Bill Blatchford, DDS
Our emotional needs and our economics are changing. We want to retain or even increase profitability as the national and global economic picture changes. Our patients want to be more emotionally connected to their health-care providers. There is a way to achieve both .
If dentistry is stressful for you, that stress is probably evident to patients who visit your office. Since patients want to connect with you in conversations, in building solid relationships, in feeling wanted by your practice, a stressed and too busy environment will not fulfill those patient needs.
What is causing the stress? Are you and your staff running from room to room, doing a little on everyone? Are you discovering at the end of the day that you treated 18 patients and did not cover your overhead? Are you still trying to be Dr. Everything to everybody? If so, the lack of profitability is creating more stress.
Dentistry is truly a game of choices. Unlike the medical environment where employees have less choices in their health-care providers, dentistry still is a free-enterprise system with each operator making decisions about business, treatment, and profitability.
You have created your own stress with choices that you can change. To increase profitability and decrease stress, take a leadership position in scheduling patients. As a doctor, see no more than 10 patients in your schedule and do more significant treatment on each patient. Hold blocks of time open in the morning to complete multiple units of dentistry, thus giving your patients their desired special time with you.
Tighten hygiene by creating value for recare visits. Do not reappoint patients who have not paid for the last visit, are late, or tend to be "no-shows" half the time. Listen to the message your patients are giving you. These patients do not value your services or time. Why create more stress by accommodating them?
Learn case-presentation skills that allow the patient to have conversations with you about their feelings, standards, and values. How do you deepen a relationship? Have them talk about themselves by asking them questions. Quit confusing the emotional skills of asking questions and sales with left-brained education. You do not endear patients to you by giving them your dental-materials lectures with pictures!
Decrease cancellations and stress by having firm financial arrangements prior to the treatment appointment. Do not tie the delivery of a payment to the time of treatment, because this will increase cancellations and stress. Communicate clearly the expected result and fee arrangements. Make better use of outside funding to decrease stress for patients.
Decrease your accounts receivables (a dead weight hanging around your already stressed neck!) by collecting copays at the time of service or by collecting fees for any treatment under $150. Do not send patients a letter. Instead, speak to them (assistants and hygienists should help with this project) about their next visit and how it will be handled financially and the benefits of handling payment this way.
Decrease the number of appointments patients make to your office for short procedures. Can these wait until the next hygiene visit, so that you can schedule the treatment and the hygiene visit at the same time? You have heard the question, "What would you attempt if you knew you could not fail?" Keeping in mind your present rate of diagnosis, are you just treating pathology and fixing one tooth at a time because of fear? Create an opportunity for a diagnosis that would include ways to prevent future problems and improve the patient's appearance and the longevity of his or her natural teeth. Have a conversation with your patients about their choices instead of asking, "What is your main concern today?"
Patients want more time with you. They want to feel needed and heard. You want to feel less stressed and more rewarded. Can you see how the two desires can combine to create an unbelievably calm, caring environment that feeds you well, too?
Dr. Bill Blatchford, a practice-management coach only to dentists, has developed a distance learning coaching program utilizing conference calls, personal phone coaching, the Internet, and email. Minimizing the travel requirements, Blatchford coaching is now available anytime and anywhere. Based in Sunriver, Ore., Dr. Blatchford is speaking at the Chicago Midwinter, Profitable Dentistry's Destin Seminar, and Discus Dental's Las Vegas Seminar in 2003.He can be reached at (800) 578-9155 or visit his Web site at www.blatchford.com.