Roger P. Levin, DDS, MBA
Without question, many dental practices are becoming more sophisticated and enjoying the benefits of a vibrant and vital business.
Frequently, I am asked how I think practice management will change in the next millennium. Although radical changes will occur in how we practice dentistry, I believe that the basic principles of running a business will remain the same. Most practices still do not have step-by-step documented systems. They operate with daily direct involvement from the dentist. A more profitable and productive alternative would be to develop step-by-step documented systems for your practice.
For example, dentists do not take the time to be involved in the day-to-day management of their offices. Dentists who try to guide the team and see patients at the same time are a source of practice stress. These team members never learn to think independently, make decisions, or become fully trained in their positions. Combine this added stress with the fact that there is no resource for the team regarding step-by-step systems-training, and it becomes apparent that most practices are running by evolution, not by business-system design.
Dental practices can suffer the same consequences as emerging Internet companies. Your practice`s "stock value" will be measured by several factors, including the effectiveness of your business systems, smart spending, and your ability to maintain a highly trained dental team. You may have noticed several Internet companies that have very high stock prices, even though they lose money year after year. If you keep watching these companies, you will see that those that do not eventually learn how to show a profit at the end of the year will ultimately cease to exist. Even extremely large companies cannot live indefinitely on stock value and will simply disappear.
Systems, systems, systems
Business systems are essential in dental practices. Your goal is to maximize practice profitability, while continuing to monitor overhead and spending. If you buy a new piece of equipment, you want a return on your investment. The amount of money going toward new toys in the dental practice is enormous, despite the fact that many of them remain unused and unprofitable. Buy only what you know will be put to good use - equipment that you and/or your team easily can learn how to use and that will make your lives easier, not more complicated.
The office-management software that you choose also is critical. You need a software system that is flexible and versatile - and you need to buy from a company that provides excellent customer service and routine updates! Bigger is not necessarily better. The software that you are using today is probably obsolete. You don`t want to replace your software too frequently, however, or you routinely will experience upheaval in your practice. You may want to consider scheduling regular software "refresher" sessions with team members to keep them current on the most efficient ways to use your system.
Another source of practice stress that can be cured through systems is the current dental-team staffing shortage. Although no major organization is addressing this issue, a shortage in most parts of the country is literally choking the potential growth of many practices. We can help ourselves by having written systems for training new employees and by using these systems as a reference for everyone in the office.
Having documented business systems will allow your office to function as effectively as it possibly can. You will be able to bring new team members into the practice and train them faster than ever before. You will have more time to focus on dentistry instead of the daily practice operations, and patients will enjoy visiting your office. While all of the new software, equipment, and tools available can help you maximize your skills and time, having documented business systems still is the best way to enhance profitability and productivity and to ensure a successful future.
Roger P. Levin, DDS, MBA, president and CEO of The Levin Group and the Levin Advanced Learning Institute, provides worldwide leadership in dental management for general dentists and specialists. Contact The Levin Group at (410) 654-1234.