Every healthcare practice wants a full schedule. The more patients coming in to the office, the better the revenue, right? If you're asked to choose between having five new patients or fifteen new patients, it seems like a no-brainer to pick the higher number. Not so fast.
While it may seem counter-intuitive, going beyond the ideal number of patients actually lowers the average annual billing per patient. When you exceed the ideal number of patients, your quality of care suffers. Patients spend less time with the doctor. Your office is so busy with patients IN the office, that you have little time to reach out to patients when they are OUT of the office. This means that the all-important patient-provider relationship suffers. Wait times increase. Patients are less likely to return. They are less likely to recommend you to friends. They are less likely to move ahead with additional treatment they need. These "add-on" treatments are often more expensive than typical check-ups, and thus, more profitable for the practice.
Making things worse, the heavy workload puts an extra burden on employees. Around 75 percent of healthcare employees (doctors, nurses, and staff) say that they currently feel overworked. This lowers employee satisfaction and increases turnover rates…which, once again, hurts the patient-provider relationship and increases business costs.
Unfortunately, many practices NEVER turn down new patients. They worry that if they tell potential patients that they are full, that their practice will struggle financially. So they fill their schedule to the max.
But the opposite is actually true. Research shows that the higher the number of patients in a practice, the lower the overall income. That’s the rule—not the exception!
So how many patients is the right amount?
- Dental—A general dental practice should strive to have a maximum of 1500 active patients per dentist in the office.
- Medical—Ideally, medical providers should have no more than 1,800 active patients per physician.
- Vision—Optometrists can see more patients than other specialties, up to 2,500 patients per doctor.
What should you do if you have too many patients?
The average practice usually sees numbers quite a bit higher than recommended. If your practice is currently running with more than the ideal number of patients, you are probably working way harder than necessary and making less money than you might with fewer patients!
It’s time to make some changes. You have a couple of different options to do this. You can start to turn down new patient requests and slowly move to the right number through natural attrition. Another great idea is to add another doctor to the practice. This is especially true if you exceed the number of ideal patients by a large amount or if you are frequently needing to turn down new patients.
Don’t fall into the trap of worrying that you will not have enough patients to go around. As patients notice how much more time and effort is dedicated to them, they will start to like you even better (and send their friends to see you as well!). You and your staff will be able to relax a little more and enjoy the patients you work with.
Want to improve the efficiency of your practice even more? Check out our list of easy ways to improve efficiency in the office.