Could your practice benefit from a digital makeover?

As pioneers of practice management software about to celebrate our 40th anniversary in Canada, 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! On Monday, June 26th, ABELDent Inc. is partnering with Microsoft Canada to present an evening of insight that has the potential to transform the success of your practice. Join us in person or online for this event by pre-registering today.

Working hard – or hardly working?

According to a recent McKinsey report, today’s workforce spends 61% of their time managing work, rather than actually doing it.

Does that strike a chord? It did for me, even though my job as a people manager is to deal with and eliminate bureaucracy so my team can focus on achieving their goals. But I hear the lament over and over that others are drowning in administrative tasks, battling red tape and knee-deep in paperwork (online demands included). Today, the biggest complaint seems to revolve around the overwhelming email bog.

I’ve heard of companies creating ’email-free’ days where all internal business must happen over the telephone or gasp! in person. Other companies have turned to solutions like Yammer External Groups for patient communication, Microsoft Teams for internal office communication and document sharing, Slack and other instant messaging software to stem the flow. According to a recent TELUS report, tools like these ones can reduce email volume by as much as 40%.

Most companies at the very least publish email policy or etiquette guidelines for staff. I’ve been amused recently by a number of articles listing the major pet peeves of email users; here are some favourites:

  • Not entering a Subject line – making the email impossible to find later
  • Replying to an email and changing the topic completely – usually best to start a new email but at least add a word or a phrase to the end of the existing Subject line to inform readers of the change
  • Threadjacking – changing a Subject line to start a new conversation – please start a new email!
  • Using non-embedded logos and other graphics in a signature that come through as attachments, or little red exes
  • Intricate fonts, different coloured fonts, emoji overkill, SMS shorthand, excessive punctuation!!!!! None of these belong in business emails
  • PEOPLE WHO SHOUT AT ME
  • Messages that go on and on and say little or nothing
  • Messages that are so short they actually say nothing
  • People who can’t seem to master a professional tone; their writing is either far too casual or unnecessarily stiff
  • Those who mark everything urgent. Wolf-cryers
  • Asking for proof of receipt (unless it’s a summons, it’s insulting)
  • Replying to all when not warrented, cc’ing without approval, bcc’ing…

I wonder how much more work could get done in a day if email management took even half the time it currently does for most. If we effectively put to use the tools, technologies, approaches, and best practices that have been developed to reduce emails in the first place, we’d all be doing ourselves a favour. It’s worth the experiment.

 

What’s in your filing cabinet?

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. Maybe it’s time your team took a look, and started a New Year’s revolution against stale-dated recommendations.

How do you share success?

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 perqs 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!

In with the new… Patients

For many, fall is a time of great change and renewed beginnings. With that in mind, we turn our focus to business-building strategies: attracting new patients and retaining existing ones within your practice. Today’s complimentary Point-of-View Paper: “Through the Looking Glass: What Your Patients See” is chock full of techniques, tips and advice to help position your practice for success.

Where do (new) patients come from?

Ah… the million dollar question. The question that gave birth to the multi-million dollar industry of sales and lead generation.

You may be operating a steady dental practice with loyal clients, great retention and satisfactory productivity and profitability. What a great achievement… kudos to you.

For all the other practices out there, increased growth through new patient acquisition is vital to the success and sustainability of their business. When TV spots, print ads and online campaigns like Google AdWords or website banners fall outside the limits of a modest advertising budget, how does a small-to-medium-sized practice effectively attract attention and draw new business?

Here are a few ideas:
Tap your existing patient database for referrals

There’s a great deal of trust that accompanies a personal recommendation. In many companies, referrals can account for one-third of all new business.

Every patient has immediate family members and friends, all consumers of dental services. But growing your business is not a top-of-mind priority for them. They require a nudge.

Happy clients refer new clients. So a) keep your patients happy; b) be assertive in asking for referrals; c) remind them frequently; and d) show your appreciation to encourage participation.

Optimize your website

Is your website helping you generate new leads? Are you taking advantage of Search Engine Optimization techniques to make sure that your business ranks as high as possible in keyword search results? I’ll dedicate a future post to this topic.

Think grassroots. Think local.

Your best pocket of potential is likely your own backyard. Direct Response initiatives and signage within your immediate neighbourhood can reinforce the convenience of your location to long-term residents and present a solution to newly arrived neighbours. You can create interest with special offers, postcards, door hangers, posters, fridge magnets, dental product samples…

These items can also attract attention when you get involved in events like school fairs and church functions or local mall and community centre gatherings. Sponsoring such events and local sports teams goes a long way in growing your word-of-mouth recognition. Or create an event for locals to drop in, meet and greet, qualify for a complimentary service or special incentive.

Fine-tune your reception process

What happens when your marketing efforts do work and a new prospect actually calls your office… huzzah! How attentive and welcoming is your staff? A harried, too-busy reception can be a huge turn-off. On the other hand, a telephone answered by a friendly, knowledgeable individual can have a dramatic impact on new client intake. Do you have an appropriate focus and process? (If not, follow this space for a future post.)

And finally, in the category of new business from not-so-new customers:

Look inside your “Million-dollar filing cabinet”

You may not think of your unscheduled recommended treatment as a marketing vehicle. But if your recommendations are growing mold in a filing cabinet, despite the best of intentions, they represent lost revenue. Follow-up and digital pokes can help you realize organic growth.

Facts and Figures Speak Volumes

It is often said that if you measure something, you can manage it. I echo that opinion.

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?