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5 Tips to Help You Reduce Stress and Grow Your Practice
By Sally McKenzie, CEO

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When you’re constantly stressed out, it can be difficult to see exactly what’s going wrong in your practice. You have no idea what needs to be fixed or how to fix it, which of course only leads to more stress – further hurting practice efficiencies and your bottom line.

Once you identify the source of your stress, you can take steps to make the changes you need to reduce that stress and grow your practice. An experienced dental consultant can help with that. To get you started, I’ve put together a few common practice stressors and what you can do to eliminate, or at least significantly reduce, them from your office.

1. A chaotic schedule. Some days you’re running from patient to patient barely able to keep up, while other days you find your schedule wide open thanks to last-minute cancellations and no-shows. You’re often double booked, which of course adds extra stress to your day, and there are times when you only have 30 minutes to complete a procedure you know will take an hour.  

If this describes your practice, I suggest you consider hiring a Scheduling Coordinator, especially if you have multiple team members going into the schedule to fill appointment slots. Train this team member to schedule your days to meet production goals, not simply to keep you busy. You and your assistant should also communicate procedure times with the coordinator so he or she doesn’t have to guess, filling in 60 minute appointments here and 90 minute appointments there. It’s also a good idea to have your coordinator come up with a plan to deal with last minute cancellations and no-shows.

Another tip? Consider using a hybrid scheduling system rather than pre-appointing all patients six months out. You’ll find your practice will deal with fewer broken appointments and the stress they bring.

2. Staff conflict. Tension among team members can make things pretty uncomfortable in a dental practice. It hurts team morale and leads to turnover, which, you guessed it, also leads to stress. While you’ll never eliminate conflict completely, there are ways you can reduce it.

Providing detailed job descriptions, for example, makes it clear who’s responsible for what so there’s never any confusion. And of course when you notice conflict among team members, you can’t ignore it and hope it goes away on its own. It won’t. Instead, sit down with the team members involved and work together to find a solution that not only diffuses the situation, but that also benefits the practice.

3. Fees. This is a source of stress for many dentists. They’re afraid if the cost of dentistry goes up, they’ll lose patients to the practice down the street. The problem is, if you haven’t raised your fees in years, it’s costing your practice big and keeping you from meeting your full potential. Undercharging patients by as little as 7-8% costs you thousands of dollars in lost revenue each year, and undercharging by 40% or 50% translates into a serious financial pounding. If that’s not stress-inducing, I don’t know what is.

I recommend you implement a solid fee schedule. Look at what other dentists in your area charge as well as the income demographics of your patients. Base your fees on the quality of dentistry and customer service you provide.

Consider adjusting fees twice a year. The first fee increase should be 2%, and the second 3% for an annual yearly increase of 5%. This might not seem like a lot, but even if you’re only raising fees $4-$5 per procedure, you’ll still notice a significant difference in your bottom line.

4. A weak team. Hiring the right people is key to a successful practice and lower stress levels, as is providing job descriptions and proper training so they can excel in their roles. Offering clear direction will help ensure team members understand what their contributions mean to the practice and how to excel in their position.

If team members are underperforming, it leads to inefficiencies, frustration and stress. That’s why training and continual feedback are so important. When your team members are confident in their skills, they’ll be happier and more effective – which reduces stress and improves your practice.

5. Low patient retention numbers. When patients don’t come back, it leaves you and your team members wondering what you did wrong. There are many reasons you never see patients again. Here are just a few:

-They didn’t feel connected to the practice
-The customer service was lacking
-They couldn’t afford the treatment you recommended
-They didn’t think the treatment was necessary

To up your patient retention numbers, I suggest focusing on patient education and customer service. Make an effort to build a rapport with your patients and look at every interaction as an opportunity to educate. Follow-up with patients after case presentations, and consider hiring a Treatment Coordinator to deliver those presentations. Offer CareCredit as a payment option and make sure patients understand why you’re recommending treatment. Patients will appreciate these efforts, making them more likely to come back and to accept treatment.

Stress doesn’t have to be the norm in your practice. Addressing these common stressors will help you create a more efficient, profitable practice that you and your team members are happy to come to each day.

For additional information on this topic and more, visit my blog: The Lighter Side

Interested in speaking to me about your practice concerns? Email sallymck@mckenziemgmt.com
Interested in having McKenzie Management Seminars speak to your dental society or study club? Click here.
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