Are You Settling for Merely Average?
You can pay your bills. You aren’t struggling to get by. But you sense that your financial situation should be better. You believe that more patients should be coming through the doors. You are convinced that production, while adequate, is nowhere near what you are diagnosing. Sure, everything is “fine” - but if there were more patients and more were pursuing treatment, profits would be soaring. Your practice could certainly be far better than average; it could be great. So why isn’t it?
A multitude of factors could come in to play here, but I recommend you start with your schedule. When was the last time you inventoried no-shows and cancellations? Practice revenues pour out through the holes in the schedule, virtually eliminating financial growth. But that’s not the only thing rendering those treatment rooms idle. There are likely not enough new patients per month, and quite possibly diagnostic procedures are weak. There may well be a lack of established production goals or unclear scheduling objectives. It’s likely that there are no protocols for getting overdue patients back in the practice, and treatment financing options may be ineffective.
Consider the situation that Drs. “Tom and Carole” faced. This husband and wife team practicing in the southeast was successful by many standards, but the pair kept falling short of key financial objectives. The practice had a lot going for it in terms of long-term staff, good location, etc., but achieving the level of success that the couple believed was possible would require digging into the details.
First, although the office did consistently block time in the schedule for new patients, it was an arbitrary figure that wasn’t based on actual new patient numbers. What’s more, during practice marketing campaigns, the number of new patient appointments available was not increased. Plenty of new patients were calling, but they couldn’t be seen for several weeks. Thus, the other practices in the neighborhood benefitted as much or more from the doctors’ advertising efforts.
Wedging a further divide between prospective patients and the practice were the new patient protocols – or lack thereof. One of the first questions new patients were asked upon calling for an appointment was “Do you have insurance?” followed up with a firm, “Payment is requested at the time of service.” Although it was unintentional, staff often came across as negative to callers, and the insurance and payment points served only to solidify that impression.
As for Dr. Tom and Dr. Carole, they were excellent clinicians. Both took an evidenced-based approach to dentistry and subscribed to the belief that patients should receive their complete treatment recommendations at the very first visit. To more than a few patients, however, this was an overwhelming and intimidating approach. Consider the scenario from the new patients' standpoint. They meet the doctor for the first time and have not established a relationship with the practice. While the doctor may be friendly enough, no rapport has been established with the doctor or the team. Then the doctor tells the patients that based on today’s exam they have a litany of oral health issues that warrant attention. Not surprisingly, the patients were looking for the quickest way out, and it’s clear that a fair number didn’t return.
Dr. Tom and Dr. Carole needed to curb their diagnostic enthusiasm and focus on what the patients’ immediate needs and wants were. They needed to focus first on establishing the practice/patient relationship and creating a rock solid new patient experience that left patients saying “Wow!” rather than “Not now.”
Next, the pair turned their attention to patients with whom the practice had a longstanding relationship, specifically those listed in the unscheduled treatment plan report. This details the treatment that has been diagnosed but not delivered. Although the doctors had discussed the importance of following up with these patients, the business staff were uncomfortable. They felt like they were “selling” dentistry. They needed training and scripts to guide them in making follow-up phone calls. Handled correctly, these calls enable the practice to provide a valuable service and most patients appreciate that the doctor is genuinely concerned about their oral health. From there, the doctor and team could develop daily production goals.
Creating a high performing practice involves careful and continuous monitoring and measuring of key practice systems, and if your gut tells you that your practice isn’t achieving what it could or should be, listen up. I can virtually guarantee that the numbers will confirm your suspicions.
If you would like a thorough look at your numbers, go to this link on your Internet browser and receive a complimentary Optimization Report: http://www.mckenziemgmt.com/optimize_practice_potential.php
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