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Issue #35 – Forest for the Trees

We like the oft-quoted phrase “don’t miss the forest for the trees,” because it doesn’t only mean to look beyond the small details in order to appreciate the bigger picture; it also reminds us not to take a single instance and assume it is representative of all instances. Psychologically, this is known as the availability heuristic, which suggests people judge the probability of events by the ease in which instances can be brought to mind. The more traumatic, uncomfortable, or excited we are, the easier we can recall the memory and assume the probability of it happening again is greater, which is often false.

For example, how do you drive after having been pulled over for speeding? While it is statistically improbable that you would be pulled over twice in one day, most of us drive slowly and carefully after getting a ticket, watching out for more speed traps (unless you are our Senior Director, Jill, who views speed limits as more of a dare).

In medical practices, the availability heuristic can manifest itself in many ways, but we have seen it impact practices most when patient coordinators and doctors assume patients will call back to book their procedures after not scheduling during first visits. A second instance of the availability heuristic negatively impacting a medical practice occurs when practices fail to raise prices due to fear of losing patient volume. Read further to learn how to overcome these limiting beliefs.

In-Office Patient Booking is Paramount:

It is easy to believe the myriad patients who enthusiastically suggest they are “100% going to call back tomorrow to book,” and they probably mean it when they say it. The statistics show, however, that in most practices only around 15-20% of patients call back to schedule surgery or services later. In all of our long-term client offices we average 60-85% in-office booking ratios, so we know there is a better way compared to our research showing only 15-20% of patients in most practices book in the office, just like the % that call back. So while there is clearly training and specialized processes each practice must learn to master in-office patient scheduling, it all starts with a mentality and belief that it is possible to schedule a higher percentage. What works against this mentality is anecdotal evidence. As one in every five to seven patients does call back to schedule, and because often several call close together, practice staff start to believe that those rare callbacks prove that a high percentage of patients book after leaving the office. The reality is much different.

Price Increases:

In our previous newsletter The Power of the Price Increase – Part 2, we outline when and how to raise prices. Often the biggest obstacle to raising prices is fear. All it takes is one patient to object to higher pricing to convince a patient coordinator, doctor, or practice administrator that no one will buy at higher rates. In reality, the issue likely has more to do with the sales process than the price itself. In the majority of our client offices we have achieved price increases leading to both higher revenue and profitability, and we have no examples in the last 5 years showing a price increase was not successful. Doctors are giving themselves an annual pay cut simply by keeping prices even, but still remember an anecdotal example of one patient who canceled to go to a competitor over price or are still referencing the economic crash of over 8 years ago. The availability heuristic makes it feel like the majority of patients complain about pricing when, in reality, when presented properly, most patients are comfortable with pricing once they appreciate the value. Focus on the forest full of satisfied patients happy to pay your fees, not the few thorny cacti who object to the higher prices.

The next time you want to justify something with an anecdote, ask yourself, are you seeing the forest or just a few trees? We believe understanding psychological principles, such as the availability heuristic, that explain how we naturally make judgment errors can dovetail with your holistic approach to practice and sales success. For more sales and management tips or to learn how YellowTelescope can help grow your practice check out yellowtelescope.com or email us at info@yellowtelescope.com.