Why You Should Keep Track of Your Practice’s Performance

Business decisions are a part of daily life for dental professionals. Whether you are a provider and owner, or you have a different role in a practice, you have an impact on and are impacted by the practice’s business decisions.   

COVID-19 brought economic stress to most industries, including dentistry.  While most practices in Canada are open to some extent, whether to see emergency patients or to offer a wider variety of services, it will be some time before things are “back to normal”.    

As your practice gets back on its feet, it’s as important as ever remember the words of management thinker Peter Drucker, who said “you can’t manage what you can’t measure”.  While the business environment will improve as the negative impacts of COVID-19 subside, some practices will recover more quickly, in part by measuring their practice performance and finding opportunities to improve at all stages of the recovery.   

Key Performance Indicators (abbreviated as KPIs) are measure the most important indicators of practice success.  During this unusual time, it might be beneficial to look at the KPIs you measure to ensure that they are well suited to your needs in the coming months.  For example, tracking the potential for non-essential treatment may help you to determine how quickly to add hygiene hours to your schedule.    

In late 2019, we discussed three options for measuring KPIs for your dental practice by generating reports. The three methods included using Microsoft tools such as Word, Excel, and Power BI, and also doing it manually by extracting key information from standard reports. If you use our practice management software, we have a solution that doesn’t require third-party software. 

ABELDent Insights is an upcoming integrated data measurement tool from ABELDent that generates viewable statistics based on ABELDent data. Viewing the KPIs and data trends in ABELDent Insights can help ABELDent users to determine their practice’s strengths, weaknesses and progress toward goals. Measuring these critical success factors helps practices to know what is working, and to plan adjustments where there is an opportunity for improvement.    

ABELDent Insights provides simple displays simple infographics on such measures as production, including often-used KPIs such as the ratio of production generated by dentists compared to hygiene providers. ABELDent Insights also shows scheduler downtime, including statistics regarding no-shows, cancellations, and inactive patients. This can help to identify which days or times are hard to fill in order to adjust provider hours or try to fill those gaps.

Once you have identified your practice’s KPIs, you can work towards finding solutions that are feasible for your practice, and ideal for your team and your patients. Maybe a provider needs to focus on taking on a few more patients, or perhaps some inactive patients need to be contacted for their hygiene appointments. Regardless of what your practice’s needs are, there is a huge benefit to knowing your areas for improvement, as well as knowing what your office does well. 

3 Ways to Increase Positivity in Your Practice

In past blog posts, we pointed out the power in maintaining a positive work environment in your dental practice. This week, we want to revisit this conversation from a different angle to discuss the impact that fostering a positive attitude in your practice has on your team and your patients. 

Various dental blogs have written about the importance of a positive work environment for everyone involved with your practice. Your team’s work satisfaction is as important as your patients’ experience at your clinic. Team members who are enthusiastic about their work are reported to be more productive than those with low morale at work. Maintaining a positive environment may seem difficult, especially in these challenging times, but here are a few tips to help you foster a positive attitude at your dental office.

Make any new hires in the team’s best interest

Janette Whisenhunt, RDH, writes in an article that attitude is often more valuable than hard skills when it comes to building a dental team. To elaborate, she writes that soft skills such as punctuality, friendliness, and professionalism are harder to teach than the hard skills that the job requires. Whisenhunt explains that a positive vibe in your office nurtures a productive team. It only takes a few negative mindsets to bring your team’s energy down. To counteract this, instil core values in your employees that cultivate a team attitude of working towards a common goal. For instance, prioritize patient experience so that your team is focused on their soft social skills alongside their hard skills.

Oftentimes, if your team has a certain dynamic in place, it is best to evaluate new hires based on how well they will work alongside the team. This changes in relevancy, however, if your clinic needs an experienced professional to lead the team or add quality to your office.

Provide positive feedback and incentives

Everyone likes being told that they do a good job. Nearly every worker in the world experiences some level of stress while doing their job. Positively reinforcing your employees has proven to be far more effective than negatively addressing undesirable behaviours. Letting your employees know when they do a good job alleviates some of the stress that comes with their personal and professional lives. Incentivizing the workplace is also another great way to increase positivity, whether it is done by implementing a benefits package for your workers or providing other incentives.

Be mindful of patient perceptions and prioritize patient care

If your office has a negative atmosphere, your patients will notice. Patients pay attention to long wait times, disorganized or flustered employees, and tension between others. In the operatory, your patients want to feel secure and safe. Ensuring the patient has a positive experience with the best possible outcome is an essential piece in building trust with patients. Training your team to treat this as a primary goal of your practice serves as a motivator when team members are having a hard time maintaining a positive environment. Additionally, a reassuring and comfortable environment, accompanied by confident and happy team members, leaves a lasting impression on your patients and encourages patient retention. Overall, it is important to strive to maintain a positive atmosphere in your dental clinic. We recognize that challenges come up with team members, and even large-scale issues affect our morale at work. Upholding your practice’s core values, mindfully hiring your team members, providing regular positive feedback and incentives, and prioritizing patient care all contribute to your office’s positive environment, and benefit everyone involved with your practice.

Video Tutorials Part II: Quick Scheduling Tool

A month ago, our team posted our first video to our new video tutorial series. If you missed the video, you can see it here. The first tutorial covered ABELDent’s clinical sidebar, which is a feature included in the new updated version of the software. Our video tutorials show you how you can use these new features everyday in your office to make managing your dental practice easier than before. 

Our new video focuses on our quick scheduling tool, which hygienists and receptionists can use to quickly find openings for patients. This feature allows you to quickly find an opening based on the patient’s next due date, as shown in the video. 

This feature is particularly useful for scheduling routine appointments ahead of time, and only takes a minute to find the next time/day for the patient. Using these new features allows dentists, dental assistants, hygienists, and receptionists to have extra time to focus on providing the best possible care to patients and improving patient relationships.  

If you are interested in what is demonstrated in the video and want to learn more, feel free to contact us for additional questions or a demo. Our team is working from home, but we are still available 24/7 for any inquiries you may have. 

ABELDent’s Exciting New Features: Video Tutorials

Last week’s blog post addressed the downtime caused by the COVID-19 crisis and the ways that dentists can keep themselves preoccupied, even though all routine services are postponed. In the blog post, we encourage dental professionals to utilize online classes now that they have some more time to benefit from additional learning.  

In line with this theme, we are publishing a miniseries for ABELDent users to learn about the new features that our software has, as well as prepare for future upgrades. In these videos, we will show you the features in action, as well as provide some examples for your benefit. 

Many of the new features will make your day-to-day life easier in your practice. Having a strong understanding of these new features will help you in making the most of your dental software, and in turn, providing the best quality of care for your patients.  

The first video of our miniseries covers the clinical sidebar. The clinical sidebar’s purpose is to minimize clicking and scrolling while your patient is in your operatory. You can easily access the important information that you need before starting any treatment by simply glancing at your patient’s chart. 

The Clinical Sidebar 

The clinical sidebar is not restricted to the patient’s chart. You can also see it for each individual patient when checking daily appointments. This allows you and your staff to adequately prepare for any cases that require more attention than others, or just to have a headstart on the day to increase confidence.  

Another option the sidebar provides is quick and simple health updates. You can pre-program your common health conditions and medications into ABELDent and then quickly select what you need when updating your patient’s health history. You can even have your patient do an updated health form, completely paperless, signature included. 

The clinical sidebar offers various possibilities for your practice and streamlines the process of updating and checking patient health information.  

Prepare for a Prosperous Practice, Even When You Can’t Work From Home

In light of recent events, with Ontario ordering the shutdown of nonessential workplaces, ABELDent employees are now working from home. Telecommuting is highly encouraged and measures to prevent the spread of the virus are being enforced for at least 14 days. 

A substantial number of Canadians are unable to work due to the COVID-19 crisis, including dental professionals. Dentists are still instructed to treat dental emergencies, as outlined under number 58 on the list of essential workplaces. Routine services, however, make up a significant portion of the income for a dental office. We recognize the stress that social distancing has on both yourself and your practice, but there are ways to stay motivated. 

While being unable to work can be unmotivating, we are encouraging our clients (and others) to use this time to stay on top of their game by accessing educational resources. For this reason, ABELDent is offering free educational videos and walkthroughs for anyone who needs training on administrative, financial, and clinical aspects of their dental software program.  

Additional educational resources that can be accessed during this time include online courses that earn you CE points, or even generic online classes that can offer you insights on your hiring process, employee relations, and overall business structure. As mentioned in previous posts, you can use this time to analyze your practice using SWOT Analysis or PMBO to measure if you have been meeting your practice objectives. All of these suggestions point you towards a future that is prepared to prosper.  

Even if you can’t do your job at home, you can still work from home by learning and assigning training to your staff. Ongoing education has tremendous value in any field, especially at a time like this, when there is more time to allocate towards the betterment of your practice. 

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).  

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.