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Inside Dentistry

July/August 2007, Volume 3, Issue 7
Published by AEGIS Communications


10 Ways to Lead Your Practice to Greater Success

Roger P. Levin, DDS

Practice success does not just happen on its own like it often did in decades past. Most dentists in those days simply hung out their shingle and the patients came. Dentists did not advertise and most offered a very limited service mix to patients who thought that anything beyond a cavity being filled or an abscessed tooth being extracted was a luxury reserved only for film stars and other very wealthy people.

Times change. Customers are more demanding. Competition is increasing.Today, practice success is not quite so easy. It must been orchestrated. It must be planned and executed.And there is only one person who can mastermind this process—you, the leader of the practice.

Leadership is about leading your team. However, there are other important areas that every dentist must acknowledge are essential to practice growth in today's world. As the leader of the practice, the doctor should aggressively pursue the following areas to grow the practice.

1. Documented Systems
Undocumented systems do nothing to keep a practice going in the long run. A practice can be thrown into chaos if the person who created an undocumented system leaves to work elsewhere. Total quality management (TQM), demands that the dental practice evaluate all operational aspects and define the best way to perform each function. Systems are critical in a dental practice because practices rely on exceedingly limited resources. Financial success is most consistently achieved when practice systems are effective and efficient.

2. Budget and Cost Control
Every practice needs to understand and track revenues, expense patterns, and resulting profitability. A budget process allows the dentist to determine financial goals and then develop systems that support those goals. Be aware that budget control includes not only cost-control measures, but specific production and collection goals as well. A budget is only as good as its implementation. Be consistent when monitoring practice performance.

3. Hygiene Department Efficiencies
Levin Group estimates that acquiring a new patient costs a practice hundreds of dollars, as compared to the minimal charge of keeping an existing patient. The math demands that the practice implement an efficient hygiene department system, ensuring high patient retention.This is done with strong scripting, comprehensive exams, treatment presentations, and effective scheduling.

4. Practice and Patient Financial Policies
Patients' financial responsibilities and the prevalence of insurance dramatically impact the financial performance of a practice. Efficient collection is critical to the profitability of the practice.Consider using a brochure to educate patients regarding dental insurance and implementing scripts that train your team to clearly articulate patient responsibilities and payment options.

5. Enhanced Case Presentation
Re-examine your entire case presentation process.Are you presenting too much clinical information and not emphasizing patient benefits enough? Are you presenting elective cases selectively instead of to every patient who may benefit? As you present more cases, you will need to make it easier for patients to pay. Expand your finance options to include outside patient financing with a company such as CareCredit, Inc. (Costa Meca, CA) that offers no interest and flexible options. When patients' anxieties about their ability to pay are addressed, case acceptance will go up, often substantially.

6. New Profit Centers
Advancements in dental technology present the modern practice with innovative opportunities for growth. Two prominent areas of growth over the past few years have been implants and cosmetic dentistry. As public awareness of cosmetic dentistry has increased because of extreme makeover television shows, dentists are now finding patients more responsive to esthetic dentistry than ever before.

7. Accelerated Scheduling
Practices should adapt an accelerated scheduling model to improve productivity and staff efficiency. By scheduling patients in multi-columns based on the availability of the dentist, the practice can free up valuable production time for more than one patient at a time. Remember that the scheduling system your practice uses directly affects both production and stress. Levin Group recommends scheduling comfortably, but increasing production per chair.

8. Morning Meetings
Organized morning staff meetings are critical for a highly productive office. This brief meeting is designed to prepare the staff for the day and to ensure the best quality care for patients.Productivity is achieved in three ways. First, performance is monitored against goals on all key indicators (ie, production, collections, production per new patient, case presentation, and accounts receivable). Second, the schedule is reviewed to determine if any issues exist, including emergencies. Third, opportunities are identified for case presentation.

9. Human Resource Systems
Every dental team member must have a clearly defined job description outlining his/her specific responsibilities. It is critical to incorporate accountability into practice systems. Understanding how hectic a dental practice schedule may be, the goal is to ensure members of the team know their responsibilities, are well trained to perform their duties efficiently, and gain professional satisfaction from their work.

10. Quality Customer Service
Perhaps no aspect of the dental practice is more important than customer service. Today's dental patient is increasingly more educated and discerning. A growing dental practice must provide high-quality care through systematic and consistent management of patient relations.An effective way to ensure quality customer service is to provide patients with a survey form that allows them to rate aspects of your practice.

Quality customer service is a step-bystep comprehensive program that dictates how every patient is treated throughout the dental visit and in any interactions following the visit.

Levin Group recommends sending a thank you to all new patients after their visit to the practice. It also is a good idea to send a survey to capture the patient's experiences. Surveys will provide valuable, actionable data to the practice.

CONCLUSION

As the leader of your practice, your responsibility is to lead the practice into the future. Only you can make the final decision on how to grow your practice. By pursuing the 10 areas outlined in this article, you are in an excellent position to keep your practice growing over a lifetime.

DISCLOSURE

The author has a coporate alliance with CareCredit, Inc.

If you would like to know more about ways to lead your practice to greater success, you are entitled to a no-cost phone consultation with a Levin Group Practice Development Specialist.

Roger P. Levin, DDS
CEO, Levin Group, Inc
Owings Mills,Maryland

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