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May 23, 2007
Incentives are everywhere. You see them from car dealerships, credit card companies and travel agencies. Why should medicine be any different? Let’s take a look at how you, the potential future private practice owner, can pad your bottom line by offering incentives to established and new patients alike.
Incentives Aren’t Just For New Cars
You’ve seen the $2,000 rebates or the 0% financing to entice buyers to purchase vehicles. Incentives work. The consumer thinks they are getting more than they would elsewhere, and in many cases they are. Just as incentives work for purchasing new vehicles, they’ll work for getting more patients into your private practice.
How do we do that? Let’s take a look at a few examples that I came up with in order to increase your patient volume and ROI.
Getting Creative With Incentives
Drug companies love to leave free samples lying around, particularly if it’s a family medicine practice or other primary care practice. One thing you could do is offer an incentive to new patients to give them one month of their medication for free. For many patients, this means saving anywhere from $10 to $60 or more in copay fees for drugs. Some patients will jump on this while others won’t bother. Those that do will probably convert into a regular patient and you’ve just increased your patient load.
Let’s take a look at another incentive that targets those patients who regularly miss appointments. Missed appointments for you mean a loss in revenue. You could offer a private shuttle service (or offer to pay for a taxi) if it means getting that patient into your office and giving you a net positive addition to your revenues. Obviously it wouldn’t make much business sense to pay out of pocket to get that patient into your office if it meant breaking even or going into the red on that particular transaction. For incentives such as these, you’ll need to roughly figure out what it’s going to do to your bottom line before you offer it.
Cutting Down Wait Times
A popular complaint with patients is the amount of time that they have to wait to see the physician. If your practice was known for incredibly short wait times, this is an indirect incentive for the patient to come to your practice versus other physicians in the area. This mostly applies to new patients, but you should still be able to acquire patients from another practice if you offer comparable service with much shorter wait times.
How you should cut down your wait times will certainly vary by practice. Just evaluate your triage procedure from office entry until the patient gets back into the exam room and find out what you can do to decrease that time period. Cutting down wait times also means that you’ll have to be efficient with seeing patients yourself. Making the patient wait shorter times in the waiting room, but transferring that wait time to the examination room won’t cut the mustard.
More Indirect Incentives
Indirect incentives are those that you don’t physically offer to the patient but are rather built into your practice to begin with. These incentives have a significant impact on patients, because you’re not really “advertising” anything. Instead, patients interpret the incentive as better service coming from your practice. These incentives perhaps have the largest impact on patient retention and your overall bottom line. Let’s take a look at a few more.
Having a nice-looking office will do wonders for your practice. How many times have you been to see the doctor and find uncomfortable plastic chairs, cheap-looking art on the wall, and industrial-grade tile floors in the waiting room? It gives a bad impression to patients.
Go ahead and take the plunge to purchase a furnishings for a really stand-up waiting room. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, head over to a prominent cosmetic plastic surgery practice in a large city and take a look. These guys realize that appearances matter, and it does truly make a difference. Instead of plastic chairs, get leather (or pleather if you can’t afford it) couches and chairs. Buy some nice pictures that don’t look like prints from Wal-Mart. Put down some nice carpet or hardwood flooring. It costs more up front, but it will give your practice much more credibility. Appearances matter.
Examination Room Appearance
Along the same lines as the appearance of your office, take some time to make your examination rooms as comfy as possible. Put in some nice flatscreen TVs (they are really cheap these days), and put leather (or pleather) furniture for guests of the patient to sit on. Keep all medical equipment that’s not essential out of site in drawers or cabinets. I know you medical folks out there are used to seeing needles and syringes sitting all over the place, but your patients aren’t. It gives off a bad vibe, so don’t do it.
Stock each examination room with a mini fridge and keep diet soft drinks or juices for the patient and guests. Make sure magazines are neat and tidy, and up-to-date. Keep some snacks lying around as well. The patient knows whether or not he’s supposed to eat.
Make the patient and the patient’s guest as comfortable as possible. Chances are they have never been to a doctor’s office that is so comforting and “professional” looking. Do what the other guys aren’t doing, and watch in amazement as word-of-mouth recommendations spread like wildfire about this new, incredible practice in town.
Even if you’re not the best physician in town, you’ll still win over patients with the direct and indirect incentives that you offer. Remember the key is to be different. Since many practices are doing the same thing right now, it shouldn’t be too hard to stand out.
Are you convinced to leave medicine? If so, you may feel like you are alone. You may feel clueless about what to do next. However, quitting medicine could turn out better than you have ever thought possible. And here is why you should get out …
This article is part of Hoover’s Med School Hell series. Med School Hell reveals the crazy truth about the crappiness of the US medical education and healthcare system … while making you laugh so hard, you’ll crap in your pants.