Sometimes, it’s hard to see your dental practice as a business, rather than a service. Chances are you didn’t become a dentist for the love of money – you got into it to help people look and feel their best. That’s a great thing, but unfortunately, that attitude can make it difficult for you to organize, promote and manage your personal or group practice as effectively as possible.
Below, you’llfind some ways to make your dental practice run more smoothly. Each step functions in conjunction with the others in order to create a unified approach to customer service and business management that will have your practice working more effectively, servicing your customers more successfully and bringing in future generations of patients – all while making the day-to-day operations of your ofice much easier to manage.
Let’s get started!
Dentistry is one of those “hard-sells” about which the general public tends to have a pre-conceived negative impression. Past experience and horror stories can make getting your patients through the door difficult. Fortunately, most dental marketing does an extremely good job of combatting patient fears.
However, as Kathleen O’Donnell of Jameson Consulting notes, one thing most dentists fail to do is to effectively present the need for their services to new customers. In order to keep your practice growing, you have to continually pull in new clients. Educating the listening and viewing public about the need for regular dental services is just as important as showing them how painless those services can be.
As Doctor Sheri Doniger notes, inventory management is an essential skill for dentists. Proper ordering ensures that you always have the right products on hand to treat your patients, but it also ensures that you aren’t sitting on piles of extra products – essentially, “wasted” money.
To minimize this risk, create an inventory system that works for your office and make that system as lawless as possible. Keep all of your ofice supplies in one location and all of your extra medical supplies in another. Additionally, keep in mind that assigning one person ordering duty minimizes the risk of accidental over-ordering.
Ideally, exams/surgeries should contain minimal cabinetry, allow easy traffic low and house everything you need within an arm’s reach. Consider using a tray/tub or cassette system or mobile units to ensure that you have all the tools you need on hand for any individual procedure.
Jane Pack, CEO of the National Association ofWomen Business Owners, notes that many dental practices view billing as their only opportunity to influence their cash low. This just isn’t true. Dentists should always be looking for ways to increase their effective inlow (through new patients, more efficient equipment, better software and technology) and minimize their outlow (by purchasing more affordable supplies, adopting better inventory control practices, paying attention to marketing metrics and so on).
Billing is a time-consuming headache for most dental practices. While it should be handled by a dedicated staff member or members, new software solutions can further streamline the process. By paring down the mechanics of billing to a few clicks of the mouse, you’ll cut lost billing time by at least half and increase the effectiveness of your ofice staff exponentially.
Of course, your dental practice isn’t just successful because of the number of patients it’s able to attract. Your ability to hire and retain effective staff members plays just as big a role in creating the type of office that patients want to come back to again and again!
One way to keep your team members happy is by adopting a free scheduling software solution that takes the pain out of managing your worker schedules. Obviously, we’re partial to When I Work because of their scheduling software, but any program like this minimizes your scheduling headaches and improves ofice morale by giving employees easy access to all their scheduling information.
The American Dental Association regularly reports that one of the main reasons people fail to seek dental treatment is money. Dentistry is expensive, and necessarily so. Unfortunately, many people who need work done either don’t have dental insurance or ind that their insurance is lacking. Don’t lose income due to financial barriers. Educate your clients about the financial options available to them. Have a concrete financial policy in place from day one and stick to it. Make it rigid but fair – and always easily understandable. Designate a specific person in your ofice to handle all of your financing options so that nobody gets their wires crossed.
Good dentistry is good customer service. As an example, take McKinney Dentist – a group practice run by Doctors Marvin Berlin, Jeffrey Lynch, Matthew Markham and Britt Bostick. Their practice offers hours between 7:00am and 5:00pm six days a week to accommodate their patients’ needs. By emulating their example, you’ll make it easier for your patients to work around their schedules.
If you can’t offer extended hours, consider changing them. Offer open hours after “quitting time” or switch your days off from the weekend to mid-week.
In order to offer everything your patients want or need, you may have to expand your team. This may mean partnering with other dentists, surgeons and denturists that have complementary skills (but not necessarily combining your practices). For instance, consider small town dentist Dr. Robert Erickson, who moved his practice next door to the offices of The NewEngland Denture Center in order to provide his patients with a one-stop solution for extraction and denture implantation.
