Office Environment

Summer Patient Flow: Keep It Consistent–and Profitable

By Gina M. Wesley, OD, MS, FAAO

SYNOPSIS

Patient flow tends to slow down during the summer months. Implement strategies to keep patient visits steady during the lazy, hazy days of summer.

ACTION POINTS

MEASURE YOUR SUMMER SLOW-DOWN; SET GOALS. Expect up to a 10-15 percent slow down; set goal of avoiding summer revenues dependent on August.

USE PROMOTIONS TO SPUR VISITS. Try a children’s eyewear discount in July to encourage mid- rather than late-summer back-to-school exams.

FEATURE SUMMER COLORS ON FRAME BOARD. Display brighter colors during the summer months mirroring the brightness of the season.

The summer months for an optometric practice can be slow. Fortunately, there are ways to increase patient flow during these months. Here are some of the approaches my practice takes to keep the summer a profitable time of year.

ROB Bottom Line:
15 Percent Growth in Revenues
per Summer Month

2,000 patients per year/12 months

= 167 patients/month x 15% = 25 patients/month

= About 1 additional patient per working day per summer month.

Measure Your Summer Slow-Down; Set Goals

I usually see a slow down of about 10-15 percent in June-July. I live in Minnesota, so everyonetakes advantage of the nice weather. They are busy with summer activities and vacations. Come August, people start getting into back-to-school mode, so we see a big rush and panic for patients to get in before September. We would rather have those patients spread out throughout the summer months!

Sincewe moved into a new office (in a building I built and own) six months ago, we’ve seen some nice increases in patient numbers, as well as revenues. My goal for this year is a 15 percent growth in revenues for each month of the summer, without having to depend on August to make the summer profitable for us.

Use Promotions to Spur Patient Visits

We usually offer a contact lens fitting promotion in August, but have found that only adds to our rush of patients wanting to get in for appointments at the end of the summer. We are now going to offer the same promotion, but do it from mid-July to mid-August to shift that patient demand. For the first time this year, as well, we are running a kids’ glasses promo in the month of July. We will have a featured late afternoon/evening one night in July of story time in which I will read stories about kids with glasses, and bring in a magician to encourage families with children to visit the office.

You also can capitalize on patients’ vacation plans during the summer months, with messages in your office and online on your practice web site and Facebook page about enhanced comfort and UV protection with Transitions lenses and the benefits of polarized sunglasses.

Colorful sunglasses on display in Dr. Wesley’s office.

Feature Summer Colors on Frame Board

We try to showcase colorful frames in brighter colors than we feature during the winter, along with fun sunwear, such as cat’s eye or large frames, to show the variety of eyewear patients can purchase that go with the fun-loving spirit of summer.

Educate Patients: Don’t Wait Until Last Minute for Back-to-School Exams

We will definitely be doing e-blasts in June and July to promote summer events like my planned story time/magician event in July. In those e-blasts, we will remind patients that the end of summer can be a difficult time to get an appointment, so planning ahead with a visit in June or July makes for less of a rush. We also emphasize that if you want your child to start wearing contact lenses, having the majority of the summer to get used to wearing them and handling them is better than rushing it right before school starts.

Tailor Vision Eye Health Message to Summer Activities

We fit a lot of daily-replacement contact lenses in my office, and educate patients about the benefits and safety of wearing this modality (especially for swimming). Even if patients only purchase a part-time supply for those activities, we are encouraging safe contact lens wear. Also, we remind patients to wear safety eyewear when doing yard work, and to visit us for any red eye/foreign body issues.

Match Patient Visits with Staff Capacity

Prepare your staff and schedule patients strategically so you don’t have bottlenecks in your schedule. For instance, you don’t necessarily want to schedule three brand-new contact lens wearers in need of training back-to-back as that ties up several staff members at one time.

Related ROB Articles

Spring Forward: Increase Seasonal Ocular Allergy Services
Smooth Operator: Keep Patients Moving Happily Through Your Office
Long Wait Times Lower Overall Patient Satisfaction

Gina M. Wesley, OD, MS, FAAO, is the owner of Complete Eye Care of Medina in Medina, Minn. To contact her: drwesley@cecofmedina.com.

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