? Leads can be generated, but are these the type of leads your practice needs? Do you even know if have the systems in place to capture, communicate and convert these leads?

“Capture, communicate, convert” is a phrase we gladly borrowed from MD prospects because it summarizes what every practice needs to consider when looking to increase revenue for these reasons:

  • Gone are the days of a simple referral and unattended patient loyalty. With insurance reimbursement continuing to decrease, pharmacies pushing generic meds, people changing their insurance frequently (often with little control over which company or plan to choose), it is critical to stop and look at your current structures and processes before considering driving new patients to the office.
  • Of course all practices need a certain number of new patients every year to make up for the patients who have moved, died or simply decided to switch doctors due to poor experience or insurance requirements. But without seamless, dependable systems and a highly qualified team to support new patients, seeking them out is an effort in futility.

And so, I go back to my original target, which is finding lost profits within the practice and creating systems that will enhance the current means of capturing, communicating and converting.

Step Two: Keep Existing Patients in the Cycle

There are many places within staffing, training and operations that can influence this objective, but I want to focus my attention on the life cycle of the patient and how to track that lead.

Regardless of whether you are looking at an insurance patient or a self-pay patient, there is a cycle. Our goal should be to keep that patient in the cycle.

Take, for instance, the new patient who has come to your ophthalmology practice for a general eye exam. Many practices see similar patients and, when they are healthy, send them on their way with a recall of six months to a year. This patient generated perhaps $150 dollars for the initial visit.

However, was there a lifestyle questionnaire filled out? Was it reviewed to determine the patients’ concerns and interests? Did your eye care practice send out a welcome packet providing a list of all services that are offered? Did anyone consider that this patient may be thinking of getting other related services, such as Botox for wrinkles, upper bleph, skin care products for wrinkles around the eye, Latisse or vision correction?

There are myriad reasons patients would want to complete their cycle of needs within your eye care practice. However, if you do not reach out and “tickle” their curiosity about those needs, they may simply assume that you do not provide that type of care and go elsewhere.

If you don’t have a system to follow up on their admission of interest in vision correction, premium lenses or other services, then you are missing a great opportunity to help them complete their cycle within your practice.

Not having the right tools to nurture these leads within your practice means having to make up that revenue somewhere else. It is more expensive and time-consuming to generate more revenue through new patients than to focus on expanding your existing leads.

As consultants, we strive to generate internal revenue by paying attention to the patients a practice already has before jumping into the cost of driving new leads.

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