12.7.12 Issue #561 info@mckenziemgmt.com 1-877-777-6151 Forward This Newsletter

Nancy Caudill
Senior Consultant
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How Large is your Active Patient Pool?
By Nancy Caudill

“Dr. Brown, how many active patients do you have in your practice right now?” I asked.  “Oh, I would say about 2,500” he replied. “Really?” But why would I second guess him? Because he tells me that his practice is 20 years old and he has one hygienist working four days a week and at times, it is hard to keep her busy. I suppose there is “safety in numbers” - number of patient records. But when the time comes that you no longer have any paper records on your shelves, will you know how many active patients you have? Why don’t we learn now what an active patient is and determine how large your active patient pool really is, opposed to assuming that all those records you see on the shelves are active.

Definition of “Active” Patient: A patient that has been seen for their recall appointment by you, your assistant or your hygienist in the past 12 months and are due to return in the next 12 months. Why do you want to use this definition? Because your practice grows as you add more hygiene days, and you add more hygiene days when you increase the number of active patients.

As an example, “Dr. Brown” mentioned that he had 2,500 active patients with one hygienist. There is no feasible way that a hygienist can see 2,500 patients every 6 months. Even if she is Wonder Woman and can see 12 patients/day, she is still only capable of 1,200 patients every 6 months so who is seeing the other 1,300 patients?

What about the past due recall patients? They may still come in! Yes - they may, and probably some of them will. However, until they return, they are not active. Without some effort put forth by your Hygiene Coordinator, they may not be as motivated to call you and will wait. How do you determine your number of active patients? Run your recall report for the next 12 months (in case you have some patients on a 12-month recall interval) for patients with and without appointments. THESE are your active patients.

So let’s say you have 1,000 active patients. You need 222 days of hygiene to provide 6- month recall appointments for these patients if your hygienist sees 9 patients/day and you have 100% retention. My guess is that you don’t work 222 days/year. This also doesn’t allow for new patients, SRPs or room for your past due patients. With 1,000 active patients this month, how much does your active patient base fluctuate from month to month? This should be tracked monthly on your Business Management Spreadsheet, along with other practice statistics.

How Do I Track It?
Every month, as part of your Hygiene Coordinator’s follow-up for recall patients, she should be running a report for recall patients that are 12 months past due. These patients are now going to become “inactive” and will no longer be pursued in a systematic manner.

Let’s assume you have 200 past due recall patients that are 1 - 365 days past due that you are actively pursuing with emails, phone calls, cards and letters. For every patient that is scheduled from the past due list, a REAC or some other in-office code that you would like to use is added to the appointment for this patient, so when they are seen, this code is posted to their ledger. At the end of the month, you can easily review the Production Report and see how many REAC patients were seen. Let’s say that you saw 15 patients. 1000 - 12 + 15 = 1,003 active patients now.

New Patients?
If your new patient was seen in hygiene as a recall patient opposed to being seen as an emergency patient, then you also add them to the number of active patients, since they are now in hygiene and are due in the next 12 months. Let’s say you have 20 new patients that fall into this description. 1000 - 12 + 15 + 20 = 1,023 active patients by the end of the month.

Or…you can simply run your recall report again!

Why Do I Need To Know?
Understanding how your active patient pool increases or decreases over time tells you about the health of your practice and particularly the health of your recall system. If your active patient base does not increase every six months, your system is broken and should be analyzed. Remember, in order for your practice to grow you need to add more hygiene days, and this requires more active hygiene patients. Otherwise, you will find yourself constantly having to market to more and more new patients. Don’t let your patients walk out the back door after coming in the front.

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