Notes on Patient Acquisition

Notes on Patient Acquisition

Featured Speaker: Nell Smircina

I often get asked what is the one thing I wish I knew when I started my practice. It’s relatively simple: the things you THINK will give you a successful practice and good patient outcomes are not the things that drive the most impactful results for patients. It’s amazing to me in our holistic medicine field how we can get so tunnel visioned on the perceived skill set necessary to generate exceptional outcomes with patients. A “successful” treatment or treatment plan is multifaceted, and our approach should be as well. We can be exceptionally skilled with a needle and know powerful protocols for different patterns. However, if we aren’t considering all aspects of what drives people to comply with a treatment plan, or even curating an effective plan and just letting the patient dictate things like frequency and duration of treatment, we are not getting the best result possible.

Enter your game changer: patient communication. This goes well beyond explaining how acupuncture works (which yes, we will cover in class) into delicately navigating important aspects of a care plan, and influencing patients to comply with important aspects of your recommendations. Don’t get hung up on the word influence, which gets a bad rep, but rather think about how you are helping to influence positive health outcomes for as many patients as possible. We are trusted providers who need to be able to effectively articulate all potential factors which could impact patient results. Patients need to know, like, and trust us. If there is one thing which can drastically improve patient results in your practice, it’s learning to properly communicate in any setting.

I’ll tell you a story from my consulting practice. I worked with a provider who had a steady flow of new patients due to being in-network with insurance in a progressive state. This provider, however, had a substantial amount of patient attrition and even with patients having multiple insurance visits authorized by their carriers, they often dropped off after 1-3 treatments. His goal working together was to increase his patient bookings, and ultimately revenue, and had been heavily focused on just getting more new patients in the door. Keeping the math very high level, we can see how working hard to get patients in the door only to let them fall off in a couple treatments is a less efficient way to have more patient slots booked than simply increasing the number of times a patient comes in. We also know clinically acupuncture works cumulatively, and efficacy decreases with suboptimal frequency or insufficient volume of treatments.

What’s interesting about this upon telling this story to most groups is the assumption that this provider must not be clinically competent if patients were not coming back. People assume he wasn’t good with needling, or that his treatments did not last, or that patients were not having a decrease in their symptoms. Based on notes and some follow up homework I gave him, we determined that was not the case. I asked him to call every one of his patients that had stayed for less time than his treatment plan or the number of visits allowed by their insurance.

We uncovered a few things, all going back to communication. By implementing a structure for three aspects of key communication in his practice we increased his patient return rate by over 400%. Patients reported better results, and his referral rate also increased

In my class, we’ll be reviewing simple and effective ways you can increase not only your patient acquisition and retention, but also clinical outcomes with patients just based on adjusting communication practices and techniques.

Nell Smircina headshotDr. Nell Smircina, DAOM, L.Ac., Dipl. OM  is an advocate, advisor, and practitioner with a focus on the integration of acupuncture into America’s standard of care.
She is the Immediate Past Chair of CSOMA, California’s oldest state acupuncture association, and is Vice Chair of Public Policy for the American Society of Acupuncturists. Clinically, Dr. Nell specializes in acupuncture for optimal post- surgical recovery. She is the founder of COGENT Acupuncture (formerly PIQUE Health), an integrative concierge practice in Beverly Hills, but more recently has focused on B2B, specifically collaboration and integrating acupuncture into established businesses. She shares her insights and business-building tools with the profession in her Acupuncture Today column, “The Business of Acupuncture”. Dr. Nell speaks on healthcare entrepreneurship and leadership internationally and is completing her Executive MBA with the University of Notre Dame. She values mentorship and feels a responsibility to utilize her skill set to continue to help acupuncturists looking to grow their businesses. Dr. Nell has taught in many schools on the topics of practice management, professional development, and messaging. She believes being able to effectively communicate our medicine’s value to the public is critical to the growth of the profession.

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