Stress–busting Tips for a More Productive Practice

By Sally McKenzie, CEO Printer Friendly Version

Stress is common in a dental practice. There’s a lot going on, and the days can get pretty chaotic. But stress shouldn’t take over your workday. Once it does, practice productivity suffers as does your bottom line.

When stress becomes the norm, it brings you, your team members and even your patients down—damaging your practice along the way. That’s why it’s so important to keep stress to a minimum.

Interested in learning how? You can start by determining what’s causing a stressor, and then take steps to eliminate it. To help you get started, I’ve put together a list of stress-busting tips that will make your days more productive and your bottom line more robust.

Fix your messy schedule. This is a biggie. A messy schedule can quickly send your day into chaos and will have you running from patient to patient in an effort to keep up, or leave you with big chunks of time to fill thanks to last-minute cancellations and no-shows.

How does your schedule get so out of whack? It could be because you have too many people scheduling patients, leading to a hodgepodge of names in random time slots and double bookings. There’s no consistency and no one to take ownership.

To fix this, I suggest you hire a Scheduling Coordinator to oversee your schedule, reducing the likelihood of double bookings and streamlining your day. Train this person to schedule you to stay productive, not just to keep you busy. Communicate procedure times with your Coordinator to make sure s/he isn’t booking procedures that should take 60 minutes in 30-minute blocks, putting you behind before you even get started. It’s also a good idea to task your Coordinator with developing a plan to fill the openings broken appointments bring. You’ll soon find your days are smoother, less stressful and more productive.

Consider raising your fees. It’s common for dentists to keep their fees the same year after year. They’re worried that even the slightest increase will send patients to the practice down the street, so rather than risk losing patients, they never make adjustments.

Let me explain how that’s hurting your practice. If you’re undercharging your patients by as little as 7% or 8%, it costs you thousands of dollars in lost revenue each year. Undercharging by 40% or 50% translates into a serious financial pounding. Talk about stressful.

Don’t worry. You can avoid this by implementing a solid fee schedule that includes adjustments twice a year. Start by looking at what other dentists in your area charge as well as your patients’ income demographics. From there, consider the quality of dentistry and customer service you provide. You can then set a solid base for your fees.

Now let’s talk about those increases. The first increase should be 2% and the second 3% for an annual yearly increase of 5%. That won’t do much damage to your patients’ pocketbooks, but it will give a big boost to your bottom line.

The thought of raising your fees shouldn’t lead to anxiety. The truth is patients expect you to raise your fees every now and then. As long as you continue to offer high-quality care and invest in products that improve their experience, they’ll stay loyal.

Deal with team conflict right away. Team conflict can do a lot of damage to a dental office. It hurts practice efficiencies and productivity, as well as lowers team morale. Patients notice all of this, and it could make them uncomfortable enough to start looking for a new dental home. The negative environment conflict creates and all the trouble it brings can be a huge stressor for everyone in the practice.

When you notice conflict brewing among team members, don’t ignore it and hope it goes away on its own, because it won’t. Sit down with the team members involved and work together to find a solution. Use it as an opportunity to improve your practice, and you’ll take what could be a stressful situation and turn it into the catalyst for making positive change.

Give case acceptance a boost. When patients say no to treatment, it hurts both your confidence and your bottom line—and raises your stress level. You really can’t grow your dental practice if patients don’t accept treatment, making it vital to increase your case acceptance numbers as soon as possible.

The best way to do that is by hiring a Treatment Coordinator. This team member can sit with patients as long as necessary to go over treatment recommendations and to answer any questions they have. That’s much more effective than you rushing through a presentation chairside. The coordinator also can follow up two days after the initial presentation to provide more education and to get patients on the schedule.

Reduce stress, increase your bottom line
You should spend your days focusing on growing your practice and your bottom line—not dealing with stressful situations. Recognizing what’s causing the stressors and taking the necessary steps to eliminate them will lead to much more pleasant, productive days for you and your team members. You’ll find everyone is much happier, and the practice more successful.

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