As a dentist, medical practitioner, or other health professional you are definitely out of the norm if practice growth is not something that you think about on a daily basis. When we talk about practice growth, it is important to clarify that successful practice growth can look different to different doctors. For some, practice growth means treating more patients. For others, this might mean earning more income without getting busier. Before you jump into the information in this article, make sure you know what successful practice growth looks like for you.
5 Practice Growth Strategies You Can Implement Today
The goal of this article is to give you 5 things that you can do in your practice to facilitate growth. Some of these may fit with your idea of successful growth, while others may not. It is vital for you to identify your ideal growth scenario before implementing any of these strategies.
1. Increase Patient Retention
If increasing the number of patients in your practice is a priority, patient retention should be the first place you look. Retaining the patients already in your practice is significantly less expensive than acquiring new patients. Here are 3 things you should pay attention to if your patient retention is not as good as you would like it to be:
It almost goes without saying that if your patients are not having a good experience, they are likely not going to want to come back. Providing an amazing experience to your patients will help decrease the number of patients who leave only to go to another practice.
- Make them feel important
People LOVE feeling important. Weave’s phone system has a number of solutions designed to help your patients feel a connection to your practice. For example when a patient calls in, Weave pops up a box with information about that patient. This helps to make the conversation more meaningful and help the patient feel more important.
- Remember their preferences
Remembering things about patients is a huge trust builder. Make notes about things going on in the person’s life and bring those things up in future conversations with the patient. This will build great rapport with patients.
ii. Reappointment rate:
Understanding the percentage of patients who are on the schedule for regular appointments is extremely important. This number can often vary significantly from what we think is going on, so tracking this number is vital.
- Make the assumption
As a medical or dental provider, you are the authority on what is best for your patients. If patients need to be seen for something to help them stay healthy, make the assumption that the appointment is going to happen– in the best interest of your patient. For example, in dentistry, having your teeth cleaned on a regular basis is important. Rather than asking patients if they want to get scheduled in six months, try saying, “Let’s go ahead and get you scheduled for your next hygiene visit.”
iii. Cancellations and no-shows:
You could have a very high reappointment rate but still lose a lot of patients. This happens when people either call in and cancel without rescheduling, or no-show their appointment without getting back on the schedule. This is an area where a lot of practices lose patients without realizing.
- Cancellations are a big deal
Are you teaching your patients that cancellations are a big deal? Hopefully the answer to this question is yes, but for many offices, the impact of cancellations isn’t communicated. Weave’s phone system allows you to record phone calls which gives you insight into the reasons that people are cancelling as well as recording how the person in your office handled the phone call. You would be surprised at the number of times offices respond with, “no problem” when someone says they need to cancel. Remove any language that makes it seem like cancellations are normal.
Having a system that tracks cancellations and allows you to follow up with the patients to get them back on the schedule is extremely helpful. Weave’s analytics tool makes this process simple.
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2. Search Engine Optimization
Increasing new patients is probably on the radar of most doctors who are trying to grow their practices. This is definitely an important focus area if you are trying to grow your practice by increasing the number of patients that you can see.
In this digital age, if your practice is not visible online, you are definitely missing out on significant new patient opportunities. Invest in high-quality search engine optimization. Find a company or person with a good track record.
Get company referrals from friends
Someone who comes highly recommended from a friend should have had at least one success (your friend) in ranking a practice. The key is to make sure that the referral comes from a friend who has seen success in attracting patients from online.
Be specific with the person you are asking for the reference from to make sure that the reference is valid.
Keep market size in mind. You want to find someone who has been successful in markets that are similar to your own. Ranking in a small town in the USA is not the same as ranking in a major city.
Once you have started the conversation with the companies you are considering, get customer references from them for customers who are in a similar market to yours. Speak with a few people using the company to ensure that they have a strategy that works for multiple people in comparable markets to yours.
Maps Ranking or Local Ranking
When you are interviewing different companies that you are considering retaining to provide your SEO services, don’t forget to consider all of the same factors mentioned above for maps or local ranking. This is an absolute necessity as the rankings for your website and the rankings for your Google My Business (map) are not the same algorithm. For local businesses, a majority of your calls will come from your map listing if it is ranking well.
Things you can do on your own
While nothing replaces someone who is knowledgeable in local SEO, there are a few things that you can do on your own that will most certainly help.
Focus on getting patients to leave online reviews. This will help your maps rankings increase, and it will also help with conversion when potential patients find your practice. Google should definitely be your main focus here but don’t ignore other review platforms altogether.
3. Patient Referrals
Internal referrals should be a major focus area in any practice. Referrals bring in some of the best patients. These new patients are already biased in your favor because someone they trust told them that your practice was awesome.
Keeping the ball rolling
Having a patient who is willing to refer friends or family to your office is a big deal. They clearly have a lot of trust in your office. Whenever possible, try to keep this ball rolling. Send them a thank you card for referring a friend or family member.
Once the referral comes into your office, make sure you provide the best patient experience possible. When this patient has a good experience in your office, they will thank their friend for referring them to your office. This will give the initial referrer additional confidence in sending more friends and family to your practice.
Internal referrals also provide you with a good benchmark of how good your customer experience is. There will be a high correlation in how much your patients like your office and how willing your patients are to send their family and friends.
4. Staff Referrals
Most doctors think about patient referrals, but neglect to focus on staff referrals. Your staff likely all live close to your office and they likely have friends or family in the area. Staff members who believe in what you are doing as a practice will naturally refer people to your practice. If you give them a little bit of incentive, their motivation will be even higher. If you are trying to grow your patient base, don’t overlook staff referrals.
Staff member referral programs
Put together business cards for each of your staff members. Each staff member’s card will have their name on it, and a special offer for anyone who they give the card to. When someone brings that card in, the staff member gets a gift.
As we mentioned before, staff members who are bought into your vision will naturally refer friends and family, this will just help to increase their willingness.
5. Additional Services
Learning and adding additional procedures allows you to grow your practice without having to grow the patient base in order to do it. Providing more treatment to the same number of patients will make more work for your practice and equate to more money into the practice.
When you consider adding services there are a few strategies to help you decide which to add. You will need to pick the strategy that is right for you.
The first strategy is a financial approach. Which services would add the most to the bottom line if you added them to your practice? Look at the volume of these you refer, or could treat in a time period, and multiply that number by what you will collect on average for that procedure. Then factor in the variable costs. That should give you an idea of how much it will add to the bottom line.
The second strategy is an enjoyment approach. Which procedures would you enjoy doing the most? Obviously, you don’t want to start doing procedures that you won’t make money on, but enjoying what you do is really important in order to avoid burnout. If you think you will really enjoy doing a procedure, it is ok to add it, even if it won’t make as much money as another procedure might for your practice.