Harness the Power of Your Practice
Have you tried being in two places at the same time? Running an efficient practice, while you are providing dental services is challenging, to say the least. It’s important to have the right business systems in place that are sustainable and easy to follow. Dental teams need to have practical solutions in place that fit with their daily action plans and they need to enjoy their daily activities.
Here are ten simple solutions to help your practice run efficiently:
1. Empower your employees. Establish a rhythm of staff meetings and stick to it. Whether you meet once a week, once a month or once a quarter, it’s important to establish a method of communicating with your employees in a positive way.
Create a habit of thanking your employees. Employees that feel appreciated are more likely to stick around when times get tough. Studies show that happy teams are productive teams. According to Dr. Spencer Johnson, M.C., author of the One Minute Manager, “People who feel good about themselves produce good results.” The author suggests that effective managers help people reach their full potential by” catching them doing something right.” Praise staff members immediately, tell them what they did right – be specific. Encourage them to do more of the same. We tend to focus all of our time and energy on our problem employees, when our best employees do not get the attention and time from us they deserve.
- Establish an operating budget based on metrics for practice efficiency. Every member of your dental team plays an integral role in keeping your budget in line and is accountable for the results. Keep your eye on the numbers and when you see them changing know what strategies to apply. For example, if you suddenly notice that your staff costs are too high, look at your schedule. You will likely find openings that haven’t been filled. When this happens, your overhead expenses go up while you are not generating revenue to offset the expenses. Deploy any or all available staff members to start calling patients and filling the schedule.
- Set S.M.A.R.T. Goals and Apply Practical Strategies. SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time For example, if your goal is to increase revenue and control expenses, be specific. The goal needs to be attainable. If the goal is too much of a stretch, it can de-motivate your staff which will have a long term negative effect on growth. Make the goal relevant so that your staff know exactly what activities that they need to do to reach the goal.
- Control the Appointment Schedule – don’t let it control you. Your appointment schedule is the key component of a successful practice. When the schedule falls apart, all available staff members should do whatever it takes to make the schedule full and productive. There is no room for complacency or prejudgments in this process. Effective communication skills are necessary to schedule the appointments in such a way that the patients understand the value and importance of keeping them.
- Control Staff Costs. An efficient practice should run at 20-25% staff costs If staff costs are higher it could be because you have too many employees or openings in the schedule. If you have too many openings in your hygiene schedule then you should decrease the number of hygiene hours that you have open. On average, you should be able to employ 1 full time hygienist per thousand active patients based on 250 working days per year and 1.5 to 2 patient visits per year.
- Control Sundry Supplies. An efficiently run practice should run at 5% or less of monthly billings. The problem with this metric is there is often confusion about the proper allocation of sundries and confusion about what sundries are. Inventory control is an important part of this process as well as setting a monthly budget using a relevant metric, i.e. a dollar figure based on the previous month’s billings or collections.
- Hygiene Billings. Each hygienist should be billing at a minimum of $150.00 per booked hour. Hygienists need to provide appropriate and patient specific care and bill for what they do. One way of doing this is to stop calling hygiene treatment “cleaning”. A cleaning can wait, it’s not important. It is also advisable to stop calling hygiene patients clients and refer to them as patients. A ‘client’ goes to a spa to have a massage – a patient comes to your office to have dental services.
- Lab Costs should run at 10% or higher. If they are less, it may indicate that you are performing the bread and butter services but fewer high end services like crowns, bridges, implants, etc. Treatment plans need to be followed through with and a skilled Treatment Coordinator will help to facilitate the treatment and increase the productivity of the practice.
- Accounts Receivable -There should be no accounts that are outstanding for 90 days. All bank managers consider 90 day accounts to be uncollectable. If your patients have received dental services and have not paid you in 3 months, there is no intention of paying you. Even insurance driven practices that accept assignment, reimbursement will be received within two weeks. In most cases, insurance companies will reimburse the patient regardless of what your assignment policy is. It doesn’t matter how much you bill, only how much you collect.
- Consistency in Communication is critical to your success Using the right words can be powerful. Go beyond patient education to motivating patients to follow through with treatment. Stop recommending treatment and start prescribing treatment. That is why your patients come to your office and what they expect you to do.
Increasing the efficiencies of your practice will improve the health of your bottom line and provide you with long term sustainable growth during challenging economic times.
To make sure that your management systems are running at maximum efficiency and effectiveness, check them often and look for the hidden signs of erosion.
Make any necessary adjustments quickly and your practice will run like a well-oiled and well maintained machine that will reward you with many years of sustainable growth and profitability.
Feel free to reach out to Dental Tax at +1 (888) 450-4111 www. dentaltax.ca or reach out to Sandie.
Owner & Practice Management Adviser, Dental Office Consulting Services
Sandie specializes in dental business planning, staff development, consulting and continuing education seminars. She is the author of two text books, Dental Office Administration and The Canadian Dental Office Administrator. She also wrote the first Dental Practice Management Certificate Program for the University of Toronto.