Slow (or no) growth represents the new norm for the majority of dentists. According to the most recent Dental Economics-Levin Group Annual Practice Survey, average production per dentist increased less than 1% from the previous year. That figure is at least better than compared to a few years ago, when dentists were still grappling with the lingering effects of the recession, but let's be honest: less than 1% growth means your practice is basically flat. Nobody wants to be flat, especially when costs are going up every year due to inflation.
Getting off to a great start sets the tone for the entire year. Here are five strategies that will drive growth in the next 60–90 days:
Fix your collections system
The collection rate for general practices is 90.7%, meaning that for every $100,000 produced, dentists are losing $9,300. If your practice is producing $500,000, that would be loss of $46,500. Ouch!
Make money management a priority. Don't let your profit walk out the door. Tighten up your collection procedures:
- Collect payment, including copays, at the time of service.
- Train your team with scripting to ask politely but firmly for payment.
- Follow up consistently with patients who owe money.
- Create a business culture that says to patients, "We provide a valuable service and we deserve to be paid for it."
Maximize your hygiene schedule
Your hygiene department drives production. The fuller your hygiene schedule, the more productive your practice will be. Unfortunately, most practices are sitting on tens of thousands of dollars in untapped production—all because offices have allowed patients to become inactive. Use your practice management software to identify all patients who haven't been seen in six months and who aren't currently scheduled.
Contact all those patients and schedule them. Confirm appointments by calling cell phone numbers, sending e-mails, and texting patients (with permission). Consider using an automated confirmation service, which will free up your front desk team for all other important duties. Make sure nobody leaves without an appointment-schedule 99% of all hygiene patients while they're still in the office.
Get more social
Be more active on your Facebook page. Your marketing coordinator should be posting at least several times a week and responding to any comments or questions as quickly as possible. You want to engage your current and prospective patients, generating likes and interactions. This will increase exposures for your page and create greater awareness of your practice throughout your patients' social networks. Here are some quick ways to improve your Facebook page:
- Showcase all patient contests and events.
- Promote different types of treatment; before-and-after photos are attention grabbers.
- Send out alerts about open appointments.
- Make it personal. Post pictures of you and your staff's hobbies, pets, and community activities.
Amaze your patients
Great customer service turns your patients into an ad hoc marketing team. If they love your practice, they'll tell their friends and families. Your team needs to be skilled in wowing patients during their visits by doing the following:
- Welcome patients as if they were friends, not customers.
- Anticipate patient needs and questions.
- Surprise your best patients with small tokens of appreciation.
- Do everything possible to make patient visits enjoyable, convenient, and problem free.
Every practice throws money away. How much depends on what oversight measures you have in place. Do you follow a budget? Do you or your office manager review spending monthly? What is your overhead percentage? If you own a general practice, the target should be 59%. How close are you to that benchmark? Here are some effective techniques for getting your overhead under better control:
- Review telephone, internet, and utility costs and compare with other providers.
- Clean out closets and storage areas. You may have boxes of valuable supplies that you've forgotten.
- Examine all purchases. Are these items necessary and do you need them now?
- Refinance all high-interest loans. Interest rates are at historic lows.
Do these five things and your practice will be off to its best start in years. It's easy to get sidetracked, but if you commit to implementing these strategies, practice revenues will increase, and so will your income.
Author's note: Do you know where your practice stands? Find out with Levin Group's new 30-Minute Practice Assessment! Spend 30 minutes on the phone with a dental management expert . . . free. It's your opportunity to see how your practice compares, discover your revenue potential, and discuss any business challenge you're facing at no charge. To schedule your assessment, call (888) 973-0000 or e-mail [email protected].
Roger P. Levin, DDS, is the founder and CEO of Levin Group Inc., a leading dental consulting firm. A nationally recognized speaker, Dr. Levin presents practice management seminars throughout the country.