For many practices, the challenge of increasing their income is one that can be a significant preoccupation. Increasing the number of new patients to address gaps in an appointment book is a logical step and usually the main focus of efforts to improve the situation.
Something else that should be looked at is how to go about converting those patients who have been offered a treatment plan into taking up their course of treatment. This could address both the income and the gappy diary challenge, however, it’s something that receives much less attention.
If a practice were to get asked ‘what percentage of patients offered treatment options in any given month make a choice to commence with a course of treatment?’ the chances of them being able to answer accurately would be low, which means they’re likely to be unaware if there is a problem that needs solving, let alone be able to assess if efforts to improve things are having an effect.
Being able to measure the answer to that question is a great place to start, but what do you do if the uptake is not quite at the level you want? Nigel Jones shares his top tips to get you thinking.
More and more practices have started to adopt some basic management principles and consider treatment plan uptake as the result of a process – a process that needs constant tracking and, potentially, refinement.
Whilst you may think that the process should start with presentation of the treatment plan options, the patient might say that it started with the initial phone call to book an appointment, or even the way the practice and its services come across on a website. Similarly, for the end of the process, the patient might believe the process only ends when the treatment has been concluded successfully or when they receive a call from the practice following treatment completion to check how they are feeling.
By mapping out all of the steps from beginning to end and defining which members of the practice team are involved at each stage can be enlightening, as can the challenge to consider if each stage is handled in the best way for the needs of the patient.
2.The customer view
Empathising with your patients is vital when they’re moving towards making a decision about what their treatment options are. That means understanding what information patients need at what stage and where and then identifying the right person with the skills, knowledge and, crucially, time to help the patient.
For example, for a patient new to the practice, who is the first person they should meet and what should be covered? How is the expectation set during the first phone call? If a patient doesn’t make a decision on the day, how soon is it before it’s appropriate to make a follow-up call?
Whilst it’s essential for your patient to understand the benefits and risks of a particular treatment option, you need to understand all the things that can influence a patient as they build up to committing to a treatment plan. So, don’t forget about practical considerations like travel arrangements or how best to fund the treatment.
Taking the time as a practice team to properly map all of this out and to agree the best process (with the patient in mind) will leave every team member clear about their role and their responsibilities. By doing this you can eliminate any unnecessary steps that are a legacy of earlier times and improve efficiency for both the practice and the patient. But, most importantly, it increases the chance of both patient and practice getting the outcome they want.
Without some measurement of treatment plan uptake, how will you know if all the effort you and your team put in to critiquing the patient journey has paid off?
Of course, the impact on the practice income is the ultimate measure, but it could mask untapped potential or be masked by a one-off high value course of treatment. Also, it could prove a short-term success if patients are left dissatisfied by their experience, so much so, the reputation of the practice suffers.
Therefore, deciding what to measure is extremely important, but something that’s just as important is to continue to measure and imbed a measurement culture in the practice so it becomes part of the daily, weekly and monthly routine.
Keeping a track of the number of treatment plans offered and taken up in a given month will allow you to track the percentage of treatment plan uptake so that you can monitor if it’s improving or worsening as you evolve your patient journey.
This is all fairly common sense but it can seem a daunting prospect, so allow the time to start with some basic data capture sheets, improve your knowledge to extract data from your practice management software and, ideally, acquire a (very) basic grasp of Excel. Things can evolve from there as confidence grows and the value of such efforts becomes apparent.
Overall, when it comes to the take-up of treatment plans, in far too many practices, both patients and practice owners are left dissatisfied. Therefore, taking the time to thoroughly critique your approach to offering treatment plan options can be beneficial for all.
If you’d like to read more articles just like Nigel’s, why not head over to our Resource Library, where you’ll find more business tips and advice.