Practice-management myths

Aug. 1, 2006
Last month, I shared with you some of the most common clinical dental myths I encounter as I lecture around the country.

Last month, I shared with you some of the most common clinical dental myths I encounter as I lecture around the country. This month, I want to uncover some of the most common practice-management myths and misinformation that I hear and will hopefully debunk for you.

Referral services don’t work. Referral services do work when you use a reputable company dedicated to your success. Learn how to work with your referral service, as opposed to just signing up and waiting for the referrals to come in. This is probably the most common mistake dentists make - signing up for a program and then never evaluating the results or working to optimize the results. I have successfully belonged to the following services and have been very pleased with the results:

1-800-DENTIST® is the best in the business because this company can really help you and your front-desk staff develop a system for making sure that referral patients feel welcome. Through their various programs, the company helps to develop referrals into long-term patients. Their new Patient Activator System, which keeps you in touch with your current patients, who are the source of most of your income. Many times, we only focus on new patients, forgetting how important our current patients are to our bottom line. This new system will keep you in touch with your patients through newsletters, e-cards, and intake forms. It lets them know about the latest dental advances that your office can provide.

The Lumineers Smile Discovery Program is a specialty system just for veneers. It includes referrals and in- office materials and scripts to strongly motivate patients to evaluate their smiles and accept treatment. They will help patients go ahead with veneer cases. Their specialists will train your staff, so they are very knowledgeable in what veneers can do for your patients.

High accounts receivable are a sign of a healthy practice. I hear this often from dentists and this completely blows my mind. If you have high accounts receivable - which many dental offices do - then you have a significant problem on your hands. You want low accounts receivable and you want that money in the bank when you produce it. In-office financing is a losing proposition for any dental office. They are trying to be a bank and doing a very poor job of it. If your local bank had the accounts receivable that these dental offices do, they would be out of business in short order. Offices trying to be banks are losing valuable personnel time making collection calls, which cost money and make patients hate their dental offices, never to refer to those offices again.

Learn how to use financing in your office. We have used CareCredit® successfully for years, as have thousands of other dental offices. Patients apply online in your office and you get an answer in literally seconds! Your office collects the money for treatment and the patient gets no-interest financing for up to 18 months. If need be, they can stretch out the payments longer than that. This is a huge win-win for everybody and will significantly increase your cash flow immediately.

A 60 percent overhead is just fine.The national average for dental office overhead is 70 percent. I guess 60 percent is OK, but it certainly can be a lot better than that. Since your dental office is a business, one of your goals should be to achieve as much profitability as possible. The way to do this is to achieve the lowest overhead possible. While your fixed costs will remain a constant until such time that they are renegotiated, your variable costs can decrease significantly. That decrease can occur if you understand that your selection of products and techniques in your office can change this and make you much more profitable. The goal should be an overhead of 50 percent or less, which should be attainable for most dental offices.

Let’s try to break through the barriers that we have created in our minds and expand our practices past some of these clinical and practice-management myths. Frequently, the only thing holding us back from success in our offices is who we see in the mirror.

Dr. Louis Malcmacher is an international lecturer and author known for his comprehensive and entertaining style. An evaluator for Clinical Research Associates, Dr. Malcmacher is a consultant to the Council on Dental Practice of the ADA. For details about his speaking schedule, Dr. Malcmacher can be reached at (440) 892-1810 or via e-mail at [email protected].

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