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.

It’s the most stressful time of the year… inside and outside your dental practice

Well here we are in December again – already. The time of year when every one of us is celebrating something. The diverse tapestry of our society gives us exposure to so many wonderful traditions, it’s tempting to want to experience everything.

So we can all get a tad stressed with all the chores and commitments that accompany the festivities. You, your patients and your staff… we’re pulled in many directions.

Some stress is positive: daily deadlines and stretch goals give a sense of productivity and achievement. But how do you lessen the negative stress and carry on business as usual?

Here are a few pointers I’ve assembled:

  1. Clear communication is one of the best ways to alleviate stress. Whether or not we like what we hear, knowing the facts removes anxiety.
  2. Use team meetings to discuss what is working and what could work better. Shared problem solving is proven to build accountability, buy-in and purpose.
  3. Having performance benchmarks in place – Key Performance Indicators – makes it straightforward to monitor and track progress and help everyone know where they stand.
  4. In most cases, anxiety is caused not by an event, but by how we choose to deal with it. Poorly handled stress is a chief cause of workplace illness. So train your team on how to recognize stress and react: the basic techniques of counting to ten, taking a walk, focusing on facts, practising empathy – they all can help. Remembering that others are also under stress, and don’t get up in the morning planning to irritate you.
  5. Understand that different people have different ways of managing stress. In today’s diverse, multi-generational workforce, there are many differing styles, priorities and motivators. Men and women handle stress differently, so it’s good to recognize the need to distract or retreat (men) against the need to talk and be listened to (women).
  6. More than at any other time of year, staff appreciate a bit of flexibility in their schedule in December. Who wouldn’t relish a 10:00 am trip to the mall on a weekday? This can be do-able if the team is willing to bank hours and cover for each other as they take their turn. Time is often the best gift you can give.
  7. At the risk of preaching to the choir… stay healthy. Encourage flu shots, hand washing and liberal doses of hand sanitizer for your team and your patients.

There’s never a bad time to work on reducing workplace stress within your dental practice, every day of the year! I wish you all a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year!

How do you share success in Your Dental Practice?

I’ve been hearing an expression recently that has piqued my interest: Skin in the game.

It’s not necessarily a new term: It is often used to describe buy-in to the success of an enterprise. Having some kind of risk or reward inherent in the “game” builds motivation, effort and positive outcomes. The usual context is financial and encompasses players like investors, franchisees, partners, and entrepreneurs.

But each time I hear it, I think… Why not employees?

Even if a team is intrinsically motivated to do a good job, I can’t help but wonder how much more productive they could be when inspired by tangible rewards. Incentive programs and performance-based bonus plans are instrumental in driving growth in many industries. A dental practice could derive the same benefits.

Achieving best patient care and optimum oral health are highlight goals for every practice. New patient acquisition is an obvious goal. Organic growth, i.e. developing business from within your existing patient base, can be realized through diligent follow-up and patient relationship building to optimize recall cycles and increase acceptance of recommended treatment. Improved collections and claims processing all impact the bottom line.

There are various models that could be appropriate for your group.

  1. Revenue-generation compensation plans are common and appropriate in many industries for business development roles. A small percentage of new patient revenue can be pooled to acknowledge admin support of business development activities.
  2. Profit-sharing plans are effective for celebrating company-wide success on a semi-annual or annual basis.
  3. Team incentives tied to achievement of specific performance goals are an excellent method to drive immediate results. The frequency keeps the motivation top of mind.

We all enjoy cold, hard cash – even when it is reduced by income tax payable. But softer rewards can be equally effective in promoting morale and practice results. “Employee of the Month” recognition, special perks like a coveted parking spot, gift cards, team lunches, monthly prizes… these are all proven techniques that inject fun and camaraderie into your workplace.

Whatever the reward, the details of an incentive plan must be well thought out. Some pointers:

  • First understand and itemize which specific objectives you want to accomplish.
  • Identify your current benchmarks and articulate what you want to improve and by how much.
  • Make the goals challenging yet realistic: Make it understood that goals can be changed or increased to maintain momentum and avoid auto-collect.
  • Your plan must be fair and reflect the relative contributions of each member of your staff.
  • The details and terms must be established, documented, communicated, and understood with clarity.

Finally, the program needs to be carried out with consistency and excitement. Genuine appreciation should accompany the presentation of every reward: sharing success is a win/win/win!

Facts and Figures Speak Volumes about Dental Patient Retention

It is often said that if you measure something, you can manage it. I echo that opinion. Especially when it comes to dental patient retention.

A few weeks back, I talked about patient retention in this space. About the importance of a loyal clientele and the value of long-term business. I received some interesting feedback, particularly around the concept – and challenge – of measuring retention.

So I ask: Do you know your patient recall rate? If not, do you know how to find the answer from your system data? How would you answer?

Answer A: It’s pretty good, I think. We seem to see the same patients often.

Answer B: We were surprised to learn six months ago that we were sitting at 28% – not very good at all. With a specific plan and real focus, we hit 52% last month. Pizza for everybody!

Similar question: How many of your patients follow through on your treatment recommendations?

Answer A: Who knows? Our patients just follow up if they’re interested.

Answer B: Life is busy and patients forget. We get that. So we use our Treatment Manager and e-messaging portal to keep our unscheduled recommendations below 15% and our patients healthy.

Final question: Are you actively collecting email addresses and mobile phone numbers? For what percentage of your patients do you have this data?

Answer A: Maybe 15. Patients, that is, not %.

Answer B: Since we discovered that many patients were abandoning their landlines and only using cell phones, we started a specific campaign to get that info into our database. We’ve now topped 55%, and it has made patient reminders and e-statements a breeze!

You get the drift. Before you can start measuring your practice performance, you need to define your starting point. You must understand a) where you are today, b) where you should be or ideally could be; and c) how to get there. It’s only once you use your database to establish meaningful benchmarks that you can expect to plan for future progress.

When we apply our ABELDent algorithms to your practice data, it opens up a whole new level of information to help you measure, assess, benchmark and strategize for improvement. If you are not already using ABELDent, does your software do that?

Check out our Practice Management By ObjectivesTM (PMBO)