Hidden Ways Wait Lists Hurt Your Private Practice and What You Can Do About It

The more successful your practice is, the more likely it is that you will have a wait list for your services. Success is good, right? Having more people who want your services than you can currently deliver to is a win, right? Well, yes and no. 

Putting a family in need onto something called a “wait list” can work against you and the success of your practice. The reasons why can be both internal and external and might be a little more subtle than you realize. That’s why their negative effects can creep up on you and negatively affect your practice when you’re not looking.

Three Reasons Why 

First, having families on a wait list will cost you new patients. Most people won’t wait for you to have an opening. They’ve made the decision to get help and they want that help now. They’ll find a competitor who has an immediate opening. 

Second, it discourages referrals. If a doctor’s office refers patients to you and their families come back to them asking for another referral, the doctor or their stressed-out staff are going to start looking for someone else who can take these patients now. They’ll do it even if they feel like the care delivered by the other practice is lower quality just so they know they won’t get this unserviced family back again. 

Third, it can directly impact your mindset and desire to expand. I’ve found that many owners are stressed by the length of their wait lists. They start backing off on their promotion, stop reaching to professionals for referrals. It’s only natural. Why should they beat the bushes to get patients they know they won’t be able to care for immediately? 

But take heart! There are ways to escape these negative effects!

How to Resolve this Impasse

While working with hundreds of practices, I’ve devised three solutions that alleviate this negative impact. 

1. Call it a Priority List! As Shakespeare once said, “What’s in a name?!” When you absolutely can’t schedule a family immediately, tell the parents that you’re going to put their child’s name on a Priority List that will enable their child to be scheduled at the first possible moment. That’s all they need to know.

2. Investigate why you have a wait list. Obviously, this one will take a little time away from the daily hustle of your practice. But it’s well worth the investment of time. Don’t assume quite yet that the only solution is to add more clinicians—that’s not a safe assumption until you have honestly analyzed your practice numbers.

You have to answer this question: Have you and your staff maximized your efficiency and productivity? In other words, with your current resources, if efficiency and productivity were improved, would you be able to service more kiddos? 

How about your front desk? Is it time to add another person? There’s a formula on this: For every 150 weekly visits, add a front desk person, otherwise parents, caregivers and patients will fall through the cracks. If you ignore this formula, you’ll be begging for cancellations and lost business merely because the volume of calls is overwhelming for one person. When it is, they’ll use the most expedient—not the most caring—means of ending each call. 

Be objective about what investigation uncovers. It might be a hard pill to swallow to realize that you wouldn’t even have a wait list if your production and administration channels were operating optimally. (If you need advice on this, drop me a line at nancymura@pedsapalooza.com. I can help.) 

3. Hire more clinicians. Of course, sometimes this really is the right solution! As you move into this hiring phase, try to avoid viewing hiring as an expense. Try to stay focused on how adding staff will enable you to serve more kiddos and their families more efficiently.

Of course, you know that expansion is not about making more money. But more clinicians, more patients and more revenue mean that more kiddos are getting life-changing therapies. And your financial success means continued survival for you, your practice and your employees.

I know, hiring the right people is tough! That’s why we frequently address this topic in our Lemonade webinars. Get advice from our most successful Private Practice Owners on the right way to go about hiring and retaining the right clinicians for your expansion. 

To access our Lemonade webinars for members of our Peds-A-Palooza™ Community & Conferences members, click here: Lemonade Library.