5 Reasons Your Practice Isn't Meeting Its Full Potential
When you look back on 2014, you can’t help but be a little disappointed. You had big plans for your practice, but instead of enjoying your best year yet, you spent most of your time dealing with staff issues, patient complaints and falling production numbers. The more you think about it the more frustrated you become, and the more you realize it’s time for a change.
You know your practice isn’t reaching its full potential, but you don’t know why. I’ve been helping struggling dental practices find success for more than 30 years, and I can tell you that a lack of clear goals combined with outdated, inefficient systems are a big part of what’s holding you back. Here, I’ve put together five common reasons your practice is going nowhere fast, and how you can turn it around in 2015.
1. You don’t have a clear practice vision. If you want your practice to achieve true success and profitability, you need to establish goals for yourself, your practice and your team members. Ask yourself where you’d like to be a year from now, and write down the goals you need to achieve to help you get there. I know you’re groaning as you read this, but it really does work. And don’t stop at writing down your goals. Determine what actions you need to take, and then develop a plan.
Once you’ve established your goals, communicate them with your team. Make sure everyone knows what they need to do to contribute. Sit down with each team member and develop individual goals that compliment overall practice goals. Show them how important they are to creating a thriving, profitable dental practice and you’ll notice a renewed enthusiasm and increased production from your team members in 2015.
2. You’re not setting your team up to succeed. Even when you have a clear practice vision, your team members can’t help you meet your goals if they don’t understand their roles. They want to do their part to move the practice toward success, but they need guidance.
Create clear, detailed job descriptions so team members know exactly what’s expected of them, and which systems they’re accountable for. This will help avoid confusion about who’s responsible for what, and will encourage team members to take ownership of their individual systems. And that, of course, will reduce conflict and increase production.
You also must provide training. Costly mistakes are bound to happen when team members aren’t properly trained. The fact is, a poorly trained team is the biggest contributor to practice inefficiency and mismanagement, so it’s worth any investment you make. When you see the difference it makes in your team’s confidence and production, you’ll be glad you did.
3. Patients don’t value their appointment times. Cancellations and no-shows are not only schedule busters, they’re costing you tens of thousands of dollars every year. Yes, you read that right. Let me break it down for you. Let’s say your practice averages two cancellations/no-shows a day, at a value of about $100–$125 each. That works out to a loss of more than $40,000 a year, and don’t forget the thousands of dollars in lost production you never had the opportunity to diagnose.
You'll never eliminate broken appointments, but you have to reduce them. How? Start by educating your patients so they understand the value of the services you provide, and the importance of maintaining their oral health. Hiring a dedicated Scheduling Coordinator, confirming every appointment two days in advance and flagging patients who repeatedly don’t show up are other ways to reduce the number of broken appointments in your practice.
4. You don’t follow up. Patients delay care for many reasons. You need to find out why. Task your Scheduling Coordinator with the all-important follow-up call. This person, trained in sales, should call every patient who doesn’t schedule necessary treatment. Armed with a script and information about the patient, your Scheduling Coordinator’s goal is to ease patient concerns and, through education, convince them it’s time to follow through with treatment. Put this practice in place and you’ll soon notice an increase in case acceptance and production numbers.
5. Your customer service is lacking. Patients want to feel welcome when they walk into your practice. If they don’t, chances are they’ll book their next appointment with the practice down the street. Make sure someone greets every patient with a smile and your team members are prepared to answer any questions patients might have.
Remember, a patient’s experience with your practice starts with that first phone call. Team members should be friendly and accommodating when talking with patients on the phone, never using the word “no” or creating any type of barrier to treatment. Continue great customer service even after they leave. Call patients post-treatment to see how they’re doing. Let them know you care, and they’ll be loyal patients who can’t say enough good things about you to their family and friends.
Customer service is a great, inexpensive marketing tool. If you use it in every patient interaction I guarantee you both your patient retention and production numbers will rise.
If you’re not happy with your practice’s performance, now is the time to make some changes. Need help to get started? Email me and I’ll send you a link to my Practice Potential Assessment, or go to my website HERE. Together, we can figure out what changes you can make to create a successful, profitable dental practice.
Next week: 4 ways to jumpstart your practice in 2015.
For additional information on this topic and more, visit my blog: The Lighter Side
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Study your 2014 Overhead Expenses for Improvement in 2015
Yes, it’s that time of year again when you are scrounging to get all your tax information together and your accountant is bugging you to get the info to start preparing your 2014 tax returns. This is also a good time for you to sit down and actually “study” your Profit and Loss statement (P&L) for 2014. Your accountant may provide this, or you may be able to print out your own if you use an accounting software program such as QuickBooks.
A helpful way to view the P&L is to use the option that shows the percentages of the various categories compared to the net collections, assuming that you have your categories set up correctly. Keep in mind that “industry standards” vary from specialty to specialty, and general practices follow a slightly different version from the specialists. This article will target the general practice.
Let me be the first to remind you that I am not an accountant, so this article is to help you understand your P&L from a practice management standpoint. I would like to address a few areas that are critical to your practice and your understanding of your practice expenses.
