June 03, 2013
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BLOG: Are you spending too much or too little on marketing? Part 3

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Read more blog posts from John B. Pinto

The surgical density of healthy practices varies widely. This is a dimension of efficiency where ratio analysis is often best applied as an internal standard, rather than trying to match external benchmarks.

However, in a typical general ophthalmology practice, it’s normal to transit 15 to 30 total patient visits for every cataract surgery case performed.

A higher number of total visits per case may mean there are too few new patients to feed the surgical schedule, and the practice is providing routine care over and over again to the same patients.  Each surgeon should examine their case selection criteria and, if warranted, consider a more aggressive approach.

The most important single determinant of how much — and how — you spend on marketing should be the desired mix and number of new patients. On the advertising side of a total marketing program, we know from experience that it can take as much as $500 to generate a new patient lead (and even more than this for a single surgical case) depending on the market, the service being promoted and the branding that’s been established.

Every doctor within your practice should declare and annually update their volume performance goals so that the total marketing budget walks in lock step with the composite goals of the overall practice. Nothing smokes out a practice’s strategic conflict faster than when I get the entire management and doctor team together in one room and point out that the doctors are asking for 100 new surgical cases a month — immediately — but  only giving marketing the resources for 10. 

Marketing, perhaps like farming,  is a long-range activity, best done with patience, long-term planning and crossed fingers. Any need to ramp up the practice’s patient flow should be anticipated as far in advance as possible, because the lag time from conception to execution to impact can be many quarters, even  years.