One of the biggest headaches for Health Practice owners is the fact that their Practitioners’ patient re-book rates are well below their own rates. This ever-present frustration is made worse by the understanding that follow-up bookings and repeat patients are the most profitable part of an Allied Health Practice. When you consider the cost of advertising and marketing to get a new patient, plus the cost of onboarding, the first booking is by far the least profitable - you’ve already spent all the money to bring them in.
Low rates of re-booking leads to the situation where your top line revenue may be increasing, and your Practice is growing, however your bottom line net profit is not. So where do we go from here?
The first thing you need to accept is that your Practitioners will never re-book patients to the same level as you. This is a reality of owning a Practice. However, this doesn’t mean you can’t improve the re-booking rates of all your Practitioners. The key elements to achieving this are:
1. Create and enforce Patient Management protocols
Patient management protocols are frameworks to work under for the most commonly seen conditions in your practice. Protocols should cover how you treat and how you speak to patients and recommend further treatment. Patient Management Protocols should include communication strategies centered around listening to patients and showing that you care. Once you’ve gained the trust of the patient, recommending further treatment when required becomes easy – because it’s a part of your Patient Management Protocols, and is simply a process followed by all your Practitioners. These protocols are best created with your senior team members, and need to be simple, in order to be effective and easy to follow for everyone.
2. Find strategies to alleviate bias
Your Practitioners, should never finish a treatment with the old line “see how you go”, through fear of suggesting a follow-up booking, because they think the patient won’t accept or be able to afford a follow-up treatment. It’s a joint responsibility to remove bias, and recommend whatever they believe will improve the patients functionality and quality of life – nothing else.
Anything else is a disservice to the patient. This is why it’s important to provide a clear directive to your Practitioners around always recommending the best treatment every time. When your Team buys into this, recommending a follow-up treatment becomes easier, because it’s no longer a split-second judgement call – it comes from a position of care for the patient. Your Practitioners then don’t need to worry about ‘what do I say’, or ‘what can I recommend?', because they now know exactly what to do.
3. Provide regular training
Rarely does behaviour change without regular reinforcement of the message. Your Practitioners are unlikely to improve their re-book rates just by you explaining ‘how to’ once or twice. What works best is short, regular training sessions on how they should firstly actively listen to the Patient, and then how to recommend follow-up bookings when required. Including role play. Include a role play in the session, and have some fun with it. Don’t be afraid to shadow your Practitioners. Although, if you do, you need to be clear that this is not to catch them out, but rather to help them improve their communication skills. You can even let your Practitioners shadow you, to see how it’s done…. And if you no longer treat patients, let them shadow your best performer to see how they communicate a follow-up booking.
4. View the numbers regularly
Whether you use PVA (Patient Visit Average), 1 and 2 visit percentage rates, or simply re-book percentages, these numbers need to be viewed by the whole team each month. Weekly is better if possible. It’s well understood in business that if you can’t measure something you can’t improve it. In this instance, I think this falls short a little, because along with measuring it, everyone needs to be able to view the numbers regularly. It needs to be public to your staff. If you view your rebooking rates with your team regularly, and discuss ideas on how to improve them, you will eventually see a difference. Particularly when these monthly discussions are lead by the Practitioners.
I’ve had dozens of conversations with Practice Owners on this topic, and I strongly believe that Allied Health Practices in Australia don’t re-book their patients enough. Apart from compromising the Patients functionality and quality of life, this costs a Health Practice an enormous amount of money.
Whether you’re a Physiotherapist, an Osteopath, a Chiropractor, a Dentist, Chinese Medicine Practice, or Podiatrist, there is always room for improving your Practitioners re-book rates. Try one of the above four ideas, or all, and see the difference.