Can You Afford to be Understaffed?
Many offices are not hiring support staff in favor of the monetary savings, and are asking existing staff to work more efficiently without overtime. Worry over rising costs and declining revenue forces doctors to look at the obvious for financial relief. “I am not hiring anyone to replace my second assistant or the financial coordinator. If I can just remain stable in my numbers I will survive.”
The meaning of “stable” according to Webster is “steady, unchanging, constant, even and sure.” If it was so easy to remain “stable” few practices would be feeling the pinch of financial stress. In dentistry, being stable is a temporary state because practices are either moving upward with growth or stagnating and in decline. Decline can take some time to notice - it’s as simple as not replacing patients that have left the practice or not following up on inactive patients for months or years. Your numbers may be good if you are selling dentistry to your existing patient base, but you still need to build that core base of compliant patients by continued marketing both internally and externally.
Where are the new patients and where have the existing patients gone? Since everyone at some time will need a dentist, and that includes the edentulous, it stands to reason that they are still in your files waiting for your call or they are new to the area and looking for a dentist but cannot find you or you are not available when they call. If you have reduced staffing down to the bare essentials, what person will be available to answer the phone at lunch and make the daily required calls to the unscheduled? Who has time to update the website and work on social media and external/internal marketing? Who has time to spend educating and presenting treatment plans to the patient without interruptions? One of the hardest things to measure is what is lost to the practice by being understaffed.
Reducing overhead by eliminating staff that are not performing to standard and are non-compliant to office policies is good. But reducing staff that are performing because the overhead is too high could result in serious production decline for the following reasons:
Before downsizing staff, look to see if there are other ways to lower the overhead. If you must downsize, rewrite the job descriptions and define the areas of accountability to include added tasks. Make sure that business staff are properly trained in sterilization and OSHA standards before entering the clinical area. Cross train dental assistants and hygienists to schedule appointments from the clinical area to ease traffic at the desk and to scan documents and track lab cases. Before downsizing, call McKenzie Management at 877-777-6151 for a conversation with one of our consulting professionals to see if other practice systems are contributing to falling numbers.
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