Why Healthcare Providers Should Continuously Accept New Patients

Discover the reasons why healthcare providers should avoid turning away new patients, even when their schedules are fully booked. Explore the benefits of maintaining an open door policy and the positive impact it can have on your practice and the community you serve.

Why Healthcare Providers Should Continuously Accept New Patients

As we embrace 2023, the increasing flow of new patients to your practice is becoming the new normal. It's time to get strategic about efficiently managing a growing patient base.

While dealing with a surge of patients can be challenging, it's essential not to turn them away. Keep reading to explore why the most effective patient acquisition strategy involves not rejecting new patients and to learn how you can manage a larger patient roster without compromising the quality of care.

Three Compelling Reasons for Doctors to Keep Their Doors Open to New Patients

1. Benefits of Maintaining Open Access

Patient volume tends to fluctuate over time. Even the most reputable providers experience patient attrition. To illustrate, our recent Patient Perspective survey reveals that 36 percent of patients have switched healthcare providers in the last two years. While your practice may be gaining a surge of new patients now, it's crucial to recognize that trends can reverse. For long-term practice success, it's essential to adopt a forward-looking approach. Continuously accepting new patients keeps your patient roster at a healthy level, ensuring the profitability of your practice despite occasional fluctuations. This approach may result in higher patient volumes during busy periods, but it stabilizes over time.

2. Negative Impact on Business

Just like any other business, turning away customers can harm your practice's financial health. When patients are turned away, they are unlikely to return to your practice for future appointments. Moreover, patients who have found a doctor they trust often refer friends and family. Refusing new patients may lead to the difficult choice of providing preferential treatment to referred patients or denying appointments altogether. Either way, you risk losing existing patients to providers who are willing to treat their loved ones.

3. Uncertainty Surrounding Temporary Closures

Some degree of patient turnover is expected in any practice. Unless you're retiring from medicine entirely, a ban on new patients will never be permanent. Temporary closures create confusion for other healthcare professionals, insurers, and existing patients trying to understand your current status. Fellow physicians may cease referring patients to you if they fear recommending a provider who might be unavailable in an emergency. It's far easier to recommend a doctor who maintains an always-open approach to patient acquisition. Continuous growth should be an ongoing strategy for your practice, not an occasional project.

How to Manage a Growing Patient Load

1. Empower Patients with More Control

Enhance the patient experience by making it more interactive, streamlining operations to accommodate a larger patient base. Research from Advisory Board indicates that 81 percent of patients would schedule doctor's appointments online if given the option, and 40 percent would consider switching providers for online access. Supporting this, our research indicates that more than half of patients prefer digital interactions for various tasks, including appointment scheduling and form completion. Sending intake forms in advance via email or SMS reduces waiting times and delays. New patients can complete forms beforehand, arriving prepared for their appointments and enabling you to maintain a full schedule.

2. Automate Routine Office Tasks

Automate various routine office tasks to ensure that an increasing number of patients doesn't strain your staff. For instance, appointment confirmations and reminders can be automated, freeing your staff to focus on new patients while reducing late arrivals, no-shows, and cancellations. Implementing an asynchronous communication channel, such as text messaging for patient queries, saves time for both your staff and patients.

3. Enhance Your EMR

Efficiently managing a higher patient volume necessitates increased efficiency. Simplify your practice by integrating your Electronic Medical Record/Electronic Health Record (EMR/EHR) system with software that enhances care quality and productivity. An integrated EHR system reduces redundancy and facilitates quick access to patient data. This time-saving approach enables you to spend more quality time with patients, increasing their satisfaction and allowing you to focus on providing excellent care.

4. Implement Shared Appointments

Shared medical appointments represent an innovative approach to patient acquisition, allowing you to treat multiple patients at once. Patients with similar health concerns are grouped together to ask questions, share concerns, and receive guidance. The Cleveland Clinic, for example, has been using this approach since 1999 and offers over 200 shared medical appointments. This not only accelerates patient visits but also fosters connections among individuals with similar health conditions.

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