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

In Part 1 of this series, the concept of Practice Management by Objectives (PMBO) was introduced. The first two objectives of the methodology were outlined; achieving financial targets and increasing hygiene and treatment plan acceptance. Objectives 3 and 4, growing/retaining your patient base and advancing your scheduling were covered in Part 2 of this series. This post concludes the series with Objectives 5 and 6.

OBJECTIVE 5: SAVE TIME AND MONEY BY TRANSITIONING TO PAPERLESS 

Implementing electronic charting and digital radiography result in administrative synergies that are not possible with paper records. A complete patient profile is maintained by efficiently integrating all information related to the patient in one electronic chart. Benefits of transitioning to a “paperless” dental practice include: 

  • Elimination of transaction double entry, manual errors, and inconsistent information 
  • More complete and legible charts through customizable template data entry 
  • Dynamic record-keeping by accumulating historical data that can be viewed incrementally by date 
  • Minimizes need for organizing, retrieving and filing charts and radiographs 
  • Time-saving and reduced confusion by allowing access to data from any place on the network 
  • Requires less floor space
  • Improved data protection since clinical data previously on paper charts can now be backed up
  • Protection of patient and practice privacy 

OBJECTIVE 6: STAFF EMPOWERMENT FOR ENHANCED SOFTWARE EFFICIENCY & SECURITY  

Your goals and objectives including the ones described above and part 1 and 2 of this blog series aren’t achievable without buy-in and participation from a well-informed and trained dental team.  Your team especially needs to be well-versed in how to use your dental practice management software to effectively to ensure the data required for monitoring your practice performance is entered accurately and can be retrieved easily in the desired format.  

With the increasing threat of cyberattacks, the entire team should be well versed in data security measures so that your practice is protected from data breaches. Environmental threats and hazards such as fires, storms, floods, power failures, and electrical surges can cause serious – sometimes irreparable – damage that can destroy your business in the absence of proper planning. 

To summarize, you can use the practice objectives and recommendations outlined above to articulate to your dental team, your own specific goals and practice objectives in a clearly defined way.  The use of KPIs will allow you to quantify your expectations and monitor your progress in meeting them.   But remember, all this is only possible with the right dental team in place.

A Reliable Tool for Objectively Evaluating Your Practice

Are you finding your practice’s production plateauing? Are you looking for new opportunities for your dental office? Do you need to get your practice back on track?

Much like MBO (Management by Objectives), SWOT Analysis has been used for decades by businesses to objectively evaluate their sustainability and how they might better respond to their environment for growth and prosperity. From that perspective, your dental practice is no different from other businesses – it is essential that you do periodic self-assessments for continuous improvement.

But what exactly is SWOT Analysis? In short, it is a technique used to determine and define your practice’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. Here is a template you can use to start your own SWOT analysis with links to valuable background information:

Once you have a general idea of the composition of each SWOT category you can begin to drill down to specific examples that apply to you in each category such as the ones referenced in the chart below:

SWOT Analysis example tailored towards a dental practice

Once you complete the above exercise, you should have a much greater insight into what you are doing well, the factors that need addressing and the position your practice occupies in the dental marketplace. The information you uncover can be the foundation for developing a realistic and relevant business plan going forward.

Group of dental professionals having a meeting

Another benefit of SWOT Analysis is that this technique can be applied at a micro level, for example, deciding on whether to take on an associate, expand capacity or move to a new location. In conclusion, SWOT Analysis gives you heightened awareness so that you are in a much better position to capitalize on your strengths, address weaknesses where feasible, act on opportunities and mitigate threats.

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).  

Take a Closer Look at your Dental Practice Practices

“Another last-minute cancellation… why does this keep happening?”

“I wonder how other dental practices promote preventive treatment.”

“What are the chances that patient will call back?”

A recent conversation with a Dental Office Manager revealed a few nagging complaints she regularly overhears from her staff. We were discussing common day-to-day frustrations in running a patient-reliant business, looking for ways to rise above them. I am a champion of practice management software – that’s a given – but it goes further than that. Any program can only be as effective as you make it, with trained staff who understand its potential and ensure its consistent, client-centric application.

The topic of internal processes and appointment scheduling effectiveness always brings to mind one of my father’s favourite quotes, loosely: How can you expect different – improved – outcomes if you keep doing things the same way?

Every aspect of your interactions with patients presents an opportunity to build positive perceptions. From the moment they arrive in your waiting room until the door closes behind them, each touchpoint is an opportunity to display empathy, direct communication, smooth processes, knowledgeable advice, and future focus. It is a mindset that can become intrinsic to your service.

