11.27.09 Issue #403 Forward This Newsletter To A Colleague
Increase Profitability
New Patient Phone Calls
Financial 101

Increase Your Profitability by 25%
by Sally McKenzie CEO
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As we head into the holiday season and mark the end of a year that many are quite happy to draw the curtain on, more than a few doctors are struggling with how to reward their teams this year. My advice: redefine your definition of reward.

Rewards are a means of recognizing that an employee has done their job very well. They are personal expressions of your gratitude. Certainly, the holidays provide an opportunity for you to acknowledge your employees’ hard work and dedication. But now is not the time for you to “make up” for a year’s worth of working through lunch more days than not, disregarding your staff’s personal lives, or being generally rude and disrespectful to your team. The annual holiday party does not excuse you from saying “thank you,” “good job,” “I appreciate you,” “you are an important member of the team,” etc. throughout the rest of the year.  Rather, the holidays merely cap off a rewards and recognition program that you should be following from January 1 through December 31.

It’s widely acknowledged that managing and motivating staff is, for most dentists, your biggest practice headache. Yet some dentists view a reward program as nothing more than recognizing employees for what they should be doing in the course of their jobs. In actuality, reward and recognition programs are shown to have a huge impact on business productivity. According to data from leading pollsters, including Gallup, Harris and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, businesses that recognize and reward employees effectively are 25% more profitable. Conversely, the productivity of employees that feel like unappreciated cogs-in-the-company- wheel is nearly 50% lower, on average, than the productivity of employees that feel appreciated.

Developing a reward-for-performance philosophy has other advantages to the dental practice as well. Employees who participate in reward programs that are tied to a well-defined performance measurement system tend to develop more of an ownership attitude in the success of the practice. They are more likely to exhibit innovative behavior, actively seeking ways to improve performance within their job description. They also tend to perform more effectively as a team.

That being said, a reward program must be very well thought out. Among the key factors to be considered:  What are the practice's objectives? How should results be measured? What level of performance is expected? What types of rewards are offered? Who is eligible? In addition, there must be a distinct relationship between what an employee accomplishes and the reward received. There should be a reasonably short time span between the superior performance and receipt of the reward. For example, if the Patient Coordinator achieves a 92% patient retention after 30 days based on a goal of 85%, the reward should be given after 30 days, not at the end of a quarter.

The reward must be of perceived significance in order for the employee to have the desire to step up performance. Note that I said "step-up" performance. You are not rewarding them for doing their job. It's also essential to realize that staff members will view the value of rewards differently. Some would place a high value on a personal letter of recognition while others might perceive that as useless. Moreover, what may be meaningful to you may not be meaningful to your staff. For example, you may think that bringing the team to the Chicago Midwinter Meeting in February is just fabulous. Yet for some employees with children, going out of town for a number of days may be a hardship and not a reward. 

The true worth of a reward is in the eyes of the beholder. Because we all have different needs and wants, no single reward will be treasured by everyone, which makes rewards more challenging to design and manage. To determine the best motivating reward for your staff members, involve your team in the process. Explain to them the objectives discussed above and invite them to help you determine what types of rewards may work best for both the individuals and the group as a whole.

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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Nancy Caudill
Senior Consultant
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The New Patient Phone Call… Does Yours Work For You?

Dr. Steve Conklin– Case Study #345

Dr. Conklin just invested in a direct mail marketing campaign for his practice. The number of new patients seeking professional cleanings and a comprehensive exam had dropped from 26 a month to only 18 a month.  As a result, his production had also been effected, since 50% of his treatment comes directly from the new patients that he has the opportunity to present a treatment plan to.

His reason for contacting McKenzie Management was a valid one. After he made the decision to market directly to potential patients in the area, he also wanted to make sure that his business coordinators were managing the incoming phone calls for maximum potential. Good for him! It doesn’t make any difference how many potential patients are calling if they are “turned off” by their initial contact to his office.

Dr. Conklin’s Practice Facts:

  • He participates only with Delta Dental Premier PPO.
  • His practice hours are 8:00 – 5:00, Monday – Thursday with lunch from 12:00 – 1:00.
  • He employs one hygienist who also works 4 days a week, the same hours.
  • All hygiene patients are pre-scheduled six months in advance.

Before we start to review the dialogue that is currently being used by his Practice Coordinator when she answers the phone, let’s take a closer look at his current facts:

PPO Participation: Depending on your location, the number of years your practice has been open and many, many other considerations, PPO participation is not uncommon.  Dr. Conklin has managed to grow his practice without signing with other PPO plans and would prefer to only maintain a relationship with one, if possible.

Office Hours: An attempt should be made to accommodate as many patients’ schedules as possible. Early morning appointments at 7:00am are the most sought-after appointments in most dental offices.  After hours and evening can be, but more for emergencies opposed to the established patient base. Patients are busy after work with personal errands and events, such as kids’ sports, workouts, etc.

Also, Dr. Conklin’s lunch hour was scheduled too early in the morning.  It is important to have as long a morning as possible for increased morning production. Many patients have their lunch break at noon; therefore, they would be available to visit Dr. Conklin’s office if he were open during their lunchtime.

Number of Hygiene Days: It was determined statistically that Dr. Conklin needed 2 additional days of hygiene per week. New Patients were waiting weeks before they could be seen.  The “no show” rate for his new patients was 40%.

