9 Ways to Increase Practice Production in Any Economic Condition
Roger P. Levin, DDS
Production is the single most important metric in a dental practice. As long as the practice has sufficient production, and the ratios of its production to other metrics are on target, the practice will do well. Practitioners must understand the varied factors that can affect production and periodically zero in on individual factors to improve performance. This will help ensure increased production, profit, and income.
Here are nine ways to increase practice production during any economic condition:
1. Reactivate All Overdue Patients
Reactivating patients may be the most impactful way to increase practice production. To do so means scheduling any patient who does not have his or her next appointment. As one can easily imagine, the more patients the practice has in a proper mathematically designed schedule, the higher production will be. Keeping all patients scheduled effectively creates a larger patient base, which obviously will lead to higher practice production and better practice performance. Practices that can create a mixture of large, medium, and small cases emanating from a larger patient base will have higher total production.
2. Set Annual and Daily Production Goals
Practices that establish a specific goal for practice production, such as an 18% increase in the next 12 months, seem more likely to achieve it. When goals are created, it opens the mind to possibilities. Some practitioners may question as to why bother setting goals when they don't know how they are going to achieve them. However, practitioners should not worry about how they are going to achieve the goal; rather, they should simply establish what they want the goal to be. Consciously and unconsciously they'll become open to any information, knowledge, or input that will help achieve the goal. While they may not know how they are going to increase production by 18% (as referenced above), it may prompt the practice to begin a specific system of reactivating as many patients as possible. This, in turn, will inevitably increase production and help to achieve at least part of the 18% growth.
3. Hold an Effective Morning Business Review
Every practice should have a morning meeting that is 10 minutes long, has a specific agenda, and compares the day's scheduled production to the daily production goal. If the scheduled production is short of the goal, everyone on the team is then tasked with working to fill in the gap. As examples, front desk staff members would be reminded each morning to be "on the lookout" for new-patient phone calls, emergency requests, or other opportunities to add to production; hygienists would be encouraged to identify same-day treatment prospects; and dentists might be reminded to watch for patients who need additional treatment. Prioritizing the closing of the gap between the scheduled production and the daily production goal will typically result in increased production.
4. Block the Schedule Properly
A practice may dutifully have a production goal but never analyze its schedule to see if the goal is achievable. The actual schedule needs to allow for the production goal to be met. Every practice should consider reassessing its current schedule and determining whether the production goal is, in fact, achievable. While a practice may currently be achieving production on a regular basis, the schedule might not allow for an 18% increase in the next 12 months.
To help reach the daily goal, specific blocks in the schedule, based on production, need to be created that will allow the practice to increase the number of larger cases. Otherwise, it's like an Olympic runner who wants to attain a specific time in a race without ever analyzing whether each lap is fast enough to hit that specific time.
5. Schedule Big Cases on a Day Off
Understandably, people may not like the idea of working on a day off. However, if the dentist wants to increase production and the practice is a little behind, scheduling a large case on the morning of a day off can help make up the difference. Incidentally, working with just an assistant and the patient with no other functions taking place in the office, such as telephones being answered or staff members hustling from room to room, etc, can be one of the more relaxing experiences for a practitioner.
6. Have the Hygienist Reach Out to Overdue Patients
Practices can dramatically increase the scheduling of overdue patients by having the hygienists contact the patients instead of front desk personnel. The hygienist should both text and call each patient and, when necessary, leave a scripted voicemail about the practice's commitment to the patient, the importance of dental hygiene, and the patient being overdue for their appointment. This may spur the patient to schedule.
7. Conduct Procedural Time Studies
Procedural time studies measure the average amount of time it takes for a dentist to complete a procedure and should be done every few years. Consider that if the practice can save 10 minutes per hour it will add the equivalent of 32 days a year (or roughly 2 months) of extra doctor production every year. Saving 10 minutes per hour can substantially affect practice productivity.
8. Follow-up With Patients Who Have Incomplete Treatment
This recommendation has several parameters. First, patients who do not accept treatment the day it is recommended should receive a follow-up call to either help them schedule or answer any further questions they may have. Many patients respond to these calls by scheduling.
Second, some patients still have insurance benefits available but have not completed treatment. Contacting them and commenting on the loss of available dollars from the insurance company often motivates patients to schedule treatment.
Third, some patients will not agree to any further treatment until their insurance benefits renew, which typically happens in January. Once again, contacting these patients around this time and letting them know their benefits have renewed may motivate them to follow through with additional treatment.
9. Raise Fees Periodically or Annually
Dentists are often concerned about raising fees. However, patients typically are not aware of the practice's fees other than for basic hygiene services. For hygiene services, fees should be raised more slowly, but for all other fees an annual increase of a few percentage points or even 5% usually goes unnoticed. The practice needs to submit its new fee schedule to all insurance companies with which it participates to increase its overall profile.
Production typically drives profitability, income, investments, and other financial parameters. Following these nine strategies will help increase practice production. When production is at the right level the practice will thrive going forward.
About the Author
Roger P. Levin, DDS
CEO and Founder, Levin Group, Inc. (levingroup.com), a practice management consulting firm that has worked with more than 30,000 dental practices