Being “too busy” is a compliment. It means you are doing things right and people are seeking your services. So, trust me, I know it’s a compliment. However, wouldn’t you agree with me that being too busy can be a problem?
You must control your growth, or your growth will control you. The result of being too busy can be overwhelming stress, which can lead to burnout and dropout, compromised patient care, and decreased profit. So, as 2006 begins, focus on controlling your practice’s growth so you can optimize efficiency and profitability in the new year and beyond.
Seven steps to controlling practice growth
❶Manage your schedule. Two areas of potential stress in the area of scheduling are seeing too many patients per day, or being booked out too far. Organize your treatment plans to do a quadrant or a half-mouth per appointment. Try to treat patients in as few appointments as possible. Both you and the patient will win.
❷Delegate.Delegate when and where possible, according to the laws of your state. The doctor should do the things that only a doctor can do and delegate everything else.
❸Patient financing programs. Many patients ask for “one tooth at a time” dentistry, and many practices offer this kind of treatment because of the investment. In order to do more dentistry per patient on fewer patients per day and see patients for fewer visits, a patient financing program is a major asset. Being able to fit the payments for their dental care into a budget can pave the way for patients to not only accept treatment, but to go ahead with the timely scheduling that you recommend.
If you are not involved with a patient financing program, get that way. If you are not maximizing your existing program, seek further training or access training material (“Collect What You Produce,” second edition, by Cathy Jameson, PennWell Books).
❹Fees.The law of supply and demand may indicate that raising your fees is appropriate. Even if you lose some people from your practice, you will have better quality time with the patients who remain. You will have more time to do great new patient experiences and consultations as well as quadrant, half-mouth, arch or full-mouth cases, whether restorative or cosmetic. Your higher fees will offset any losses of patients.
❺Associates. If the first four suggestions have been met or exceeded, you may need to consider an associate. This is a major decision and needs much consideration, planning, and advice.
❻Refer. As a doctor/practice that is too busy, consider referring as much as possible. Focus your practice on the type of dentistry you love and refer everything else. You will replace the production of the referred dentistry with more carefully organized treatment planning and scheduling.
❼Insurance. If you are too busy, and if you are on any managed care programs, this may be the time to decide whether or not to remain a provider. List all of the programs you are part of, from the one that generates the most revenue to the one that generates the least revenue. As you build the fee-for-services part of your practice, eliminate the managed care programs starting with the least productive and going up from there.
Or, if you are totally fee-for-service, too busy and unable to focus as you wish, and you have done all of the things mentioned so far, then consider not accepting assignments of benefit of insurance any longer. This is not an easy decision, nor is it appropriate for all practices. You have to decide.
Please know that I am not telling you to drop assignment of benefits of insurance. I am simply noting that this is a way to reduce “busyness.” If you choose to drop insurance, let me strongly recommend that you do so with care and planning. If this step is executed poorly or without a strategic plan, the results can be disastrous. Done well, however, it can be successful. You must be clear on your vision and your goals. You must be confident. You must be an excellent manager and leader.
Combination makes the difference
These seven steps will help you gain control of your “out of control” schedule. Each step will help by itself. A combination of the steps will make a significant difference.
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, e-mail her at email@example.com, or visit her Web site at www.jamesonmanagement.com.