Establishing and Monitoring Key Objectives for Dental Practice Success (Part 2 of 3)

In Part 1 of this series, the concept of Practice Management by Objectives (PMBO) was introduced and the first two objectives of the methodology were outlined.  Part 2 of this series follows with Objectives 3 and 4.   

OBJECTIVE 3: GROW AND RETAIN A LOYAL PATIENT BASE 

For sustained practice growth, it is important to both attract new patients to the practice as well as minimize the loss of the existing patient base.

In summary, dental practices should know: 

Specific KPIs to help acquire the knowledge above and that and also provide the necessary insight to make appropriate operational adjustments include: 

OBJECTIVE 4: OPTIMIZE APPOINTMENT SCHEDULING AND RESOURCE UTILIZATION 

The dental office’s appointment schedule is the source from which all practice revenue is generated and thus provides the greatest opportunity for productivity and profitability improvements. Managing the practice’s time through schedule optimization can also minimize team stress and increase patient satisfaction. Using a well-designed electronic appointment scheduler, tracking appointment metrics and implementing appointment scheduling best practices are the key to achieving these goals.   

In summary, dental practices should know: 

  • If future scheduled appointments will allow it to meet production goals 
  • The efficiency of booking appointments and the amount of downtime 
  • The patients to call when an unplanned opening occurs 
  • The patients that are most likely to arrive late, cancel or miss appointments 
  • Methods for reducing no shows and short notice cancellations 

Specific KPIs to help acquire the knowledge above and optimize your appointment scheduling protocols include: 

Stay tuned for part 3 where we conclude this series by covering Objective 5 (Save Time and Money by Transitioning to Paperless) and Objective 6 (Staff Empowerment for Enhanced Software Performance and Security).   

Establishing and Monitoring Key Objectives for Dental Practice Success (Part 1 of 3)

Management by Objectives (MBO), is a well-established method for setting business goals, monitoring performance and achieving desired results.  Developed by Peter Drucker decades ago, even today it is still very much in use by businesses.  As your dental practice is a business, there is no reason why you cannot benefit from MBO’s guiding principles as well.  This blog presents a modified version of MBO specifically for dentistry, which we will correspondingly refer to as Practice Management by Objectives (PMBO).    

Using PMBO methodology, six common practice objectives are identified along with relevant Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) – measurable, statistical representations of the degree to which each objective is being achieved.   Many of the KPIs identified can be produced from your dental software’s reporting function but in some cases, additional manual calculations may be required to derive the final result.   Some other desired KPI’s may only be produced through manual tracking and calculations of data when the software itself does not store the necessary data.       

The benefits of PMBO include:   

  • Helping dental practices stay focused on what will make them more successful 
  • Objective measurement of practice performance and monitoring for better decision making   
  • Identification of administrative efficiencies that result in increased practice productivity 
  • Better return on investment from practice management software since it is the repository for the data used to track results 

OBJECTIVE 1: ACHIEVE FINANCIAL TARGETS 

To ensure a financially successful practice we need to monitor and measure the performance of the following dental practice areas:  

  1. Overall Practice Production 
  2. Average Revenue per patient
  3. Accounts Receivable/Collections
  4. Practice Expenses

In a previous blog, I provide a guide on choosing the appropriate KPI’s to use for each practice area and common dental industry benchmarks to aspire to.   

OBJECTIVE 2: INCREASE HYGIENE AND TREATMENT PLAN ACCEPTANCE 

Patients may recognize the wisdom of a practice’s dental health recommendations, yet many patients will not take the initiative to follow through on them. As a result, recommended but unscheduled treatment can end up lost in clinical charts and practice management systems if not properly managed and pursued by the practice.  I recently wrote about how to uncover this unscheduled treatment and turn it into new profits.  

To gauge how well you are doing in scheduling and completing required treatment here’s an ideal list of things you should know: 

  • The success of your hygiene program  
  • How efficient your hygiene program is at identifying new treatment opportunities 
  • Which patients have outstanding treatment plans or other unfulfilled treatment 
  • How successful the practice is in scheduling the identified recommended treatment 
  • Patients that are good candidates to fill last minute openings 

Specific KPIs that address the above so that you can make appropriate operational adjustments include: 

Stay tuned for Part 2 where we cover Objective 3 (Grow and Retain a Loyal Patient Base) and Objective 4 (Optimized Appointment Scheduling and Resource Utilization).  

