How Many Patients Do I Need to See?

March 1, 2009

I am about to open up a solo practice. I have no business background. I have been working on the business plan, and I’m attempting to make a financial forecast. How do I determine how many patients I need to see to pay the bills? I’m lost - excited, but lost.

Question: I am about to open up a solo practice. I have no business background. I have been working on the business plan, and I’m attempting to make a financial forecast. How do I determine how many patients I need to see to pay the bills? I’m lost - excited, but lost.

Answer: Sounds like you’ve done some good background research and now just need to get down to specifics. You (and your banker, assuming you’ll be seeking financing) will want the best possible sense of how much you’ll make per patient, which you’ll then need to balance against your actual rent/other overhead figures to determine how many patients you need to see.

Plenty of people do use RVUs as a starting point, but you may be better off getting a list of allowables for your top 20 (anticipated) codes from the major payers in your market. Obviously, you’ll want to first decide which, if any, insurances you’ll accept, and try to determine (based on your research of the market and/or past experience) which of those payers will be covering the biggest proportions of your patient population.

Expect that you’ll see fewer patients to start, but will eventually build to, say, 3,000 to 4,000 patients (assuming a traditional managed care practice). But don’t get overly bogged down in that total figure. Although there’s plenty of data out there on how many times each patient visits per year based on age, I think you’re better off targeting patients per day rather than total patient base.

Also, will you have any additional revenue streams? Rental income from other physicians, additional patient visits from an NP or PA, cosmetic or other cash services all count.

Editor’s Note: This answer was provided by Laurie Hyland Robertson.