Getting Down to Business: Boost Your Dental Practice Financials

I have written in this space about the importance of managing the performance of your dental practice through analysis of cold, hard empirical data. Facts rule. Numbers don’t lie.

At the end of the day, after you have demonstrated clinical excellence, professional achievement and patient satisfaction, the success of your business comes down to financial viability. I may be preaching to the choir: Rarely if ever do I come across a Dentist or an Office Manager who is not interested in improving productivity and profitability. Yet the nagging questions persist:

What should we be measuring?
Where do we start? Where do we sit today? Why?
How do we accurately monitor results and progress?
What is the industry benchmark?
What specific steps can I take to improve and grow?

For us at ABELDent, the answers unfold within our Practice Management By Objectives™ methodology. We have developed a series of KPIs – Key Performance Indicators – to guide your progress. The foundation of the program is the fact that all the data you need to identify and monitor your vital numbers resides within your existing ABEL software database; it’s as simple as generating the relevant reports and performing some quick calculations.

Here are eight quantifiable measures that will get you well on your way to analyzing, managing and ultimately improving your financial performance.

Key Performance Indicator Chart

If you find that your own numbers are below industry benchmarks, consider some of these short- and long-term initiatives:

Improve cash flow

  • Be clear in your communication with patients regarding financial terms and guidelines. Always inform before you perform
  • For costly procedures, ask for a deposit or upfront payment
  • Offer financing plans; limit payment plans to 60 days
  • Accept credit and debit cards
  • Use electronic claim processing
  • Provide statements and/or do regular collections follow-ups
  • Run frequent, regular A/R reports
  • Track patient payment patterns and address any issues proactively

Increase revenue

  • Focus on higher end dentistry
  • Monitor and improve case acceptance
  • Pursue outstanding treatment recommendations
  • Raise fees

Decrease overhead

  • Source less costly supplies, equipment and services
  • Evaluate all purchases based on ROI
  • Increase productivity of staff through training

Build your patient base

  • Ask your patients for referrals
  • Initiate or reinforce marketing efforts
  • Track the effectiveness of each marketing activity

I hope this detailed information is helpful, or that at least it gets you thinking about delivering more focus on your bottom line. Financial KPIs are just one of the facets of the strategic practice management we champion. I invite you to continue this conversation by attending one of our upcoming webinars or by reaching out to our team at any time.

Going Cloud: Three Common Myths Busted

The more I discuss cloud computing with dental practitioners, the more I recognize that there’s as much dis-information floating around as there are facts you can count on.

Moving to a cloud-hosted model is a big decision. Most companies choose it for business agility and cost savings. But there are drawbacks to consider. That’s why ABELDent now features a hybrid solution: Our practice management software users can enjoy all the advantages while minimizing the risk.

To help you separate fact from fiction and support any level of migration to the cloud, I thought it might be helpful to share the truth about the most common myths:

  1. If our data moves to the cloud, our business will no longer have control over our technology.

    Not so!  You still have total control over technology, but your IT department won’t have to worry about constant updates. The time they’re now spending on maintenance and software upgrades will be significantly reduced, allowing them to focus on advancing your organization’s technology and business operations.

    Instead of spending your capital budget on servers, you can think strategically about reinvesting those funds into growth initiatives. (Hmm… what else could I do with those savings?)

  2. Keeping our data on premise is safer than in the cloud.

    Not so!  It’s becoming increasingly clear that companies are routinely hacked without ever knowing it. Your practice may have a security expert, or use the services of a third-party professional. However, most companies can rarely assemble a team large enough to uncover and protect against the hundreds of possible alerts that come through each day.

    Cloud data centres like Microsoft Azure – our proven choice – are singularly focused on security and built with scale in mind. A dedicated team maintains security at the pinnacle of industry standards, using a wide range of processes and regulatory compliance expertise, to prevent, detect and mitigate breaches.

  3. Corporate spies, cyber thieves and governments will have access to my data if it is in the cloud.

    Not so!  This is a top fear about the cloud among many businesses, but it is unfounded. It’s your data, not anyone else’s. You determine access and options, rights and privacy restrictions. Strict controls and design elements prevent your data from mingling with that of other organizations. Physical access to data centres is secured and monitored continuously, and all data centre staff must follow stringent data access protocols.

    A respected provider like MS Azure guarantees that your data will not be mined for advertising or for any purpose other than providing services you have paid for. If you choose to leave the service, you take your data with you.

The more I learn, the more the benefits of cloud computing make solid business sense, especially within the context of our hybrid solution for dental practitioners. As always, we’ve dedicated our development resources to making sure we address the needs, concerns and real-world priorities of our users. Read more about our Best of Both Worlds solution. And please share this with any colleagues who need help separating fact from fiction when it comes to the cloud. It’s good to be on the same page: You’ll save time by not having to argue about these myths.

Is there Room for Improvement in your Practice Productivity?

“If you want something done, ask a busy person.” Do you ever revert to this time-tested pearl of wisdom in your dental practice?

Are those busy people the same ones who have taken the time to fully understand the ins and outs and full potential of your practice management software? The ones who know exactly where to find the information you need on the spot? I’ll bet they are.

The more I speak to Dentists and Managers about office productivity and workflow efficiency, the more I feel the need to champion the critical impact of knowledge on practice performance and growth. Mastery of your software builds confidence, and proficiency with organizational aids like ABELDent’s Patient Manager and Treatment Manager can make the difference between an average and a superior employee.

We all have the same 24 hours in a day. So what’s the differentiator between “can do”and “no way”?

