RDH Salaries Are Not Immune to Economic Turbulence
At this writing, the Stock Market is doing well because it appears progress is being made with regard to the economies of Greece and Italy. Of course, all of that could unravel or a new economic shock could be rocking our universe by the time you read this. As intertwined as we know the world's finances are, it's still difficult to fathom that the fate of our economy and the potential threat of a double-dip recession here may be dictated by what happens somewhere out there.
Weary as we are of the economic turbulence of the last few years, the ride continues to present its share of challenges. The reality is that patient confidence reflects consumer confidence. When consumers aren't buying more than the basics, neither are patients. Patients are focused on the fundamentals of care. In other words, what patients need to maintain proper oral health is dictating oral health buying decisions much more so than desires for specific treatments. And while those of us with above average dental IQs would view the regularly scheduled oral hygiene appointment as a fundamental component of basic patient care, that's not necessarily what practices are seeing.
According to Dental Hygienist Jobs & Salary Survey 2011 by RDH eVillage, part 1: The Overall Picture, 78% of dental hygienists feel economic conditions have affected their ability to earn the maximum income that they pursue.
That being said, it's not all doom, gloom and woe out there. In fact, 50% of hygienists responding to the survey indicated that "business is good, but it has slowed down somewhat," and 26% said schedules remain full. All-in-all, just over three quarters of those responding indicate that the financial situation is relatively stable in dentistry. Certainly the situation is far from perfect, but welcome news nonetheless.
Although 76% of those responding to the survey said it has been more than a year since they last received a raise, the report shows that the average hourly rate of U.S. dental hygienists working in general dentistry settings is $42.01. Not surprisingly, the five highest annual median incomes for full-time dental hygienists are found in:
However, the average daily rate for hygienists in the Los Angeles Metropolitan area is down more than $13 below the 2010 daily rate. In San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose metropolitan area, the daily rate is down $11 below last year. In Seattle, hourly rates have remained stable. In Phoenix and Boston, they have seen modest increases while Virginia has seen a modest decrease.
Looking specifically at average hourly rates reported by states with at least 30 respondents to the survey, the top 15 highest paying states are:
Overall, 1,945 dental hygienists participated in the annual survey. Just over 50% have been licensed for at least 20 years. More than 80% work in general dentistry practices. Nearly 60% report that an associate's degree is their highest level of completed education. Less than 50% practice four days a week. Nearly 85% receive paid vacation and holidays. Just over 10% receive life insurance or disability insurance benefits from their employer. And three-quarters or 75% report their income is based on an hourly rate.
To see how your state stacks up, check out Dental Hygienist Jobs & Salary Survey 2011 by RDH eVillage, part 2: State by state breakdown of salaries and benefits HERE.
Next week, facing the economic realities of hygiene.
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Find Your X-Factor in the New Year
Approaching burnout? Frustrated over not accomplishing what you wanted and now the year is drawing to a close? Maybe it's time to think about breathing new energy into your practice. Doing the same and hoping for a different outcome is like hitting yourself with a hammer and expecting it not to hurt the second time.
Stepping outside yourself and looking at your practice through fresh eyes doesn’t work unless you have the help of people that can give you a fresh perspective. Friends and relatives will tell you what you want to hear or will deflect you with “the economy is still recovering.” Reinventing yourself can sound scary.It is a mistake to reinvent because business is down or you have not experienced growth this year. Reinvention is about continuing to develop your expertise and letting your demographic know about it. It is a proactive approach versus a reactive approach to dental care. The market has changed, the technology has changed, and society as we knew it has changed - so it is time to meet those changes with fresh ideas.
When was the last time you looked at your website? Does it reflect how you have grown as a dental provider - have you learned new skills that can be proposed to your patients? Do you read the website reviews posted by your patients, and have you used these reviews as calls to action to improve services to your patients? Have you asked your patients what they want and then given it to them?