What to Look for When Building Your Clinic’s Dream Team

I’ve been looking back on some of the posts I’ve written over the past twelve months and have noticed that a surprising number of them are about how to grow a good team and develop a solid workplace culture.

While ABELDent’s core mission is to provide clinics with the cutting-edge dental software they need to meet the challenges of running a healthcare business in the twenty-first century, the software is only as effective as the team implementing it. And just as you expect the dental software you use to be responsive, integrated, and focused on delivering results, you should also aim to make your staff a well-oiled and fully-functional team.

To that end, I’ve put together a list of some of the qualities you should look for in people you are considering for key positions like office manager, dental hygienist, and receptionist. If you’re looking to hire for these positions this new year, here are some solid tips to keep in mind.

Office Manager

Everyone with even a little experience in the healthcare industry understands how absolutely crucial the role of office manager is.

Dental office managers are the conductors who interpret your instructions as dental practice owner to the rest of your team and ensure that everyone is working in harmony. When you’re looking for a new office manager, you need to find an individual who is organized, enthusiastic, trustworthy, and has excellent communication skills.

The office manager also plays an important role in keeping patients engaged with the clinic, as Diana Moss notes in this interview with Dental Assisting Digest.

But that’s not all – a good office manager also has to be able to work well with many different personalities, and needs to inspire confidence in the team. This requires a set of “soft skills” that are much harder to quantify, such as:

  • Empathy
  • Confidence
  • Sensitivity
  • Approachability
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Time management
  • Problem Solving

While every job has essential, trainable hard skills necessary for the work at hand, soft skills are core, intrinsic abilities that can’t necessarily be trained.

Soft skills determine whether a dental clinic employee will fit well into your overall operation and unlike hard skills related to dentistry, soft skills demonstrate the internal thought processes a person employs as they do their work. Make sure your candidate possesses both if you want them to be a valuable addition to your team.

Precisely because these skills can be difficult to quantify, you’ll need to work a little extra to ensure that your interview involves specific questions related to how the candidate will deal with this side of the job. Provide candidates with uncomfortable situational scenarios and ask them how they would deal with them.

Dental Hygienist

Dental hygienists are also other essential front-line workers that must be chosen well. From documenting how patients are cared for and doing the hard work of cleaning teeth to educating patients on oral health and establishing trust and good rapport, hygienists perform the unglamorous but necessary work dentists rely on to make their own diagnostic and required treatment assessments.

It is important to remember that a hygienist’s work is very much service work – a lot of what makes a hygienist successful has as much to do with their people skills as with their expertise in oral health.

This means that bedside manner and ability to communicate clearly and effectively need to be key traits you look for when hiring. If your current hygienists aren’t meeting the standards of professionalism and care that you have set, extra training may be required to help them interact more effectively with patients – and with other members of your team.

Finding hygienists who can handle the technical sides of the job – from cleaning teeth to using specialized dental software – is also required in order to make your clinic stand out for patients, so make sure you find well-rounded candidates who can put patients at ease.

Receptionist

Your dental clinic receptionist is usually the first person your patients meet when they enter your dental office.  As a result, he/she has a unique opportunity to form a positive first impression of the service your dental team will deliver. Although receptionists may not need to have as many hard skills as the more specialized members of a dental team, they need the soft skills that enable them to be personable, friendly, firm, and capable of making patients feel welcomed and cared for.

While dental receptionists do not need to be able to read an x-ray or understand how every procedure is done, they do need to quickly become fluent in basic aspects of your business like effectively using your dental practice management software and the needs and requirements of other members of your team.

For this reason, it is important to make sure that the rest of your team – and your office manager especially – understands the vital role the receptionist plays and treats the receptionist with the respect they deserve.

One of the reasons I am so invested in the importance of building a good dental team is because I have seen first-hand how significantly good teamwork correlates with a dental clinic’s overall success in providing healthcare services.

