Get Overhead Costs Under Control
Lately, it seems like all you do is pay bills – or worry about paying them. Overhead costs have taken over, leaving you wondering how you’re ever going to climb out of this financial hole. This certainly isn’t what you envisioned when you decided to become a dentist, and you’re more than a little frustrated. You’d love to make investments in your practice or even start saving for retirement, but as you write check after check each month, all that seems like an unreachable fantasy.
Start a perio program in your hygiene department. While most patients exhibit signs of periodontal disease, few hygiene departments offer interceptive periodontal therapy. Why? They’re afraid patients will react negatively.
No matter how they might react, it is the hygienist’s responsibility to tell patients about the presence of periodontal disease, and then educate them about the condition and their treatment options.
So how can you implement this type of program into your practice? There are several ways you can do it, but I recommend starting at the front. Train your front desk employees to mention the program to patients when they check in, and offer them an educational brochure and questionnaire to fill out as they wait for their appointment to begin. Responses to the questionnaire will tell you what symptoms patients have experienced – opening up the door for a conversation chairside.
Implementing this type of program into your practice will not only ensure patients with periodontal disease get the treatment and education they need, it will boost your hygiene production and help reduce practice overhead.
Raise your fees. I know most dentists don’t like to talk about raising fees. They’re convinced it will do nothing but cost them patients, so they opt to keep fees consistent year after year. The problem is, this does nothing but hurt your practice.
Raising fees is the fastest, easiest way to grow practice profits and reduce overhead. If you never raise your fees, it’s only making your overhead problem worse. I suggest establishing a fee schedule that’s fair to both you and your patients. Base fee increases on solid data and let patients know about the changes. Trust me, patients won’t run to the practice down the street just because your services cost a little more. In fact, most patients expect your fees to go up from time to time. As long as you provide them with high-quality care and top-notch customer service, they’ll stay loyal to your practice.
Don’t solely rely on pre-appointing. Does your practice deal with a lot of cancellations and no-shows? If you’re nodding your head yes, part of the problem could stem from pre-appointing.
Patients have no idea what they’re doing at 10 a.m. on a Tuesday six months from now. Chances are something will come up that leads them to cancel the appointment at the last minute or just not show up, leaving you with last-minute holes to fill.
Pre-appointing also gives the illusion that your schedule is full, when it really isn’t. This keeps patients who want to schedule treatment from seeing you, which could send them looking for a dentist who has more room in the schedule. This hurts your production numbers and contributes to high overhead costs.
Instead of relying on pre-appointing, I recommend investing in your recall system. Task your Patient Coordinator with calling and scheduling a specific number of recall patients each day. Trust me, this will do wonders for patient retention and production numbers, as well as reduce practice overhead.
Offer your team guidance. If you want an efficient team that helps you meet practice goals, you have to give them some direction. Provide detailed job descriptions that make it clear who is responsible for which tasks, and offer continual feedback, both positive and negative. This will help ensure your team members excel in their roles, leading to improved efficiencies and a reduction in overhead.
Establish performance measurements. Many dentists give out raises just because a year has gone by or because a loyal employee is having trouble making ends meet. While I’m all for giving team members raises, those raises have to be earned.
Establish clear performance measurements so team members know what they need to do to actually earn a bump in pay. Make it clear when raises can be discussed. Team members might not like this at first, but trust me, it will motivate them to improve their performance and do their part to move the practice forward. It will also keep salaries in line with the 20-22% of revenue benchmark – ultimately helping you reduce overhead.
If your practice is struggling with overhead, I know it can be overwhelming – but it doesn’t have to be. Feel free to contact me if you need more guidance, and I’ll help your practice finally achieve true success and profitability.
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
It Won’t Happen To Me
I have worked as a full time dental hygienist in the same office for twenty-six years. During this time I have seen many things happen to the practice and team, as I am sure many of you have experienced over the years.
In 2008 and again in 2016 we had the experience of two floods. Neither one was caused by something that our practice could have prevented. The flood of 2008 happened after most of the people in the building had left for the weekend – it wasn’t until Sunday when my doctor received a phone call from another tenant in the building who noticed water coming out the front door. The main line to the water heater above our suite had separated from the water heater and sprayed across our office for at least 48 hours. The ceiling was falling to the ground, at least two inches of water sat on the floor, and everything was wet and full of moisture.
The restoration crew and some of the staff were there immediately to start the clean-up process. When I arrived, I never could have expected to walk into the mess we had. The digital panorex machine, iTero Intraoral Scanner, Intraoral cameras, Piezo Electronic Scalers, all the computers, copiers, flooring, ceiling, drywall and many other items were ruined, just to name a few.
We were soon informed that it would take at least eight weeks to have the office up and operating again. As a staff member, I immediately panicked. What was I going to do for eight weeks without a paycheck? I would have to get another job.
