Better Systems Mean a Better Practice
During the last 2 years, most dental practices have suffered declines in new patients, production, and profitability. According to a recent survey conducted by Levin Group, median annual gross production in 2009 declined by 3.5% compared to 2008, with dentist compensation dropping 7.8%. In addition, 25% of responding dentists said they were experiencing high or extremely high stress.
Better Systems Mean a Better Practice
As the economy rebounds, practices with updated systems will be well-positioned to increase production and experience robust growth in a low-stress environment.
Practices that are able to implement effective systems will gain the following:
? Improved production, profit, and efficiency
? Higher levels of patient care and satisfaction
? Lower stress and a more enjoyable work environment
? Time for the dentist to focus on leadership and team-building without distracting from patient care
? A more motivated team ? The ability to train new team members more quickly
? The capability of adapting to change faster.
Achieving Your Production Potential
Growth is directly proportional to the effectiveness of a practice?s systems. The more effective the systems, the greater potential for immediate and long-term growth, in terms of new patients, production, and profitability. To achieve maximum growth during the recovery, practices should start by updating or replacing their scheduling, case presentation, and customer service systems.
The schedule serves as the management foundation for the practice. Reorganizing the schedule is a simple way to boost profitability by as much as 30%. It is almost impossible to redesign other systems without first addressing the schedule. The following steps are necessary to build an effective scheduling system:
? Create a Scheduling Template. Each day should have a similar structure. Mornings should be reserved for larger, high-production cases. By completing a significant portion of the daily production in the morning, the practice will be more than halfway to its daily goal by noon.
? Establish Daily Production Based on the Annual Goal. Divide the total annual production goal by the number of days the practice will be available to treat patients. This determines the daily goal for each practice. For example, if the annual production goal is $1 million and the practice is open 200 days a year, then the daily goal is $5,000.
? Use 10-Minute Units. Many practices are still using 15-minute units for their schedules. Inaccurate scheduling can cost a practice 12 to 15 days of lost treatment time every year. By shifting to 10-minute increments, practices can schedule patients more accurately. For example, in schedules that use 15-minute units, a 20-minute appointment must either be under scheduled or over-scheduled.
? Reserve Time For New Patients or Emergencies. New patients are the key to increasing production. By reserving specific blocks in the schedule, practices can accommodate new patients quickly and efficiently.
Practices should present every patient with a comprehensive treatment plan that includes both need-based and esthetic services. A variety of patient education tools are available that can help with case presentation, including CAESY Ed - ucation Systems, Guru from Dentrix, and Easy Dental Patient Education.
The following steps should be incorporated into the practice?s case presentation system:
? Educate Patients. The dentist and the team should educate patients about all their services. Script these conversations to ensure consistency.
? Promote Benefits. Don?t overemphasize the clinical details of recommended treatment. Patients want to know how they will ultimately benefit, and it is up to the dental team to highlight all those benefits.
? Use Internal Marketing. Have supporting educational materials, such as brochures, available to reinforce services discussed during the appointment.
? Follow-up. Many cases are lost because practices leave it to patients to follow-up on their next appointment. Have a front desk staff member schedule the next appointment before patients leave. Many products are available, such as Dental Sesame, Televox, and Smile Reminder, that automate patient communication.
? Offer Options. To help make dental procedures more affordable, practices should offer a variety of financial options, including: 5% discount for payment in full, half up front and half before treatment is completed, and outside financing, such as CareCredit, Citi Health Card, and GE Dental Financing.
Customer service is the driving force behind the success of any business, and it does not happen by accident. A dental practice cannot provide the best customer service by relying on the personalities of the dental team. Team members will have days when they are not at their best. Without having the proper customer service systems in place, there is no way to rectify and avoid the consequences of these situations.
The following steps can help take customer service to the next level:
? Design scripts for every patient interaction.
? Call patients by their names.
? Consider putting in a beverage area in the reception room.
? Learn one new thing about patients during every visit.
? Begin each patient conversation with something personal as opposed to jumping in with clinical conversation.
? Call patients in the evening to see how they are feeling after a procedure.
? Thank patients who refer family and friends with a handwritten note or a phone call.
? Maintain a clean and attractive office, especially in high-traffic areas.
Minimized Waste = Maximized Production
The best systems allow practices to achieve their production potential. Even during the recent downturn, some practices were still able to keep growing. Why? Because they had strong systems in place that minimized waste while maximizing production opportunities. With the economy poised for recovery, think how much more you can achieve with strong systems in place.
Roger P. Levin, DDS, founded Levin Group, Inc, in 1985. Levin Group is the leading dental consulting firm in the profession, providing innovative lifetime services to dentists and dental practices. The group is dedicated to creating Total Practice Success for all of their clients. For more information about Levin Group, 800-420-8990 ext. 41294, http://link. argifocus.com/14u-294, READER SERVICE 294.