Increasing Production Through Practice Expansion
Roger P. Levin, DDS
Practice production is the number one factor in the measure of business success for dental practices. The metric of production reveals more about practice performance than any other, especially when it is used in ratios, such as production per patient, production per new patient, production per doctor, and overall practice production compared to overhead.
There are many ways to increase practice production, including implementing standardized business systems, training the team on effective scripting, adding new patients through vigorous marketing, and many others. One strategy to increase practice production and maintain a high level of success is to add new components or services to the practice.
Years of Innovations
Dentistry has benefited from certain events and innovations, both in recent and distant history. For example, although dentists often ruefully find it extremely frustrating today, the emergence of dental insurance allowed for many patients to access dental care. Dental insurance increased the number of patients that were typically seen by dentists and created the need to expand some dental practices. Despite practitioners' many frustrations over reimbursement levels, dental insurance has added significant production to dentistry overall.
Going back further in history, the implementation of the high-speed drill made a huge difference, as dentists were able to transition from relatively slow to high-speed procedures, enabling many more patients to be seen in a given day and noticeably increasing practice production. In the 1980s, an incredible expansion of innovation benefited dental practices and practice production, including the introduction of composites, whitening capabilities, veneers, dental lasers, osseointegrated implants, and practice management software. Other advancements that have aided the dental profession in more recent years are digital radiography, digital impressions, cone-beam technology, CNC milling, and orthodontic aligners, to name just some, while the favorable effects of 3D printing have still yet to be fully realized.
Practices today have ample opportunities to be more efficient, treat more patients, provide a higher quality of care, and expand their range of services. All of this benefits patients while simultaneously furthering practice production.
Introducing New Services
New services, which often come about with the development of new materials or technologies, are one way that innovation can expand dental practices. Before the advent of composite dentistry, teeth whitening, and porcelain laminate veneers, the field of cosmetic dentistry was rather limited. Today, a plethora of opportunities are available to create beautiful smiles in fairly short periods of time and relatively few appointments. Also, osseointegrated implant dentistry that in the past required many months before final restoration can now often be performed in as little as one appointment.
Whether it is the introduction of a brand new service or the expansion of a relatively new service, dentistry benefits as the service becomes better understood. One example that may still be considered in an early phase is sleep dentistry. While there are various approaches and different philosophies to sleep dentistry, the introduction of treatment for patients with sleep challenges is one way of adding to practice production. Whether this service adds 5% or 25% more production will depend on the amount of focus and marketing the practice puts into it.
The addition of a new service should always be considered from the standpoint of practice production. From a business perspective, doctors looking to increase production through the addition of new services first need to analyze by asking questions such as: What will it cost? How long is the learning curve (clinical and practice management)? What percentage or segment of patients will take advantage of the new service? Will the new service be covered by dental insurance and, if so, at what reimbursement level (direct effect on patient acceptance)? Will the new service be affected by prevailing economic conditions?
These questions should be answered from a business and business system standpoint to gauge what level of effort will be necessary and what level of production can be achieved. For any new service, the author recommends setting very specific goals. Some services may be implemented and have an immediate high-level return, while others may take time to educate the patient base, attract new patients, and build momentum. Sleep dentistry (again as an example) may take a little more time to build momentum than the introduction of, say, a dental laser.
Putting a System in Place
To maximize production of a new service, it is important to first develop systems around it. Before implementing the service, a step-by-step mechanism should be established starting with the first new patient phone call. Ways in which a practice can increase the utilization of a new service faster include the following:
Design and script a new patient phone call that includes references to the new service. For example, "By the way, Mr. Smith, our practice offers full analysis and treatment, if necessary, for any sleep issues or challenges that a patient may be facing."
Insert similar scripting for every patient that calls the practice. Every patient should be aware that the new service exists because they or someone they know may want to utilize it. This approach also allows the practice to appear to be on the "leading edge" of dentistry, even if patients are not interested in that specific new service.
Have a plan to let every patient who comes into the practice know about the service. In a general practice, this can usually best be handled by the dental hygienist, who should also receive scripting regarding how to introduce any new service. In specialty practices it can simply be mentioned by the front desk staff.
Script out in advance the explanation of the new service to an interested patient. Practices must avoid simply offering off-the-cuff explanations that may not include all of the possible benefits and reasons for patients to consider the service. Having a full, thorough explanation of the service ready for any patient who shows interest is important.
Design the case presentation process using a step-by-step method that educates patients about their need for that specific service.
Design the clinical protocols to carry out the new service both diagnostically and with regard to treatment so that all clinical personnel know exactly what needs to happen consistently every time this service is provided.
Practice production is the key element dental practices should analyze regarding practice performance. There are many ways to increase practice production, and the introduction of new services and technology has allowed dentistry to expand and grow. Practices should assess and analyze the implementation of a new service as a means of increasing practice production. When adding a new service, a specific system should be designed to maximize the overall efficiency and effectiveness of that service.
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