8 Ways to Improve Production
You know your production numbers aren’t nearly what they should be. Even on days when it looks like you’re going to meet production goals, broken appointments keep you from actually getting there. Your bottom line has taken a huge hit, and so has your confidence. If something doesn’t change soon, you’re not sure how long your practice can survive.
I know lackluster production is both frustrating and costly, but there are changes you can make to boost your production numbers and turn your struggling practice into a thriving practice. Ready to get started? Here are eight tips to help you improve production and grow your bottom line.
1. Hire a Treatment Coordinator. If production numbers are down, so is your case acceptance rate. I suggest hiring a Treatment Coordinator to improve both numbers. This team member will sit down with every patient to go over treatment, then follow up to get them on the schedule. Your Treatment Coordinator should be trained in sales and able to answer any questions patients might have about treatment.
2. Add new services. When patients look for a dental home, they want to find an up-to-date practice that offers the services they need. If you haven’t added new services in years, chances are your practice won’t make the cut. Updating equipment and adding services not only helps attract new patients, it gives your current patients more treatment options. It also helps make your practice more efficient, while renewing your passion for dentistry – leading to increased production.
3. Improve clinical efficiencies. Clinical inefficiency leads to slow treatment room turnaround, and that hurts your production numbers. Before you start treatment, make sure everything you’ll need is in the room. Delegate more tasks to your dental assistant, as your state allows. Without compromising on the quality of the dentistry, challenge yourself to cut procedure times by 10 minutes. While it might not seem like a lot, that small change will significantly increase your production per hour.
4. Focus on education. Look at every patient interaction as an opportunity to educate. Make sure patients understand the value of maintaining their oral health and going through with recommended treatment. Show them what’s going on in their mouth and explain to them, on their level, how you plan to help them improve their oral health. Remember, educated patients are much more likely to accept treatment.
5. Build a rapport. If patients don’t trust you, they’re not going to schedule treatment. In fact, they likely won’t come back to your office if they don’t feel a connection, and losing patients certainly isn’t going to increase production. Take the time to get to know your patients and encourage team members to do the same. Ask them about their jobs and their families. Talk to them about their oral health goals and any concerns they have about treatment. Start making connections with patients, and you’ll see your production numbers begin to rise.
6. Train your Scheduling Coordinator. Make sure your Scheduling Coordinator understands the job isn’t to keep you busy, it’s to schedule you to meet production goals. Set production goals and then communicate those goals with your Scheduling Coordinator.
7. Revamp your recall system. When practices struggle with production, they typically struggle with patient retention too. The recall system is one of the easiest ways to improve patient retention and increase production, yet most practices ignore it. Consider hiring a Patient Coordinator to take ownership of the system. Your Patient Coordinator should reach out to and schedule past due patients. Make sure he or she has access to all the necessary, up-to-date patient information to help ensure these phone calls lead to appointments.
Many practices rely on sending out generic postcards to recall patients, but that simply isn’t enough. Neither is relying on pre-appointing. If you want to boost production, you need to start reaching out to past due patients with a phone call.
8. Focus on your current patients. While attracting new patients to your practice will help increase production, so will keeping patients who already call your practice their dental home. Attracting new patients doesn’t do much to increase production numbers if those patients never come back. Focus on keeping your current patients happy, and you’ll find you have a larger, more loyal base of patients who trust you and your team with their care.
How? Start by improving customer service. Make sure every patient is greeted with a warm smile, and is put at ease from the moment they walk in the door. Train front office staff to help patients if necessary, and offer them water or coffee as they wait. Create a friendly, comfortable environment and you’ll be rewarded with loyal patients and increased production.
Remember, it costs five times as much money to attract new patients to your practice as it does to keep the ones you already have. And current patients are your biggest referral source. If they’re happy with their experience, they’ll likely refer you to family and friends, bringing those all-important new patients to your practice.
Lackluster production can cost your practice big. Follow these tips, and both your production numbers and your bottom line will grow. If you need more guidance, feel free to contact me. Remember I’m here to 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 firstname.lastname@example.org
Coaching your Office Staff
Effective communication is the number one consideration when you want your practice to run smoothly. As the leader, you are responsible for setting the tone of communication. If you wait until issues become problems, this is how others will behave as well. If you model proactive, constructive communication, then this is what you will more likely see from your staff. As the practice leader, one of your most important tasks is to grow your people. Having regular, preferably quarterly, one-on-one coaching sessions provides opportunities for staff to share their ideas, frustrations, and career considerations in a private setting.
The key to effective coaching is the understanding that it is employee-focused. The leader’s role is to listen to employees and draw out their key issues. It is recommended that leaders do 90% of listening and 10% of the talking. You can also use the one-on-ones to ask for feedback on your own performance and suggestions for change. The Six-Question Process outlined below can be a helpful guide for you to feel more comfortable engaging your staff in coaching conversations.
1. Where are we going? Ask your staff for their input on where the practice should be going. This is an opportunity to ensure that staff feel aligned with your strategic objectives, and that these align with the practice vision. Staff have the opportunity to come up with new ideas and share them with you. They also may have better insights on how the practice is doing since they are the primary contact with patients.
