It’s that time of year again-spring cleaning. This annual cleaning ritual shouldn’t be limited to your home, though. Reflect on your dental practice, and you might find a number of ways to tweak systems or procedures to improve your bottom line. Incorporating this type of analysis into an annual routine could reap rewards by keeping your office current and your staff engaged.
First, break down your dental practice into four main areas: operational, financial, human resources, and marketing. Next, examine your current processes and systems for each area to determine what is working and what needs some improvement.
Operations are the heart of your practice. They include your scheduling systems, equipment, and facility. Your success hinges on keeping your practice running smoothly, and your staff occupied. A good scheduling system should take the administrative burden off your staff. Even an automated scheduling system may not be as efficient as it could be.
Many practices think they are operating at full capacity when they have outgrown some or all of their systems. According to Levin Group Research Pathways, a group who conducts independent market research for the dental industry, more than 90 percent of practices may increase scheduling capacity by 30 percent or more.* In order for these practices to reach this higher potential, the Levin Group recommends system replacement or upgrade.
You should also examine your equipment to determine whether it meets your needs. Before investing in new equipment, make sure it’s a financial fit for your practice. Today’s interactive equipment could help attract new customers or retain your customer base. Look for equipment that simplifies processes — for example, touch screen check-ins, X-ray guns that allow patients to stay seated, or software that displays real-time pictures on a monitor so patients can visualize what the doctor is seeing.
Financial Best Practices
Your practice’s finances should be consistently top of mind. You should be monitoring and tracking accounts receivable, collections, and credit adjustments on a weekly or monthly basis. From here, pinpoint your current status and chart a goal for the coming year. One way to improve accounts receivable, for example, is to implement a system that identifies accounts unpaid for 90 days so that you can address these accounts first.
If your practice has diversified into elective procedures, you may notice that many patients need to pay off more complex treatments in installments. Make sure you have a financial plan to handle payment schedules. Your plan could allow patients to pay an initial installment at the time of service, and then allow them to pay the remainder over two to three months. If you can’t afford to offer credit terms to your patients, consider partnering with a company that offers patient financing.
A successful practice is often the result of quality human capital. Are you taking full advantage of your employees’ skills and experience? You should regularly be engaging with staff to ensure that all members have a stake in the success of the business. A simple way to communicate and get feedback is to schedule regular staff meetings. Listen to employees’ suggestions and allow them to attend relevant training courses. Your staff will be more involved and productive, which may boost your practice’s finances. A solid system of checks and balances will ensure your practice’s financial health.
Word-of-mouth recommendations aren’t the only way to attract new patients to your practice. Even allocating a portion of your budget to marketing could help grow your practice. Most dentists today have a website to advertise their presence. Are you effectively using this marketing tool to track new patients coming through the door? Find out where your leads originate and nurture that channel. Get to know patient demographics by using search engine optimization (SEO) or social media. Once you know your demographic segment, find ways to advertise your business at the source.
From the time your front desk answers the phone to schedule an appointment, your staff should begin cultivating a relationship with patients. You should train your entire staff to upsell procedures, and every patient should leave your office with the next appointment already scheduled. If patient appointments are booked well in advance, you can focus on filling open slots in the schedule.