Just as other practices identify single-type “special visit” or “clinic” time periods, referral practices should have certain office hours specifically designated only for new patients. Doing so ensures a steady, regular flow of new work into the practice.
Practices that rely on referrals have an ongoing need for new patients. Surgeons, for example, generate most of their interesting and profitable operative work from patients referred by other physicians. Internal medicine subspecialists similarly require the flow of new patients. While much of the new work results from in-hospital consultations, many other new patients are referred for initial office visits.
We have seen some specialists’ office hours so heavily booked with regular appointments that they cannot accommodate new patients for weeks. This is extremely damaging to a surgical practice, for example, when a patient possibly requiring surgery may be unwilling to wait. He or she may make an appointment with another surgeon in town or, worse yet, call the referring doctor for another name. The fully booked practice would have lost that piece of surgical work, and may have even lost future work from the referring doctor.