Pre-scheduling: In addition to being short-staffed in hygiene, all hygiene patients were pre-scheduled in advance. There were NO openings available for past due patients, SRPs, and new patients. This is the kiss of death for the Hygiene Department! 

The New Patient Telephone Call should contain the following in this order:

  • The greeting: “Thank you for calling Dr. Conklin’s office. This is Mary. How may I help you?”  If a clinical person is helping cover the phones or there are more than one person working in the business area, the correct response after the greeting would be, “How may I direct your call?”
  • Obtain the patient’s name if they do not offer it. Refer to them by name when appropriate.
  • “How did you hear about us?” Not only is this information for marketing purposes but it also allows an outlet for some rapport-building. “Sandra is one of our favorite patients. We will be sure to thank her for thinking of us.”
  • “How may we help you?” Allow the patient to express their concerns and ask a couple of questions to continue the rapport-building.
  • “May I take a moment to tell you about your first visit with us?” Have a written script that expresses how special your office is. Tell the patient in terms they will understand about your digital records, intra-oral camera, laser cavity-detectors, thorough oral cancer and blood pressure screening, the comprehensive exam by the doctor followed with a complete treatment plan and a visit with the hygienist for the continuation of your visit. 
  • Tell the new patient how long they will be in the office so they can make plans.
  • If necessary, ask if you will be assisting them with a dental supplemental plan.
  • Schedule their appointment, allowing for uninterrupted time with the doctor.  Remember that you only have one chance to make a good first impression, so make it GREAT!
  • Invite the patient to visit the practice’s website for a map, downloadable forms and other interesting facts about their new practice.
  • Thank them for calling. Every new patient is a diamond and Dr. Conklin is making an investment in order to make the phone ring.

One last thing: don’t forget to SMILE!  A caller can’t see you but they can hear the smile in your voice. Speak slowly and clearly. The new patient doesn’t know that it is the end of the month and you still need to send out statements, call about unpaid insurance claims, confirm Mondays’ patients and file charts. Take a deep breath and remember that you are on stage from the time you walk in the office until the time you walk out…every day.

If you would like more information on how McKenzie's Practice Enrichment Programs can help you IMPLEMENT proven strategies, email info@mckenziemgmt.com.

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Belle DuCharme CDPMA
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Financial 101 for 2010

Numbers are the goal for any business, and dental practices are no exception. Dentists are healthcare providers with caring natures, but they are also business people with obligations to pay mortgages or a lease, staff, suppliers, service people and the list goes on. Why then are many dentists still giving away valuable services or discounting their services below market value?

The Front Office Training for Dr. B’s practice revealed why the office rarely reached practice goals, even though the doctor’s schedule and the hygiene schedule were always booked for the day.

  • She gave senior discounts of 10% for all services, including hygiene.
  • She did not charge for dental examinations and that included new patient comprehensive examinations.
  • Emergency appointments were at no charge.
  • She had not raised her UCR fees for two years.
  • She had 18% monies in 90 day plus accounts receivables.

Dr. B. looked at the list as a kindness or customer service to offer discounts and free examinations, when in actuality it is a broken financial issue for the practice. Let’s first look at item #1, senior discounts.  A demographic report from the software revealed that over 50% of the practice was over 60 years of age. So 50% of revenue generated by this group was getting 10% off of their services.  After completing a fee analysis for the area, it was noted that Dr. B. was charging below the usual and customary fee range for the demographic area. Not only was she discounting her fees but she was charging less than her competitors for the same services. 

Item #2 is more distressing as a dental examination is one of the most valuable and payable services the practice can offer. It is required by law that a dentist examine a patient before treatment is performed. The comprehensive examination is the time devoted to getting to know your patient and creating a record of a complete analysis of their existing health and recommended course of treatment.  A comprehensive examination is a sure bet for payout from most insurance companies and is the standard of care expected by the industry.  Insurance company’s payout is usually twice a year for periodic examinations which insures patient acceptance of this charge.

Item #3 was originally put into place to attract new patients to the practice. By not charging for emergency appointments, the phone rang off the hook and the practice had at least 4 emergency patients a day. The idea was to sell those patients on a comprehensive exam and x-rays. However, the only group this marketing tactic attracted was those that did not value their dental health and had no means to pay. The system also upset the regular schedule on a daily basis and prevented cash paying patients from receiving timely appointments.

Item #4 was explained as a way to help those that were affected by the recession.  Patients do not know whether your fees are up to date or not.  It is up to the doctor and the team to bring value to the services offered. Discounts and charging way under market for your services only demean your services.  The practice costs go up like any other business and the fees charged should be able to cover the expenses incurred for the practice. If your fees are usual and customary for the area then you can occasionally choose to grant charity to a patient without affecting the entire practice production.

Item #5 revealed that even though Dr. B. was kind and generous the patients still balked at paying and that is why her 90 day accounts receivables was about 6-8 percent higher than what is considered healthy.  Some people will complain no matter what they pay, and if it is free they will not value what they receive and will become suspicious as to why it is free.

The Front Office Advanced Business Training course offered solutions to each one of the items affecting the practice production and collections. New scripting and plans to implement a system to raise fees, reduce patient courtesies (discounts) and deliver value to services were put in place. Just by charging for dental examinations including comprehensive, limited oral evaluation and periodic, the typical booked day’s production rose by almost $1,000.

If you would like more information on McKenzie Management’s Advanced Training Programs  to improve the performance of your team, email training@mckenziemgmt.com.

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