5 Steps to Prepare for Profits
Is your practice still struggling? Do you stare out over an empty patient reception area and wonder if they will ever return? Is your annual income flat or going down? Why is this still happening? There is no question that the last seven years have marked a cultural shift in patient behaviors when it comes to dental purchases. And many practices continue to fight cancellations and no-shows.
Yet too often dentists and their teams underestimate the direct role they play in influencing those behaviors. They also often underestimate the true cost of each opening in the schedule. Consider this, if your practice’s hourly production must be $600 to cover overhead, and there are six 10-minute units per hour, then each unit is worth $100. Ten minutes here, 10 minutes there adds up quickly. Every minute matters.
Now, you may be keenly aware of the value of your care but you’ve likely come to realize that many patients are not. And far more of them are inclined to delay treatment than they were years ago. Although we have seen very real improvements in the economy, many patients remain cautious in their spending and are likely to want flexible payment options (more on that later). Yet it remains true that if they understand the need and the importance of the care they are to receive and they have a positive relationship with the practice, they are far more likely to schedule necessary and/or elective treatment.
However, too many dental teams do little but wring their hands, shake their heads, and long for “the good ol’ days” when patients simply did what they were told. They see their practices as victims of the changing dental marketplace. They’re not, but dental teams can’t sit there and wait for things to change – again – and neither can you. Take action, starting here:
1. Focus. Use the daily huddle to focus on today’s schedule as well as what is booked for the next two days, and adjust as needed. For example, “Ms. Molly” is scheduled for a hygiene appointment at 10 a.m. tomorrow. You notice that she has not pursued treatment on the small cavity that was diagnosed at the last appointment. Doctor has an 11 a.m. opening tomorrow. Call Ms. Molly and let her know that doctor is concerned about that cavity, and he could take care of it tomorrow. Gently encouraging her to pursue the care that she needs before the problem becomes more serious helps her to understand the value of treatment and the fact that she’s not just another patient churning through the perfunctory hygiene appointment. Still hesitant to make the call? Remember, your practice has a professional obligation to diagnose treatment needs and provide opportunities for patients to pursue necessary care. It is in Ms. Molly’s best interest that you to pick up the phone.
2. Connect. Use text, email, and phone communication to reach your patients to confirm appointments. Ask them what their preferred method of communication is. Don’t be surprised to find that the majority want you to communicate with them electronically. It’s fast, efficient, and it gets the job done. It’s 2014, get off the phone and into the 21st century.
3. Encourage. When scheduling patient appointments, ask the patient if they would like to be contacted if an opening occurs before the day they are scheduled. This is your “on call” list. It is an essential tool when filling last minute cancellations via text message, email, and yes even the phone. The ability to text patients and alert them of a short-notice opening in the schedule is essential and can save a last-minute threat to the daily production goal.
4. Be Proactive. If you are looking at a sizeable opening in the schedule, such as a full morning or afternoon, your target audience for these appointment times are patients with treatment diagnosed but not scheduled. How do you identify them?
5. Check the Treatment Plan Report. Follow up with the right patients. The scheduling coordinator and the doctor should meet weekly to determine which patients are to be contacted. Be selective, and read the documentation. When a patient is told that they need a particular procedure, it is essential that the specifics of what the patient was told and their reaction to the recommended course of treatment are documented, and can be referenced in the follow-up conversation with the patient.
Next week ... eliminate the #1 barrier.
For more information on this topic, visit my blog: The Lighter Side
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