Fit in as Many Patients as Possible
Dr. Berlin and his associates examine their schedules on a daily basis to account for cancelations, no-shows and last-minute emergencies. They view these openings as “opportunity time” to sneak in additional patients who are either walk-ins or are on a call list in order to maximize the number of services they provide per day. Every patient counts, both from a financial and a customer service standpoint.
Look to the Future
You simply can’t afford to stick your head in the sand and rely on “business as usual” in order to keep your dentistry practice financially viable. Every industry grows and changes over time, so be sure that you’re regularly reevaluating the choices you’ve made in light of market demand.
Many outsiders view the dental industry as stagnant and unchanged for decades. Images of old men in white coats drilling angrily away with outdated equipment still instill fear in potential patients. Of course, you know that this isn’t true. The dental industry has progressed so far from that outdated stereotype that it’s laughable. But even your modern practice may beholding on to some old-time ideas and practices that are keeping it from functioning like the well-oiled machine it could be.
Many dental practices across the country have already instituted one or more of the tactics above to great success. However, there’s always room for improvement. By taking strategies from other more business-oriented industries, dental practices can maximize their effectiveness, build their customer bases, and be prepared for industry-wide changes. All it takes is a little re-imagining and some innovative thinking.
In every sports category, the "huddle" is the key to winning and great performance. It sets the team on the right path, assists in overcoming obstacles, and is integral in determining the next move. The huddle is similar in dentistry and helps set the tone to deliver high quality care. The huddle is one of the most important events in a dental ofice. A good huddle reviews the previous day and current schedule, identifies potential hiccups, and determines courses of action for the unexpected. On any given day, many surprises can happen in a practice, which can create frustration and stress.
This article outlines key elements for the a.m. huddle that will lead to efficiency and performance in a dental office. The doctor must be present for the entire huddle.The doctor is the leader in the practice and thus can set the tone for the entire day. Positive attitude and a can do work ethic are essential to a successful huddle. Body language can also play a key role. Everyone must participate and issues must be resolved before the day can begin. The a.m. huddle should not take any longer than 10 minutes. Each team member should review his or her responsibilities for the a.m. huddle prior to the meeting. If the practice day starts at 8 a.m., the huddle should start about 7:45. It should end at least five minutes before the first patient appointment.
This can be something as simple as "rate your day on a scale of 1 to10, with 1 meaning "I quit!" and 10 meaning "I can't believe I get to work here and you pay me to do this job!" Another way to address the previous day is to ask"What went right?" and "What could we have done better?" Each team member should respond for no longer than 10 seconds. If it takes any longer, team members can write in their action plans for discussion at a future team meeting.
a) Administrative i. What are the changes for today's schedule?ii. What new patients are on the schedule and what are the details about these patients?iii. Is there any pertinent and/or personal information regarding any patients on today's.
i. What are the changes for today's schedule?
ii. What new patients are on the schedule and what are the details about these patients?
iii. Is there any pertinent and/or personal information regarding any patients on today's schedule? (Examples: upcoming marriages, birthdays, illnesses, celebrations, etc.)
iv. When is our next available production block? (This helps identify patients on the schedule who need dentistry when unexpected changes happen in the schedule.)
b. Clinical – assisting
i. Where on the schedule do we want to put emergencies?
ii. Have all lab cases for today been checked in?iii. Are there any problem areas anticipated on today's schedule?
iv. Are any patients overdue for hygiene?v. Are any photos needed on any patients?
i. Any patients on today's schedule with undone dentistry?
ii. Any other family members due for hygiene?
iii. Any patients diagnosed with perio SRP not scheduled?
a. Referrals asked for
b. Missed opportunities
c. Reviews received on website
d. Referral sources on today's schedule
a. Where are we for the month? The formula is --Production for month + Amount scheduled for rest of month = Total anticipated for month compared to goal. What percent are we at for the month? Hint --If you start your month with more than 50% already scheduled on the books, you are on track to make goal.
b. Any collection concerns for today's patients?
c. Financial arrangements that need to be finalized for today
The doctor should give the leadership statement at the end of huddle except for one day during the week when a team member gives the leadership statement. This team member would also facilitate the huddle each day during the week. This would be rotated once a week among the team.