Issue # 228 - 07.21.06

Is Your Practice Thriving or Threatened?
Check the Telltale Signs
by Sally McKenzie CEO
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Are you resting comfortably knowing that your practice is thriving? Or do you suspect that your practice may be threatened?  Most importantly, do you know how to tell the difference?

It’s an interesting irony, the telltale signs of a troubled practice often go unnoticed because dentists interpret them to be indictors of a healthy, thriving practice. For example, the office is so busy you feel like you could add a second shift, or a third for that matter. New hygiene patients are scheduled out six months or more. Existing patients had better not cancel because who knows when they’ll get another spot.  The doctor’s services are so much in demand that even routine procedures can’t be booked for a good four weeks.

The focus is squarely on reacting to the demands of today, and doctor and team can’t begin to think about taking time out to plan for the future or evaluate what’s really happening with the systems. The staff is strained; conflict is taking its toll. The way everyone sees it the team just can’t keep up, and you’re thinking it may be time to hire more help. The only problem, even though you seem to be busy as ever, you have yet to experience the financial payoff. 

Sound familiar? If so, it’s likely your practice is in the throes of uncontrolled growth, and you and your team are struggling under the weight of this so-called “success.” Making matters worse, the too busy practice is a threatened practice because typically in spite of all the activity, it’s cash-strapped. Even though everyone is frantically racing from one patient to the next day after day, production is, well, pathetic. How can this be? It’s not that difficult to determine, but first you have to step off this wild ride long enough to look at what’s going on around you rather than just what’s coming straight at you.

Check the primary indicators first:
The schedule - In addition to making patients wait weeks for even the most routine treatment, there is little if any consistency in the time booked for procedures – 30, 60, 90, minutes. The chief objective is merely to keep the schedule full; consequently, the scheduling coordinator is sticking patients anywhere and everywhere. There’s no time to catch your breath. Lunch hour?  Ha! You must be kidding. Everyone just grabs something when he or she can. But you keep telling yourself this is good. It’s organized chaos and it will pay off…eventually… or not. 

The patients - Patient retention is weak, but you probably haven’t taken the time to assess it. You just figure all those patients behind all those patient records keep coming back. In reality, yours is probably a revolving door practice.

The money - Last and certainly not least, but definitely worst of all, revenues are flat. You might have suspected this having felt the pinch now and again. But you kept convincing yourself that the big bucks would be in the bank in a matter of weeks. It’s not happening.

So how do you transition from threatened to thriving? First, the vision. Without a clear vision of where you want to be and how you want to get there, you and your team are constantly in a reactionary state, responding to the many external pressures that are driving your practice. In identifying your vision you retake control of your practice.

What would define your successful practice – money, time, technology, early retirement, continuing education for you and the team, all of the above and more? Now what will it take to achieve your definition of success. How much does the practice need to produce to meet your financial goals?  How many hours per day and days per week do you want to work? How much vacation time do you want to take? How much will go to overhead costs? What about bonuses, retirement, continuing education etc.?

Next week, taking your practice from threatened to thriving begins with looking closely at two key areas you’re probably taking for granted.

Interested in speaking to Sally about your practice concerns?  Email her at

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