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Number, quality of patient contacts matter


Ms. Olesen
Newport Beach, Calif. — The business side of a medical practice can be as scientific as the medicine side. The problem is, most doctors don't know the metrics to assess the results, says a revenue consultant.

"We can't wish that a cosmetic practice goes well — a successful practice relies more on the people and the business practices than on luck," says Marie Olesen, cosmetic revenue consultant and founder of Inform Solutions, now doing business as Mentor Solutions of San Diego, a subsidiary of Mentor Corp. She spoke to plastic surgeons at the recent Art of Business Building Seminar in Newport Beach, Calif.

Ms. Olesen says most plastic surgeons, if asked, will say they feel more in control of the medical side of their practice than of the business side — but she says that can change, if they start running their business as objectively and scientifically as they run their operating rooms.

Most surgeons think they have a marketing problem if they don't do enough surgery, and think they need more callers. They don't. Ms. Olesen, who created Inform&Enhance software to measure patient movement through the practice, says success doesn't depend on how many people call, it depends on how many of those callers follow through with surgery. And that depends on their experiences with the doctor's office from the moment they pick up the phone.

She says doctors shouldn't focus on how many phone calls they get. Instead, they should focus on: "Are we answering our phones well? Do people make appointments and show up for them? Do people come back for surgery after a consultation?"

Answers to those questions can be found scientifically by using the proper metrics.

In traditional medicine, the physician is taught that he or she is the ultimate reason the patient makes a decision. On the elective or retail side of medicine, the physician is often seen in the OR or the exam room with another patient — so the majority of the patient experience is with the staff.

"Physicians have to realize that they need their office to function just like their OR crew — with specialists who know exactly what to do. Otherwise, the practice becomes a 'sieve' of new patient activity, with patients being lost as they interact with the practice," Ms. Olesen says. "We want it to be a 'funnel' where patients predictably move forward toward surgery, because funnels are so much more efficient and effective."

Most practices do poorly

Mentor Solutions contacted 25 practices during a market survey. Ms. Olesen says the results were not good.

"All were paying $30,000 to $100,000 a year for Yellow Page ads. Eighty percent of the practices didn't ask where we heard about the practice," she says.

Twenty-four percent couldn't answer basic questions about breast augmentation; 32 percent gave no information over the phone, or said it would be given by the doctor at consult; 25 percent refused to give fees; only two of 25 got a phone number; and only one practice followed up with a mailing and a callback to ask if the patient wanted to make an appointment.

Those phone calls can make or break a practice, according to Ms. Olesen.

"If you are going to run a Yellow Page ad ... you'd better be prepared."

The first two questions most patients ask themselves are: "Should I make an appointment?" and "Should I complete an appointment?" Most practices lose between 40 percent and 50 percent of their callers on these two questions, Mrs. Olesen says.


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