2. Where are you going? This question has two levels. The first level gets at where that staff member and his/her colleagues are headed – what are they trying to achieve to support the company’s mission, vision, and goals. For example, what are the hygienists as a group doing to provide excellent patient care? The second level is aimed at the specific individual with whom you are speaking – inquiring about his or her personal and professional goals and priorities. Knowing what your staff are thinking about, and their level of engagement, can help you build your succession pipeline and avoid surprises down the road.
3. What is going well? Ask your employees what they think the practice as a whole does well and what their peers have been doing well. Recognize them for their achievements and contributions to your overall objectives. You may have missed out on some positive accomplishments and this is the perfect setting to learn about them.
4. What are key suggestions for improvement? Encourage your staff to provide constructive suggestions for the future. From this feedback, you can pick a few key opportunities for improvement and focus on them for the quarter. Next, ask your staff, “If you were your own coach, what suggestions would you have for yourself?” By listening to their suggestions, you can then modify your own suggestions to better reflect the strategic objectives of the practice.
5. How can I help? By listening to your staff, you can provide the appropriate support to ensure that their suggestions are being implemented effectively. You can also participate by suggesting approaches and asking whether the approach will be helpful to become more effective. Leaders need to remember that improvement is not measured by the frequency of one-on-ones, but by the quality of them. They key to improvement is to provide coaching to the right people on the “right” topic. When the coachee has the opportunity to be heard in this context, the “right” topics will arise.
6. What suggestions do you have for me? This question makes the one-on-ones a two-way conversation. Leaders who ask for feedback and focus on self-improvement are more likely to have an increase in leadership effectiveness. Your staff will be more open to the idea of being coached when their leader is willing to be coached by them.
Becoming an effective coach requires trial and error. There is no perfect formula on how to be the best coach since every context and person is unique. Therefore, don’t hesitate to ask for feedback from your colleagues, your staff members, or your own leadership coach. Practice different coaching styles and approaches to discover your strengths and work on your weaknesses. The end result of effective coaching affects both the leader and the staff. For your staff, one-on-ones provide a structure for guidance and focus which leads to higher productivity. Your staff will have greater satisfaction as coaching allows them to share their ideas and career plans.
Dr. Gale provides coaching and training to enhance leadership skills, interpersonal communications and team building. If you would like to learn more, contact him at email@example.com
The Hygienist for Your Practice
All hygienists are educated by an accredited hygiene school. There may be some differences in training when it comes to clinical skills, but for the most part hygienists are trained at a certain standard of care. Sadly, as with any profession, this does not mean all hygienists practice to the same quality of care. This may be due to the fact that some were not at the top of their class, their ethical and moral values changed once they were done with college, or they have not continued to improve themselves over the years by keeping up with technology and research. Regardless of the reason, when hiring a hygienist for your practice, you want to be sure they will fit in with your office protocol, the quality of care provided in your practice, and overall expectations.
There are many tools available to aid in hiring the correct type of personality for the job, such as the online employee assessment test found on the McKenzie Management website HERE. In addition to testing, it is recommended that once you have narrowed the choice down to one or two candidates, have them back in for another interview and actually allow them to look at the office protocol for treating periodontal disease. Have a couple case studies available for their review, and see how they would treatment plan the patient for root planing or root planing again if they are an existing patient. See what length of recall they would place the patient on, and what they would do at the next recall.
If the candidates are used to actively engaging in this portion of the patient’s treatment, this should be a very easy part of the interview. They may provide more than one answer and have questions regarding the patient’s history that you did not provide initially, but that is good, as they would gather this information from the dental history of the patient in the chart or directly from the patient. What matters is that they are comfortable doing this portion of their job.
This portion of the interview process will enable you to find out if the candidates are the type of hygienists who come in, clean teeth and go home, or if they are the type to be actively involved in the continuing care of the patients they see. It also allows you to see where their skills and expertise are and are not.
The case studies may be as easy as providing a periodontal chart, x-rays and medical/dental history to assess periodontal disease. When it comes to restorative needs or talking to the patient about what may need to be done, you could just show the candidate a set of x-rays with a missing tooth and ask them what they would say to the patient if they were in their chair. This will allow you to observe their knowledge regarding implants, bridges, partials, and restorative options.
Ask the hygienists what they currently discuss with new patients in the chair. Have them go over what they say to patients before they probe. In addition to clinical, you may even want to evaluate their knowledge of the business side of dental hygiene. Ask if they have goals. What are their goals and what determined them?
These are just a few ideas you may want to consider when looking for a hygienist. It is critical to be informed about the amount of training your new hire might need. Hygienists can be taught your specific office protocols, but if they do not have the same belief system, ethics, and morals that you have, you may not be able to change them – and you may want to look at hiring a different person.
Interested in improving your hygiene department? Email firstname.lastname@example.org and ask us about our 1-Day Hygiene Training Program or call 877-777-6151
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