When was the last time you updated the marketing in your practice - is it working for you? Consulting a marketing expert for insight on how you might niche your practice to be known uniquely in the community can give you and your team a sense of purpose and excitement. Reinvention is not just about you, it is also about the patient. Loyalty and compliance need to be recognized as the true gifts they are to the practice. What can you do to give your patients the “wow” factor in your practice?
Call it the “X Factor” - because it is that special something that sets us apart from all others. Listen to what the market - your patients - say, and be able to deliver the real value.
Consider how you deliver treatment presentations. Does your patient get to hold and visually experience a real crown? Did you do a set of diagnostic casts to demonstrate visually how their mouth can be improved? Are you educating with video clips? If you are still doing the “ho hum” of telling patients what they need by viewing the x-rays and intra-oral cameral shots, you are underestimating the value of touching and visualizing.
Have you learned how to derail those questions about insurance during a treatment presentation and get the patient to focus on their health? Does your business staff know how to present the long-term value of dental care along with codes and fees?
Consider how your phone is answered and how patients are greeted at the desk. First impressions are still as important as ever in the process of choosing a service provider. Telephone Skill Training is a modest investment when you consider the benefits of having a professionally trained phone team. Everyone can pick up the phone and say “hello” but not everyone can motivate a patient to make an appointment.
Reinventing is not about throwing out the old and starting over - it is about building on the past, knowing what works and what doesn't work, and enhancing your prospective. Together, you and your staff take the time to go over every system in the practice that affects patient care. What can you improve upon? Make a plan to improve and make someone accountable for making it happen on a timely basis. Update your marketing to communicate your improvements to your patients and people searching for a new and better dental experience.
How Do You Send Your Statements?
How great would it be to never send another statement in your practice’s life? Even offices that claim to be “fee for service” discover that they have an Accounts Receivable - patients that owe them money! Imagine the surprise on the practice owner’s face when he sees the printed report with $35,256 on the bottom.
“How could that be? We don’t accept insurance benefits and my patients pay for their work when it is performed!”
The point is this - some form of communication must take place to those patients that leave the practice owing you money for your services. What options do you have? Telephone, email, text message, mailed statement - or now they may have the option of paying their account on your website.
Telephone communication will work for some patients that are comfortable giving their credit card number to you, or maybe you have kept it on file and simply need to ask their permission to apply the balance to the credit card information that is “on file.” What happens, however, when the Financial Coordinator can’t seem to get the patient on the phone during your office hours? Apparently the patient works the same hours. And let’s not forget that if the patient elects to mail their payment - where is the elusive envelope?
Email contact is an option, as well. Again, what if the patient “has” an email address but never really checks it? And still no envelope to mail a check and still the concern of giving a credit card number over the internet. Text messages also have the same challenges.
So this brings us to the “old fashioned” way of informing your patients of the services that were provided, how much has already been paid, if any, and their balance that is due on a certain date. Since most of us accept the fact that this is still the most popular way of sending notices, let’s review the basic concepts of mailing statements.
Who Should Do The Mailing?
Next, she “submits” electronically over the internet, the database to the eServices company that you have contracted with. This service could be through your software company or an independent service. The average fees per statement run from $.50 to $.65. What a deal! Think about this - no printing statements and using paper and cartridge ink (and you know how expensive that is), no statements piling up with last week’s date on them because no one has had time to fold and stuff them into envelopes. No expense for the return envelope AND they look very professional, usually with a perforated receipt and printed in color. Let’s not forget that you don’t have to keep rolls of stamps on hand or continually feed your postage machine. Life is good…
What Information Should Be Included?
Here is how to stop that - there is a setting in your software that allows you to indicate how many days of activity you want to be printed on your statement. Simply change your statement setting to 45 or 60 days so the description will include the services provided, the patient payment, the insurance payment and now the balance due for the past 45 or 60 days. And think of all the phone calls it will eliminate.
How Often Should You Send Statements?
Some practice management software programs automatically age accounts daily and others age when the month is closed or when the statements are generated. The software will ask if the accounts need to be aged - say “yes!”
Daily statements increase cash flow and decreases the time spent by your Financial Coordinator reviewing statements for the entire month.
Happy Billing…and collecting!
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