October 31, 2013
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BLOG: Account for seasonal lulls when worried about a light appointment book, part 2

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Read more from John B. Pinto.

Markets with profound seasonal swings — the sunshine and permafrost belts of the country where the snowbirds come and go — are particularly susceptible to significant semi-annual volume fluctuations. These can be addressed in three main ways:

  • Sequester funds from the “fat” months and hold these as operating reserves for the inevitable skinny months.
  • Constrict expenses during lean months, reduce staffing and time surgeon vacations to patient lulls.
  • Add less-cyclical elective care, such as refractive surgery or primary eye care and dispensing, to fill in the valleys.

In addition, you can take an off-cycle approach to making return-to-clinic (RTC) appointments. If you would ordinarily bring back a patient who sticks around in winter for their 6-month RTC in November, push the next appointment out to 7 or 8 months, seeing the patient again in December or January.

Given medicine’s comparatively consistent cash flow and, thankfully, still-high operating margins, ophthalmic practice managers and owners are rarely forced to factor their receivables or abruptly trim expenses during lean times. With any luck, we’ll continue to be relatively insulated, despite the dour mood in Washington. However, you can continue to avoid surprises by tracking both the long- and near-term trends in your practice and asking questions whenever the current figures are out of line with internal trends or national peer benchmarks.

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