The New Patient Problem
I’m blogging through the 13 fatal errors that will kill even a good associate program in prep for Win Win Associates in Vegas.
And this one is a biggie: #5 The failure to solve the new patient problem before hand.
Great doctor with a super practice finally decides to hire an associate. Both doctors together are seeing near record numbers for the clinic and the clinic owner is getting some help with x-rays, exams and overflow. Things feel pretty good until he notices several disturbing facts:
1. He doesn’t see as many new patients as he used to.
2. His take home pay has dropped by $3-$5K a month and in some cases, even more.
3. His associate’s new patients, which used to be the owners new patients, are leaving the practice after just a few visits – never to return.
4. AND (this is the one that’s hardest to swallow) his associate is upset with the owner because the associate isn’t getting more new patients.
Incidentally, this is not the isolated rare exception – it’s the rule. Why?
Because the clinic director did not solve the new patient problem BEFORE the associate joined the practice.
Let me explain: The clinic owner has built up a great reputation, gets a large enough number of referrals that he needs help with the practice, but has not had to keep up his external marketing. Therefore, he doesn’t know how to help his associate attract his own new patients.
Add to that, the director has been looking forward to working a little less – one reason he hired an associate – and you can understand why he didn’t react properly when a well meaning CA started dividing the director’s new patients with the associate.
An additional bad side effect is that referring patients hear back from the friends they referred to their long time friend and chiropractor that “The doc isn’t accepting any more new patients.” Referring patients can react any number of ways, but many stop referring. After all, “According to my neighbor, the new doc doesn’t have the same skill.”
So, what do you do? Are you caught between a rock and hard spot? Let’s investigate a little more:
1. Do you have external marketing events you could do, but don’t because you’re too busy?
2. Are you willing to require your associate do external marketing for his own patients from the start in order to build his own practice?
3. Are you willing to see that your associate is properly trained to get his own new patients, if you don’t have the skill to cover that important piece of his training?
Here are my new patient goals for a brand new associate: Start external marketing on the very first day on the job and produce enough new patients through screenings to pay for themselves the first month.
I take associates to screenings along with my community outreach assistant until I know that he knows how to set up events, do screenings and make appointments. After that, I check on his marketing progress everyday – yes, everyday – until I know for sure he’s producing enough new patients to grow his practice next to mine. And then I keep checking to make sure it stays that way.
My associates know that they need to develop the skills to produce new patients or they’ll always be dependent on someone else to carry them. The right associate wants to have the skills needed to eventually succeed on his or her own.
Best-case scenario is an associate who produces enough new patients, services and collections to pay their salary the very first month. This is actually not rare if you’re prepared and proactive to teach associates to get their own new patients.