Ramping up Slow Time
Depending on your specialty, there are times during the year when you’ll inevitably experience a decrease in business. It’s normal to experience the annual ebb and flow of patients but you may be experiencing slower times than usual given the economy.
You can certainly augment your marketing efforts through emails or newsletters and you can send out reminder postcards to be sure that you’re capturing annual visits. These can both be effective for increasing your daily patient count but let’s talk about a way to be more proactive without investing any money and that’s through maximizing your current patients.
We know that patients are going to no-show because of inclement weather, run late and cancel appointments. The trick is to deal with these events by doing a little damage control so that the impact isn’t catastrophic.
Start by having a clear policy in place regarding the fact that you will remain open for business during poor weather events. Allow yourself to be flexible in rescheduling these patients by opening a little earlier or staying later the next day. That sends a message to your patients that their care is of utmost importance to you.
How many times have you called a patient that was a no-show when weather wasn’t a factor and had them say, “Oh, I forgot?” The easiest way to avoid this is to pick up the phone the day before and call them to confirm their appointment. Inevitably, there will still be some no-shows but you should see a marked decrease in the number of them. If you think your patient’s are savvy enough, you can even offer them text message reminders and confirmations via email as well.
Respect the patient’s time and they will respect yours. Often, we have patients strolling in 10-15 minutes later than their scheduled time because they know they won’t be seen on time anyway. If you establish a pattern of running an efficient clinic that sees patients at their scheduled times, you’ll see a behavior change in your patients and they won’t even consider being late.
There are really only a few valid reasons why a patient should think that canceling an appointment is acceptable and among them is the death of a close family member or hospitalization of the patient. If they’re calling because of transportation issues or childcare, then they don’t really have the motivation to come in because they don’t understand the value of the appointment. Be sure that you and your staff stress the importance of patients adhering to the schedule of care that you have prescribed for them.
These simple steps can keep your waiting rooms filled with patients eager to manage their existing health problems and improve their quality of life through a partnership of mutual respect and consideration with their healthcare provider.
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