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Acupuncture Today
April, 2016, Vol. 17, Issue 04
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Why Metrics Matter

By Kelley Pendleton, DC

Physicist William Thompson, better known as Lord Kelvin, introduced a new way to measure temperature in 1848. Although the existence of an "absolute zero" was widely accepted in the scientific circles of his time, Lord Kelvin was the first to calculate the mathematical formula for the scale that bears his name. Like most scientists, Lord Kelvin was a proponent of measurement and is credited with saying, "If you cannot measure it, you cannot improve it." "Metrics" are defined as a way to measure something, or as the result gained from measurement. They can (and should) be gathered for a multitude of purposes in any business.

Why are Metrics Important?

When used consistently, metrics can help you gain critical information about the health of your business. They can indicate when your practice is strong and growing, and they can raise a red flag when something isn't working as it should. While "the numbers" of your practice aren't all that matters, they represent vital data that must be considered.

Most practice owners calculate and review some simple metrics regularly, such as the number of new patients they see each month or the number of office visits they handle each week. Fewer practice owners calculate additional metrics consistently.

Metrics become more valuable over time. For example, if a doctor says he saw 35 new patients last month, how valuable is that information? What does it really mean? Without context or something to compare the number to, it's virtually useless. Instead, imagine this same doctor reports that he saw an average of 35 new patients a month for the past 24 months, or that he saw 35 new patients last month when his normal average is 50? Do you see how the consistent use of this metric provides context and comparison and, thus, more information?

Why Metrics Matter - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark Now that we've looked at what metrics are and why they're important, let's start reviewing nine key metrics to use in your practice.

General Metrics

New patients per month: Only count those people who have a legitimate chance of becoming a regular patient. You can define a new patient as someone who fills out their intake form, receives their first treatment, or commits to a care plan. Whichever makes the most sense for your practice should be the definition you adopt and use moving forward.

Office visits (OV): The number of completed office visits per day/week/month/year. To use this metric in an additional way, you can look at the number of office visits scheduled four weeks from today's date. Several management companies recommend that an office should have 50% of today's total office visits on the books by that date. For example, if today was April 1st and you saw 50 patients, look at the schedule for May 1st (or the next business day your office is open). According to this advice, you should already have 50 patients scheduled for that date.

Cost to see a patient: This number tells you how much it costs you to see a patient. If you're going to provide a discounted service to a patient, it's a good idea to know what your cost is so your discount doesn't go below that number. To calculate this figure, add up all your overhead expenses including rent, supplies, utilities, etc., and divide by the number of patients. (You can look at this by day, by week, by month, or by year.)

Why Metrics Matter - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark Retention Metrics

Number of office visits per patient: While this calculation is simple, it's an important practice metric which reflects how many visits for a typical new patient. Simply divide the number of total visits by the number of new patients to obtain this number. (This is usually calculated per month or per year.)

Missed appointment percentage: Sum any missed appointments for the given time period and divide by the total number of visits to calculate the percentage of missed appointments. While some missed appointments are normal, if this number gets too high, it indicates you have an issue such as scheduling, retention, or communication that needs to be addressed.

Financial Metrics

Percentage of collections: This number tells you what percentage of the services rendered you're actually collecting. In a cash practice, this should be as close to 100% as possible. In PI or insurance offices, it may be less than 100%. This number is obtained by dividing your total collections by the total services rendered, and multiplying by 100.

Average charge per visit: This calculation tells you, on average, how much you charge per patient encounter. It's determined by dividing the services rendered, by the number of visits.

Percentage of overhead: This calculation helps you to understand how much of the monies you collect each month go toward overhead. In general, it should be less than 50%. However, if you've recently purchased a piece of equipment, renovated or moved, this number can be temporarily higher. Divide your total overhead by your total collections and multiply by 100.

Accounts receivable (A/R): The A/R represents the amount of money owed to you for services already rendered. It's a running total of what you're legitimately owed after bad debt, insurance adjustments, discounts, and so forth.

Now What?

This article has reviewed nine common metrics that can be used in your practice to help identify strengths and weaknesses. Many of these numbers can be generated automatically if you use practice software and printed in reports. Once areas of concern are identified, take steps to address the underlying issues.

One final word of caution. Don't get bogged down in the numbers. Yes, they're important, and yes, it can be easy to get overwhelmed by or consumed with them. But more important than the numbers are the human beings you serve. Look at the numbers, but focus on the people in your practice. Serve them well, put their needs first, practice with integrity, and the "numbers" will follow.

Dr. Kelley Pendleton is a chiropractor, healthcare marketing consultant, professional speaker, and the author of Community Connections! Relationship Marketing for Healthcare Professionals. For more information or to download free materials, please visit


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