In recent months, inflation has affected virtually every industry, and healthcare is no exception. Ashley Koff, RD, founder of The Better Nutrition Program, offers suggestions to practitioners experiencing some of the negative effects of rising costs on their business and patients.
Cost is a major barrier to treatment adherence, and rising medical costs can discourage patients from seeking the care they need, leading to poorer health outcomes. (1) How can you approach this complicated issue as a practitioner? Keep reading to learn more about healthcare and inflation and how to navigate rising business costs and best meet the needs of your patients during this challenging time.
Did you know? As of June 2022, inflation has risen to 9.2% over the previous year. Meanwhile, wages have largely remained stagnant. (3)
Tips for practitioners
Outlined below are some practical tips to help you accommodate your patients’ needs while also tending to the needs of your business.
1. Evaluate your business expenses
You’ve likely noticed a dramatic increase in the cost of goods for your practice in recent months. Factoring in the higher costs for medical supplies, labor, and other costs is an important consideration when establishing a budget for your practice, so be sure to update your monthly budget to reflect the costs of goods that have been impacted by price increases.
Ashley Koff, RD explains, “First, it is really important to distinguish between revenue and profit, especially in a down economy. An initial step is to evaluate your expenses, and include your time as an expense item, as “the business” should be paying you for your time spent at your hourly rate. If you can maintain profits with a reduction in revenue, you are in a much better place than if your revenue increases and your profits do not.”
She goes on to say, “a key here is to adjust expenses to only have to be paid when they are connected to revenue coming in, so critically evaluate the need for those monthly or annual membership fees for education and business-building, and consider transitioning to more pay-as-you-get-paid services, especially those that help add value to your patients.”
2. Invest in existing and past patients
It’s far more cost effective to focus your time and energy into your current and past patients than it is to seek out new patients. Ashley explains, “one of the richest areas of potential revenue is existing or past patients–this is in stark contrast to how expensive it is to attract prospects and convert them to new patients (and how much of your time a new patient takes). I strongly suggest reconnecting with past patients to see where they are and how you can continue to help them optimize their health. If they have had successes in the past, are those being maintained?”
Checking in with your current patients and considering how external factors have impacted them and their health choices can also be helpful. “How have seasonality, seasons of life (and major life changes), and uncontrollable external factors impacted your patients and their health, as well as their choices? Check-ins can be easily automated and personalized with the right tools and enable you to identify revenue opportunities that are directly tied to helping someone continue to achieve better health outcomes.”
She also recommends sharing your patients’ success stories when they’re willing. According to Ashley, sharing success stories can be a “very valuable tool for marketing.”
3. Identify patients under financial stress
Financial distress can negatively affect a person’s physical and psychological well-being and may lead to delays in seeking medical care. (2)(4) How can you best serve your patients who may be experiencing financial hardship and perhaps forgoing care as a result? Ashley explains that practitioners must, “take on budgeting with our patients as opposed to just giving or posting set prices. This falls under the strategy I discuss called ‘Nimble is better.’ Noting that nearly every patient we are working with needs help managing their stress, and financial stress is one of the most significant contributors to elevated stress levels. Working together with our patients on this can yield major wins.”
Requesting information on intake forms can help identify the patients who may be experiencing financial stress and can also help you determine which patients may be more likely to fall into noncompliance. “Acknowledge financial stress by asking about it directly. This can be part of an intake form or an exercise you have them go through prior to your first or next session with them. Talking to them about financial stress will help them understand its impact and remove stigma as well as keep it from being an excuse for not seeing you or following recommendations,” says Ashley.
4. Be flexible with your patients’ treatment plans
Meet your patients halfway by providing options and being flexible with your treatment plans. Being flexible with your patient’s treatment plans can help promote treatment adherence, contributing to better patient health outcomes.
“Build patient roadmaps that are nimble and flexible, and share with them considerations for making different choices,” Ashley explains. “Think of it like when you use a GPS and it gives you different route options. Is time to heal your most important factor, or is being able to do it without incurring debt or financial stress?”
“Be clear about the value of the items you are suggesting, like lab tests and supplements, in their desired outcomes.” Ashley recommends that practitioners follow her motto “Better Not Perfect (BNP)” to help encourage shared decision making and empower patients to play an active role in their healthcare. “If someone can afford a bottle of a supplement if it lasts over 90 days instead of 60 days, consider adjusting the dosage. Or, if you can help someone see that they can spend less overall on groceries if they commit to taking a supplement or vice versa and they then see that they have choices, that will help them feel empowered.”
5. Be understanding
We’re all feeling the squeeze of inflation to some degree, so express empathy and be considerate of how your patients may be personally impacted. Ashley’s suggestion to practitioners is to, “cultivate an office environment that conveys an understanding of financial stress and be proactive about discussing it. Make sure your entire team, including anyone on the marketing side, has clear protocols on how finances can be managed. Avoid any language or actions that can feel punitive, such as charging additional fees for those that pay over time.”
6. Offer sales
Fullscript hosts semi-annual promotions for practitioners to share exclusive discounts with their patients. Utilizing Fullscript to facilitate dispensary sales and promotions can help drive sales and increase patient engagement while also cutting costs for your patients. Ashley explains, “Use the Fullscript sales that are done for you and publish a calendar for your patients. Doing so lets them know when to expect to purchase their supplements and also serves as a reminder to connect with you before a sale.”
Practitioners using Fullscript also have the option to run their own sales outside of Fullscript’s semi-annual promotions. Consider increasing your dispensary’s discount for a week or two and promote your sale in advance via email or on your website.
Learn more about the benefits of running a supplement promotion on the Fullscript blog.
The bottom line
As inflation continues to be a reality, support your business and patients by evaluating your rising expenses, being nimble, showing compassion, and offering periodic sales to your patients. With some careful planning and considerations, you can ensure the success of both your business and your patients during these trying times.
Discover more with Ashley Koff, RD, founder of The Better Nutrition Program and a 20+ year personalized nutrition expert practitioner, who discusses the four pillars of an inflation-proof plan.
- Bailey, R., English, J., Knee, C., & Keller, A. (2021). Treatment Adherence in Integrative Medicine-Part One: Review of Literature. Integrative medicine (Encinitas, Calif.), 20(3), 48–60.
- Ng, M. S. N., Chan, D. N. S., Cheng, Q., Miaskowski, C., & So, W. K. W. (2021). Association between financial hardship and symptom burden in patients receiving maintenance dialysis: A systematic review. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 18(18), 9541.
- OECD. (2022). Consumer prices. https://www.oecd.org/newsroom/consumer-prices-oecd-updated-2-june-2022.htm#:%7E:text=2%20June%202022%20%2D%20Consumer%20prices,with%205.9%25%20in%20March%202022
- Zhuang, T., Eppler, S. L., Shapiro, L. M., Roe, A. K., Yao, J., & Kamal, R. N. (2019). Financial distress is associated with delay in seeking care for hand conditions. Hand, 16(4), 511–518.