The Jameson Files Patient focus power

Featuring Dr. Bruce Baird

Featuring Dr. Bruce Baird

Dr. John H. Jameson was intrigued to hear that Dr. Bruce Baird offers one-on-one instruction to dentists who attend his seminars. This month, Dr. Jameson shares his conversation with the Dallas-area practicing dentist about practice monitors, and the difference patient focus makes on profitability and productivity.

Dr. Jameson: What one item makes you most successful in your ability to close a case and achieve high levels of acceptance?

Dr. Baird: Initially, it’s important to not concentrate on dentistry. For most patients, selling dentistry has more to do with building relationships than it has to do with talking about teeth. Consider this. Eighty percent of dentists in this country have an engineer mentality of “We’re going to fix things. We love to know the molecular structure of titanium.” But 80 percent of our patients are not engineers. They just want to know the bottom line for treatment. By first finding out a little bit about a patient and discussing that person’s news, life, and interests, I am able to find what I call “links.” At the end of this period of time (usually three to five minutes), we have established four to five links that form an unbreakable chain. For one, we are on a first-name basis. Through the years, this approach has helped people to look at me more as a consultant rather than an engineer who is “fixing” things.

Dr. Jameson: Excellent point. It’s about developing yourself as a dental coach for your client base, not being the almighty healer. So, do you evaluate a patient’s treatment acceptance level? What do you do with this information?

Dr. Baird: Productivity is something that’s trackable through dental software and other tracking means. We know what is done on a daily basis - what our productivity is per hour, how many new patients we see, how many patients were rescheduled/cancelled or were no-shows, how many patients were re-established in the practice, etc. These facts and figures are trackable, and give you an idea of your productivity. I track pretty much everything in my practice in terms of productivity per hour. I look at hourly production figures for hygienists, my associate doctor, and myself. I use that knowledge as a tool to determine if my marketing is working well, and if I am attracting the right kind of patients. We call it the “executive dashboard.” We look at productivity as if we are driving a car. When everything is looking good, that’s great. If that is not the case, we want to know what area is not working so we can make appropriate adjustments.

Dr. Jameson: So, as you look at your productivity, what’s the one item that leads the way in driving your practice?

Dr. Baird: Well, you might think it would be implants. But honestly, it is about being there and being focused. When I am working, I am totally focused on the day. I don’t let outside influences interrupt me. I know what my schedule is because I have reviewed it the previous day. I know when I have opportunities to perform additional procedures on patients because I am prepared for my schedule. My staff is “there” too, meaning they are conscious during the day ... none of those dazed-out work days. We are all on a mission to take outstanding care of our patients and be productive while doing so.

Dr. Jameson: In the military, staying focused has been described as compartmentalizing, concentrating on just the task you are doing at that moment. So, is there one procedure that you focus on that tends to increase productivity more than another?

Dr. Baird: There’s not one thing. It is an accumulation of items during the day. It may be doing a couple of composite resins out of hygiene. It may be having an emergency patient come in and having the systems in place so that you can do an extra crown on that person. Proper scheduling during the day can play a part. There are so many factors that go into increasing productivity, it’s hard to put a finger on one particular procedure. I tell people you don’t have to do implants or cosmetic dentistry to be productive. You can be productive on regular bread-and-butter dentistry if you are aware of what’s going on around you. It’s a multitude of things. You may do soft tissue grafting. You may do grafting for an extraction. You may do other procedures. Yes, they could be implants and restorations. But mainly, it is about being efficient in your schedule.

Dr. Jameson: Being in touch with reality seems like a common sense idea, but it does seem to be the biggest difference maker for so many dental teams. We laugh at how true it is that dental teams can be as busy as we need to look. So, what you are saying about focus and efficiency really hits home. Also, you have made some interesting comments on monitoring what you do. This is obviously important because whatever is not monitored cannot be measured. In addition to your software, what are some of the monitoring systems that you use?

