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For the next few weeks I am going to put a magnifying glass on your benchmarks, but in a little different way. I find most doctors fail to really monitor or study their numbers. Oh sure, some pay hundreds if not thousands of dollars a month to have some third-party company data mine their practice software in order to produce a monthly report or dashboard of how the practice is doing. But do your really know the impact of your numbers or even which numbers to watch? Keep in mind that if you would take the time to have the staff trained properly on your dental software, all those numbers are already there. So here is the strategy: Each week we will examine a single number or percentage that everyone should track. We will also explore what to do when it goes off the rails. Even a small downward or, in some cases, an upward negative change can mean hundreds of thousands of lost dollars that could and should be in your pocket. We will dissect why and how, along with what to do to fix it.

Today, we will look at direct referral numbers. The reason I am beginning here is that if I could only look at one number to diagnose a practice, it would be the percentage of new patients that are direct referrals. Nowhere else can you see a snapshot of how all of your systems have come together in a good or not so good manner. It is the quintessential statement of whether your patients like you or not. A great question to ask yourself is: Do my patients like the staff, systems and doctor? If your percentage of direct referrals is below 20% or 30%, they absolutely don’t like your practice. In fact, this is reflected in the following areas.
Slow to no growth: Stagnant collection and productivity.
Few new patients: (National average is 25-30). You should strive to do better than this. Average numbers say something, too.
Excessive cancellations and no shows.
Patients not scheduling for treatment with the excuse that they need to speak with their spouses or think about it. This indicates that you are probably considered to be too expensive, or there was no trust developed during the patient office encounter.
High staff turnover: Staff can feel the negativity, lack of leadership, and resentment from your patients.
Doctor burnout: This could become evident in a multitude of ways. Showing up late, leaving early, being disconnected from your practice, lack of interest in doing better, etc. Basically, you are just coasting while settling for whatever happens.

This probably goes without saying, but what gets measured gets done. The problem with most offices is that they don’t even track this number or percentage. So, your homework is to start measuring the percentage of new patients coming from direct referrals, and then act quickly to have at least a 50% direct referral rate. I will advise any of our clients that if you are not getting that type of referral rate (50%), then you should not do as much marketing externally. It is foolish to spend money on an external outreach when the problem is internal. Clean up what and how you do the practice of dentistry. Good luck and call if you need some help.

Michael Abernathy, DDS
972-523-4660 cell
[email protected]

PS. Please consider joining us Oct. 26-27 for MYTH BUSTERS. We will explore: how to stand out in this era of increased commoditization; a blueprint for dental practice growth and survival; stages of practice growth; Dentist vs CEO; multiple models of highly prosperous practices; adding doctors and/or locations; and much, much more.

To register and find other info and details, just follow this link: