New Year’s Resolutions
Before the ball drops, make sure you have made—and are prepared to stick to—these three practice resolutions for a successful 2013.
The Levin Group Data Center™ reports that 75% of all dental practices declined in each of the last four years. If 2013 is to be any better, dentists must understand how the Great Recession and resulting permanent game changers have obstructed the pathway to practice success. For those who recognize this, there are excellent opportunities for greater production and profitability. Those in denial, on the other hand, will find themselves struggling through plateaus and even practice declines.
Drawing on Levin Group’s experience and my observations of successful practice turnarounds, I offer these resolutions with the assurance that they will lead to a prosperous New Year.
The Three Resolutions
The following recommendations are based on a proven three-step methodology. This innovative approach to growing production is quite different from the way most practices were managed before 2009. We designed it to be fast and easy for dentists to put into action, even though most have had little business training. The three resolutions inspired by this method are: (1.) The practice will set 20 or more quantitative performance targets for 2013; (2.) The practice will establish step-by-step practice management systems to meet the targets; and (3.) The practice will implement a training program for the staff based on scripting that builds value to motivate patients and improve customer satisfaction.
Resolution #1: Set Measurable Targets
Merely having an annual production goal is not enough. More specific targets give the practice greater control in improving performance. The targets must be quantifiable, so that progress toward meeting them can be measured and reported to the team on a regular basis. Some examples of vital targets are:
• Having 98% of all patients scheduled at all times
• Reactivating 80% of inactive patients
• Increasing average production per new patient by 100%
• Motivating 40% to 60% of current patients to refer new patients
• Collecting 99% of all receivables
• Raising case acceptance to 90%
• Holding overhead to no more than 59%
Equally important, each target should be assigned to the appropriate staff member(s). For example, the front desk coordinator would be accountable for reaching the target of having 98% of patients scheduled at all times. By tracking actual performance against the desired levels, the doctor and team take corrective measures at the first sign of trouble.
Resolution #2: Replace All Practice Management Systems
All practices have systems, but most of them have become obsolete over time, creating bottlenecks that cause frustration and stress for doctor and staff. To grow in the new dental economy, a practice must implement new management systems designed specifically to reach the targets that have been set under current conditions. Some practices may be tempted to fix or update their existing systems. This will not work for the simple reason that times have changed in ways that demand new protocols. What worked well in the past will no longer suffice. The new systems should be fully documented in detail, step-by-step, so that any team member can readily follow the prescribed protocol. As a further assurance of efficient use, staff should go through daily, weekly, and monthly checklists for each system.
Resolution #3: Use Scripting for Patient Motivation and Staff Training
All routine conversations between staff and patients should be scripted. Without training in business or communications skills, team members cannot be expected to know how to use psychology to effectively influence the behavior of patients, going beyond communication to motivation. Scripts are created with three essential purposes in mind. One is to ensure that practice-management systems are used properly to achieve optimal results. Well-written scripts also build value for the doctor, team, and practice in the minds of patients. In addition, scripts serve as training aids for staff members, making them highly effective at influencing patients to accept treatment, make appointments, refer friends and family, pay their bills, and show up on time. By shaping staff/patient interactions, excellent scripting not only improves day-to-day operations but also drives the practice to achieve its targets and experience dramatic growth.
These three resolutions have the power to revolutionize any dental practice. Most dental practices have the potential to grow 30% to 50% without adding any new fixed expenses, which represents a wonderful opportunity for 2013. By learning and taking advantage of what business people call “best practices”—concepts and methods proven to work better than others—dental practices can capitalize on that growth potential.
About the Author
Roger P. Levin, DDS | Dr. Levin is the CEO of Levin Group. 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. Connect with Levin Group on Facebook and Twitter (@Levin_Group) for learning strategies and sharing ideas.