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3.17.06 Issue #210

Where are Your Patients Getting Their Dental Information?

Sally McKenzie, CEO
The McKenzie Company

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Google the words “cosmetic dentistry” and you’ll get just over nine million hits. Scroll down a page or two and you’ll find dentists from Seattle, Houston, Chicago, Atlanta, and many other major cities. Key in “root canal” and on the first page, along with the American Dental Association’s website on the topic, you’ll find sites claiming to expose the dangers and health threats of root canal therapy.

While most patients would prefer to learn about the options of cosmetic dentistry from their own dentist’s website rather than some dentist in Seattle or Houston or Chicago or Atlanta, chances are pretty good their dentist doesn’t have one. They can access dental information from practically anyone and practically anywhere online except from the dental professional they trust the most – YOU. 

Similarly, while most dentists want patients to access reliable, factual material on endodontics, or any other treatment recommended, only a fraction can direct their patients to their practice’s website for that information.

When your patients want information, typically, the first place they look is the Internet. According to the most recent Pew Internet & American Life Project survey data, healthcare is the most frequently researched topic among those between the ages of 18-70+. On an average day, 94 million American adults are using the Internet and 72% of adults are routinely online. 

What’s more, public trust in the Internet continues to climb. Holiday shopping for the 2005 Holiday Season rose a whopping 30% over the 2004 season bringing in more than $30 billion.*

Your patients are all over the information superhighway - handling bank transactions, slipping in some shopping, catching up on the latest news and weather, scheduling a date, taking an online course or two, researching various topics, etc. It is a way of modern life, yet only a small percentage of dentists have made it part of the modern dental practice. The Internet is the telephone of the 21st century; it’s essential you get connected.  

Of course, there are practices that will claim with great conviction that they already have a website when, in fact, it’s merely an electronic yellow page or billboard ad. Their “website” includes basic information about the practice such as doctor’s name, the address, hours of operation, and phone number. Perhaps it promotes a couple of services, but there is nothing of substance for patients or prospective patients who want to learn more. 

Certainly, the best websites are dynamic and take time to develop. But when it comes to the Internet, content is KING. The best way to determine what should be included on your site is to view it as your most valuable patient education/communication tool. In addition to basic practice information, address the FAQs - frequently asked questions. Even if you’ve only been in practice for a short time, you have a good idea which questions patients tend to ask. From hours of operation, to insurance policy, to financial policy, to how emergencies are handled, etc. all of those can be in the FAQs. Post operative instructions should be standard on your practice website.

Staff biographies are an excellent means of building a relationship with new patients before they ever even walk in the door. Information on specific procedures that the clinical staff performs, an explanation of various dental terms, links to other credible dental sites, such as the American Dental Association, make excellent content. In addition, some online mapping services will allow your website to link to theirs, which will enable patients to easily access turn-by-turn driving directions to your practice.

A picture is worth a thousand words of Internet content. Include before and after photos. When current and prospective patients see what their dentist can do it instantly increases the value of your care.

Make a fast first impression. Pay close attention to how quickly the home page loads as well as the amount of information that is on that first page. While nearly 60% of users have high-speed Internet connections, the pages need to load quickly. Although users don’t mind scrolling up and down on a page they don’t want to scroll left to right or right to left.

Next week, maximize your website’s Internet marketing potential.

*The Goldman, Sachs & Co., Nielsen//NetRatings and Harris Interactive® fifth annual Holiday eSpending Report

Interested in having Sally speak to your dental society or study club? Click Here.

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Everybody Makes Mistakes

Mistakes happen.  Some can be corrected.  Especially in QuickBooks. With QuickBooks being the number one recommended software for dental practice accounting, I have seen hundreds of mistakes in the of practices I’ve consulted.  Here are just a couple…more.

Not backing up your QuickBooks data.
This is a big common mistake.  Complacency is a catastrophe in any business, but it’s much worse to lose documentation of completed work because of negligence.  Unfortunately, it sometimes takes a loss before we believe.
The first time your computer crashes, you are physically sick when you realize how much information you have lost.  I know.  I’ve been there.   Mine was a computer virus.  But tragedy comes in different forms at the most unexpected times. 

This past year we saw hurricanes wipe out communities of residents and businesses.  A colleague had been backing up online and made me a firm believer in online back up.  Because they had to relocate their business, they could purchase another computer and software, then download all their operational information.  They were up within hours.  Many, many corporations were doing the same across the south and relocating their businesses, as well as their personal lives.

A client experienced a tragic fire to her practice, losing everything. Because she had been told to take backups offsite, she had her practice software and QuickBooks when she needed it the most!

In the midst of dealing with the bigger tragedy of a hurricane or fire, give yourself one less thing to regret by backing up your critical data.  QuickBooks offers this service, as well as many other online services, for the QuickBooks data and any other files.  The cost is based on the amount of storage you need and you can back up daily, automatically.

Backing Up is covered in much greater detail in my More Than Just Turning It On book.  This resource covers essential computer information that you need for your practice, in layman’s terms.  In fact, one recent reader called it the Practice’s Computer Dummy book!

