Visits to physicians’ offices fell 4.7 percent in 2011, following a 4.2 percent decline in 2010, according to data from the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics. Higher copays and deductibles, as well as the lingering effects of the recession, are contributing to the decline in doctor visits and to a drop in prescription use.

What steps can you take to maintain patient levels and to encourage patients to keep up regular visits?

      • Stay in touch. Have your front-desk staff call patients a day or so ahead of time to remind them of their appointments. Use the call to remind patients why it is important that they come in for the consultation or procedure and why delaying or postponing the appointment could be potentially harmful.
      • Take the initiative in communicating. You have to assume that some patients will not understand what you are asking of them, while others may be too embarrassed to ask for specifics. That is why it is important that you clearly explain why you are ordering a particular test and why a certain medication or procedure you recommend is so crucial to the patient’s well-being. Once patients fully understand what you want for them, they are more likely to maintain regular appointments.
      • Help allay patients’ financial concerns.  Some patients cancel appointments because they cannot afford to come in to your practice. You may be able to help certain patients by allowing them to stretch payments for a visit over several months. You can also direct patients to discount drug programs operated by various agencies and nonprofit organizations or write prescriptions for lower-cost generic drugs, when possible.

Contact Bob Baldassari, MCB’s Medical Practice tax and consulting leader, for a best practice review of your medical practice and tax planning and compliance services.

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