Lower Overhead Costs So Your Practice Can Thrive
When your practice is struggling, the days tend to be long and stressful. There’s no doubt you and your team work hard, but you still don’t seem to be getting anywhere. High overhead costs keep you from moving forward, making it impossible to invest in new equipment or practice upgrades, and there’s certainly no way you can start saving for retirement. You know it’s time for a change, but you have no idea where to start.
Unfortunately, this is common in many dental practices. Out-of-control overhead keeps dentists from meeting their goals, leaving them feeling frustrated, lost and worried about the future. If this describes you, I want to help lower your overhead expenses so you can take your practice from struggling to thriving. Here are a few tips to get started:
1. Provide team members with proper guidance. When team members don’t have direction, they’re not nearly as effective as they could be – leading to inefficiencies and high overhead costs. Provide team members with the training they need from the beginning, and offer continual feedback to help them improve along the way. Develop detailed job descriptions that make their tasks and responsibilities, as well as your expectations, clear.
When you provide employees with the guidance they need to excel, they’ll be happier and more efficient – leading to increased productivity that puts a dent in your overhead.
2. Implement a perio program in your hygiene department. Many of the practices I work with don’t have a perio program, even though most patients exhibit signs of periodontal disease. If your practice is among them, starting a program will help boost hygiene production and reduce overhead, while also ensuring patients get the treatment they need. Remember, it’s the hygienist’s responsibility to tell patients about the presence of periodontal disease and educate them about their condition and treatment options.
You’re probably wondering how to implement such a program into your hygiene department. There are several ways to do it, but I suggest you start at the front. Train front desk employees to mention the program to patients when they check in, offer them educational brochures and have them fill out a questionnaire. Through the questionnaire, you’ll learn what symptoms patients have, opening the door for a conversation once they’re in the chair.
3. Establish performance standards. Raises shouldn’t be given because an employee asks for one, or because another year has gone by. They should be earned, and based on clearly established performance measurements.
I suggest you sit down with team members to establish these performance measurements. Make it clear how raises can be earned and under what circumstances they’ll be discussed. Keep in mind if your team members are used to that yearly raise, they might not like this change at first. But when they see the relationship between their performance, the practice’s success and their ability to take home a bigger paycheck, they’ll place more trust in the system, and be more likely to work to meet practice goals. Bottom line: Your team members will be motivated to excel, giving practice productivity a boost and reducing your overhead burden.
4. Consider implementing hybrid scheduling. Many dentists book patients six months out. It’s the system they’ve used for years, and they’ve never really considered changing it – until they realize how it’s contributing to high overhead costs and their chaotic schedule.
If you deal with a lot of broken appointments, part of the problem could stem from pre-appointing. When patients schedule their appointment, they have no idea what they’ll be doing at that time six months from now. Work and family commitments often come up, and patients opt to cancel their appointment at the last minute or not show up at all, leaving a hole in your schedule and hurting practice productivity.
Instead of relying on pre-appointing, I suggest you implement a hybrid system. Appoint reliable patients six months in advance, but wait to schedule those who have a history of flaking out. Let these patients know you’ll call them a month or two before they’re due back in. They’ll have a better idea of what their schedule will be then, making them less likely to cancel at the last minute.
5. Raise your fees. Most dentists are nervous about raising their fees, but if you haven’t done so in years it’s probably time. Do some research to see how your fees stack up to other dentists in the area. Use data, not emotion, to establish a solid fee for each service you provide, and then plan to adjust those fees twice a year – 2% the first time then 3% the second time, for a 5% total increase each year. It might seem small, but these slight increases will help you bring high overhead costs down.
Once you determine how to lower overhead, your practice will start to thrive. These tips will help get you started, but if you need more guidance, don’t hesitate to reach out. I’m here to help.
For additional information on this topic and more, visit my blog: The Lighter Side
Interested in speaking to me about your practice concerns? Email email@example.com
The New Patient
Loyal patients are equally important to new patients. In fact, they may even be more important because they have shown their loyalty and hopefully referred friends and family members to your practice over the years. The goal, of course, is to make every new patient a loyal patient.
When it comes to new patients, first impressions are critical. The first impression will help determine if that new patient becomes a long-term, loyal patient. This starts with the moment a person calls or comes into your office to make their first appointment. I myself have called doctors’ offices to schedule a first appointment and ended up deciding to go elsewhere because of what was said to me, or how it was said to me, during my initial contact.
No matter how busy the front office is when they take a phone call, it is important to be upbeat, not rushed, and have a conversation with the person on the other end of the line. Act as if they were standing directly in front of you, making eye contact.
When making new patient appointments, you should have an office policy in place to determine the amount of time needed. A new patient appointment is not the type of appointment to be “squeezed” or “worked” into the schedule. Regardless if the new patient is scheduled with the hygienist or doctor first, this appointment should not be interrupted. The time needed to provide quality of care should be the time allowed.
When patients arrive for their first appointment, it is important for the front office to make them feel welcome. Again, this is another first impression. New patients will be observing office decor, the staff, interactions with other patients and between team members, and how they were greeted. The provider who will be taking care of the new patient should be running on time. There are so many evaluations being done by new patients when they first enter your office – this is the time to be on your best behavior!
If you have a full schedule, you have hopefully allowed for new patient time-blocks not only for the new patient exam, but also in hygiene and the doctor’s schedule so patients do not have to wait a long time to begin treatment. These blocks should be based on past history and not just random times that you think will work best.
Once a new patient is seated in the chair, the provider should do a thorough review of their medical and dental history. During this time, the patient should be asked open-ended questions, such as: “What problems or concerns do you have?” Answers should be included in clinical notes, and this should be the first place you look before moving forward with the routine office policy of a new patient exam. Make sure to inform patients of the findings in this area visually, and explain what records you will need to collect to determine what treatment is needed.
Co-diagnosis is one of the best ways to involve patients in the exam process. This also educates patients before you even begin, enabling them to better understand their health care needs.
When all the information has been collected and the treatment plan has been reviewed and explained to the patient, the last question the healthcare provider should ask is another open-ended question: “What comments, questions, or concerns do you have?” If the only comment or concern they have is financials, it’s time to move them to your Financial Coordinator to have the rest of their questions answered.
The more you educate patients on what to expect at every appointment and how your office runs, the more likely they are to become your next long-term, loyal patient. This is your opportunity to build the trust that patients desire to have with their caretakers.
Interested in improving your hygiene department? Email firstname.lastname@example.org and ask us about our 1-Day Hygiene Training Program or call 877-777-6151
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