Why knowing what's happening in your practice isn't enough: Part 1

2016 10 24 15 35 17 421 Marshall Curtis 400

In this two-part series, Curtis Marshall of Dental Intelligence notes that every practice has pain points. Maybe it is collections or malfunctioning technology. He explores solutions to specific problems many practices face.

Imagine you have a new patient in your practice you've not met before, sitting in a chair in your operatory. He or she is complaining about some oral pain they've been suffering for the past few days. What's your likely first question?

"Where does it hurt?"

Obvious, right? The first step toward providing this patient with relief is to find out where they're hurting. Or, you could just guess and start removing a tooth that looks suspect, but that would clearly be unwise. No caring doctor would imagine being so reckless. No patient would want such a doctor anywhere near their mouth.

Same question for your practice

Curtis Marshall is the director of partner operations for Dental Intelligence.Curtis Marshall is the director of partner operations for Dental Intelligence.

If we took this same question, "Where does it hurt?" and applied it to your practice, how would you answer?

No doubt you have some pain points that are bothering you right now. Maybe it's a struggling team member or malfunctioning technology? Perhaps it's a lack of new patients or a low case-acceptance percentage? Perhaps you're working more days a week than you want to or have a nagging concern with collections?

Regardless of what might be bothering you at the moment, the point is this: Every dental practice has pain points. This being true, in the spirit of the example above, just as you wouldn't think to extract a tooth before being sure doing so was necessary, you shouldn't make changes or try to fix something in your practice without knowing exactly what's wrong, and what the best course of action is for fixing the pain. In simple terms, you need to know what hurts in your practice, but also what to do to fix the pain.

Enter the expert

Kelly Schwartz, owner of Schwartz Consulting Group has been coaching dental practices for more than 25 years, and from this experience working with hundreds of dental practices around the country, Schwartz has learned the following three common pain points are found in many practices today:

  1. They have less than 50% of their active patients scheduled to come back.
  2. They have less than 45% of their presented treatment accepted.
  3. They struggle to hold an effective morning huddle.

If any of these areas are current pain points for your practice, read on.

How's your recall system?

Before there were electronic and online management solutions available to dental practices, many used a paper tracking system to manage patient recall. For example, several of Schwartz's clients would write the name of a patient on a notecard, file it alphabetically, and then record appointments and phone calls on the card. Sound familiar?

If one of these patients called to schedule, a team member would scramble to locate their card, hoping it hadn't been filed out of alphabetical order. They would then need to record the new appointment accurately, treatment presented, and more, on the card. Aren't you glad those days are long gone?

“You need to know what hurts in your practice but also what to do to fix the pain.”

However, one of the challenges that many practices still face is how to define an active patient. Practice management solutions have largely eliminated this problem. Now, instead of just the front desk person being involved in tracking active patients, the entire team can participate in rescheduling them.

Before today's "big data" systems existed, the gold standard was considered getting patients in the chairs, with little or no thought as to the type or value of those patients. Data has changed this significantly. Practices can now schedule based on facts and insights, not just feelings or hunches.

For example, if you are rescheduling patients for hygiene next week, try focusing on perio patients, patients that have a high percentage of accepting treatment, patients that have a high show rate, or patients with insurance benefits still available.

Data can find these exact types of patients within seconds, empowering you to now decide which ones should be contacted, based on what's important to you. No more guessing. No more relying on feelings.

As an example, Schwartz likes to focus on those patients with the biggest outstanding treatment plan when encouraging teams to make follow-up calls to active patients, and in this prioritized order.

He recommends prioritizing overdue patients by the amount of time they are overdue by the following:

  • Up to six months
  • Six to nine months
  • Nine to 12 months

He then recommends further prioritization by cost of treatment in the following ways:

  • Treatment that will cost $5,000 or more, in the same chronological order as above.
  • Treatment that will cost $1,000 to $5,000, in the same chronological order as above.

In his experience, both doctors and teams like this method because it means they are adding high-value production, both from patient-need and dollar perspectives. Sometimes doctors don't think about these patients initially because, understandably, they don't want to be perceived as greedy. However, if these patients don't get treated, their condition will likely get worse and that may lead to even more expensive treatment.

In the second part of this series, Marshall explores patient case acceptance and a practice's morning huddle.

Curtis Marshall is the director of partner operations for Dental Intelligence.

The comments and observations expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the opinions of DrBicuspid.com, nor should they be construed as an endorsement or admonishment of any particular idea, vendor, or organization.

Page 1 of 499
Next Page