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The Hidden Cost of Managing Prospective Patients: How Your EHR Can Help Coordinate New Patient Inquiries.

Whether you’re a solo practitioner or the manager of a multi-provider clinic, you must develop an effective system to coordinate new patient inquiries. Prospective patient management may seem routine, but it could be costing you money if not handled correctly.

What are the hidden costs of managing prospective patients, and how can you mitigate those costs and recoup valuable time in your day? The right mental health EHR can help.

The Cost of Managing New Mental Health Patients

You might not think of prospective patient management as an expensive endeavor. Theoretically, you could whip up a spreadsheet to keep track of new inquiries and contact information without spending a dime, right?

In reality, the financial drain of prospective patient management isn’t that straightforward. It costs you productive work hours and it costs you those prospective patients who fall away early in the process—a loss that will happen frequently if you don’t have an extremely efficient system.

Cost in Staff Hours

Managing the list of potential clients eats up hours of time each week, time that could be spent on other management tasks that would help your practice grow. Manual prospect tracking includes:

  • Answering phone inquiries
  • Monitoring and responding to email inquiries
  • Follow-up communication with prospects
  • Collecting information on mental health symptoms and insurance coverage
  • Manually entering client information into a prospective patient database
  • Reviewing the prospective patient database regularly to manage follow-ups
  • Manually converting prospective patient accounts into regular patient accounts if/when the patient seeks treatment at your clinic
  • Phone training to manage prospective patient calls

Cost in Lost Prospects

It there is the slightest hitch in the way you coordinate new patient inquiries, it can push a hesitant individual away. For example, if a potential client emails or leaves a voicemail and doesn’t hear back promptly, they might make arrangements with another clinic that responded right away. That clinic will win the business. Or, if they are on the fence about seeking treatment, the delay in setting an appointment may give them time to get cold feet and back out.

Similar problems occur if you have a disorganized follow-up process. Perhaps you’ve initiated a conversation with a potential patient, and need to either follow up or answer a question. If your office forgets to reach out, the patient may not make the effort to track you down. Once again, you’ve left money on the table.

If you respond promptly and successfully follow up, you could still lose your potential patient if they get a bad first impression of your practice. First impressions are crucial because so many patients already feel uncomfortable and vulnerable. They’re struggling with mental health symptoms and with the self-consciousness of sharing their vulnerability with a stranger. If you seem disorganized, indifferent, or otherwise unpleasant to deal with, they won’t want to initiate this deeply personal work with you.

A few things that can quickly turn a new mental health patient off from your practice are:

  • Lack of a welcoming demeanor from staff
  • Long wait times to hear back from you
  • Obvious disorganization—for example, two different staff members following up with them separately

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The EHR Solution to Coordinate New Patient Inquiries

So you’ve grasped the financial magnitude of a slapdash prospect management system. But how do you actually fix a mediocre system, or develop a better one, especially without the budget to hire more staff?

A mental health EHR with prospect management capabilities is the best solution, due to its potential to streamline and organize the entire process with little busywork from staff.

An EHR is an easy place to store and access records of inquiries. You can easily retrieve their contact information, the date of their inquiry, any symptoms they’ve reported, and any records of follow-up from other staff. That helps you:

  • Follow up in a timely manner
  • Prioritize follow-up criteria (in the order first received, by diagnosis, by urgency, etc.)
  • Avoid disorganized reach-out strategies
  • Have answers in hand about insurance coverage and best-fit providers

A superb EHR prospect management system will go beyond that and automate more steps in the process. For example, online inquiry forms can save staff phone calls and email monitoring. If the inquiry form integrates directly into your EHR, you don’t even have to key in prospect information.

Automated email replies to online inquiries can be a great strategy for providing a “touch” from your practice very early in the process.

Finally, highly integrated and functional EHRs such as Valant can transfer prospective patient records into established patient records with the click of a button, saving even more time.

How’s Your Prospect/Patient Ratio?

Too many mental health clinics don’t track how many prospects they convert and how many they lose each year, even though this information could greatly inform their financial strategy.

To figure out how many prospects actually convert to new patients without getting lost along the way, look at the number of inquiries you receive each month. Then tally the number of new mental health patients who actually schedule treatment with you. You may find that you’re losing a greater percentage of prospects than you think.

This could be a sign that it’s time to improve your process. A good EHR system can help. Although it may take an investment of time up-front to overhaul your prospective patient management, ask yourself: can you afford not to?

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