The Alarms Bells Are Ringing, But You Can’t Hear A Thing
“Dr. Tami’s” favorite patient is the one sitting in the chair. Spoken like a true politician, but she’s sincere. Her practice has come a long way in terms of its patient numbers, but a little over a year ago it was a different story. It goes without saying that patients are the lifeblood of a growing practice, and this practice was anemic - but Dr. Tami was blissfully unaware.
Her crowded schedule belied the reality; patient numbers were falling off. She sort of had a feeling that something was off, but she was pretty busy. So what did she have to worry about? Plenty. On any given day, there would be at least two no-shows or cancellations in her schedule and likely one or more in the hygiene schedule. But she dismissed it as a temporary situation and figured it would resolve in time.
Shortly thereafter she was chatting with friends at a dinner party when one of them joked about how lucky she must be not to need new patients. Dr. Tami was puzzled. She learned that her friend had tried to schedule a new patient appointment with the hygienist, but was told that the schedule was full for several months. Her friend apologized that he just couldn’t wait months for an appointment. Dr. Tami was disappointed and embarrassed. She couldn’t help but think about the no-shows and cancellations, yet new patients couldn’t get in?
Something was off here. Something didn’t add up. The signals were present, but there weren’t any blaring alarms - until they were deafening. Dr. Tami got the ultimate wake-up call. She was forced to cut her own pay. The practice was losing money. How could she be losing money if the schedule was full and she had hundreds of patient records in her system? Yet again, the illusion of busy was the shrieking alarm of inefficiency. The “hundreds of records” are merely that - data on a computer system. The records don’t pay the bills. And that was just the beginning.
It was a classic case of practice erosion. Little breakdowns in system infrastructure here or there, inefficiencies virtually everywhere, and very quickly the practice is sliding off the financial cliff. Before she realized it, Dr. Tami’s management systems - if you can call them that - had sustained a series of damaging blows.
What happened? She didn’t care for the business of dentistry. Her passion, like so many of her counterparts, is the art and science of the profession. She wanted to help patients. Consequently, she didn’t pay much attention to “the numbers” until she was forced to.
Dr. Tami was at a crossroads. Her attitude toward the business side of her practice spelled disaster unless she took action. If she wanted to remain in practice for herself, she had a couple of choices:
Dr. Tami chose to become CEO of her practice. It didn’t happen overnight, and she didn’t do it alone. She had to embrace what she believed she didn’t care for - the “business” of dentistry. She came to understand profit and loss, marketing, human resources, hiring and firing. She learned how to efficiently monitor the 22 business systems that directly affected her profitability.
Most importantly, she realized that running a profitable business and serving her patients as a caring dentist weren’t mutually exclusive. She now had the financial means to improve patient care. She could afford more than the required continuing education units. She could offer more advanced patient services. She could train her team to provide the very best customer service. All of which made her a more effective practitioner and a highly successful business owner.
She recognized that each patient, new and existing, brought opportunities that went well beyond the treatment chair. They enabled the practice to consider how well the marketing and patient education efforts are working, measure the efficiency of the scheduling system, and consistently fine-tune patient protocols, treatment presentation procedures, and financing options - systems that she once disregarded as being distractions to her “real work.”
Practice systems don’t break down overnight. It is a gradual process that can be caught before significant damage occurs, if you pay attention. Sign up today for the Dentist CEO Business Training and take the first step in getting your practice back on track.
Next week, can you count on your staff to uphold your systems?
For more information on this topic, visit my blog: The Lighter Side
Interested in speaking to me about your practice concerns? Email firstname.lastname@example.org
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