Hyper Focus on Key Dental Practice Metrics
Tips and strategic actions to implement for a thriving practice
Lisa Philp, RDH
Dental practices face the continual challenge of trying to balance a high-performing team, patient satisfaction, and quality dentistry with new technology—all while being productive and profitable. This balance doesn’t happen by accident: it requires a hyper focus on the metrics and strategic actions directed at performance indicators and systems.
Below are some key metrics that are vital to focus on, along with tips on how to leverage them for a thriving practice. It all starts with the dental team, led by the owner, and a clear management model that maximizes employee human capital resources and a positive culture.
Team culture is the primary influencer in patient loyalty, retention, and acceptance, because dentistry is a people-focused business based on trust and relationships. This is why building a synergistic dental team of the right people in the right positions yields such a high return on time, energy, and investment. The right person for the team is all about a positive attitude: toward health, people, communication, success, money, and achievement. These characteristics are more important than educational status, appearance, and skills.
Tip: As a team, track and monitor key metrics and meet monthly to celebrate what works, identify what doesn’t, and evaluate next actions.
Active patient count is defined by how many people consider you to be their regular dental practice and have had an appointment within the last two years. Keeping your chart shelves and computer database clean and purged is a key management strategy for business planning, problem solving, and making decisions about available provider hours, number of treatment rooms, and hygiene demand.
Tip: Keep your active patient count accurate at all times with regular purging, while also tracking patient attrition and the reasons why they left.
New patients are an indicator of your internal and external marketing efforts. Today, new patients don’t find you as much as they stalk you online. Although word of mouth has dominated, the Internet now demands that we also have a digital footprint with our website, search engine optimization, and social media presence for validation and access.
In addition, the new patient experience should involve an organized process (from call, to arrival, to exam, to exit) that will impress today’s patients. Make sure to track the referral source, and if necessary, send a thank you. This information will guide your marketing strategy.
Tip: Distinguish between a patient who is looking for a new dentist and a patient who is calling for a chief complaint or an emergency. The emergency patient is not considered a true new patient until he/she has returned for a comprehensive oral evaluation.
Dollar-per-hour productivity for each provider indicates the success of speed, skill, and scheduling. Calculate this by taking the gross production for each provider and dividing it by the number of hours that the provider works. For example, if a dentist produces $40,000 per month and works 112 patient hours, the dollar-per-hour productivity is $357 per hour.
The dollar-per-hour for hygiene will depend on whether these exams are included in the hygienist’s production. If hygiene exams are tracked in the restorative schedule, even though the doctor performs the exams, it is not an accurate measure of the restorative dollar-per-hour.
Collect what you produce: It is one thing to produce great dentistry; it is another to collect payment for it. Having a clear financial policy and collecting the fee or co-pay at the time of service significantly reduces accounts receivable issues. The time, energy, and costs of not collecting over the counter at the time of service include tracking receivables and aging, preparation of statements, postage, collection calls, insurance claim processing, and follow up.
Tip: Always provide a patient with a walk-out statement showing the total fee upon check-out.
Hygiene department patient retention is the lifeblood of the practice. An effective continuing care system ensures that at least 90% of patients are scheduled for hygiene—and that they show up. A common practice mistake is not paying attention to unscheduled and overdue patients. Develop a solidly defined recall and retention system to stop the patients from falling through the cracks.
Tip: Make sure all patients are pre-scheduled before they leave and that 90% of active patients are scheduled for continuing care appointments.
Periodontal utilization is a result of the hygiene department’s segmenting patient status and applying a process to confirm health, infection, or maintenance so that patients take ownership of their oral health. Three key areas: prevention, therapy, and maintenance are the primary segments of care.
Case acceptance is successful when patients leave your practice with a smile and an appointment reserved in your schedule. Knowing how many cases, how many dollars per case, and the acceptance percentage helps predict your operations for the next six weeks.
Research shows that 85% of case acceptance success is related to your interpersonal people skills, while 15% is based on technical ability. Do you take the time to build rapport by learning about your patients personally? Are you clear on their oral health goals and what is happening in their lives that may affect their decision to say “yes” to your treatment plan?
The role of the qualified treatment coordinator is the fastest growing position in modern dentistry. They manage the treatment plans, consult preparations, financial arrangements, and often, the new patient experience. They are a major part of assisting the patient with flexible payment options in order to accept dentistry that is not covered by insurance.
Downtime percentage due to broken appointments and no-shows is an ongoing challenge for many practices. Downtime is a percentage measurement of the non-productive time that occurs during the hours of availability to treat patients. Tracking the number of short-notice cancellations and no-show appointments creates a benchmark from which the practice can work towards setting goals.
The hygiene appointment tends to be the most disrespected visit in the dental practice. The number one reason patients don’t show up for hygiene is that it is “just a cleaning,” which translates into they see less value. Hygiene departments that overcome this lack of perceived value communicate the mindset that dental care is part of overall systemic wellness.
Tip: Click here for team virtual training.
Today’s dental economy and environment are more challenging and competitive than ever before. The practices that are thriving take control of what they can and react to challenges by exploring and adopting new strategies.
About the Author
Lisa Philp, RDH, is the Chief Visionary Officer for Transitions Group North America.