Dr. Baird: We monitor several different items on a daily basis. My dental assistants, associate, and hygienists are part of this process. These items involve case numbers for treatments we presented, including the dollars and percentage of acceptance for those cases. We also address if we are on goal based on productivity per hour. This way, I never have to guess what I am going to produce during a month. Generally, I can judge within five percent of what I am going to do and what the practice will do every month. I do this because I know what I am going to produce hourly, and my staff knows what we are going to produce hourly. We track patients who showed up, those who didn’t show up, and how many of those units we were able to recover. So, if someone cancels an appointment, we can work together and find a way to fill that time slot.

Dr. Jameson: That’s an excellent point. When something unforeseen happens, there is a surprise, or overhead flux in our normal day-to-day operations, we can use our productivity monitors to help calculate and stay on track with our profitability. So, as you use monitoring systems to measure results, how sensitive are you to profitability figures? Or do you know that, by attaining your productivity numbers, your profitability is reached as well?

Dr. Baird: We do have profitability goals that we set as well as the production per hour goals that I mentioned previously. For example, we like to see 98 percent collection as a minimum. Many times we have surpassed 100 percent. We track money coming in over the counter, money coming in through insurance and so forth. So, we do track both profitability and productivity, and we do so separately.

To me, profitability really is not just how much you produce but how you budget for the items you buy in your practice. Basically, I have every item in my practice budgeted so that I know exactly - based upon my production goal - what I can spend or budget. Before I started doing this, every month was a new game. I would be up one month, then down the next. It is difficult to be profitable when you don’t know what is in the bank to spend from month to month.

Since we have set our goals based on productivity per hour and have established our budget based on those goals, we have a great idea about what we are going to do. Then, we set staff bonuses on a totally different scale to ensure that staff members will reach bonuses on a regular basis if the overall practice reaches its goals.

Dr. Jameson: We have talked about productivity, profitability, and the economics of providing care. We also have talked about how, in order to be successful, one must always have a relationship so that people will continue returning and accepting treatment. In spite of dealing with only the business aspects, are there systems in place that allow you to maintain focus on the patient relationship? How do they work for you?

Dr. Baird: Overall, we have established a light, friendly, patient-focused atmosphere. For example, we have a greeter, who brings patients to an operatory. This helps patients feel comfortable at the beginning of the appointment. The items that we need to give attention to also are accomplished from an internal marketing standpoint. We are not a spa, but we do focus on the benefits of having a solid relationship with patients. If we see a dent in productivity, a lot of people might think, “Let’s start doing more of this procedure or that procedure.” If I see any dent in productivity at my practice, I realize that “We may have lost our focus. We must continue to focus on the patient, and take absolutely incredible care of that patient.”

When we do what it requires to renew and maintain our patient focus, the dollars and the numbers take care of themselves. Yes, I like to track them to know where I am at any given time. But I don’t use them to guide what I focus on because the only thing I care about is focusing on the patient.

Dr. Jameson: Yes, I have discovered the same thing. Whenever I see a dip in my productivity, I return to my consultation appointment when I was one-on-one with a patient talking about benefits of receiving treatment. If I was not completely focused at the time, I see definite changes in my practice.

Dr. Baird: That’s exactly it - to a “T.” Many dentists don’t really know what to track or monitor in their practices. I have always thought that a practice should be like a patient leaving a friend to take on the cold, cruel world. Sometimes we lose focus of that, or get distracted with other situations. When we don’t have time to see a new patient, or truly spend the time necessary with a new patient, we realize one day that “Hey, we don’t have many new patients.”

Dr. Bruce Baird teaches at the University of Texas Dental School in San Antonio and the Baylor University Dental School. He has pioneered the development of new technology for restorative dentistry, and lectures internationally on dental technology, cosmetic dentistry, dental implants and reconstruction, as well as communication skills.

Dr. John Jameson is chairman of the board of Jameson Management, Inc., an international dental consulting firm. Representing JMI, he writes for numerous dental publications and provides research for manufacturers and marketing companies, as well as lectures worldwide on the leadership and integration of technology into the dental practice. He also manages the technology phase of the consulting program carried out by JMI consultants in the United States, Canada, and Europe. He may be reached at (877) 369-5558, or by visiting www.jamesonmanagement.com.

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