8.27.10 Issue #442 Forward This Newsletter To A Colleague

Feel Like Pulling the Escape Slide on Your Practice?
by Sally McKenzie CEO
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When JetBlue flight attendant Steven Slater grabbed his bag, his beer, and slid down the escape slide in a defiant display of “take this job and …” many cheered. In an industry where employees are literally shoulder-to-shoulder and face-to-face with tired, frustrated, and downright rude passengers day-in-and-day-out, you can understand how someone might just say “Enough!”

But it isn’t just those in the airline industry who identify with Slater’s frustration. I believe it’s safe to say that all of us have had at least one, and probably multiple occasions where we simply wanted to walk away from the frustration and never look back. In the dental practice, no doubt, there are patients you would happily send out the emergency shoot - if only you had thought to build that into your office design. And there are days when you just might think that Mr. Slater’s way of dealing with the heat of the moment wasn’t so bad – finding the quickest, shortest route to the nearest exit.

Certainly, we all have bad days, bad weeks, even bad years. The stress of work and family can pile up to the point where you feel your only option is to release the emergency shoot and jump. I’d like to suggest a different approach, one that will keep your practice intact and your dental license in good standing.

First, ask yourself two fundamental questions: Does your practice give you the financial resources and time to enjoy your work, your life, and your family? Second, and perhaps the most important question: If you could do it all again, would you choose this same career path? If you answered “no” to either or both of the questions above, it’s time for change.

Consider what you want. If it is a more successful practice that will provide you with the resources to achieve greater enjoyment from both your work and your personal life, I can assure you that you have the power to make that happen. If you are questioning your career choice, I would venture to guess that it is because you pursued dentistry to be the dentist in your practice, not the VP of Human Resources, not the collections police, not the office counselor, not the rule maker, and so on.

We consistently find that dentists who are the least satisfied professionally and personally have the weakest practice systems. They resign themselves to unhappiness and dissatisfaction because they either don’t realize that they have choices or, in some cases, are afraid to make different choices. Let’s look at the areas that tend to be the chief misery makers for most dentists and what you can do to address them.

  1. Employee Headaches - Many dentists would love going to work if it weren’t for the staff.
  2. Scheduling / Production Inconsistencies - You are crazy busy one day and pacing the halls the next.
  3. Collections Concerns - Sometimes patients pay, sometimes they don’t.

Those three areas affect multiple systems and can be the source of seemingly endless frustrations and perpetual dissatisfaction. Consider number three: collections concerns. This is an issue that is resurfacing for many practices that had seen highly successful collections rates, but once again are experiencing increasing accounts receivables. Why? With the economic worries facing many, some dentists are afraid that patients will respond negatively to strict payment policies. Consequently, they, along with their business teams, are making assumptions about patient finances and bending or disregarding policies. Certainly flexibility and options are important, but you don’t want a return to the problems dental practices had 20 years ago with accounts receivables well over one month’s production.

Revisit your financial policy and ensure that everyone on your team who is discussing payment policies with patients understands clearly how patient financial arrangements will be handled. Yes, be sensitive to the economics of your area; provide reasonable financial options that do not compromise the fiscal stability of your business. If you haven’t already, establish a relationship with a patient financing company, such as CareCredit. Consider allowing patients to build a credit balance on their accounts before major work is started or allowing them to make three large payments. Another option is to offer a 5% reduction on the cost of treatment for patients who pay in full.

Next week, rid your practice of the top two “Misery Makers.”

Interested in speaking to Sally about your practice concerns? Email her at sallymck@mckenziemgmt.com. Interested in having Sally speak to your dental society or study club? Click here.

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