Insights From Our Editors

New Patient Percentage: How to Ensure You Are Actually Growing Your Total Patients Metric

By Mark Wright, OD, FCOVD,
and Carole Burns, OD, FCOVD

March 23, 2022

Your total patient numbers may not be growing as strongly as you think. It’s possible that, given the attrition of existing patients, it’s not growing at all. Here’s how to measure your actual new patient percentage, along with tips on stoking growth of this metric.

New patients are essential to every practice. One of the key reasons is that every year about 10 percent of the established patients within a practice either die or move away. Without new patients to replace the lost established patients, the practice would be on a downhill trend to eventual closure. With this in mind, it is important to track the number of new patients a practice gains every year.

The percentage of new patients related to the total percentage of all patients seen averages about 25 percent across the country. If 10 percent of the total number of patients are lost each year and the number of new patients gained is 25 percent, then practices should be showing a 15 percent gain in the number of total patients each year.

The interesting problem is that 15 percent growth is not shown in very many practices. That tells us there must be other reasons for patients to leave the practice beyond death or moving causing the attrition number to be higher than 10 percent.

The other reasons may be staff/doctor problems (think: bedside manner issues), service flaws (think: patients spend too much time waiting, measurement mistakes, patients not informed their job is ready to be dispensed or it takes too long to get the new Rx), inappropriate office culture, the office is perceived as too expensive for the quality received, patients feel like they are just another number, sticker shock when they see their bill, you are not staying at the top of the patients’ minds resulting in another practice “stealing” them from you, and the office is perceived as using old-fashioned technology.

To know what the answer is for your practice, either you or a team member needs to do exit interviews with patients who have left your practice. The conversation should go something like this, “Mr. Johnson, we want to be the best practice in town. Obviously, you felt somewhere else was better. Would you please help us to learn from this … what was the reason you left our practice and went somewhere else?”

Whatever they tell you, make sure you write it down verbatim. If you summarize their words, you run the risk of missing their true perception. Remember, the rule is: perception is reality. It doesn’t matter if you think what the patient is saying is not true. Whatever the patient’s perception of you or your practice, that is true for them.

Your job is to fix the perception problem.

What if you don’t? Let’s do the math. A practice that has a 45 percent new patient number and a 55 percent patient attrition number is not in a good place. “But we are amazing at getting new patients to come to our practice.” Yes, but you are terrible at getting patients to return. You must find the cause(s) of the attrition and fix it. And fix it sooner rather than later.

What is our take-home message? Keep close track of your number of new patients and your attrition number simultaneously. Do exit interviews to know precisely why patients are leaving your practice and fix the problem/perception driving the attrition. At the same time, make sure you know what is driving your new patients number so you can strengthen those efforts.

Take action today to get the practice growth you desire.

To Top
  
Subscribe Today Free...
And join more than 25,000 optometric colleagues who have made Review of Optometric Business their daily business advisor.
YOUR EMAIL
FIRST NAME
LAST NAME
  
Subscribe Today Free...
And join more than 25,000 optometric colleagues who have made Review of Optometric Business their daily business advisor.
YOUR EMAIL
FIRST NAME
LAST NAME
Subscribe Today for Free...
And join more than 35,000 optometric colleagues who have made Review of Optometric Business their daily business advisor.
Subscribe Today for Free...
And join more than 35,000 optometric colleagues who have made Review of Optometric Business their daily business advisor.