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Inside Dentistry
September 2022
Volume 18, Issue 9

Optimizing the Growth of Your Practice

Know your numbers and start setting goals

Jill Shue

When I first start working with a dental team, I always ask about their reporting and tracking habits. Almost everyone says that they consistently pull aging reports. Typically, both insurance and patient aging reports are run at least monthly. Remembering to track what's owed to you is easy, but what about the other key trends that can help you to truly gauge your practice's performance? Regularly monitoring these can keep you actively engaged in your practice's success and growth.

Acquisition and Retention

Tracking the number of new patients that you acquire each month and having a strategy to retain them helps ensure steady growth for your practice. Every time you welcome a new patient into your practice, I recommend asking him or her, "How did you hear about us?" or "Whom may we thank for referring you?" Do not solely rely on your new patient registration forms to collect vital data for your practice. Seek out this information, then input it into your practice management software so that you can track not only the number of new patients but also the referral sources for each month. This data can help you evaluate your marketing strategies and ensure that you are receiving maximum return on investment for your marketing dollars.

Just as important as knowing your new patient numbers is tracking your lost patients. If a patient leaves your practice, follow up to discover the reason and document it. Many practice management software applications do not efficiently track this data, so it's important to develop a tracking method within yours if necessary. For example, you can create an internal office code to help track patients who have left for reasons related to their location, insurance changes, financial status, etc. Developing an awareness of the changes in your patient base is an excellent first step toward growth and controlling patient attrition.

Production, Adjustment, and Collection Trends

Knowing your monthly production, adjustment, and collection totals and percentages is crucial in tracking your practice's performance and can assist you in staying on top of any negative trends and measuring the results of any operational decisions that you've made. Break down your production by "doctor" or "hygiene" as well as by the provider so that you can gauge the health of your restorative and hygiene departments. Knowing these numbers can help you set goals for your team and the practice at large to trend for achievable growth.

In addition to tracking these numbers, we recommend reviewing your software settings to ensure that your system is set up for success and that it is tracking the appropriate data at the necessary level of detail for you and your team. Just as it may be detrimental to include descriptions that are too vague for adjustments and payment types, including ones that are too specific may result in an overabundance of data that is difficult to track and manage. For example, we once worked with a client who had 47 adjustment types and 34 payment types. When we sat down with the owner, he was unable to fully verify what each of those types meant and admitted that he felt that they were out of control and overwhelming. For your payment and adjustment types, keep the definitions direct, require detailed notes and initials to explain occurrences, and limit who can edit or delete them.

These simple modifications to your settings can provide you with more control and accuracy in tracking and managing your account activities while ultimately reducing your risk of embezzlement.

Patient Value

The value that patients bring into the practice is an excellent key indicator for tracking not only their health but also the potential for practice growth that they represent. Calculate the patient values both per visit and annually. Knowing your per-visit and annual trends can help you track your unscheduled treatment and discover areas for improvement in your scheduling behaviors. A higher annual value indicates that patients are returning for more than their twice-yearly hygiene visits, whether that be for required or elective treatment.

In addition to tracking the production value that patients bring, tracking your reappointment percentage is also beneficial. The goal is to reappoint every patient—no one should leave without an appointment. If patients are leaving your practice without appointments, active patients may not be returning because it's easy for them to "fall through the cracks." Being proactive also helps reduce the reactive mindset of needing to contact patients who are past due to fill the schedule and helps the practice meet goals in a realistic and less stressful manner.

On-Trend Growth

Take control of your practice by knowing all of your numbers, tracking trends consistently, and involving your team in the metrics. Once you have your finger on the pulse of your practice, you can begin setting goals to achieve optimum performance and maximize its success.

About the Author

Jill Shue is the chief operating officer and administrative solutions coach at Custom Dental Solutions.

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