The elusive triad

Jan. 1, 2000
The economic reality of the world that we live in is that most goods and services are being delivered "faster, better, and cheaper" - and the economics and speed of the Internet have barely kicked in!

Alan Richardson

The economic reality of the world that we live in is that most goods and services are being delivered "faster, better, and cheaper" - and the economics and speed of the Internet have barely kicked in!

Dentists can no longer raise fees at a rate higher than inflation and expect "things to stay the same." Employers who pay the insurance bills will be looking for ways to reduce costs or at least stabilize them. Full fee-for-service dentistry with no insurance clearly will work for some dentists, in part determined by geography and demographics. Most practitioners, however, will continue to be largely insurance-driven and somewhat captive to the marketplace in which they choose to practice.

For 30 years, my previous business experience was in industry in many parts of the world. I learned quickly that, to survive, you had to be smart, quick, and, above all, flexible. To increase profitability in every industry - including dentistry - you must continually ask:

How can I produce more without working more - that is, by working smarter, not harder.

(1) How can I produce more and, at the same time, improve the quality and reduce my cost?

(1) How can I increase my profitability to enable me to invest in new technology and my employees?

Addressing and achieving these three criteria is an absolute if you are to maintain control of your business. If you don`t change, grow, and find better ways to do things, it is inevitable that, every time, external forces beyond your control will overwhelm your business.

Addressing these three opportunities in dentistry - producing more in the same time; increasing quality and reducing costs; and increasing profitability for investment and financial security - requires the following:

A belief that it is possible.

(1) Thinking different.

(2) Acting without fear.

(3) Giving up old patterns of thinking.

(4) A massive sense of urgency.

To keep control of your profession and achieve your goals, you must train, qualify, and delegate as much routine dentistry as quickly as possible to auxiliary personnel. Dump "protectionism" fast ... without sacrificing quality. For example:

- Train, qualify, and delegate to hygienists routine anesthetic injections, placement of routine restorations, use of lasers in periodontal therapy, placement of routine restorations, use of lasers in periodontal therapy and the placement of periodontal products (chips, etc.)

- Train and qualify dental assistants and delegates to do routine prophylaxis, coronal polishing, all temporaries, all X-rays, and as many other procedures as is appropriate and legal for them to do.

4 Massively increase the number of graduates from hygiene school to put the marketplace in balance. Hygienists in some states are demanding and getting $45 to $50 per hour or $340 to $400 per day. It is cheaper to hire an associate dentist on a per diem basis and have him or her do more exams and routine dentistry. It is amazing to this writer that dentistry has not made the increased training of hygienists a number-one priority as any other industry would.

4 Remove outdated, protectionistic practice acts so that specific criteria are put in place to permit trained auxiliaries to expand the functions they can do.

Will these recommendations enable you to produce more without working harder? Will they help you to improve quality at a lower cost? Will they help you increase profitability? Absolutely! By having training, qualified personnel do more of what you do, it allows you to do more of what only you can do, thus significantly enhancing productivity.

More gets done at a lower unit cost in the same amount of time. The quality improves because more gets done by trained, qualified personnel. (Conversely, in states where hygienists cannot give routine anesthetic injections, a significant amount of periodontal treatment remains undone or is unnecessarily referred out to third parties.) By doing these procedures Oin-house,O more patients benefit from quality care, the patient is more bonded to the practice, and Owhole careO is given. The end result: increased quality at a reduced cost! Faster, better, less expensive (as in lower unit cost) care equates to increased profitability that benefits the doctor, staff, and patients.

A huge fringe benefit is a staff that is allowed to grow, resuting in a more motivated and committed professional team.

I appeal to all dentists ? make this a priority to keep control of your business and your profession!

The author is ranked among the leading "Peak Performance Dental Coaches." He was selected by PAC-live to provide post-graduate practice management to advanced dental teams. He is executive director of Fortune Practice Management, a large practice-management company with 25 offices nationwide. His partner, Anthony Robbins, is one of the world`s leading peak performance coaches. Richardson can be reached by phone at (888) 495-3623 or via e-mail at [email protected].

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