Cut overhead costs with these tips

By Sally McKenzie, CEO Printer Friendly Version

The financial obligations that come with running a dental practice can be pretty overwhelming. It seems like all you do is pay bills every month, and you never have enough left over to invest in new equipment or make upgrades to the practice. Your overhead costs are much higher than they should be, leaving you feeling stressed out, frustrated and just plain tired.

Outrageous overhead costs hold a lot of practices back. I can help you cut these costs so you can finally meet your full potential. Ready to get started? Here are my tips:

Consider raising your fees. Most dentists I work with are reluctant to raise their fees. They’re afraid higher prices will send patients to the practice down the street, so they keep their fees the same year after year. They don’t realize how much this actually hurts their practice.

The fastest, easiest way to grow practice profits and cut overhead is to raise your fees—which is why you need to establish a solid fee schedule that’s fair to both you and your patients. I know this might make you nervous, but trust me, patients expect you to raise your fees from time to time. How else will you be able to provide them with the top-notch experience they expect? As long as you offer exceptional customer service and high-quality care, they won’t mind small fee increases.

Base these increases on solid data and let patients know about the changes. You’ll start to put a dent in your overhead costs and finally be able to invest in the products that improve practice efficiencies and enhance patient care.

Start a perio program in your hygiene department. Most patients exhibit signs of periodontal disease, yet few hygiene departments actually offer interceptive periodontal therapy because they’re afraid of the negative reactions it may cause.

It’s the hygienist’s responsibility to tell patients about the presence of periodontal disease, as well as to educate them about their condition and their treatment options, so if you don’t have a program, now is the time to implement one. There are several ways to do this, but I suggest starting at the front. That means training your front office staff to mention the program to patients when they check in. Patients should receive educational materials and a questionnaire to fill out as they wait for their appointment. How they respond to the questions will give you a wealth of information about any symptom patients may be experiencing and will help guide the conversation chairside.

When you offer an interceptive periodontal program in your practice, it helps ensure patients get the treatment they need, while you open up another revenue source to help alleviate your overhead burden.

Focus on recall. Reenergizing your recall system is a great way to get patients in the chair—and to bring more revenue to your practice. Task a team member, ideally your Patient Coordinator, with contacting a specific number of past-due patients a day and getting them in the chair. Production numbers will go up and overhead will go down.

Don’t rely on pre-appointing alone. Broken appointments are a problem for many practices. Not only do they wreak havoc on your day and cause extra stress, they hurt practice production numbers. While you’ll never eliminate broken appointments entirely (though wouldn’t that be nice!) implementing hybrid scheduling could help significantly reduce them.

Even though patients schedule with your office six months in advance, they have no idea if they’ll actually be able to make it or not. Work and family obligations come up, meaning they might have to cancel that appointment at the last minute or not show up at all.

Pre-appointing also makes it seem like your schedule is full, when it really isn’t. That means patients who are ready to schedule treatment can’t get an appointment for weeks, even months, at a time, and that leads them to call another practice—hurting your production numbers and revenues.

This is why I suggest implementing a hybrid scheduling system. Only pre-appoint reliable patients who have a history of showing up. Wait until a few months out to schedule others. It’s also a good idea to flag patients who tend to flake and to let them know you’ll call them a few weeks before they’re due for an appointment. This will help reduce no-shows, boost production and lower overhead.

Give your employees the guidance they crave. Your team members aren’t mind readers, as nice as that would be. If you want them to help you reduce overhead so your practice can thrive, you have to provide them with direction.

Detailed job descriptions, proper training and continual feedback are all great ways to guide your team. They’ll have more confidence in their skills and a better understanding of their role, making them more efficient and helping to reduce overhead.

I also suggest giving team members performance measurements and letting them know meeting expectations are the only way they’ll earn raises. As tempting as it is, don’t give out raises just because. It only hurts your practice and sends overhead skyrocketing.

Reducing overhead costs requires a commitment from you and your team members, but it’s certainly worth the effort. Follow these tips and you’ll be well on your way.

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