Mixing Personal Expenses with Business Expenses.
At a, Getting The Most Out Of QuickBooks In Your Practice workshop, one of the attendees was smiling broadly while I was covering this area.  I talk about keeping a six lane highway between business and personal.  I talk about if you assume you will be audited, it will help you keep your finances organized.  The more I covered, the more emphatically he agreed.  At the break, I found out why.  He was an IRS auditor and his wife was a dentist!  After my initial personal panic, he affirmed everything I said.  It was nice to have the confirmation from the source.

The chances of your practice being audited are very good.  The IRS loves to scrutinize small businesses such as yours.  Mixing personal with business expenses is one of the areas looked at with a magnifying glass.  It is much easier to keep them separate.

Get a business credit card for business expenses only.  Use your personal credit card for personal expenses only.  If you are incorporated, this is more important as you are then an employee of the corporation.  Use the memo field in the credit card’s register to type what the expense is for.  Too much detail is always better than not enough.

Do not allow this to be a neglected or lazy area.  Or, like not backing up, the first time you are audited, could be a very expensive lesson. So, in summary.  If you work as if you are going to be audited or assume your computers will crash, you will be much more cognizant of what needs to be done to protect yourself.  Just like a known logo – Just DO IT!

To order Susan’s QuickBooks™ 2006 In Your Practice Primergo Here

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Bonus Schmonus!
A Mckenzie Management Case Study

Nancy Caudill
McKenzie Management
Senior Consultant
McKenzie Management

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This case study is an illustration of a family dental practice maybe similar to yours. The names have been change to protect the guilty!

Dr. James’ Story:

Dr. James e-mailed McKenzie Management out of desperation!  His note read, “I have reviewed your guidelines for a healthy practice overhead.  22-27% of my total net collections should be allocated to employee salaries and benefits.  Holy Macaroni!  Mine is 32% and increasing.  What is my problem and how do I fix it?”

Upon visiting Dr. James’ practice and analyzing his practice statistics and staff salary history, here are the facts:

Office Facts:

  1. % of net production to net collections averaged 94% for the past 3 years
  2. Hygiene retention was at 60%.
  3. Staff salaries were increased yearly by 1% from the previous year because they asked.
  4. A bonus program was in place to reward the staff monthly when the net collection exceeded $60,000.
  5. Fees were increased annually at around 5%.
  6. Total practice overhead was 65%.

In-office Observations:

Janice, Dr. James’ Financial Coordinator, did not have a job description.  She would call a few past-due recall patients when she had time.  She tried to call a few outstanding delinquent accounts when she had time.  Most of her time was spent on the phone with insurance companies, verifying benefits and eligibility for every patient that was scheduled for the next day.  She also answered the telephone and scheduled patients.

Kathy, the Schedule Coordinator, did not have a specific job description either.  She sat in the “hot seat” and was answering the telephone, checking patients in and out, managing the patient records and confirming the next day’s patients for the doctor and the hygienist.

Critical Issues for Dr. James:

Many dynamics were taking place in the office that Dr. James was not aware of.

  1. He was experiencing a false sense of security when he compared his production from one year to the previous year because he wasn’t taking into consideration that the increase was as a result of the annual fee increase, NOT because of increased growth of the practice.
  1. He felt obligated to increase his staff’s salary every year because they asked.  He did NOT evaluate his % of collections to gross salaries to determine if he could “afford” to give raises.  In his case, his % did not warrant an increase.  Industry standards are 19-22% and his was 24%.
  1. Staff benefits (including tax withholding, bonuses and other benefits) should not be more than 3-5% of total collections.  Not only was he offering a monthly bonus with no guidelines based on the industry standard but he also was not considering the other benefits that he offered, such as medical insurance and a 401-k for his employees.  These costs were driving his benefits % upward towards 8%.
  1. The practice was not growing because the hygiene retention was low.  New patients were coming in the front door but more were going out the back door due to the fact the there was not an employee at the front desk that was given the responsibility of “growing the practice” by being in charge of the hygiene department. 


This is not an easy situation to resolve.  Employees do not want to hear that you are taking away their bonus, benefits or freezing salaries.  However, it is imperative that staff have a firm understanding of how overhead works in any business…and yes….dentistry is a business and you are a business owner!

They need to understand how you base your salary and benefit decisions, using the industry standards that compare the salaries and benefits percentages to net collections.  This eliminates the guesswork for you, as the business owner, regarding whether to increase salaries and offer a bonus plan.

You can empower your employees!  They have the ability to increase collections, which, in turn, will allow you to increase their salary and benefits package.  You must make sure, however, that they have the tools to make this happen.  They need effective systems for:

  1. Improved collections to 98% to improve total overhead
  2. Improved hygiene retention to 90% to grow the practice and increase production
  3. A true understanding of the practice overhead as it relates to their salary and benefits.

Remember, THEY allow you to increase their salaries and benefits.  Empower them to do so!

For more information on how McKenzie’s Practice Enrichment Program can help you email

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