Trust = Treatment Acceptance
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Dr. Bob Morley—Case Study #142
“I have been a dentist for over 20 years. My children are getting older and I want to spend more time with them. However, I am not ready to retire and I still need income. How can I have both?” —Dr. Bob Morley
|Initial Monthly Analysis||6 Months after McKenzie Mgmt.|
|New D0150 Pts.||18||22|
|Active Patients in Recall||1,250||1,941|
|TOTAL after 6 Mos.||$336,000||$397,500|
|% of Increase||18%|
To summarize the information above, Dr. Morley experienced an increase in practice production of 18% (or $61,500) and he worked 25% less! How did he do it?
The following systems were put in place:
Dr. Morley was experiencing around 18 new comprehensive patients per month. The key word here is “comprehensive” patients. These are the patients that are seen by the dentist for a comprehensive exam, visit the hygienist and are placed into the recall system. These patients are considered “active” patients. New emergency patients do not contribute to the growth of the practice until they have a comprehensive examination and are treated by the hygienist. The goal is to increase hygiene days!
Handwritten “thank you” notes were sent by the doctor to the new patient. He also called the evening prior to the appointment to “welcome” the patient to the practice. Getting this kind of attention before coming into the office made a great impression on the new patients.
As soon as new patients were seen by Dr. Morley, “thank you” gift cards were mailed to referring patients to encourage them to continue to refer more patients.
The hygienist calls the new patient the evening of the new patient’s visit to follow up on any questions they might have about their first visit and to learn if there was anything they could have done to make their visit more pleasant. Building trust comes from all members of the team.
The purpose of all these “warm and fuzzy” activities is to create a reason for this new patient to talk about the practice with their friends. Remember that patients have a choice…many choices…of where to seek their dental treatment and you want them to choose you.
It doesn’t matter if you are seeing 100 new patients per month if you are losing 120 “out the back door.” You won’t know unless you track it. If you happen to be one of those dentists that still have 4 days of hygiene a week and you have been working 10 years or more, you are losing patients out the back door.
Tracking retention: Compare the number of patients expected at the first of the month that are on your recall list to the actual number of patients that are seen in hygiene. If you have anything under 90% and are averaging 20 new patients a month, your practice is not growing! That is why you only need 4 days of hygiene.
Increase the number of hygiene days.
With improved retention and proper hygiene scheduling, Dr. Morley was able to add an additional 2 days of hygiene per month. This does not seem like a lot but if the hygienist is averaging a minimum of $125 per patient, 9 appointments = $1,125 per day.
Yes…9 appointments per day. This may seem unusual because the Scheduling Coordinator thinks that the hygienist should see 8 patients per day…1 hour each. This is NOT correct. The hygiene patients should be scheduled according to the time that is needed for each patient. Some patients need 1 hour and some patients only need 30–40 minutes. The patients that need 30–40 minutes are generally children under the age of 14 and patients with few natural teeth and removable prosthetics.
Efficient Doctor Scheduling
By utilizing Dr. Morley’s assistants more effectively and keeping within the guidelines of his state, the patients were scheduled in 2 columns, staggering patients 10 minutes at the beginning and end of the allotted chair time. The crown and bridge appointments overlapped to allow the chairside assistant to fabricate the temporaries while the doctor started the next patient in another treatment room.
A time and motion study was conducted to have a better understanding of how much “chair time” is needed for the more common procedures. This information is noted on the Route Slip and given to the Scheduling Coordinator for each appointment so that scheduled appointments were based on an accurate assessment of the time necessary to do the procedure.
Dr. Morley was able to see as many patients in 3 days as he was in 4 days and customer service was improved because patients did not have to wait as long to be treated.
It is important to remember that when changes are made in the practice be sure that there is a system to track the results. Statistical reporting is vital to the practice so that you know where you are, where you are going and when you get there!
If you are ready to work less and earn more, contact McKenzie Management to invite a professional consultant to assist you in achieving your goals.
“We’re health care providers, not salesmen/saleswomen. Dentists shouldn’t have to ‘push’ patients into accepting treatment.” —J.B. Jones, DDS (not real name)
Dentists are in a quandary when it comes to improving treatment acceptance. The clinical diagnosis and recommended treatment explanation appear to be accepted by the patient. The evidence was the nod and the “I see what you are saying,” but it resulted in the acceptance of the minimum treatment—the replacement of two cracked fillings on the left side. Forget that the patient is missing three molars (key chewing teeth) on the right side of his/her mouth, is losing supporting bone in those areas and is overcompensating by chewing on the left side instead—he/she doesn’t seem to think that it is important enough to do something about now.
Picture this same patient shopping for a new car. The car he/she has is still drivable but major repairs costing possibly thousands of dollars are looming in the near future. He/she hasn’t had a car payment in five years and the freedom from that financial responsibility has made it possible to buy other items, such as a new HD TV. Time is almost up for the car and for the teeth.
As healthcare providers, dentists are competing for the same discretionary consumer dollars as car dealerships. The difference is the “value” of an automobile is easier to judge than is the value of dental services. Dental providers’ advertising budgets pale in comparison to the advertising budgets of Ford, General Motors, etc. As small business owners, most dentists have to be frugal with their advertising and marketing expenses and careful with how it is targeted to get the best return. The Community Overview Report offered by McKenzie Management is a must-have before embarking on a marketing plan for any dental practice. Today’s patients look at price, quality and value and question if they are receiving their dollar’s worth from the dental office just as they would question the salesman at a car dealership.
Measuring dentistry for those buying factors is not only challenging for the patient, but also for the dental team. How does the dental practice communicate value to the patient and win by having the patient accept the treatment truly needed to improve overall health?
It is important to understand that promoting dental benefits is not “pushing” a patient to purchase services. Even a patient who is a sophisticated consumer is frustrated when trying to evaluate clinical expertise and skills that he/she knows little about. One of the most effective ways to communicate the value of the practice and the services of the practice is through a professionally trained Treatment Coordinator. There is a higher perception of value, a clearer understanding of the recommended treatment and both new and recall patients are educated when they experience a skilled, professionally trained Treatment Coordinator. This individual can help educate the patient as to the benefits of the practice, the clinical skills of the dental providers and the quality of the treatment delivered in the practice. The Treatment Coordinator is also seen as a “patient advocate” or an ally that the patient can contact with questions and concerns about treatment.
A patient who had just completed a three-phase treatment plan was asked about her experience and this is her response:
“Before working with Dr. Smith’s Treatment Coordinator, Alice, I always felt as though Dr. Smith was speaking to me in Greek. I couldn’t come to a decision about the treatment because I had questions that I was afraid to ask him. I know he is a busy doctor and I just felt that it could wait ’til another time. Now, Alice explains the treatment in language I can relate to; I feel more confident in my decisions and feel I am doing the right thing for myself.”
A knowledgeable Treatment Coordinator has strong interpersonal skills and in-depth knowledge of the practice, its providers and services. She/he is very instrumental in creating an environment that fosters trust and caring. As healthcare providers, we should understand what it takes to get our patients over the hills of fear and procrastination. Your patients should see the dentist and the team as experts in dentistry on whom they can rely for what they perceive as the best dental care in town. Any member of the dental team would benefit from being professionally trained as a Treatment Coordinator because there isn’t any area, clinical or business, that cannot benefit from improved communication skills.
The value of dentistry does not sell itself without the help of skilled dental professionals.
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