Investing in your practice

Feb. 1, 2003
As I write this column, our country is still mired in a recession. Many dentists believe that an economic downturn necessitates a decrease in spending in their practices.

Roger Levin, DDS, MBA, FACD

As I write this column, our country is still mired in a recession. Many dentists believe that an economic downturn necessitates a decrease in spending in their practices.

Let me challenge this assumption. Dental practices are fairly recession-proof. Surprisingly, this can be a wonderful time to invest in your practice and increase your overall income. Doing so might help you to recover the net worth you may have lost in the stock market in the last few years. Evaluate the following:

Adding new services. Many dentists are investing in their practices by adding new services. More importantly, they are seeing a return on those investments in less than 12 months. For example, the OralCDx brush biopsy is a new service that defines an entirely new category of dentistry surrounding the theme of "early oral cancer detection to save lives." While this service is one of the most significant ever to become available to our profession, it also is a productivity enhancer. It would be a good investment, both financially and as a very valuable service to your patients.

Adding new technologies — Decide which technologies are most likely to provide a return on investment for your practice. The key question isn't whether to purchase a new piece of equipment, but whether it will pay for itself within a reasonable time frame. Many dental practices have effectively adopted new technologies and converted the expenditure into profit in less than 12 months.

Among the investment possibilities are digital radiography, intraoral cameras, and CAD/CAM systems. This technology can increase efficiency, increase the average production per patient, and enhance opportunities for quadrant dentistry. A return on your investment — even against a lease payment — is almost always possible if you make the right selection.

Investing in better patient education — Dental practices using a case-presentation software package, such as Consult Pro, improve patient education and increase patient enthusiasm for procedures. This translates into higher case acceptance and increased production. Consult Pro is an interactive presentation tool your staff can use to educate patients about new procedures and products.

Quadrant dentistry — In the last 15 years, the number of patients having more than one tooth treated per appointment has not changed. Despite recent interest in cosmetic dentistry, implants, and other elective procedures, 81 percent of dental appointments are still based on single-tooth procedures.

Investing in the basics — Many Levin Group clients have increased their production by as much as $200,000 per year simply by adding another chair and changing their schedules. It is difficult to think of a dental chair as an incredible investment opportunity, but it may be one of the best ways to increase production.

Investment opportunities frequently are found in places that we don't usually think about. Investing in areas that generate production, such as a new chair or better management systems, can have a dramatic impact on your production and profitability. How about an additional assistant?

People will always need dental treatment, no matter what the economic climate. A depressed economy can be the perfect time to invest in your practice and maximize your production and profitability.

Making the most of these investments also can help you recoup net worth you may have lost during an economic downturn. Look for opportunities to invest throughout the practice, from basic equipment to cutting-edge services and technologies. Ask your sales representative what's new and evaluate whether or not it will benefit your practice.

Roger P. Levin, DDS, MBA, FACD, is 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.

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