New Year’s Resolutions for your Dental Practice

Operating a profitable, modern dental practice requires many different things.  In our consulting, we have noticed certain specific areas that we see done well in more successful practices but often overlooked in less successful ones.

We suggest you get the New Year off to the best start by carefully examining how your office performs in each of the following critical areas:

  1. Referral tracking: the importance of knowing where each of your new patients comes from is now extremely important as the “patient pool” has grown smaller. Dentists often assume that staff is entering this valuable information into the practice management software – but they are surprised when they see all the omissions! Run a report of all the new patients seen in this last year, then sort the report by referral source. If your staff is not recording at least 90% of the referral sources, they need some encouragement and monitoring. How many of your new patients come from your website / the Internet?  If it less than 50% you need to do something. Since about 2008, fully one-half of the new patients in the more successful practices come from the Internet – and this should require spending little or no money!
  2. Cell phones and emails: you need to engage your patients through two-way texting and emails for appointment confirmations, practice promotions, and just general interest information about the staff and practice. But it is hard to stay “connected” when the staff did not get the emails and cell phone numbers into the computer! Again, run a report for all the patients seen in the last year to determine how many have this information in your system.  Again, these numbers should approach 90% of your patients! There are no longer any excuses!
  3. Written payment options*: but not the detailed printouts from your software! We see this mistake very commonly and it cuts into your case acceptance by diverting the patient’s attention from what is really more important: how they can fit your treatment plan into their budget!  A recent ADA survey showed that the number one reason people avoid the dentist is cost – it’s over twice as important as the next most important factor which is fear of dentistry itself. You don’t waive the forceps in front of the patient before you recommend treatment!  But staff routinely scare patients by giving them the excruciatingly detailed breakdown, item by item, of just what each procedure costs.  Don’t do that!  Improve your case acceptance by showing the patient – in writing – how your office can make the treatment affordable!
  4. Electronic claims for everything: all procedures, all insurance carriers, primary and secondary claims, follow up information, documentation, attachments – everything should now be submitted electronically!  If someone tells you they need to send paper claims, they are misinformed or using the wrong eclaims service!  But be aware that electronic claims services are not all the same!  Some do much better error checking than others and allow tracking directly with carriers in real time.  Some also allow real time eligibility and benefits checking.  If you have not compared the various electronic services lately, you should certainly do so!  In today’s competitive environment, you cannot afford to use one of the less effective services!
  5. Monitor the practice: you need your staff to present you with critical reports on a weekly basis – once a month is no longer often enough!  What is your current accounts receivable?  It should be no more than about 70% of your average monthly production. What is your AR over 90 days?  Should be less than 10% of total AR.  How is your outstanding insurance aging?  A well run office has almost no claims out older than 30 days.  You should also look at “procedures not billed to insurance” – and be sure to look at the entire past 12 months.  Again, it should be almost nothing.   Many dentists are shocked when they look at these numbers for the first time.  These are fixable if you pay close attention to them.  But if you don’t pay attention to them, I can pretty much assure you that the staff won’t either!

It has become necessary for someone in your office to take responsibility for each of the areas mentioned above if your dental practice is going to be successful and profitable in the next 12 months!  If you don’t have the time, energy or inclination to do this yourself, hire a consultant to help!  Of course we are the best! But honestly, there are lots of other good consultants out there, too. In 40 years practicing dentistry, I have worked with many different consults. Some were better than others but I learned a lot from each of them. The biggest mistake you can make in 2017 is to not get some practice management help if you need it!

We wish you, your family, your staff and your patients a very happy, prosperous, profitable New Year!

 

*By the way, if you would like to watch a video on how our software application, Payment Options 2.0, can improve your case acceptance and office collections, click here.