2. Dental supplies need to be categorized correctly to reflect properly on the P&L. It is common to see supplies at 10% but on further review, invoices that have been earmarked for dental supplies also included items such as repairs, computer support, electronic claims and statements, and small instruments such as hand scalers, rubber dam clamps, mirrors, etc. These items are NOT disposable and should not be included with the other disposable expenses. Instead, these items should have their own line item under Miscellaneous.
Cad cam expenses are not dental supply expenses, even though they are on the same invoice. Those expenses are “Lab” expenses and should be earmarked as such. This can make a huge difference in your dental supplies.
3. Lab expenses vary from office to office. When lab expenses are over 10% of the net collections of the practice, this can indicate either too many “redos” (which does not reap any revenue to offset the lab expense), or your fees are not within the typical range of 6-7 times the fee for the unit. This can be a real challenge when working with PPO plans that have lower reimbursements for fixed and removable appliances, as well as crowns. It may require some “shopping” on your part.
Sleep apnea appliances are being delivered more frequently, as well as orthodontic services being offered in a general practice. Monitor these charges, adjustments and collections separately from the restorative and hygiene portion of your practice. Why? Because it can take months to get a sleep apnea appliance paid and you have the upfront expense from the lab. This is also true for your orthodontic patients. Set up your orthodontic patients as a separate patient in your practice management program. Because their account is paid over a period of time, if you are trying to maintain the “over 90 days accounts” under 10% of your total accounts receivable, your ortho accounts will have a negative influence on your aging percentages.
4. Net Wages vs. Gross Wages. When you review the wages on your P&L, confirm with your accountant if you are looking at net wages after taxes or gross wages. It is usually net wages after all the withholdings are deducted. You actually pay your staff gross wages! It is the IRS that requires you to withhold state, federal and other payroll taxes on their behalf. These payroll taxes are not an expense to you but simply a pass-through from the employee to the IRS. However, you do have employer payroll responsibilities that are expenses to the practice. Make sure you are reviewing the accurate figures. I also prefer to review payroll summary reports opposed to the P&L from a practice management standpoint.
Gross wages as a percentage of net collections should be kept separate from staff benefits as a percentage of net collections. Benefits could be vacation, sick and holiday pay, bonuses, health insurance, uniforms not required by OSHA, etc. Miscellaneous (10% of net collections), facility (5%) and office supply (1-2%) categories are relatively self-explanatory.
Please take the time to review your expenses. Compare your percentages to last year and see what has increased. Do some research and see if you can determine why. Typically, fixed expenses don’t vary that much as a percentage from year to year, unless something has affected them. Also review with your accountant any concerns that you may have regarding significant changes in expenses.
Wishing for you and your team a healthy and prosperous 2015!
Branding Your Dental Practice For 2015
One cannot discuss marketing without the word “branding” coming up, because without a practice identity you are just another dental practice on the street with all the others. Studies show that many people simply forget the name of the dentist they saw one, two or more years ago. Even more difficult to remember is the group practice name without the dentist’s name on the signage, especially when there are several with similar names in the area such as North Coast Dental Group and Coastal Dental Group and Seacoast Dentistry. Having no memory of the name of the dentist or the exact location causes most people to pick another dentist or ask for a referral from a friend and start over again.
So what makes your dental practice memorable to patients? Branding, once established, is how your practice is perceived based on every single interaction you have with your patients. This interaction can be planned or it can be unofficial or even accidental. Planned marketing can be direct mail pieces, websites, business cards, logos and print advertisements. Unofficial can be communicated through phone calls, email messages, social media and blog posts. All of these things create a perception by which you will hopefully be remembered in a positive way. Of course, your practice can also be branded negatively if there is consistency in poor customer service or clinical care.
If you want your brand to be high tech within tranquility, you would not only have the latest technology, but you would use it where applicable to the patient. This would be routine, not hit and miss. Many negative memories of dentistry have to do with smell and sounds. You might develop a signature scent that reminds people of a rain forest instead of a tooth ache. A water fountain feature with beautiful background music instead of the drill and rock music on the radio would help to create a tranquility brand.
If you have structured your practice so patients are seen upon arrival, you are prepared, services are delivered with the best care and the patient is out on time, then you are branding your practice to be efficient and professional. The key is to keep this practice consistent and then build upon the promises kept. Adding to this may be to place a post-op call to patients who have had more difficult procedures to see if they are doing all right and answer any questions they may have.
In 2015 there will be more changes to dental insurance, bringing more coverage to more people with policies that are not what we are used to. It is necessary to be as knowledgeable as possible in this arena. Your Business Coordinator will be required to know more about dental and medical insurance coverage, and with this comes the need for a higher level of customer service. The person who answers the phone makes the first impression. It must be a great first impression in order to secure your brand as the best in patient/customer service. Many practices have been improved by having a team that is professionally trained to not only answer the phone, but skillfully guide the patient into an appointment quickly, kindly and professionally.
Marketing a dental practice has its challenges, and it is necessary to decide how you want to be perceived in the community. If your practice has not grown, is stagnating or is in decline, you could be suffering from several management issues that can lead to negative branding. Don’t be the forgotten dental practice in 2015. Take the first step towards learning how to bring new life back into your practice. Contact McKenzie Management today for help with Practice Management, Marketing Plans and Business Training.
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