Get Overhead Costs Under Control
Lately, it seems like all you do is pay bills – or worry about paying them. Overhead costs have taken over, leaving you wondering how you’re ever going to climb out of this financial hole. This certainly isn’t what you envisioned when you decided to become a dentist, and you’re more than a little frustrated. You’d love to make investments in your practice or even start saving for retirement, but as you write check after check each month, all that seems like an unreachable fantasy.
If overhead is keeping your practice from meeting its full potential, it’s time to regain control. How? I’ve put together a few tips to help you get started.
Start a perio program in your hygiene department. While most patients exhibit signs of periodontal disease, few hygiene departments offer interceptive periodontal therapy. Why? They’re afraid patients will react negatively.
No matter how they might react, it is the hygienist’s responsibility to tell patients about the presence of periodontal disease, and then educate them about the condition and their treatment options.
So how can you implement this type of program into your practice? There are several ways you can do it, but I recommend starting at the front. Train your front desk employees to mention the program to patients when they check in, and offer them an educational brochure and questionnaire to fill out as they wait for their appointment to begin. Responses to the questionnaire will tell you what symptoms patients have experienced – opening up the door for a conversation chairside.
Implementing this type of program into your practice will not only ensure patients with periodontal disease get the treatment and education they need, it will boost your hygiene production and help reduce practice overhead.
Raise your fees. I know most dentists don’t like to talk about raising fees. They’re convinced it will do nothing but cost them patients, so they opt to keep fees consistent year after year. The problem is, this does nothing but hurt your practice.
Raising fees is the fastest, easiest way to grow practice profits and reduce overhead. If you never raise your fees, it’s only making your overhead problem worse. I suggest establishing a fee schedule that’s fair to both you and your patients. Base fee increases on solid data and let patients know about the changes. Trust me, patients won’t run to the practice down the street just because your services cost a little more. In fact, most patients expect your fees to go up from time to time. As long as you provide them with high-quality care and top-notch customer service, they’ll stay loyal to your practice.
Don’t solely rely on pre-appointing. Does your practice deal with a lot of cancellations and no-shows? If you’re nodding your head yes, part of the problem could stem from pre-appointing.
Patients have no idea what they’re doing at 10 a.m. on a Tuesday six months from now. Chances are something will come up that leads them to cancel the appointment at the last minute or just not show up, leaving you with last-minute holes to fill.
Pre-appointing also gives the illusion that your schedule is full, when it really isn’t. This keeps patients who want to schedule treatment from seeing you, which could send them looking for a dentist who has more room in the schedule. This hurts your production numbers and contributes to high overhead costs.
Instead of relying on pre-appointing, I recommend investing in your recall system. Task your Patient Coordinator with calling and scheduling a specific number of recall patients each day. Trust me, this will do wonders for patient retention and production numbers, as well as reduce practice overhead.
Offer your team guidance. If you want an efficient team that helps you meet practice goals, you have to give them some direction. Provide detailed job descriptions that make it clear who is responsible for which tasks, and offer continual feedback, both positive and negative. This will help ensure your team members excel in their roles, leading to improved efficiencies and a reduction in overhead.
Establish performance measurements. Many dentists give out raises just because a year has gone by or because a loyal employee is having trouble making ends meet. While I’m all for giving team members raises, those raises have to be earned.
Establish clear performance measurements so team members know what they need to do to actually earn a bump in pay. Make it clear when raises can be discussed. Team members might not like this at first, but trust me, it will motivate them to improve their performance and do their part to move the practice forward. It will also keep salaries in line with the 20-22% of revenue benchmark – ultimately helping you reduce overhead.
If your practice is struggling with overhead, I know it can be overwhelming – but it doesn’t have to be. Feel free to contact me if you need more guidance, and I’ll help your practice finally achieve true success and profitability.
For additional information on this topic and more, visit my blog: The Lighter Side
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