Want to Know Why You're Losing Money? Read the Directions
I suspect that we all know someone who never – or seemingly never – reads the directions. They buy a new computer, technical device, or household item, and because they see themselves as pretty smart individuals, they don’t think they need to read the directions. They start hooking up components, attaching this piece to that, pushing buttons, clicking here and there, and then they become frustrated when it doesn’t perform as expected. It’s not until there are problems that they resign themselves to consulting that handy little instruction manual.
I dare say that dentists, many of whom pride themselves on their meticulous attention to detail, are similarly guilty of this, particularly when it comes to reviewing important practice stats. Many give little more than a cursory glance at key computer reports. Some will quietly confess that they are not entirely sure what any of them really mean. But they are convinced that if there were a problem with a system, they wouldn’t need a report to direct them - they would certainly be able to spot it without the “directions.”
Truth is, until problems develop and they start feeling the pinch of dwindling production, or until they are sweating the proliferation of hygiene openings or are panicked because they don’t have the money to pay their bills, those reports are of little importance. Yet if they are used correctly and routinely, those reports are the directions - your personal guide to a successful practice. And if you actually read them carefully, you can ensure that critical steps in your systems are never overlooked or disregarded in the rush of the day-to-day routine.
I strongly encourage doctors to regularly review key reports including the Accounts Receivables and Outstanding Insurance Claims Reports to monitor exactly how much money is owed your practice. In addition, watch the details of your production, new patient flow, and patient retention using the Production Report. Depending on your software system this report may be called Production by Provider, Practice Analysis, or Production by ADA Code. It is very useful for tracking new patient comprehensive exams. Just be sure those members of your team who are responsible for posting procedures to a patient ledger use the ADA code 00150 for new comprehensive examinations.
Each month, run the report for exactly the last 12 months. It should show specifically how many new patient exams were performed in your practice in the last year. Write that number down. Next, run an Overdue Recall/Continuing Care Report for the same timeframe. You’re looking for every patient who was due back into the practice during the past 12 months. Write that number down. Your results may show 300 new patients and 200 existing patients overdue for recall. You’ve effectively calculated patient flow ratio. What’s more, you now know exactly who has not been scheduled and you can immediately implement a patient reactivation strategy.
The Production by Provider Report should also enable you to monitor individual provider production for each dentist and hygienist. It is important to track individual production numbers to determine productivity. Next, get treatment out of the patient record and on the schedule. Monitor the Unscheduled Treatment Plan Report or similar report. To ensure that this report is accurate, all treatment plans must be entered into the system by the treatment coordinator.
If your Unscheduled Treatment Plan Report indicates that treatment acceptance is below 85%, consider treatment acceptance training and scripts. In addition, evaluate whether your practice makes it easy for patients to pursue the treatment they want and need. Certain software programs allow you to determine almost immediately if a patient is eligible for treatment financing through CareCredit, which can eliminate the money barrier almost instantly. Some systems will allow you to run a Production Forecast Report that can be an excellent tool in determining slow periods, so that you can develop a plan of action to address the potential production shortfalls.
Take time to read the “directions” to your practice - i.e. the computer reports. If you do this you will be well-prepared to pinpoint problems before they become crises, tweak systems well before they collapse, and enable everyone to see in black and white exactly how their job affects the productivity of the entire practice.
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