Dentistry is a very complex business. It is no longer sufficient to be an excellent practitioner. Sound business and management skills are also required to maximize the potential of a practice. During my twenty five years of working with dentists throughout the world, I have discovered four essential keys to unlocking the potential in their practices. They are:
Perfect Day efficient scheduling Optimal treatment acceptance Successful patient financial options Effective staff meetings.
Perfect Day Scheduling
Many dentists experience stress due to the “production roller coaster”. It can be extremely stressful to produce $2,500 one day and $900 the next. Ironically, the $900 day may be filled with more patients (small fillings, crown seats, exams, etc) than the $2,500 day. By creating variety in the day, the stress can be eliminated and the production increased. If the daily production can be increased by only $300, a $5,000 increase in the monthly production will follow. One less cancellation or two additional restorations in the schedule will take the practice off the roller coaster and put it on it’s way to increased income.
In order for the practice to be successful at eliminating the variance in the daily production, it is essential to keep the schedule filled. Practices continuously struggle with this when the scheduling coordinator is filling the next day’s schedule with anything she can find. In this situation, the first step toward implementing effective scheduling would be to perform a chart audit and implement a patient activation system. Effective verbal skills are critical in implementing a patient activation system as some patients will perceive the call as a “sales call”. If the scheduling coordinator simply changes her verbal skill from, “…are you ready to schedule your crown…” to “Hello Mary. This is Susan calling from Dr. Johnson’s office, your dentist. Dr. Johnson asked that I call you. He remembered that it has been over a year since we’ve seen you. While reviewing your chart, the doctor noticed that there was a tooth on the lower right side in need of attention. He asked me to call you to see how you’re doing”. The patient will perceive the call as warm and caring instead of immediately thinking about the money.
Optimal Treatment Acceptance
When a patient is in need of treatment, it is important that they are given the opportunity to see and hear about the best dentistry available. Give them a chance to say “Yes, to the best”! If a practice has a variety of payment options that will allow the practitioner to perform the work without putting himself at financial risk, it is unnecessary to “diagnose the patient’s pocketbook” when presenting treatment. For a patient to accept the treatment, it is helpful if not only the dentist discusses the treatment, but the assistant and/or hygienist co-diagnoses the treatment as well. When staff members utilizes these enrollment verbal skills to discuss the possibility of a potential crown and the dentist reaches the same conclusion with the patient, it will show increased credibility and thus higher case acceptance.
“Wow, Mrs. Patient, that is a pretty large filling there. I know the last time I saw a tooth that looked like that, Dr. Jones had recommended a crown. You know, if that was my tooth and I had that large of a filling in it, I would sincerely want to talk with him about possibly placing a crown on that tooth.”
Successful Financial Options
Creating convenient financial options for the patient is another essential key to unlocking the potential in your practice. Since the practice overhead is based on what the practice produces, a successful practice must maintain a healthy production-to-collection ratio. To evaluate this ratio, it is necessary to use a three-month average in order to achieve an accurate number. The three-month production to collection average should be at least 98%. To accomplish this, it is necessary for the practice to be easy to buy from, without being at risk, by offering convenient financial options for their patients.
A very popular option is the 5% bookkeeping courtesy for the patient who pre-pays their portion in full prior to receiving treatment. This is not a discount, but a technique that will prevent the financial flu. Many practices suffer from this virus. Typically, a patient is told to come to their appointment with 50% of the crown fee or approximately $400. When it comes time for the appointment and the patient is unable to furnish the money, they will call to cancel giving every reason except the real one. If a patient has pre-paid for their treatment, they will provide their dentist with plenty of notice should a reschedule be necessary. Other payment options would include accepting major credit cards, and 3, 6 and 12 months interest-free loans offered through a non-recourse company.
Effective Staff Meetings
Effective staff meetings are the glue that keeps the team and the practice together. A daily morning meeting or “huddle” is required to successfully increase production. During a football game, the quarterback is calling the plays and coordinating strategy. The scheduling coordinator is the quarterback of the practice and should direct the daily huddles. During the huddle, the results of the previous day’s production, the current day’s scheduled production for both doctor and hygiene, and identifying emergency time are the key discussion points. Charts should be brought to the huddle so that the team can review the treatment scheduled, along with identifying any additional treatment and/or x-rays needed. The daily huddle will provide the entire team with the direction and the focus for a productive day.
I recently consulted at a private practice where the staff committed to daily huddles. In less then 30 days, the monthly production was up from 49K to 60K. Although the average practice will normally see a 5-8K increase in monthly production (60-90K annually!), it is not unusual to see exceptional results such as this. By focusing on implementing a “perfect day” schedule and enhancing their morning huddle, I was able to assist this practice in unlocking it’s potential and bringing it to a new level of success.
By posing your practice for success you will have the ability to reduce your stress and increase production, as well as to re-discover the joy in practicing dentistry.
JoAnne Tanner, MBA, has worked closely with hundreds of private dental practices in posing their practice for success. To find out more about how her team can help you achieve the practice you’ve always wanted or schedule an obligation free consultation, contact us via email or call us at: (916) 791-2720.