By Kevin Brady
All dentists want a practice with high performance, productivity, and profitability. These three P’s represent the standard by which successful dental practices are measured. There is, however, another “P” that many dentists forget, which is arguably the most important—patients.
Happy patients lead to positive outcomes and accelerate the other Ps. Enhancing customer service and public relations are key to running a thriving dental practice. To accomplish this requires dentists to devote more time to patients and provide them with what they need to complete their treatment recommendations. By incorporating current, proven, safe, and secure technology into the dental practice, staff can focus more on patient care.
Performance indicators Recall is the performance enhancement engine of most dental practices. When patients commit to and show up for regular recall appointments, dentists are able to diagnose potential issues early. These appointments allow time for patients to express their concerns and discuss what needs to be addressed with their teeth. In order to have an effective recall program, the practice needs a good hygiene program to encourage patients to return at six-month intervals. This means the practice has enough staff to see both recall patients and those coming in for more time-consuming dental treatment.
If the one-on-one time with the staff decreases, performance may suffer and patients may become uneasy about accepting recommended treatment that wasn’t effectively explained to them. One way to solve this dilemma is to use a third party partner to assist the staff in various aspects of running the practice.
Claire Ficsor, DDS, owner of Windermere Family Dentistry in Littleton, Colorado, believes that using a third party partner makes her practice better. “It frees up my staff to do what they’re supposed to do and what they’re good at: scheduling, getting patients in for treatment, and focusing on patient care, which is what it really should be about,” said Dr. Ficsor.
Productivity indicators A full patient schedule along with healthy collections is indicative of high productivity. In fact, according to the ADA’s Practical Guide to Expert Business Strategies, “Controlling the schedule requires constant vigilance, commitment, and training. It is the foundation for the success of the entire practice.”1 It takes valuable staff time to maintain this schedule and work with patients and insurance companies to collect payment. When staff are concentrating on reminding patients about appointments, preparing monthly invoices, and communicating with insurance companies, they aren’t focused on patient treatment and business building tasks.
Here are several signs that the practice is busy, but not productive:
- The main objective is to keep the schedule full rather than focused on patient care.
- Both the hygiene and dentist schedules are booked for weeks or even months, forcing patients to wait long periods of time for even routine procedures.
- There is no consistency in the procedure schedule—patients are booked for 30, 60, or even 90 minutes.
- Staff skip lunch breaks to catch up.
- There is low patient retention.
- Revenues are flat.1
Technology can help staff maintain a full patient schedule through automated email, text, mail, and phone call reminders to help patients with their appointments. These software programs also provide practices with crucial statistics, such as appointed and completed versus missed appointments, to increase productivity.
Some dental business partners do more than just furnish the software. They also provide advisors to analyze reports generated by the software and suggest changes to enhance the productivity of the practice. Dr. Ficsor said having these advisors to help her practice made all the difference. “My software company provides a practice advisor that helps my team and me set up and manage these valuable services,” she said.
The time involved to keep up with changing insurance rules and regulations can be overwhelming to an already busy dental staff. One solution is to outsource patient and insurance billing and posting, scanning of explanation of benefits, and collections follow-up to an experienced third party dental business partner who can accurately file insurance claims in a timely manner. When selecting a dental business partner, it’s crucial to ask a lot of questions.
Verify that the partner has experience and is not just an overnight startup with no relationship with insurance companies.
Another productivity indicator is the quantity of patient referrals. Satisfied patients refer others to the practice. Happy patients believe the staff truly cares about their dental care and goes the extra mile explaining treatment options. “It’s always good when a patient comes in and it’s about them,” said Elizabeth Lawrence, office manager at Precision Dental Care in Dry Ridge, Kentucky. “We greet them and tell them, ‘We’re going to help you. We’re going to make you better.’ It’s not all about late payments or past due things.”
Patients appreciate any additional services offered by the dental practice, such as flexible scheduling, financing, automated insurance billing, and e-tools that give them online access to their dental information. Lawrence appreciates that their dental business partner’s program is all inclusive. “It’s got everything in it from accounts receivable to support staff to charting—the list goes on,” she said.
Protecting patients When practices use technology partners to enhance performance, productivity, and profitability, it’s important to make sure to company and the product protect and safeguard patients’ data. In today’s world where data breaches are the norm, patients might be reluctant to use any e-tools or other online services. Alleviate these concerns by ensuring that the dental business partner protects patient data through modern AES encryption and other secure online methods.
Poor performing dental practices experience a myriad of problems. For instance, there may be staff issues that lead to high turnover. High turnover results in reduced efficiencies within the practice since dentists spend more time training new employees and less time with their patients. Patients notice the constant staff changes and increased waiting time.
In order to have a high performing, productive, and profitable dental practice, focus on the fourth “P”—patients. The solution is to work with a strong, experienced, dental business partner who allows dentists and their staff to focus on more productive and goal-oriented tasks when they take care of the business tasks.
References 1. American Dental Association (ADA). The ADA Practical Guide to Expert Business Strategies: Advice from Top Dental Consultants. 2014.