4 Ways to Jumpstart Your Practice in 2015
I want 2015 to be your year. Over the next 12 months, I want you to create the profitable, successful dental practice you’ve always dreamed of owning. Sound good to you? Let’s get started.
No matter how much you’ve struggled in years past, it’s time to stop whining and start working toward your goals. Whether you want to increase production, take control of your schedule or develop a loyal patient base, you have to focus on the results you’re after and make the necessary changes if you’re going to turn your practice vision into a reality. I’ll be the first to tell you this isn’t going to be easy, but boy will it be worth it once you finally achieve practice success and profitability. No more struggling to make ends meet, or worrying about how you’re going to put enough money away to retire before you’re 85. If you’re ready to commit to real change, 2015 will be the year you take your practice from struggling to thriving.
I’ve put together six tips designed to jumpstart your practice this year. If you take the time to implement these suggestions and evaluate and fix any weak systems, you’ll be well on your way to practice success.
1. Improve your patient education efforts. I’m sure you provide some form of patient education, but how effective is it? Do you just hand your patients brochures and send them on their way, or maybe pop in a video for them to watch while you go see another patient? That simply isn’t good enough.
If you want patients to trust your recommendations and go forward with treatment, you have to create value and trust. Take the time to talk with them about their oral condition and the benefits of treatment. Use an intraoral camera to show what’s going on in their mouth and address any concerns. Make sure everyone on your team delivers the same message, and continue your education efforts outside the practice through newsletters, emails and follow-up phone calls. You’ll not only create more loyal patients, you’ll create loyal patients who accept treatment.
2. Schedule to meet daily production goals. If your schedule is out of whack, it’s likely because your Scheduling Coordinator is simply scheduling to keep you busy, not to meet daily production goals. Don’t have daily production goals? That’s a problem. Sit down and determine how much money you need to bring in to meet both your personal and professional goals. Factor in overhead costs as well as how many hours you’re willing to work to meet those goals. That number should dictate your schedule.
Want more tips to streamline your schedule and increase production? Clearly communicate procedure times with your Scheduling Coordinator (sorry doc, she can’t read your mind) and have a plan in place to quickly fill the open slots that broken appointments create.
3. Hire a Treatment Coordinator. While you may enjoy delivering case presentations, you just don’t have the time to do them properly. Admit it, you’re lucky if you spend 10 minutes going over treatment with your patients – not nearly enough time to turn a hesitant patient into one who’s ready to go through with treatment.
Your case acceptance rate should be at 85%. If it’s not, it’s time for a change. Hire a Treatment Coordinator who handles case presentations for all producers in the practice. Designate a comfortable, private room and make sure your Coordinator knows to go over every detail of treatment with patients before they leave. But it doesn’t end when the patient walks out the door. Your Coordinator should follow up with every patient who has unscheduled treatment.
4. Focus on reducing overhead. Most of the practices I speak with struggle with overhead costs. They’re often out of control, and dictate every move the dentist makes. If you want to have a successful, thriving dental practice, you have to get a handle on your overhead costs, which should be no more than 55% of collections.
There are many reasons for skyrocketing overhead costs, and payroll is one of them. Take a look at your payroll expenses. They should only be 20% of your overhead costs. Any more than that and you likely have too many employees or a tendency to give out raises whether your employees deserve them or not. Only hire when you absolutely need to (not when your staff insists on it) and only give out raises based on established performance measurements, not just because another year has gone by.
Another culprit sending your overhead costs soaring is a nonexistent recall system. Task your Patient Coordinator with reactivating this crucial system. Give specific recall-related goals, including making a certain number of patient calls per day, scheduling a specific number of appointments, ensuring a specific number of patients complete treatment, and scheduling to ensure hygienists produce 3 times their daily wages. Do this and you’ll start scheduling more treatment, patient retention will improve and overhead costs will fall.
We’re at the beginning of another new year, and now is the time to commit to making it your year. The year you finally create the thriving dental practice you’ve always wanted. And remember, you don’t have to do it alone. I want to see you succeed – just let me know how I can help.
For additional information on this topic and more, visit my blog: The Lighter Side
Interested in speaking to me about your practice concerns? Email email@example.com
Team Lessons from the Buckeyes
I am not a football fanatic and I didn’t grow up in Ohio (although Sally McKenzie did). But I do love inspirational stories, and last week’s Inaugural National Championship was a great one! As Ohio State began the playoffs, the team faced questions about whether it belonged at all. The first-string quarterback suffered a shoulder injury and was sidelined, the back-up passer broke his ankle, and the reins were in the hands of a third-string sophomore. Not to mention breaking in four new starters on the offensive line. Yet Ohio State overwhelmed Oregon with a 42-20 upset. Equally impressive was the defense. They held the nation’s best offense and Heisman Trophy winner to 27 points below its season average. Pretty darn amazing!
You might attribute this miraculous performance to Urban Meyer. After all, he did have two other national titles to his name and leaders do drive the behavior that produces results. However, the real credit belongs to the players who meshed their talent into a cohesive team and maximized their ability to achieve victory. When asked what helped him to win, Meyer said, “This is a great team. We play for each other.”
If there’s a void of this kind of teamwork in your practice, it starts with you. You’re the boss. You can’t expect employees to step out of their comfort zone if you don’t. Set the tone for collaboration to achieve that synergy…a phenomenon that occurs when a group achieves greater results together than they could accomplish individually.