Even the best software in the world can’t help you if your team isn’t able to work effectively together, so in the new year, I recommend you take the time to think about how you can make sure your clinic has the human capital it needs to continue growing in the coming year.

The Many Benefits of Expanding Your Patient Demographics

Should Your Clinic Be Offering Family Services?

At one point or another during your career, you will need to decide what type of practice you want to focus on. You may have started out serving a specific demographic group, but in today’s competitive market, if you want to grow, you need to expand your patient target base and services offered.

Broadening your client base ultimately means more production and increased profitability potential.

These expansions can take many forms — some dentists decide to focus on serving the particular healthcare needs of seniors, while others may branch out into cosmetic dentistry — but in most  cases, expansion requires investment in new technology, training, and even personnel.

If you’re thinking about expanding your practice this year, however, one of the most rewarding areas to move into is family dentistry.

While taking on children and teens as patients can be challenging, and shouldn’t be done in half measures, in my experience there are some very good reasons to do so. Here are just a few of them:

Children Need More Work Over Time

Taking on children as patients is one of the best ways to guarantee future consistent business — period.

When I talk to dentists who have chosen not to serve young children, one of the reasons I often hear is that it is simply too much work. While it may take a little adjustment, working with children is a rewarding experience that helps keep you and your staff on your toes, while also promising to bring in more future work.

As I noted in my post about how to make your clinic more child-friendly last year, there are a few things you need to do if you want kids to feel comfortable at your clinic — not only do children require more care and a gentler approach, you may need to:

  • Retrain your staff
  • Work with parents
  • Make your reception area more dynamic

Expanding your practice to include children is something that requires significant forethought.

Because they are still growing, kids need more regular check-ups, and often require more specialized work as they get older (retainers, braces, etc.). This means that if you put in the effort to make children (and their parents) feel comfortable and establish a rapport, they can provide reliable business for years to come.

Here are a few general tips to remember when treating children:

Speak gently and use simple words

Talking in a friendly, mild tone while using easy-to-understand words will help put your young patients at ease. When you use simple words to explain dental procedures, it helps a child understand the process before it happens which will reduce anxiety.

Engage them with conversation

Verbal engagement is another helpful tool to keeping your young patients in a positive state of mind. Giving your younger patients tasks such as listing their favorite sports or super heroes is a simple but effective way of keeping them pleasantly distracted. I’ve also heard from numerous dentists that engaging kids with stories or even simple conversation about their day can make them feel more comfortable about the entire experience.

Families Grow

Not only will individual children provide you with more business as they grow older, if you offer excellent care for the child, you may also attract the parents, and any future children they might have. And because young parents are constantly sharing information with each other, you may find that your good work is attracting other families through word-of-mouth.

When it comes to attracting new patients, this kind of organic advertising is gold — and if you make a good impression on your patients, you can use reputation management software to facilitate and leverage good reviews from young families to make your patient outreach even stronger.

Millennial and Gen Z parents rely on reviews (both from peers and from online sources) more than any other metric, and if you’re putting in the work to attract, please, and retain child patients and their parents, you’ll be creating a deep well of future work.

Young Families are More Technologically Savvy

One of the challenges of running a dental clinic that serves many different age groups is the difficulty in standardizing your patient communication protocols. Seniors may want a phone call, while teens and young parents are more likely to respond to a text.

As a result, focusing on younger patients and younger families makes it easier to streamline your communications. You can use to automate reminders, and can use other time-saving tools to keep track of your patients’ preferences and keep them in the loop about their care.

Your Interventions Will Be Life-Changing

In this post, I have focused on the benefits that becoming a family-focused dental practice can have on your patient outreach and, by extension, your bottom line. But these aren’t the only reasons to reach out to children and teens.

Most of the dentists I know got into the profession because they genuinely care about patients, and take pleasure in the knowledge that they are making people’s lives better. When you work with kids and teens, the work you do is literally life-changing, and you get to see the concrete results of it in the short to medium term.

There’s nothing quite as rewarding as watching a child with crooked, unhealthy teeth slowly develop a smile they can be proud of for the rest of their life!

If you want to grow your practice in 2020 by reaching out to new demographics, these are just a few of the reasons you should consider a move toward family-focused dentistry!