Top performers don’t necessarily work harder – they work smarter.

I came across this conclusion in an article by Santi Arnaiz summarizing a recent study by leadership training firm VitalSmarts. A few highlights:

    • Employees rated by their managers as 9s and 10s on a 10-point performance scale are not only three times more valuable than the average employee, they are responsible for 61% of the total work done in their departments.
    • 83% of managers and 77% of peers say these top performers are less stressed than their coworkers.
    • Asked to describe the work habits of these staff, respondents used these phrases most commonly:

    So how can you make all your workers your best workers? Help them embrace a few productivity practices.

Once just a Threat to Dental Practices, Ransomware has hit Prime Time!

This is my third blog post about cybercrime – ransomware specifically – and the danger it poses to your dental practice management software and data. Last year, I reported that the security company McAfee had charted a 165% year-on-year increase in ransomware attacks.

I also passed along OntarioMD’s bulletin advising extra vigilance about data security; since then, I had not heard of any specific incident involving this nasty activity. Until the middle of December, that is, when I sat down to watch one of my favourite TV shows. I find Grey’s Anatomy quite informative, as guilty-pleasure TV goes. The episode dealt with a data hostage crisis that shut down all electronic systems from OR monitors and equipment to ICU life-support systems and code-locked supply closets and exits. The season-ending cliff hanger saw the Chief of Staff and the FBI at loggerheads over negotiating a multi-million bitcoin ransom exchange. Cannot wait for Part 2.

Grey Sloan Memorial’s life-threatening cybercrime makes for great TV, but it is the kind of drama you definitely don’t want or need. Your practice data is your lifeline to the health of your business. Awareness, protection and vigilance are essential for prevention.

FYI, here’s a link to the bulletin offering good advice about how to deal with such a threat and, more important, steps to take to protect your dental practice in the first place. In addition, some great security tips I assembled for last year’s post. Always worth repeating!

Down the final fiscal stretch

Now that summer vacations have wound down and the annual back-to-school routines have been played out, the beginning of Fall may be a good time to settle back and refocus on how your practice is performing.

Where have you excelled and where have you fallen short of expectations? How do you determine what you need to do to change course if necessary, to reach your goals and grow your business?

We have all heard the adage “If it can be measured, it can be managed.” So true.

It starts with having a routine in place to make this review as effortless as possible. You’ll need to establish the practice benchmarks to target and the appropriate measures to be put in place to track your progress. If you’re a member of the ABELDent community, you’ll know I’m referring to Key Performance Indicators – KPIs – that are the heart of our Practice Management By Objectives methodology.

Defined as “a set of quantifiable measures used to compare performance over a specific period of time”, clearly articulated KPIs allow business managers to keep their finger on the pulse of the practice.

During a seminar we recently hosted with Microsoft Canada, the discussion of KPIs was a popular topic. It resonated with the audience that strong, well-defined KPIs contribute to better decision-making, more appropriate goal-setting, resource optimization and, importantly for many, a more objective, quantifiable valuation of a practice.

We walked through a few examples of how to develop KPIs that support specific practice objectives and demonstrated how they can be produced from within ABELDent software. Our expert then showed how to develop benchmark targets based on the practice profile and goals. These benchmarks can in turn be compared to actual KPI results to determine gaps in performance and the appropriate operational adjustments necessary to improve results.

This is another example of how a project that takes a small amount of time and thought can lead to increased efficiency, tighter management and better ROI on your practice management software.

It’s the best way to accurately examine how your practice has performed in the past, understand where it is today and help predict – and control – what it could do by year end.

ABELSoft Inc. Celebrates 40 Years in Business

“This is a tremendous milestone for ABEL. Our sincere thank you to our employees, customers and business partners for their dedication and loyalty over the years. As we move forward, the company’s strength and its successes will continue to depend on our people, our partners and our clients’ trust,” said Angela Spinks, CEO. Read the full press release

Zettabytes… and counting

The concept of Big Data is not big news. We’ve all by now embraced the term to describe the sheer volume of information that accumulates through electronic record-keeping. Corporate America is investing heavily in digital transformation; many organizations are already skillfully analyzing their data and applying their findings to better understand their customers, attract new ones, influence consumer behaviour, and personalize their business relationships.

There is tremendous potential in the digital records of dental practices that – to date – remains largely untapped. This fact is one of the drivers of ABELDent’s Practice Management By Objectives™: Our strategic methodology that guides dentists in turning their big data into smart data.

You may recall the invitation I extended last month in this space to attend a Digital Transformation seminar we co-hosted with Microsoft. The response was overwhelming… and so was some of the information presented.

In particular, I was very surprised to hear some of the statistics shared by Lynne Clarke-Drew, Customer Acquisition & Marketing Lead with Microsoft Canada:

  • Every 2 days, we create as much information as we did from the beginning of time until 2003
  • Over 90% of all the data in the world was created in the past 2 years
  • Every minute, we send 204 million emails, generate 1.8 million Facebook likes and send 270 thousand tweets
  • It is expected that by 2020, the amount of digital information in existence will have grown from 3.2 zettabytes today to 40 zettabytes

Jaw-dropping numbers, to be sure. (I had never even heard of zettabytes before this seminar!) Lynne went on to discuss the aspiration of the health industry to transform today’s “sick care” system by improving care outcomes, promoting population wellness and harnessing the data explosion.

I will recap additional highlights and learnings from this seminar in future posts. If in the meantime you would like to receive a recording of the full presentation, just call me at 1-800-267-ABEL (2235) Extension 350 or drop me an email at angelas@abelhealthgroup.com