At this time, I had worked for my doctor for 18 years. I loved working there and really did not want to get another job because I knew if I did, it would likely end up being my new home. I am not the type of person who would take a full-time position knowing I was going to leave in eight weeks; it would not be fair to the team, practice, doctor, or patients.
The flood of 2016 just happened recently, and this time it was caused by items being flushed down the toilet that shouldn’t have been. The clog was in the main line and the items could have come from any of the many offices in the building. This time we were informed that we may be out one or two weeks. This did not scare me as much as the flood of 2008, as I was going on vacation and could work temporarily if I needed to.
The flood of 2008 happened with a different doctor than the flood of 2016. After many years of dentistry, my doctor decided to retire, and three years ago the doctor I worked for sold the practice to my current doctor. I was extremely thankful that both doctors carried an excellent insurance plan with The Dentists Insurance Company (TDIC). They both had coverage that took care of themselves, the practice, and the staff. This coverage enabled our practice to continue on and allowed our team to remain together.
Even if you and your staff take all possible preventive measures to protect the practice, it is possible for things that are out of your control to change your life, your practice, and your team’s life in a heartbeat. There are many catastrophic things that could happen, and the best defense you can have is insurance coverage in case it happens to you. Because believe it or not, it could happen to you.
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
What is Leadership Coaching?
“A good leader inspires people to have confidence in the leader, a great leader inspires people to have confidence in themselves" - Eleanor Roosevelt
Leadership coaches are trained and discouraged from giving advice, direction, or suggestions to those receiving coaching. Why? Coaches rarely fully know and appreciate the context of the leader's world and its demands, nor do coaches know the technical content of a leader's job and its stresses.
So why hire a coach? When coaching is done well, the leader is led, not told, to understand his or her motivations and choose a new or modified behavior to strengthen their leadership impact. To facilitate this, coaches are encouraged to ask dynamic and bold questions to aid self-discovery that promotes change in the leader's performance and interpersonal style. Self-awareness is a critical factor when leading others. Over time, the leader begins to understand him/herself and the impact their personality and communication style has on others. Through coaching, the leader explores and addresses blind spots and biases that lead to increased self-awareness. It is through this increased awareness and self-adjustment that leaders create an environment to foster self-discovery and self-confidence.
Most major companies now make coaching a core part of their executive development programs. The belief is that working with a neutral third party allows for a safe place to explore and transform one's leadership style. In a recent issue of The Journal of Positive Psychology, rigorous scientific research shows that coaching consistently helps to improve work performance and skills, clients’ well-being and coping skills, their work attitudes, and their ability to effectively regulate their behavior and accomplish meaningful goals. The conclusion is a resounding vote of confidence in the effectiveness of coaching.
Unfortunately many doctors will spend enormous amounts of their budget on equipment and office space, yet they believe being the boss is something they can or should “do on their own.” The reality is that managing a practice is complex, more so now than in years past. As business and healthcare move faster and get more competitive, it’s difficult to keep up with all the changes. Add to that equation the challenging dynamics of "front office" vs. "back office” and balancing the boundaries of being friendly without being a friend. It really is lonely at the top!
Frequently dentists find themselves in a leadership role by default. While learning how to extract teeth and administer nitrous oxide you probably didn't give much thought to hiring, firing, handling office disputes or delegating job responsibilities. It’s unlikely that your dental school curriculum included coursework on human behavior or management. You focused on learning clinical skills. That's what a good dentist does. But a successful dentist does more. You have to influence people every day. You need to show and tell your employees what you want them to do, and how. You need to guide your patients so they'll comply with treatment recommendations. The bottom line is that you were trained to do dentistry, yet today you’re called upon to be CEO of your business.
There really are two sides to every job in a dental practice – the technical side and the people side. You need to be competent on both in order to have a successful business. Leadership requires different skills and abilities that most dentists never had the opportunity to learn. Understandably, this is tough. It requires you to let go, delegate, give up power, and teach others to do. I facilitate several different programs to help doctors develop the knowledge that is necessary for effective practice leadership. The outcomes are enhanced confidence and work satisfaction for you, improved morale and productivity for your employees, and greater care and service to your patients. By making small adjustments in your actions, you can achieve major business results.
Coaching is not like school, and it's not like therapy. Coaching is a conversation between partners who work together to achieve challenging goals. You might be wondering if you would benefit from having a coach. Step back and ask yourself what’s not working. Another approach is to determine what you can do to improve your practice, your employees’ morale, and your relationships with the patients you treat. Then honestly assess whether you feel that you can make those changes on your own, or if you need some outside help. If you aren’t able to look at the situation objectively, or if you think that an unbiased point of view might give you a broader perspective, give me a call. The amount of time, money, frustration, and damaged relationships that are saved makes coaching a necessity, not a luxury.
Dr. Brackin is available to coach you and your team to higher levels of performance. She can be reached at email@example.com.
Dr. Brackin provides training for leadership effectiveness, interpersonal communications and team building. If you would like to learn more, contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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