Do You Need a Consultant?
Dentists are an independent bunch. While many enjoy the collegiality of a local study club or the mental stimulation of seminars and meetings, dentists primarily work according to their own methods and mentality. And they mostly work alone.
You may be thinking, “Alone? I have an excellent assistant at my side who can practically read my mind. My front desk staff are on top of things. Plus I have two hygienists who work with me in the best symbiotic relationship ever. I am not alone!” But think about it. Who is responsible for all of the overhead bills, such as rent or mortgage, electricity, water, heating and air-conditioning, repairs, maintenance, insurance, taxes, supplies, licenses, computers, advertising, state compliance requirements, and payroll? Your staff can help you keep up with these expenses and responsibilities by keeping you apprised of the office status. But you alone are the person who must make sure all of these needs are actually met.
How do you determine if your practice is functioning as well as it can? The first step may be to analyze the current practice numbers as best you can. At a minimum, you must take a look at month-to-month production for both dentist and hygiene, collections, case acceptance, and new patients. You should also look into supply and payroll expenses. If the numbers don’t add up in your positive column, there is room for improvement. For help with an initial analysis, McKenzie Management offers a free Practice Assessment and a free Overhead Assessment.
The next step might be identifying one aspect of the practice that could be improved and beginning there. Let’s say it appears that you are spending too much on supplies. Steps to correct this might be assigning one person to be the “supply sergeant”. Instead of everyone in the office ordering items as they see the need, one person can keep track of all orders in and out. Put a “red tag” on the next to last item in the supply closet, with the tag being placed in the “need supplies” box by the person taking that item. The supply sergeant collects the tags and determines what needs to be ordered. This person might shop sales or take advantage of “buy more save more” deals, or sign up with a discount program based on total annual orders. This way the office does not find itself with only one box of large gloves left and the need to order replacements by expensive next day air.
Perhaps case acceptance is not what you wish. Who presents cases to patients? What is the primary barrier to patients saying yes? How might cases be approached in a more readily understandable format? Do money or insurance issues seem to be the problem? Simply knowing that case acceptance is not good does not always provide any insight into why it is poor. Scheduling a staff meeting with the first order of business being to discuss case acceptance problems could be a start. Again, identify one thing that can be done today to make improvements. For example, instead of merely explaining a patient’s condition, use their intraoral photos and x-rays to illustrate.
If it appears that money is the problem, look into possible outside patient financing such as through a local bank or with CareCredit. Assign one person to learn how the financing will work and be able to explain it easily to patients.
In the area of hygiene production, we all know that a good goal is for 30% to be perio related. If it isn’t, do you know why? As a hygienist myself, I know that if patients are receiving full mouth periodontal probing and charting at least annually, the office has a good handle on perio conditions. If perio production is low, is this because patients are already under control? Should some be receiving scaling and root planing instead of prophys? Are new patients with perio being identified? Under-treatment of perio is a common problem, but over-treatment can lead to patient distrust. If you look at online general patient reviews concerning dentistry, you will be shocked by the distrust patients express concerning this issue. Many appear to believe that they have been diagnosed with periodontal disease simply for the dentist to charge more!
These are just a few issues that can present themselves for improvement in any dental office. Although dentists may have the intellect and knowledge to correct these on their own, sometimes it makes sense to look into having a consultant come in to help. A consultant can analyze and make suggestions that may be accepted by staff more readily because they are from “outside”. The energy it takes to tackle problems can also be enhanced by a consultant. New ideas can be introduced. Helpful tips can be shown. It can be a good investment. Just be sure you know what the consultant will be providing for your office and staff, how long this person will be available to you, and what all the costs will be. All consultants are not created equal.
Your main job is to take care of patients and provide excellent dental treatment. A consultant might be the answer to help with the business side of your practice, so you can focus on what you do best.
Carol Tekavec RDH is the Director of Hygiene for McKenzie Management. Carol can improve your hygiene department in just one day of training “in your office.” Interested in knowing more about how to improve your hygiene department? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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