For nearly 20 years, I have read many articles about our profession but this is my first one to write. Our consultant, Dave Rutty from Summit Practice Solutions, called me last week and said, “Do you realize your production is up 20% this year and you had your best month ever in June?” In June, we produced $239,000 and collected $229,000. Both figures were our best month ever. In August, we surpassed those figures and produced $276,000 and collected $248,000. Our overall collection rate is about 97%. My wife and I are both dentists. I see patients about 34 hrs/week and she sees patients less than 20 hrs/week. We have 7 ops and 9 chairs (two ortho rooms). We have four hygienists and approximately 15 hygiene days per week. We average 65 new patients per month and 36 referrals per month. After Dave called, I started thinking about the reasons why we’ve had a jump this year. Here are ten things we have done or concentrated on so hopefully this information will be helpful.
- We hired a coach. All these years in practice and we had never hired one. Call it fear. Call it ignorance. A coach can see things that you don’t because you’re too close to it. We had neglected systems that are critical to a well-run practice such as reactivating patients and following up on unscheduled treatment. Also, a coach forces you to be accountable. He or she will be in the office on a regular basis so it’s much harder mentally to put things off. You need to hire one. We should have done it years ago.
- We adjusted our fees. We got strategic about this. Again, our coach helped us. Summit ran a report for our zip code and we adjusted most fees to the 70Z80th percentile for our area. I say most because we want to stay highly competitive with comparable fees such as cleanings, crowns, and exams. This is not groundbreaking information but never forget how easy and profitable this is. We feared doing this in this economy but have had almost zero complaints from patients.
- We worked on our verbal skills. Imagine your practice as a triangle. On one side is clinical skills. On the other side is business systems. At the base is communication skills. For most of us dentists, we spend most of our training on the clinical side. Be honest – if you had the choice to prep a bridge or spend an hour training on communication skills, my guess is you would choose the bridge. Me too. But remember, two thirds of the practice is business systems and being able to effectively communicate with patients and staff. You may not be naturally gifted here but these are learned skills. One example here is techniques to increase the urgency of our treatment recommendations. My laid back personality does not help patients get the treatment they need. I have to make a concentrated effort to work on this.
- Many of you may have already done this but we hired an office administrator. I am getting some administrative things off my plate so I can concentrate on patient care.
- We have spent dedicated time working on ways to do same day dentistry. This is huge. You must have adequate staff, space, and equipment. But you also have to reinforce to the staff how profitable this is. This can be challenging for staff because it can be stressful to work in treatment. Staff need to be properly incentivized to get the big picture. Spend time on this. Figure out how lunchtime is affected. What about the end of the day? Your efforts will be well worth it.
- We increased marketing. This topic can be exhaustive but one specific suggestion is we started consistently rewarding patients for referring others. Check out www.sendoutcards.com because they make it easy to get this done. A down economy = increase marketing.
- This one’s not so easy. We have spent consistent time on social media and our website. Google likes fresh content. But who has the time to regularly provide fresh content?? We hired a college educated housewife (This is a great time to find these folks. Kids are grown. They’re wanting to get out of the house. In many cases, they’ll work for a low hourly rate.) One of her jobs is to blog, send patients an email newsletter, and add written testimonials to the website. Like it or not, the future is here and more and more patients will look for a dentist on the web.
- We blocked two hours a month to focus on staff training. Meetings always seemed counterproductive to me when we “could be seeing patients ” Sound familiar? But think about it. When was the last time you had a training update for your practice software? A lunch and learn with Smile Reminder? The choices are endless but the key is to put it on the schedule IN ADVANCE.
- We used down time to work on clinical efficiency. We found out a high school student was a much cheaper “bus boy” to clean and set up rooms. You don’t have an extra op if you don’t have an assistant to go with it. The point here is to look for ways to improve speed and efficiency.
- Finally, we made a conscious decision to invest in the business. Yes, in this economy. It will double our space. We have been tucked into a medical building with no signage for 19 years. We will be right off the major freeway next to the busiest Olive Garden in the nation (so I’m told) with the biggest sign our POA will allow. Your practice IS your golden goose. Are you up 20% in the stock market this year? Of course these things require effort. But think how well positioned you’ll be when the economy recovers. Choose not to participate in this recession.
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