Bariatric Times

Spotlight on Patient Financing April 2016

A peer-reviewed, evidence-based journal that promotes clinical development and metabolic insights in total bariatric patient care for the healthcare professional

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A3 [V O L U M E 1 3 , N U M B E R 4 • A P R I L 2 0 1 6 • S U P P L E M E N T A ] Bariatric Times S POTLIGHT ON PATIENT FINANCING That said, our overall experience on the phone was far below what we would expect for practices that deliver elective procedures. Customer service skills, knowledge o f the procedures, and the e ncouragement for us to schedule a n appointment were missing from t he majority of practices' repertoire. LOOK, YOU DROPPED SOMETHING — IT WAS YOUR LEAD The clear and overarching finding of our mystery shopping project is that bariatric practices are missing a lot of opportunities to turn phone and web inquiries into consultations and treated patients. This is known in our industry as dropping the lead. Whether it's the failure to return a phone call, respond to a web inquiry, or follow up with a potential patient who hasn't yet scheduled a consultation, dropped leads are a sign that the practice needs better systems and staff training. Why is this a big deal? We asked three leading developers of elective medicine websites about the cost of a dropped lead. Their responses ranged from $70 to $200—which of course doesn't include the missed revenue opportunity of actually performing a procedure. Plus, each patient treated is a potential word- of-mouth referral or a potential favorable online rating for your practice. Dropping potential patients is expensive. Being retail ready means a practice understands the importance of lead nurturing and converting inquiries into consultations. According to the CareCredit Path to Purchases research study, the average number of days to decide on a cosmetic procedure is 144.6. 3 The process may start when the patient looks in the mirror and decides to make a change. Maybe he or she talks with friends and checks out a few websites. He or she may ask a physician for input or a referral and follow up on that advice, which may result in more research. By the time this potential patient calls your office or sends a web inquiry, he or she may already be focused on making a decision. That potential patient is a lead, and it's up to your practice to cultivate and nurture it into a patient relationship. Retail-ready practices never underestimate the power of patient inertia in the decision- making process. Instead, they develop effective follow-up systems with ongoing touch points that keep the practice on the potential patient's radar. When the potential patient is ready to schedule, he or she has a higher likelihood of choosing the physician whose team continued to follow up appropriately. Leads are your lifeblood. Very few practice management systems (PMSs) have lead tracking and management features. Solutions such as MyMedicalLeads (www.mymedicalleads.com) can automate the process, and it integrates with more than a dozen PMSs. A user-friendly "sales funnel" illustrates the number of new leads, which ones need follow up, and which ones have scheduled a consultation. A "drip content" feature automatically e-mails information from the practice at specific intervals to keep patients engaged. If you expect your team do all this lead tracking and management using a paper system, trust us—it's never going to happen. If you are not willing to invest in the right software and training, retail medicine and elective procedures are probably not for you. The bottom line is this: Although the lack of a returned phone call, a poorly written e-mail, or the failure to ask for a caller's e-mail address have nothing to do with the doctor's technical skill, they can all impact whether a patient chooses to schedule his or her gastric balloon procedure with you. You may be clinically talented and have excellent outcomes, but when patients are paying thousands of dollars out of their own pockets for an elective procedure, an unpleasant experience and ineffective follow up may cost a practice thousands of dollars in unscheduled procedures. GET MOVING IN THE RETAIL DIRECTION Based on our mystery shopping results as well as our own experience in elective and cosmetic specialties, we suggest the following if your goal is to improve the patient experience and improve elective procedure volume. 1. Train the staff. Based on the results of our mystery shopping, many practices have skipped this essential first step. When we train front line staff in physician offices, we empower them with knowledge, conversational scripts, and rapport- building techniques. Our goal is to coach them to deliver information in a professional, friendly, and competent manner. We see great results when role-playing is part of the training mix. Our experience in plastic surgery and dermatology offices is that skilled staff makes a positive and measurable impact on revenue. 2. Create a "cheat sheet" of common questions and answers. Ask staff to write down common questions callers ask, and craft patient-friendly answers. Scripts for handling price objections and explaining payment options, such as the promotional financing options available with the CareCredit credit card*, are a must. Let patients know that they can apply before their appointment, through a custom link that CareCredit supplies for your web site. When the patient applies this way, the practice has access to account information, which is useful in fee discussions. 3. Create a list of core written responses to web inquiries. Many of the e-mail responses we received lacked professionalism. Create standard replies and instructions that staff can copy and paste into an e-mail for a quick response. 4. Respond to web inquiries as quickly as possible. Best practice for a web inquiry is one hour. At the very least, staff must respond several times each day. Establish response time metrics and hold staff accountable. 5. Implement an auto- response message for web inquiries. Include who will contact the patient, how soon, and the person's contact information. 6. Figure out "first phone." This will vary depending on the Whether it's the failure to return a phone call, respond to a web inquiry, or follow up with a potential patient who hasn't yet scheduled a consultation, dropped leads are a sign that the practice needs better systems and staff training.

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