Thursday, January 18, 2007

Going Solo?: Use the Ideal Gas Law

In the first few months and perhaps years, new patient business is key to your practice's success. It is therefore imperative that you never miss an opportunity to book a patient. Here are 2 approaches that I use.

I answer my phone: This may seem obvious, yet many providers that I know—even those in start-up--do not answer their phones during off hours. They rely on voice mail or answering services or, even worse, they have an answering machine that instructs callers to try again during business hours. I find this incredible, not to mention incredibly stupid. When I’ve asked my colleagues why they do this, they typically respond with answers like “I don’t want to give patients total access to me” or “that’s how it has always been done” or worse yet, “I don’t want to get bugged.” Again, I find this thinking incredible. The overwhelming majority of off hour calls are patients, usually new ones, who want to be seen and helped and to pay you their co-pays. Therefore, you need to think about off hour calls this way. When you need a plumber for your house and you look through the yellow pages to find one, you will likely find many numbers. Which plumber are you most likely to select? Usually the one who answers the phone, right? Well, it is the same in medicine, or chiropractic, or law, or dentistry, psychology etc. The office that answers the phone, with a live human voice, gets the patient or the client or the job. It is really that simple. Despite what you may have heard or believe, you will not turn-off patients or lose them because it seems “unprofessional” to answer your own phone or because you’ll appear desperate. Not at all! The one who answers the phone gets the job, period. From my own personal experience over the last 10 months, I have “turned off” 2 patients, but added 75+ others, just by answering my phone during off hours, and I have never been called past 8PM. One of the turned-off patients thought it was unprofessional that I answered the phone. Fine. The other one was my fault. I asked the patient, “Is the appointment for your husband?” To which he responded, “No, I’m the husband” then he hung up. Oops! It’s a learning curve. Never assume anything. Anyway, if you want to expedite your practice's growth rate, answer your phone.

I use the Ideal Gas Law: The Ideal Gas Law states that all gases will expand in volume to fit their containers, no matter how big or small. I have applied a version of the ideal gas law to my own practice. My office hours expand and contract based on demand. I admit that while at times this takes me away from home a bit more than I’d like, the ideal gas law approach has resulted in a much more rapid growth rate for new and follow-up patient business than if I had restricted my hours. This sort of practice runs counter to what most consultants, providers, and life coaches will tell you. But they don’t pay your bills. In addition, I have found, by using this method, that certain days of the week and times of day are more—or less—desirable than I would have predicted them to be based on my prior experiences and those of others. For example, I planned to offer Saturday hours as an enticement for working people. Only I couldn’t give the hours away. Fridays and Mondays, as I expected, are popular. Wednesdays have not been popular. General urology patients want mid-day appointments, but my infertility patients want evenings. See, it is variable. Therefore, to grow my practice more rapidly, I use the ideal gas law.