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Standardized administrative processes are integral to any business, but processes affecting revenue from capturing new customers are central to a practice's success. Like any business, a medical practice—and particularly a medical aesthetics practice—needs to actively manage administrative processes that affect its ability to capture new patients. Research reveals that a healthy, growing medical practice needs to achieve a new-patient ratio (i.e., new patients as a percent of established patient visits) of roughly 30 percent each year. For the practice developing cosmetic service lines, the ability to capture new patients is a key driver of practice success. How well such administrative activities are defined and executed will affect growth and ultimately success.

A common business trait in high-performing organizations is consistently measuring and then acting on what is learned. Too often, aesthetic practices tend not to engage in measuring key patient-related interactions. Instead, physicians typically focus on how to generate new leads and spend much of their efforts on marketing rather than directing their efforts toward ways to ensure they are maximizing opportunities with each inquiry into the practice. Many practices do not know how many inquiries have been made to the practice over a given period of time, let alone how many such inquiries were actually captured (i.e., converted to an appointment and eventually to procedures and services generating revenue for the practice). In other words, it is critical for the physician business owner to establish protocols for each key interaction a patient will have with the practice so that the interactions can be captured, measured, and managed. Administrative protocols, once defined and implemented, can then become the basis for evaluating the practice's ability to maximize each opportunity to capture a new patient.


When reviewing administrative processes, it is important to assess how a practice handles an initial contact made to the practice. Some physicians may err by over-focusing on actual consultations conducted by the practice versus understanding how many inquiries were made to the practice and for which treatments or procedures. Too often, aesthetic physicians boast about high patient conversion rates only to learn that the rate is calculated from the point of the consultation, or worse, not actually counted and tracked at all. The importance of documenting the initial inquiry made to the practice and then understanding how many of those prospective patients actually move forward with an appointment cannot be overestimated. Prospective patients typically contact the practice either by telephone or via the Internet; either way, it is important for the practice to define a protocol that effectively captures inquiries made to the practice.

Internet contact. For the Internet inquiry, there are several tasks that need to be defined and assigned. For example, who is responsible for responding to the inquiry? Is the response by telephone or email? If by email, is there a template drafted for the staff member to send, or is he or she to draft a unique response to each inquiry? What is the expectation of how quickly the staff member responds to the email? And finally, how is this information tracked so that the physician owner can understand how well the website is generating new leads for the practice?

Telephone contact. If the inquiry is received by telephone, defining and clearly communicating expectations to the staff is critical for optimizing how well the practice captures those inquiries. For example, who will take the call (i.e., is the call transferred to a patient coordinator, to a designated person, or is just anyone expected to handle such incoming calls)? What information will be collected from the caller? What demographic information will be entered into the practice management system? What information, if any, will be sent to the prospective patient, and will it be mailed or emailed? Is it part of the protocol to follow up with the patient via phone after the information is received? Is it standard to collect the patient's email address so the patient can receive future promotions from the practice despite not being ready to commit to an appointment that day?

In addition, how will the information acquired from the patient be collected, tracked, and reported within the practice (i.e., by what means, how often, and by whom will the information be utilized and evaluated as part of the practice's growth strategy)? Such protocols should be defined and implemented by the practice to accurately identify and manage opportunities. Despite new patient acquisitions being critical to practice growth, most practices simply do not track the number of inquiries made to the practice. Therefore, they have no real understanding of how much potential business is lost—new business that could have been won for the practice through the implementation of some rather simple administrative protocols.


Equally important to success management of inquiries is the behavioral aspect of these work activities (i.e., what people say and do as representatives of the practice). Appropriate staff behavior in relation to a new inquiry is critical, as it ensures that the prospective patient develops a positive first impression. Research suggests that roughly one-half of calls made to a practice result in the caller following through to make an appointment; the inverse, of course, is that roughly one-half of all calls do not result in an appointment. This deficit is largely due to the inability of staff to adequately engage the caller, answer the caller's questions, and/or initiate a “call to action.” Too frequently, staff members are not successful at creating positive first impressions. They fail to ask appropriate questions about the caller's specific needs and concerns and thereby lose control of the call. In addition, staff members frequently miss the opportunity to credential the practice and its physicians and other professional providers, which is how practices can differentiate themselves.

Research shows that less than 25 percent of practices actually ask the caller if they want to make an appointment, which is the main objective when handling such calls. The practical way for physician owners to correct such deficiencies is to invest in staff training whereby expectations for such staff interactions are clearly defined. In addition, they must establish a systematic protocol for tracking inquiries and begin measuring how effective the staff is at converting leads into appointments.


While it is necessary to invest marketing dollars to make the phone ring and attract inquiries on your website, it is just as important that the physician owner invest time and resources that ensure that staff convert these inquiries to appointments. To successfully do so, a distinct set of protocols must be deployed in the practice setting. This includes the establishment of operational routines that facilitate collecting and tracking patient-related information and data from the point of initial contact with the practice. How well these routines are defined and executed goes to the very core of the practice's ability to grow and develop a patient pace as well as overall business.

Lee Bowser is a management consultant with the Allergan Practice Consulting Group.

Launa Hankins is a management consultant with the Allergan Practice Consulting Group.

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