Create a positive bond between employees. Team chemistry comes from intense training and time together. It doesn’t mean that everyone is each other’s best friend. But if there is competition between team members, it’s healthy – not destructive. The competition pushes each to do better.
There is no ‘I’ in team. It’s ‘We’ over ‘Me’. The team’s goals are bigger than any personal discomfort or convenience. Strong team members play for their teammates, not for themselves. This starts with knowing the purpose of why WE have come together. It aligns people toward cooperative action.
Collaboration isn’t a matter of just getting along well. It’s taking into account the challenges that each person faces and working together to overcome those constraints. Your job is to challenge complexities and make it clear and simple. Inspire interest and enthusiasm by reminding your employees that no one can do it all alone. Enable each employee to see that what they do (and how they do it) affects everyone else in the practice.
The power of teamwork is about leadership, not just for the person at the top but for each and every member of the team. It’s about identifying strengths and competencies that lie within each person to make a difference. It’s not only technical skills, but a mindset. Mental toughness is a prerequisite to team success and it requires training. Anything that can happen will happen, and anything you never thought would happen eventually will. Help your employees to be prepared for setbacks. Engage them in finding solutions together. Keep them focused so they persevere in the face of obstacles, even in times of chaos and uncertainty. Talk through the scenarios your team faces so they are prepared to lead when the time comes. Help them realize their potential to be leaders and to know what to do when adversity happens.
Here’s a group exercise to strengthen the team mentality in your office. There is a YouTube video entitled, Together We Achieve More. I strongly recommend that you make time to watch it with your employees. Put it on the next staff meeting agenda and use it as a springboard for discussion.
After viewing it, facilitate a discussion. Begin with the positives – what is the current team doing well together? Then invite suggestions about how to improve collaboration in the office. If your employees are hesitant to participate, pair team members to interview each other. Then share and compare the results. This activity can also be done with large teams via groups of 4-6 people.
Commit to follow up in one month. In preparation for that next meeting, ask each person to be aware of how they are working together differently. Encourage them to jot down examples of successful teamwork to share with the group at the next meeting. Highlight the themes and elements that come out of these success stories and you’ll build more team engagement, energy, optimism and loyalty. And just like the Buckeyes, never give up!
Dr. Haller provides training for leadership effectiveness, interpersonal communication, conflict management, and team building. If you would like to learn more contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Interested in having Dr. Haller speak to your dental society or study club? Click here
Increase Hygiene Production for the New Year
Do you know what your hygiene department did last year, other than clean teeth? Was this a profitable portion of your business? Are there areas that can be improved? Just as important, does your hygiene team know the answers to these questions? Most offices come back from the holidays and just start doing dentistry and hygiene as usual. They continue to have no-shows, cancelations and open time, and wonder why nothing changes. Looking at the numbers is not just about looking at the dollars made and lost. It is also tracking how much open time, cancellations, and no-shows the hygiene department had.
By knowing what happened in the past, you can begin to foresee the future and determine how much hygiene time you really need. Just because you have a hygienist leave your practice, it does not necessarily mean you have to replace the day or two that he or she is not working. It may be best to look at exactly how many days you had open last year, and determine the need. What percentage of your hygiene department is periodontal? It should be 33% according to industry standards.
Find out how many of your patients are on a 6-month recall. Should they be on a 3 or 4 month recall based on the health of their mouth? What is healthy? Should they have been root planed, or even root planed again, because they refuse to do surgery at the periodontist office? We can’t cure periodontal disease, we can only slow it down. But are you doing everything that should be done, or are you allowing insurance to dictate the needs of the patient?
There is nothing wrong with making about the same hourly production and paying out less in overhead. Having the right amount of hygiene time available on your books is important. Many offices hire a hygienist because the schedule is booked out, and it is difficult to make appointments for the patient in front of them or on the phone because every patient is pre-booked. This is fine as long as they are the type of patient who will make their appointment no matter what is going on, or will cancel far enough in advance for you to fill the time.
When it comes to hiring a new hygienist, you should not just look at how far out you are booked. You may want to look at how much time was not utilized for patient care the year before. You may also want to look at your patient retention and determine if the practice is growing or getting smaller, before you hire new employees. Pre-booking can be very deceiving. If you are not going to cut back on the amount of hygiene time you have, you need to decide what to do in order to fill the open time. Looking at the year-end numbers will help determine what is needed.
If you want your practice to grow, you need to look at what approach you are going to take. The easiest and cheapest is asking your existing patients for referrals. The entire team should be asking your favorite patients for referrals. You can also ask patients to fill out a review online and/or gather patient testimonials. With today’s technology, many people turn to the internet to find a new dentist based on reviews. Online presence is very important to the growth of your practice.
Another approach is to educate your team. Specifically, teach them how to educate the patients. What is said, how it is said, and the tone that is used can make a difference as to whether a patient will accept treatment. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard a hygienist and/or doctor say, “I think…” The patient does not want to know what you think, they want to know what you know, and how to treat it. This may seem critical, but it is amazing how much one word can change the entire value and perceived need of treatment.
Do yourself and your practice a favor and really look at all the numbers. Knowing where you stand and where you want to go at the beginning of the year may make all the difference.
Interested in improving your hygiene department? Email email@example.com and ask us about our 1-Day Hygiene Training Program or call 877-777-6151
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