Under the umbrella of ABELDent’s Practice Management By Objectives™ methodology, we developed a series of relevant KPIs – Key Performance Indicators – to assess your Internal Processes and optimize Appointment Scheduling protocols. You can easily extrapolate the data you will need from within your existing ABEL software database.

Here are seven quantifiable measures that will help you zero in on areas of opportunity. The formulas presented assume all parameters used are for the same time period.

Internal Processes KPI Chart

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

  • Track patient appointment history and be proactive in bookings, confirmations and reminders
  • Communicate and apply cancellation policies
  • Book next appointments before the patient leaves the office
  • Emphasize the value of preventative measures with patients
  • Monitor production reports
  • Follow up regarding outstanding treatment plans and recalls
  • Establish and follow strict diagnostic protocols
  • Provide effective case presentations
  • Employ in-house specialists as much as possible
  • Provide advanced clinical training/continuing education
  • Provide and refresh staff customer service training

I hope this detailed information is helpful, or that at least it gets you thinking about your own internal processes. These KPIs are just one of the categories of the strategic practice management we champion. I invite you to continue this conversation by attending one of our webinars or by reaching out to a member of our team at any time.

Satisfied Patients Make Everybody Happy

A few common denominators propel the success of every business:

  • Developing and sticking to a meaningful Unique Value Proposition;
  • Having the right people focus on the right things at the right time;
  • Delivering a customer experience, product or service that is consistent, sustainable and of the highest possible quality.

These are just three basic principles that drive long-term viability and profitability, and they apply as much to managing a dental practice as to any other enterprise. Today’s blog is about end-user impressions – what your patients perceive, experience and remember – and the make-or-break impact they can have on your practice.

Beyond clinical excellence and value-based pricing, what is likely to influence positive patient impressions and drive repeat business? It really comes down to effective communication, smooth operations, disciplined follow up, and consistent service delivery. As part of ABELDent’s Practice Management By Objectives™ methodology, we developed a series of relevant KPIs – Key Performance Indicators – to help you assess your status and guide your progress in these areas. You can easily extrapolate the data from within your existing ABEL software database.

Here are six quantifiable measures that will help you zero in on areas of opportunity:

Patient Satisfaction KPI Chart.png

If you find your own numbers falling short of industry benchmarks, you may want to ponder a few questions:

  • What techniques has your team mastered to build patient satisfaction?
    See the section Dental Patient Retention… What’s it worth to you? in
    Through the Looking Glass: What Your Patients See
  • Is the team confident in asking for referrals? Do they look and listen for triggers?
  • Do you have defined time requirements for each procedure?
  • Are you using a patient kiosk for check in and follow-through?
  • Have you implemented doctor/chair time scheduling?
  • Are you and your team trained in dealing effectively with complaints? Who is empowered to ‘make it right’?
  • Have you established reasonable and realistic patient expectations? Do you provide a new patient welcome kit with written office policies?
  • Do you consistently source new supplies and/or treatment techniques to improve productivity and the patient experience?
  • Do you maximize available technology?

Overall patient satisfaction should be Job One on everyone’s agenda. Staff must be trained and continuously reminded to use empathy in understanding the patient experience. Engagement, loyalty and free-flowing referrals stem from positive patient perceptions.

This group of KPIs is just one of the categories of the strategic practice management we champion. I invite you to continue this conversation by attending one of our webinars or by reaching out to a member of our team at any time.

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.

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.

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

A truly rewarding business trip

As a regular follower of my blog and member of the ABELSoft community, you probably know that my company has long been a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner. It is definitely an honour to be invited to their annual premier event for partners around the globe, this year newly titled Microsoft Inspire.

When I boarded the plane en route to Washington, DC with my colleagues, I had no idea that we would end up on centre stage at the main event just a few days later.

Indeed, there we were during the awards banquet standing in front of a big screen announcing our company’s award as the 2016/2017 Microsoft Dynamics ISV of the Year for Canada!

This level of recognition is momentous.

While we have always believed in the power and value of Microsoft’s products and services, we worked in extra-close collaboration with them over the past year to optimize the use of Dynamics 365 for ABELDent users.

As a result, ABELDent software is now integrated with Dynamics 365 for Financials. We’re even providing a free license to customers to underscore the value of better and faster service and richer enhancements. Today’s ABELDent users can manage their practices with real-time business information at their fingertips:

  • Advanced analytics
  • Integrated accounting, clinical and financial reporting
  • Streamlined Human Resource management
  • Patient acquisition and retention management
  • Inventory management

Partnering with Microsoft helps us maintain our pivotal role in the digital transformation of the dental practice. We’ve always known that our innovative solutions and services exceed customer expectations, help them surpass business goals  and deliver unparalleled value.

Clearly, Microsoft agrees.