In his recent book, What Dentists Can Learn from Top CEOs, Dr. Roger P. Levin describes a wide range of effective techniques used by corporate leaders and explains how these approaches can be applied successfully in dental practices. Following is an excerpt from the chapter entitled "CEOs Change Their Game."
Running a business -- the dental practice -- can be quite a challenge for a dentist, who would rather concentrate on producing dentistry and who did not learn business management or leadership skills in dental school. The situation is made all the more difficult by the fact that the whole field of dentistry has now entered a period of profound and continuing change.
With fewer business skills, no road map for running a practice, and no idea of what the future may bring for dentistry, this doctor is working at a distinct disadvantage. What worked yesterday will not work today. What you do today will not get you where you want to be tomorrow. And you will not get there on your own. The rules of the game have changed and will continue to change.
When the game changes, it's time to change your game
It is now incumbent on each practice owner to gain business management knowledge and skills and become a true CEO. A highly successful practice and a prosperous career are attainable if step-by-step business systems that are designed to achieve specific targets are implemented. Unfortunately, not all dentists recognize the importance of focusing on the business side of their practice. They can no longer assume that supply and demand will provide a successful or sustainable practice. The new role of a dentist is that of a clinician and a CEO.
As a dentist, I understand how intense a typical day in the practice can be. The main goal, focus, and desire will naturally be to provide excellent patient care, but it no longer guarantees that the practice will be successful. In today's world, practices must have excellent business systems or production with either plateau or decline.
Management systems such as scheduling, collections, overhead control, and case presentation need to operate at the highest level of excellence. The business of running a dental practice is dynamic, not static. Change is inevitable and necessary. That's why Levin Group spends a great deal of time updating consulting programs to reflect current trends in dentistry and the economy.
Most dental practices resist change, making it nearly impossible for the dental team to reach its full potential. By replacing -- not just "tweaking" -- systems with new, documented, step-by-step protocols, the practice enables its team to train itself by simply following each documented step.
The systems you are using today will not take you to where you want to be tomorrow. They were not designed to meet the new challenges that now exist.
Innovation for the future
Think about the value of innovation not just in terms of clinical care but also as it relates to business operations. Innovations are vital in management, marketing, team building, strategic planning, and other areas.
Many practices have been tremendously successful, even in the face of greater challenges, by implementing innovations. These can include the following:
- Patient acquisition strategies such as certificates for no-cost exams
- The effective use of social media
- Analysis of different insurance plans to determine which are valuable and which are not
- Increasing the number of elective procedures provided to insurance patients
On the management side, the dental practice has to be more efficient than ever before. Dentists are becoming increasingly stressed, and many practices have plateaued or declined. Today, most dentists have to work eight to 10 years longer than past generations, unless specific changes are made earlier in their career. A dentist's income has the potential to be higher than ever before, but only if the practice is treated like a well-run business. Management systems that maximize patient care opportunities while working at high levels of efficiency and cost effectiveness are no longer optional. They are critical.
On the marketing side, maximizing customer service provides the basis for winning the game. Patients want more value today for their money, and much of the value they perceive comes in the form of customer service. Most dentists do not have an accurate picture of the patient's experience. As mentioned earlier, a study by the Levin Group Data Center found that dentists and staff rated their customer service at 9.2 out of 10. However, their patients who were surveyed rated the practice at 7.4. This was not a bad score, but it was not at the level of excellence that builds loyalty and referrals. This may be why less than 20% of patients in a typical practice refer one new patient per year, rather than the 40% to 60% target Levin Group sets for its clients.
The slow economy has led many consumers to seek the best value they can get for their money in every situation. They're being trained by the retail and digital world to look for discounts, deals and opportunities to either increase value or reduce costs. Like it or not, this is the game dental practices must now play. By embracing change and finding innovative ways to increase value rather than reducing fees, dentists can grow, now and in the future.
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Copyright © 2015, Levin Group, Inc. Reprinted with permission.