9.21.07 - Issue # 289 Forward This Newsletter To A Colleague
Mid-Career Obstacles
Patient Financing
Insurance Benefits

Make the Most of the Mid-Career Practice
by Sally McKenzie CEO
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Every mid-career practice has room to grow and improve regardless of whether you’re among the fortunate who have hit their stride and are thoroughly enjoying success or still struggling to create the practice you’ve always dreamed of.  The key is to honestly consider what you really want from dentistry, and whether you would rather settle for what you have or if, at mid career, you’re ready to take your practice to an entirely new level of success. If you’re interested in the latter, read on. I’m going to talk about three key obstacles that could be hampering you’re path to the pinnacle.

#1 Staff. Hiring and personnel issues are a recurring nightmare for dental practices at all stages and particularly those in the throes of a mid-career struggles. A seemingly perpetual string of employee headaches burden the best of dentists.  Staff turnover typically occurs about every 18 months. Prepare for it. Implement a hiring strategy long before you’re in the midst of a “two-weeks notice” induced panic. Part of that staffing strategy includes making sure you add someone who will be able to fill a key position, not just collect a paycheck.

Don’t leave it to chance; make certain your next hire is the right fit for both the job and your practice. When you’ve carried out your carefully orchestrated hiring strategy and settled on a couple of serious candidates put them to the test. Make use of computerized testing tools that enable you to assess if the individuals you are considering would actually be a good fit for the position and your dental team.

It’s a safety net that can save you multiple hiring headaches. In many cases, you may be ready to hire a candidate who looks good on paper, interviews well, and appears to have the right demeanor for the practice. But if this person secretly hates asking people for money, she/he is not going to succeed as your collections coordinator. And you likely won’t discover this until you’re facing a financial problem.

Internet tests specifically designed for dental practices enable the doctor to know within minutes if the candidate they are considering would be a good match for the position. It’s a straightforward and accurate barometer that enables the doctor to hire based on real data not gut feelings or good luck.

#2 Training. Don’t skimp on team education and training. Nothing will stampede over a struggling mid-career practice and pound it into further turmoil than lack of instruction. In fact, the single, biggest contributor to practice inefficiency, mismanagement, and lost revenues is a poorly trained team.

#3 Service. If the schedule is booked out weeks for the doctor and months for hygiene, if patients are routinely declining treatment, if collections are low, and holes in the schedule are frequent, these are all system indicators that patient service is a problem. While each system likely needs careful scrutiny and review, you can make changes today that will improve patient perceptions of your practice immediately. Start with the basics:

  1. Acknowledge every person. Under no circumstances should a patient be ignored when they come to the counter. Acknowledge their presence immediately regardless of what you are doing at the time. It takes five seconds to look over at the patient let them know you will be right with them. If you pretend they are not there, you tell the patient that they are an annoyance and unworthy of your time.
  1. Welcome each “guest.” Treat each patient as the most important person in your office from the moment they walk in the door until they leave the parking lot.
  1. Have the answers. Patients expect you to have immediate answers to basic questions. Track the common questions that patients ask. Take steps to ensure that every member of the team is prepared to answer them.

Mid-career practices often suffer from a “we’ve always done it this way” attitude. They’ve settled into a comfortable routine. The doctor isn’t satisfied but doesn’t know what to do to fix the issues. There’s no better time than mid-career to re-focus on your practice goals and turn that slump into an all out stride.

Interested in speaking to Sally about your practice concerns? Email her at sallymck@mckenziemgmt.com.

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

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Bete Johnson
Director, Business Development
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How would you like to pay for that?
Increasing your Case Acceptance by Presenting Patients with Options

It wasn’t long ago that doctors did not accept major consumer credit cards as a payment option at their practice.  Instead, patients paid with cash.  If they were unable to pay cash, they declined or phased treatment or the practice billed them -- in effect, granting them an interest-free loan.  Over time, dentists were given more education both in school and in industry seminars about managing their practice, following sound business principles. As a result, dentistry has advanced in its business acumen.  Today, dentistry and the options patients are using to pay for their treatment is undergoing another evolution, as the majority of practices now also offer payment plans through a financing partner.

Offering payment options benefits both the patient and practice.  Patients can fit more comprehensive, esthetic and cosmetic dentistry into their lifestyle with a low, comfortable payment.  As a result, practices experience higher treatment acceptance, increased production and decreased A/R.  In fact, the Academy of Dental CPAs, ADCPA, recently released a landmark study that verifies offering CareCredit, the country’s leading patient financing program, “…significantly and positively impacts key financial metrics within the practice.” 

The Dynamics Causing the Evolution
According to the 2005 Dental Economics Practice Survey, between 52 and 61 percent of practices currently use a financing program.  These results are supported by Dental Practice Report, whose 2004 survey shows 55% of survey respondents offer a patient financing program and by the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentists with 82% of their members also offering this payment option. 

There are many reasons both doctors and patients are looking for a financing solution beyond cash, major consumer cards and in-practice billing.  For patients, new technology has created an increasing demand for more comprehensive and cosmetic treatment, resulting in a higher out-of-pocket cost.  Patients want the dentistry and need a convenient payment option.  And, national banking data indicates the average person has only $300 available credit on their consumer cards, so these may not be a viable payment option for all patients.  

