Efficient and profitable dentistry

Dec. 1, 2004
Being productive is one thing; being profitable is another. Most doctors want to increase the bottom-line profits, but they aren't quite sure how to do it.

Being productive is one thing; being profitable is another. Most doctors want to increase the bottom-line profits, but they aren't quite sure how to do it. For many, just the opposite is happening - their overhead is climbing, and their profits are diminishing. Let's consider a few ways to change that.

1) Make sure you are scheduling profitably. Seeing large numbers of patients in a day is not necessarily the answer to increased profits. In cases when the patient requires multiple procedures on several teeth, consider doing a quadrant or a half mouth of treatment, rather than spreading it out over multiple small appointments. Schedule as much dentistry as is appropriate per appointment, and see the patient for fewer visits. This will make each appointment less stressful and less costly. In the long run, you use less chairtime and less anesthesia, as well as less staff time, per patient. The total cost of performing the dentistry goes down.

2) Maximize the talents and capabilities of your auxiliaries. Delegate everything possible, according to the laws of your state or country. You want the doctor to do only the things that a doctor can do, and have everything else effectively and efficiently delegated. Study your state laws. If there are areas where you can delegate, but you aren't, begin working on this immediately!

3) Make sure you are not carrying accounts on your own books. Follow a financial protocol that keeps you out of the banking business. Make sure all monies are collected before or by the time treatment is completed. (See "Collect What You Produce," PennWell Books.)

4) Give yourself permission to reserve time every week for case-planning. Reserve and honor this time so the doctor and financial coordinator can plan and prepare for great consultations. What a waste to have a person come to you, go through a new-patient experience ... and then say no to treatment. The better you plan both the clinical presentation and the financial presentation, the higher your treatment-acceptance level will be. Why waste time generating a healthy new patient flow, only to have those patients fail to proceed with treatment? If one person per day goes ahead with treatment that he or she might have otherwise not done, then your practice will excel and both you and the patient will benefit.

5) Have the appropriate number of team members - i.e., not too many and not too few. Study job descriptions and/or position responsibilities. Ensure there is no duplication of effort. Someone must be ultimately responsible for each system within the practice.

6) Make sure you are retaining existing patients in the practice. If you are losing patients "through the cracks," you will be under constant pressure to generate significant numbers of new patients to replace those that you are losing. While attracting new patients to the practice is certainly essential, it is equally important to retain those you have. Retention programs involve not only your hygiene patients, but patients treated by the doctor. Follow up on dentistry that has been diagnosed, but not completed. Encourage those patients to move ahead with treatment.

7) Starting now, go through each and every system in your practice, and make sure that each is working well. If there is a "glitch" in one system that might have a negative effect on other systems, fix it immediately. The systems of a practice are so integrated that it is difficult, if not impossible, to separate them. They are completely connected - or need to be!

8) Analyze your overhead every month to see where the money is going. It is important not only to know how much money is coming in, but how much money is going out. Develop a budget for your practice and honor that budget. If an aspect of the practice is out of alignment, make an effort to remedy it. Do not keep ignoring spending that is putting your financial soundness at risk. Be sure to analyze the true overhead - how much it actually costs to run the practice each month. Study acceptable overhead percentages and abide by those guidelines.

We've discussed eight ways to develop a more efficient and profitable practice. Are there more ways? You bet! However, spend some time analyzing your own situation. See if refinement of these eight areas would make a difference for you. Then, be ready to go on to the next level!

Dr. Cathy Jameson is president and CEO of Jameson Management, Inc., an international dental practice-management consulting, lecturing, seminar, and product provider. An accomplished speaker, writer, and workshop leader, Cathy earned a doctorate in organizational psychology, focusing her studies on effective stress-controlled management. Cathy's books, "Great Communication = Great Production" and "Collect What You Produce," are top sellers for PennWell Books. You may reach her toll-free at (877) 369-5558, email her at [email protected], or visit her Web site at www.jamesonmanagement.com.

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