September 12, 2013
2 min read

BLOG: Surgical density, part 1: Reading the speedometer of your practice’s performance

You've successfully added to your alerts. You will receive an email when new content is published.

Click Here to Manage Email Alerts

We were unable to process your request. Please try again later. If you continue to have this issue please contact

Read more blog posts from John B. Pinto

Most eye surgeons want to do more surgery and spend less time in the clinic. Unfortunately, for those doctors who don’t enjoy clinic time as much as operating room time, surgical volume is directly linked to clinic time: See more patients and you’ll find more cases, obviously.

But that’s only half of the story. Your personal surgical caseloads also depend on how many clinic patients you personally have to see to find each surgical case: your “surgical density.”  

There are a number of things you can do to increase your surgical density, but none is more important than simply starting to measure the density baseline of your practice today.

 The math is easy. With it you can assess your individual surgical density or the surgical yield in your overall practice if you work in a group setting.  For a three-month or longer timeframe, you only need two primary data points:

  • The total number of patient visits. This is all new and  returning patients including post-operative visits and free surgical consultations for all MD, DO or OD providers. Omit tech-only visits.
  • The total number of  major surgical cases. Note that what you include in “major” is up to you,  just be consistent over time. In a general setting, this should include cataract and LASIK surgery. If you practice comprehensively, it should include any plastics cases or other procedures provided in your setting. Retinologists obviously include any cases taken to the OR.

Then simply divide A by B.  Here’s an example. Imagine a two-surgeon practice with 900 patient visits per month and 50 major surgical cases per month. The surgical yield would be 900/50 = 18 patient visits per case—a pretty favorable number.

Said another way, these doctors generate a major surgical case for every 18 patient visits. In the next posting, I’ll describe the norms for this metric and how to track it over time.

 Monitoring the surgical density of your unique setting and circumstances, whether you compare yourself to external benchmarks (see next blog posting) or your own internal standards can be one of the most interesting and useful gauges to put on the “dashboard” of your practice.

It’s a great tool you can use to measure the progress of new physicians. It can help you communicate with your marketing staff about their contributions to the organization.

And — most critically — this metric can be an early warning sign if your practice is heading for performance problems. Give it a try in your own practice and drop me a note to report on how it’s working in your unique environment.