Word of mouth spreads the fastest. If a family practice doctor is good enough, people will wait sometimes for hours to see him. However, as word spreads about a doctor so do his patients. If he doe not have such a great bedside manner then he will likely lose patients but if he does he will likely gain patients which to an extent are a good thing but can also overwhelm the doctor, his staff and his patients.
Family practice doctors have a reputation for wanting to help everyone. Those who call in for a same day appointment are served just as someone who scheduled their appointment a month ago. Sometimes it is impossible to move them to another day or to switch them to a new provider. However, family practice doctors do need to recognize that they can only take on so many patients effectively.
If a family practice doctor is going to consider the numbers of patients that he can effectively manage then he will need to discuss with his patients what it is that they expect from him or her and what makes them happy and satisfied. The family practice doctor also needs to confirm his workload and see what hours he can put forth that works best for him and his family. Estimate in hours of surgery and hospital visits and so forth. Factor in the time allowance and see how time is humanly possible to complete the schedule.
The average doctor/patient visit is or should be about 10-15 minutes. Some doctors or nurses have the habit of scheduling 3 or more patients for the same time block which simply will not work. Based on a 10-15 minute time interval, it does not take a rocket scientist to figure out that the doctor should schedule four appointments per hour but might be able to get in five. Anymore than that and he could easily get behind schedule.
If a doctor with a family practice finds that he has taken on more than he can manage effectively then he will be left with no choice but to cut down on his list of patients. Annually, patients move away, pass away, and change insurance providers which naturally can cut the patient list. Doctors can also close their acceptance of new patients for a while. Another possibility is to remove patients who miss many scheduled appointments and do not see the doctor regularly.
The absolute number of patients that a doctor should have is the largest amount that he or she can care for effectively. That number can vary with time and there is no way to put an exact count to it. If everyone involved is happy then the doctor has probably the right amount of patients. However, if he finds that patients are waiting too long, he is cutting their visits short or running back in forth between rooms, and then the number may have to be readjusted. He does not want to few or too many but with a quality staff and dedicated persistence it is likely that the doctor will find his happy medium.