The Fit
Say you fit your next 10 patients with a new toric contact lens, and one of them says the lenses are uncomfortable or that she can’t see as well as she could with her previous lenses. Would you continue to use the lens? What if two patients complain? Three? Four? At what point do you make the clinical decision that the lens is a success or a failure, and something you’re willing to use or drop from your armamentarium?

As clinicians, we have our own personal definitions of clinical success. We create this based on our particular practice model and experience. For example, a practice that concentrates on extremely difficult fits might consider a patient wearing a lens for five hours each day a smashing success. Meanwhile, a general practice with a normal bell curve of patients would consider five hours of wear an abysmal failure.

The Practice
We recently had a client ask us if he should use a patient appointment reminder service. We told him that these services work well for most of our clients, but not all of them—as is the case with most practice building initiatives.

First, we suggested that he set up a test by turning the plan on for two months and measuring how well it worked.

Gauging the success was the most difficult part of this test and required determining the parameters in advance. This included determining what percentage of patients responding to the reminders would be considered worthwhile.

I suggested using the success rate of their current method of reminding patients as a baseline. In the above client scenario, we set a goal to either increase the response rate or decrease the practitioner’s current cost by at least 20%.

When Failure Means Success
After two test months, we determined that while the cost of the new technique was slightly lower than the old method, the response rate was also less. We decided to table the initiative and try another provider of a similar service. The results were nearly the same. We concluded that his current method was the most successful—according to our previously defined parameters.
In this case, it was clear that the technology wasn’t in our client’s practice best interest. Although the technology was a failure, the test was successful.

Defining your parameters for success prior to starting a new venture is a smart strategy, and can be applied to just about any area of your practice. For example, I suggest defining your practice’s overall growth at the beginning of each fiscal year. Set concrete milestones. Is a 3% increase of your collections considered good? If they grow 10% and your net increases 4%, is that acceptable? What about patient count? If your net increases 20%, and patient count increases 6%, what does that mean?

The same thoughts apply to staff. If a staff member is paid $14 per hour and asks for a $2 an hour raise, how does this affect your practice? If you let an employee go and are forced to cut your patient care schedule back by three hours per week, will that negatively impact your practice?

Just as with clinical cases, the answers to the above questions aren’t always straightforward. Therefore, I strongly advise creating a pre-determined range of what you would consider acceptable, taking into account all the variables before outlining your test strategy.

Ultimately, this will help you effectively decide whether you are making the right move.