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Three Steps to Increasing Practice Production
The focus on dental practice production has become more critical than ever before. In the changing world of dentistry, doctors are faced with unprecedented circumstances, such as: a difficult economy; an increasing number of graduates; higher student loan debt; decreasing insurance reimbursements; and potentially higher taxes. Due to the enormity of these changes, practices must adopt strategies that increase production quickly—even in a challenging economy.
Increasing practice production requires three critical steps, which comprise a technique known as Levin Group’s 3-Step Method for Accelerated Production: 1) Set targets; 2) Build systems to achieve the targets; and 3) Optimize system performance.
1. Set Targets
Targets are metrics to be achieved. All excellent businesses have targets. There are numerous targets that need to receive specific focus and be assigned to individuals. Examples of targets that dental practices should work to achieve include:
• having 98% of all patients scheduled at all times
• re-activating 85% of inactive patients
• collecting 99% of all money due to the practice
• increasing production growth by 15% annually
• using a minimum of 15 marketing strategies simultaneously
• having 40% to 60% of patients refer at least one other patient to the practice
• reducing the no-show and last-minute cancellation rate to less than 1%
• decreasing overhead to below 59%
• having doctors spend 98% of all in-office hours directly involved in patient care
Targets need to be quantitative, measured weekly, and assigned to either the doctor or specific staff members. To increase production, set a target of 15% to 18% growth in the next 12 months.
2. Build Systems to Achieve the Targets
How efficiently the practice runs or how well the doctor and the team get through the day cannot be the sole factors for gauging the success of practice systems. Without established targets in place, systems cannot prevent a practice from experiencing production decreases. Only the implementation of step-by-step systems will increase production and reduce stress—particularly financial stress. Systems to be addressed include: scheduling; customer service; internal marketing; case presentation; hygiene; and accounts receivable.
In the new dental economy, practices without proven systems have been steadily falling behind. Systems that worked as recently as 4 years ago are no longer working today. New systems will lead to growth while obsolete systems invariably lead to decline.
If businesses fail to reach their targets, formerly successful CEOs can suddenly find themselves without jobs. Most dentists have the benefit of owning their practice and, therefore, have total job security. However, the value of owning the practice depends entirely on how much the practice produces. In an era when incomes are actually declining for seven out of every 10 dentists (according to The Levin Group Data Center™, which houses proprietary data collected annually from thousands of dental practices, including clients and other dentists), this step is critical.
3. Optimize System Performance
Practices cannot simply set up systems and believe that the work is complete, because systems are not self-sustaining. Various components, including scripting, staff training, and documentation, must be incorporated to ensure that systems work properly.
Scripting, for example, is one of the most important methods to maximize system performance. After all, teams must know how to communicate effectively with patients. Based on the work of professional educators, value-based scripting can be used to influence other people. Once successfully implemented, it enhances both the efficiency and effectiveness of each system in the practice. In traditional scripting, communication is the goal. Value-based scripting goes far beyond this objective with its ability to influence. Influencing patients is a continuous activity. Patients have to be influenced to make appointments, agree to certain appointment times, accept treatment, pay bills, and so on.
Value-based scripting should be utilized during all communication with patients. For example, something as simple as just using a patient’s name in every conversation helps to demonstrate focus and likeability. Positive language also matters. Using power words such as great, excellent, wonderful, etc, brings energy to the interaction, which creates trust and increases case acceptance. In addition, benefit statements encourage patient cooperation.
Staff training and scripting go hand-in-hand. Only a trained staff can implement systems correctly. Scripts are an essential ingredient in the training process because they ensure that teams and doctors are proficient on protocols and procedures, which improves the efficiency of all systems.
Documentation enables the continuance of the successful implantation of a system, regardless of who is administering it. When team members leave the practice, systems should be completely unaffected. New team members should be able to learn the systems easily because they have all been carefully documented. Well-trained team members who have mastered value-based scripting generally work for the most successful practices in the country.
Many dentists believe that to do better or increase production they have to work harder. The antithesis is actually true. It is not a matter of working any harder; it’s a matter of working differently.
The lasting effects of the recent recession are proving to be beyond the ability of most practices to combat. Attempts to reduce expenses worked initially, but as the months, then years, went by, such measures were not enough. More fundamental improvements are now necessary in order to reverse the downward trend. Levin Group’s 3-Step Method for Accelerated Production serves as a leading-edge approach to help dentists grow their practices.
To learn how to run a more profitable, efficient and satisfying practice, visit the Levin Group Resource Center at www.levingroup.com/gp—a free online resource with tips, videos, and other valuable information. You can also connect with Levin Group on Facebook and Twitter (@Levin_Group) to learn strategies and share ideas.
About the Author
Roger P. Levin, DDS
Chief Executive Officer
Owings Mill, Maryland