Part 2: Your 2021 dental practice (real) growth plan

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Yesterday, in the first part of this series, I discussed what dental practices need to do about their hygiene department, patient payments, and scheduling to make them all more efficient in 2021. Today, I'll discuss four more ways I believe your dental practice can grow in the new year.

Offer online scheduling options

Curtis Marshall.Curtis Marshall.

If you are already offering online appointment scheduling to your patients, nice work! The next question is, are you really offering online scheduling or just online appointment requests? The difference here matters. True online scheduling is just that -- a way for patients to schedule and confirm their own appointments on your website without ever calling or emailing/texting your practice. Can you even imagine? Instead of calling your office and waiting for you to check the schedule and share options, with true online scheduling, patients do the work within parameters you set in advance.

Turns out this is what nine out of 10 patients prefer, which means you should take a serious look at adding this option. Regardless of what you choose, offering online scheduling is a powerful way to see significant growth from both new and existing patients. Don't wait to begin offering this powerful option. Your patients will totally approve.

Find the right patients

Is there such a thing as the "right patient"? Shouldn't you care the same for every patient you treat? Of course, and you do a great job of providing each patient with the care he or she needs. This tip is about identifying the patients most likely to say "yes" when presented with treatment. They are also the ones often covered by your preferred insurance, the ones who are least likely to cancel appointments, and the ones who pay you on time, every time. In other words, these are your ideal patients.

Now that you know which kind of patient to focus on, how do you go about finding them? Dental Intelligence's exclusive Patient Finder is your best answer to this question. Patient Finder enables you to build and generate dozens of different customized patient lists. For example, let's say you want to find every patient you've presented crowns to in the last six months and who are covered by your best-paying insurance provider and who still have at least $500 in unused insurance dollars. Patient Finder will help you find these and only these patients quickly and easily.

Adding the right patients to your schedule is a low-effort, high-value way to begin the new year. Doing so creates momentum for your practice that you can build on in a significant, sustainable way. Regardless of how you find these patients, making this a focus will provide a big difference in your 2021 growth plan.

Huddle up!

Many dental practices hold a daily huddle of some kind. Our analysis shows practices that huddle regularly see, on average, 17% more annual production than practices that don't meet together as a team. This shouldn't be surprising. Just as a football team needs to huddle before each play to determine how to move the ball down the field, a dental practice team needs to meet together each day to strategize how they'll make the most of the day ahead.

Three questions and brief subsequent discussions should be part of every huddle: What happened yesterday? What's happening today? What's scheduled to happen tomorrow?

By discussing each of these questions, your team will have a much better idea of where you are and will then be able to develop a plan to get where you want to go. As you discuss yesterday's performance, be sure and celebrate any positives you see. In fact, this should be the focus of looking back. Practices with a culture of celebration are consistently more successful than ones that don't make this a priority. In looking at today's schedule, look for opportunities. Is there a patient coming in who has unscheduled treatment? See if he or she is ready to schedule. Or maybe that patient has a family member with unscheduled care who could be added. Finally, if tomorrow isn't scheduled to goal, today is the day to fix that.

Morning huddles are the most important 15 minutes of your day. Make sure you are making the most of those minutes. Go team!

Improve your APV

Are you paying attention to the annual value each patient contributes to your practice? Annual patient value (APV) is determined by calculating collections per patient for all active patients. If APV is increasing, it's a great sign that you're increasing the value of your patients, meaning they're receiving more of the treatment they need. Determining APV gets rid of a lot of the "fluff" around gross production. Knowing the annual value of each patient helps you accurately answer questions like "Is my practice healthy?" or "What am I collecting per active patient?" or "Are we seeing our patients enough?" APV is an important lagging indicator. If you look at this compared to production per visit (PPV), you can also see deeper into the overall health of your practice.

For example, an APV of $600 and PPV of $325 mean you're seeing your patients at most two times annually and indicate there's a lot of unscheduled treatment and production sitting in your practice management software. Regardless of how you gather the data, knowing and improving your annual patient value is going to significantly benefit your practice while also benefiting your patients.


Implementing any of the tips discussed in parts 1 and 2 will absolutely lead to growth in your practice. Pick your favorite and get started. Although we don't necessarily recommend starting with all seven of the tips I have covered in this series at the same time, it certainly won't hurt you to try two to three to begin.

These are all things the top-performing practices in dentistry are doing every day to grow and thrive, and that's what these tips are all about: real growth -- your real growth. We can't wait to see what you do with these ideas because we know 2021 is going to be epic.

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

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

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