Today, doctors recognize it is no longer financially prudent to loan money to patients, especially when treatment costs  thousands of dollars, and assume that risk of nonpayment.  

Offering A Financing Program Makes Patients and Practices Healthier
When doctors make the decision to offer a patient financing program as their practice’s payment plan, it not only helps patients get the dentistry they want and need, the practice benefits as well.  The ADCPA’s 2005 nationwide financial study analyzed the impact of CareCredit on practices compared to offices without a program.  The results were significant.

The key finding of the analysis concluded that practices without a patient financing program increased their gross annual production by only 4.1% compared with the 25.3% gain achieved by practices enrolled in CareCredit.  When compared to the average annual gross practice production in the U.S. of $600,000, a 25.3% increase represents $151,800 per year.  Practices that did not offer a program had an average increase of only $24,600 per year.

In addition, practices offering CareCredit experienced on average:

  • 25.3% increase in number of “Procedures Completed” in relation to “Procedures Planned”
  • 21% gain in the total dollar amount of procedures for “Procedures Completed” relative to “Procedures Planned”
  • 98% increase for implant services
  • 75% increase in acceptance of oral surgery
  • 71% increase in acceptance of restorative treatment

The Accounts Receivable Trends Report stratified outstanding payments by aging categories (i.e. 0-30 Days, 31-60 Days, 61-90 Days, and over 90 Days). Practices utilizing the CareCredit program realized a 37.7% improvement in total Accounts Receivable aging, compared with a 3.8% improvement by practices without a program.  In addition, the average outstanding payment was reduced by 41%. 

Commenting on the study findings, Michael J. Testa, President of CareCredit noted, “For years practices and dental practice management consultants have known that patient financing makes a difference for the patient and practice and it’s great to have that officially validated.  What we’re most excited about, as indicated by the ADCPA results, is the extremely high level of satisfaction practices have with the CareCredit program.  98% said they are ‘very likely’ or ‘likely’ to recommend CareCredit to others.  This is important to us because we work hard every day to make CareCredit the fastest and easiest program available.”  

Dentists can view a complete copy of the ADCPA’s Impact of CareCredit on U.S. Dental Practices by visiting www.carecreditworks.com or they can contact CareCredit at 800-300-3046, ext 4519.

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Belle DuCharme CDPMA
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The “End of the Year Insurance Letter”
Maximizing Insurance Benefits

Studies show that people who have dental insurance benefits visit the dentist more often than those who do not.  Another year is drawing to a close and the holiday season is coming upon us.  It is time to send out the “use it or lose it” insurance letter.

Sending it out now allows the patient to schedule ahead and reserve the time that best meets their needs and allows the dental office to get a picture of what will be needed for the scheduling in days ahead.  The insurance letter should address the dates that the office will be closed or any change of the regular hours during the holiday season.  Patients are often disappointed to learn that you are closed when they are available to come in.  College students will be home and schools will be closed.  This is a good time to come to see the dentist for routine visits and any necessary restorative. 

If you are on the PPO network, you may want to do your homework and determine which of your insurance plans pay on the seat date versus the prep date.  You do not want to be caught delivering crowns in January that were prepped in December when you need to use up those 2007 benefits.

Print the unscheduled treatment list including any pre-determined dental claims and start calling these patients. Many will appreciate the concern.  Take a look at last year’s production for November and December.  Were you able to meet the needs of patients who wanted to come in?  If not, you may want to add hygiene or doctor days to accommodate patients requesting appointments.  Tune up your ASAP list or Tickler File for patients who may want to come in at the last moment.  The holiday season usually marks the beginning of the flu season so be prepared for schedule fall-out.

Patients with larger treatment cases can use both yearly benefits by coordinating the preparation and delivery times to crossover to the next year.  As a courtesy, put together some temporary cement kits for patients who will be in temporaries over the holidays. If you will be out of the area over the holidays, inform the patient as to who will be on call and give them the contact information.

To help you get started, the following is a sample of the letter:

Don’t Forget to Use Your Dental Insurance Benefits Before the Year is Over

Dear Valued Patient,
Another year has flown by and I want to say thank-you for your trust and confidence in my dental practice.  Many patients do not realize that the dental benefits they have will not rollover into the New Year.  If you do not use those plan benefit dollars you will lose them.  For instance, if your plan allows you to have $1500 for 2007 and you have used $700.00—you will lose $800.00 if it is not applied to dental services by the end of December.  The cost of these benefits is on the rise and many employers are cutting back on benefits.  It makes sense to use every dollar that you are entitled to and for which you have paid.  If you have a Health Savings Account or a cafeteria plan, you may want to use these benefits also.

Our goal is to assist you and your family in obtaining optimum dental health and saving money too. You don’t have to start the treatment now, but it is wise to schedule the time that you request before the “rush” begins.  The end of the year is busy so give us a call today to reserve the best time for you.

Best regards,

Dr. Stanley Goodbrush

Some informational brochures about services and products offered in your practice can accompany this letter.  You may even want to offer a holiday special on teeth whitening kits or electric brushes. 

For more information on McKenzie's Advanced Training Programs for Office Managers and Front Office, email training@mckenziemgmt.com, call 1-877-777-6151 or visit our web-site at www.mckenziemgmt.com.
Interested in having Belle speak to your dental society or study club? Click Here.

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