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Practical Medicine

Medical Practice Administrators Need to Consider Patient Mix to Build and Maintain Healthy Organizations

If you ever paid attention to the flight attendant who provides instruction for how to administer oxygen masks, you’ll know that’s there’s one rule – help yourself before you help others.  The protocol is based on the notion that you can’t help anyone else if you yourself are incapacitated.  Running a medical practice these days may feel quite a bit like navigating a plane through very turbulent skies. From compliance issues to the moving target that is reimbursement, the business of medicine is growing more and more complex each year.  To survive, medical practices need to build diversified services offerings if they want to remain afloat.  

Think Different

Whether your medical practice is for profit or not-for-profit, it remains true that without revenue your practice won’t be around for long.  You need patients to create revenue, but a pure focus on patient volume can be a poor long-term strategy.  In practices where there is not a coherent patient acquisition strategy, the potential exists for a less than optimal daily schedule for your clinicians and poor satisfaction scores from your patients.  

When considering patient mix, a typical approach is to consider different kinds of procedural offerings and disease expertise.  But it may be just as important to diversify your marketing to patients of different ages or ethnicities.  Over time, deliberate steps to diversify patient mix will help to protect the practice from fluctuations in volume.

Expand Treatment Options

Practices should consider the top reasons patients seek out their services and investigate alternative treatment options for those conditions.  Pain is one of the most common reasons people visit their doctor, so consider a scenario:  When patient’s visit your practice and their primary complaint is pain, what is done for them?  If the 80 percent of the time they’re leaving with a prescription for pain medications, you should consider promoting alternatives with your clinical staff.  Pain patients may appreciate alternative treatments that offer freedom for the side effects of pain medications. For instance, training your staff on neurostimulation therapy, which is non-addictive and free of many of the undesirable side effects of pain medications, may attract patients who would prefer to non-pharmacological approach to their treatment.  

Remember that Your Product is Service

Expanding patient mix and volume is pointless if patients leave feeling unimportant or disrespected – they’ll find another provider.  Successful practices make efforts to impact the patient experience from the first interaction to months after a patient’s last appointment.  When people are seeking medical attention, they want to speak to a person – practices that invest in well trained administrative staff often get the first call because the patient has been able to speak to a real person before.  Answering machines leave a sense of uncertainty that many do not like.  Other gestures, such as appointment reminders and semi-personalized marketing materials that relates to their condition, gender or other characteristic that is specific to them lets the patient know you know who they are and care for their health.  In a diversified practice, these communications vehicles may need to be multi-lingual and culturally appropriate.  

Growing your medical practice is as much art as it is science, so think creatively.  But try to do so through a practical lens.


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