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.

Could your dental practice benefit from a digital makeover?

As Canadian pioneers of practice management software with 40+ years of experience, we are very gratified to see how technology has evolved to support every aspect of the dental practice. Today, the office that is operating without digital support is the rare exception.

On the surface, this is a great achievement. Yet when I dig deeper, as I frequently do in business development initiatives, I am surprised at how few dental teams are actually utilizing their technology investment to its full potential. Some may be limited by their choice of simple software that satisfies only basic tasks like scheduling. But many others have invested in more robust software that is just waiting to be optimized.

Wherever you sit, it’s time to seriously examine the state of your technology. Increased competition; heightened consumer expectations; the quest for planet-friendly, paperless solutions; cybercrime… these are among today’s external pressures that will continue to impact your success. For a dental practice more specifically:

  • The security and privacy of your data is more important than ever, yet has never been more at risk.
  • Cloud computing presents the opportunity for huge advances in the speed, mobility, reliability, and storage capacity of data. It can be more cost effective and quicker to deploy while improving the efficiency of backup and recovery.
  • Integrated communication portals enable amazing levels of practice/patient interactivity, heightening patient engagement and loyalty.
  • From a reporting and analytical perspective, your practice data can offer a wealth of valuable insights. Awareness and measurement of your KPIs – Key Performance Indicators – is a gateway to continuous improvement.

If you are not yet tapping into the power of your software, maybe it’s time for a digital makeover… let’s talk! ABELDent Inc. partnered with Microsoft Canada to present an evening of insight that has the potential to transform the success of your dental practice. You can easily access this material online, or call us for customized guidance and exploration.

Are you Living the Vision, Mission and Values of your Dental Practice?

Audience fragmentation is a challenge that marketers have been grappling with for some time. Consumers can no longer be pigeon-holed into a few contact channels: They are increasingly adventurous, capricious, demanding, and armed with information. Just when you think you’ve built a toehold on a social media site like Facebook, the early adopters have already moved on to the next shiny thing.

Consumers want to understand what you stand for, but they also want you to understand what makes them tick. Increasingly, they expect responsiveness, interactivity and customization.

Dental professionals cannot ignore these trends. The current environment for attracting new patients is competitive to the point where clinical expertise and caring service are just part of the equation.

Market differentiation is necessary to fuel momentum. A practice that can define and clearly articulate what unique advantages they offer to their patients can often move the needle from surviving to thriving.

In ABELDent’s Practice Management by Objectives™ methodology, the development of a meaningful Value Proposition is fundamental to a solid business strategy. There’s a mutual underpinning between the Value Proposition, the Mission, the Vision and Values statements, and the Operating Plan. Learn more about Practice Management by Objectives™.

If you have not yet articulated your thinking on this, your Mission is a good place to start. It should describe:
a. Why you are in business
b. Who you serve
c. How your practice adds value or improves the life of those you serve

Next, explore your Vision:
a. How do you define success, both short and long term
b. How will you and your practice improve, grow and prosper over the next several years

Finally, identify your Values:
a. What’s your patient care philosophy
b. What principles and qualities are important to you
c. What behaviours model those principles

This exercise is both a personal exploration and a team exercise. In order to create a shared vision and encourage buy-in, all staff and stakeholders could be involved.

Your operating processes, practices and systems evolve from this foundation. They define your day-to-day activities within the dental practice, from the business stakeholders to all staff and all the way through to each patient. Inevitably, these emotional connections you create will extend to external audiences and form the basis of marketing communications that reach and attract new patients.

Build Case Acceptance from within your dental practice data. What’s sitting in your database?

I met a friend for dinner over the holidays. One of those people who go back forever and with whom, within five minutes, you’re able to pick up exactly where you left off. By the time our entrées arrived, she had grimaced in pain three times. It turned out she had an impacted wisdom tooth. It hurt “only when she chewed” and had caused a few infections.

In response to my obvious question, she didn’t really know what she was waiting for to get it extracted. She simply had not got around to it – it was on a long list of things to do. Her dentist had referred her to an oral surgeon well over a year ago and neither had ever followed up. Weeks turned into month, as they tend to do.

I was not there to judge or lecture, but I couldn’t help but wonder why both practitioners would have let this drop. Are their practices so successful that they don’t need the business? Or are their workflows simply not set up to follow through with all their treatment plans? Yes, the patient is an adult and thus responsible for her own care, but even she admitted that a simple email or phone call was all it would take to stop her procrastination.

So that’s pretty low-hanging fruit. How many such cases might you have tucked away in what we like to call your ‘million-dollar filing cabinet‘? With ABELDent’s Treatment Manager, the data is at your fingertips. Combining it with email or text alerts through the patient portal makes this kind of follow-up a breeze and can really bolster case acceptance. Maybe it’s time your team took a look, and started a New Year’s revolution against stale-dated treatment recommendations.