While the past may be a prolog of the future, physicians can no longer be assured that the sources of patients from which they received a patient in the past, will continue in the future. And new patients, a spigot that provides new consumers for what the physician sells can change or be turned off. Yet, as every physician knows, it is new patients that make continued practice, and income, possible. Patients leave, they move, a few don’t like you and change, they die, and they even get cured, and no longer need you. If not replaced, gaps in the appointment book will appear, and income will be diminished.
Historically word of mouth, coupled with referrals from other physician sufficed to keep new patients coming in. The stream was so regular that many physicians have forgotten their dependence on others, be it patients, or other physicians.
There is danger in such complacency. Auguring new patients can no longer be left to chance, nor should it be a mystery how and where your patients, your new customers come from.
Now after word of mouth and physician referral, patients are no longer quick to make that appointment. They need to check you out. First, do you participate in their insurance plan? Then what do others say about you? Don’t make the mistake of htinki9ng that your patients love you enough to come to continue with your practice is you are out-of-network with their insurance. The cost is just too great. So, before you drop a pay source, or before you allow yourself to be dropped. Know the size contribution of that insurance participation is to your practice.
Additionally, those physician referrals that have sustained you for years, those great professional relationships, those can change as well. If you have any dependency on a group practice or a faculty practice, know that the day may come when that group adds an associate of the same specialty as yours, and the word goes out, not that they are ordered, but word goes out that leadership expects all physicians to help build up the newcomer’s practice. And that can be at your expense. Not only that, but your referring physician may move, or retire.
Your practice needs to track the acquisition of new patients to your practice, and where they come from. This data should be tracked, how many new patients each week, and month? What is the trend? And if you see a deterioration, act.
To act, though you need to know more than just numbers. New patients would be welcomed into the practice, and how they “found’ you should be identified. How? Ask them. How did you find our practice? Did someone recommend us? Did you go to our website? If so, what did you think, any feedback? And did you visit other websites when seeking a new physician?
As you identify the website your patients are visiting, visit them yourself. See if the information is arcuate and if you need to request a change with the webmaster. Even simple information can hurt, such as the wrong phone number or address.
Similarly, keep an eye on recommenders of your practice. These are people you need to meet, or at least reach out to. For example, if you are seeing patients form the HR Director of a small company, call them to say thank you. If it is a physician you have not in the past received referrals form, by all means, not only send them your consultation report, call them. A new source of patients may be opening up.
The patient acquisition is the lifeblood of a practice, it is a business component necessary to succeed, and nothing to be treated in a caviler manner.