Why having more healthy patients is a matter of metrics

By Curtis Marshall, DrBicuspid.com contributing writer

March 23, 2021 -- Why do you practice dentistry? Although many answers might be given in response to this question, for almost every dentist, it comes down to this: to improve the health of each patient. You may have other reasons for owning or working in a practice, but at the end of the day, you are focused on helping more patients become healthier. This is exactly as it should be!

Have you stopped to think that improving patient care should also lead to an increase in dollars coming into the practice? You may wonder, if you're a preferred provider organization (PPO) practice, whether "dollars" (meaning increasing revenue or profit) still matter. The answer might surprise you.

Curtis Marshall
Curtis Marshall.

If you own or work in a PPO practice, you may think that one of the benefits of doing so is not needing to pay any attention to performance, profit, or metrics. You may say, "After all, fees are fixed. I don't need to worry about percentages, increases or decreases, or any other statistics. I can just focus on providing care to my patients."

Here's why that's not actually the case. Let's imagine that you had 10 patients in your practice today, each one needing fluoride treatment:

  • You present fluoride to the first patient, and he says, "No thanks, I'm good."
  • The next patient not only says no but also goes off on fluoride being a government conspiracy and accuses you of being a part of it. OK, that was fun.
  • Although you're a bit gun-shy at this point, you carefully present fluoride to the third patient, and he says, "Sure!" What a relief!
  • With patient No. 4, you preface your presentation by saying, "I'm supposed to offer you fluoride, but FYI, it is a bit expensive." Not surprisingly, the answer once again is no thanks.

At this point, you throw in the towel and don't even present fluoride to the remaining five patients. But if we were to ask you at the end of the day how many of the 10 you presented fluoride to, you would likely say everyone. This isn't because you're dishonest. It's because you feel like you presented fluoride to all 10 patients.

Without a way to actually track what happened, there's no way to know how many patients had fluoride presented to them, how many accepted or didn't accept, and so on. The truth is, if we don't pay attention to metrics, patients will leave the practice without receiving the treatment they need.

2 real-life examples

“The truth is, if we don't pay attention to metrics, patients will leave the practice without receiving the treatment they need.”

The first example is a practice that took the idea of tracking key performance indicators (KPIs) to heart so effectively that it was able to drop PPOs without losing existing patients. The practice was able to do this by really focusing as a team on diagnosing more dollars and increasing case acceptance. Realizing that these two objectives are not easily achieved, the practice used metrics to see opportunities it was missing, which it then converted to providing better patient care.

Here are two of the key questions team members asked each day while reviewing the numbers:

  1. Out of all the exams we did in a month, how many did we diagnose treatment on?
  2. Out of new dollars we presented, how many of those dollars were accepted?

Similar questions can help you diagnose more dollars and increase case acceptance in your practice as well.

A second practice decided to add PPOs after taking a closer look at performance and discovering a way to make the practice more profitable. It did this by focusing on improving treatment acceptance and helping patients get the care they needed.

A key tracking mechanism in both practices was diagnostic acceptance percentage. Here's what that means:

  • Diagnostic percentage: When patients come into the office, they are diagnosed when procedures are added to their treatment planner.
  • Diagnostic acceptance percentage: A procedure is considered accepted when a procedure that was diagnosed is scheduled from that treatment planner appointment or when it is completed that same day.

How to use metrics -- even if you take PPOs

It's easy to understand why a PPO practice owner might think, "I'm good. Everyone loves me. I'm skilled at this. No need to track how things are going." But if you're not focusing on how you're actually doing, specifically in the area of diagnostic acceptance percentage, you're really going to struggle with growth.

Being a PPO practice doesn't mean you shouldn't pay attention to your performance. If your goal is to have more healthy patients, knowing where you are and where you want to go is essential.

Start by tracking diagnostic acceptance percentage every day. How many patients were presented with treatment each day? How many accepted? If they didn't accept, what was the reason? You care -- a lot -- about your patients. Tracking performance = better patient care = more healthy patients. Makes sense, right?

Curtis Marshall is the director of partner operations for Dental Intelligence. Dental Intelligence is committed to helping practices grow in ways that matter. Request a free demo and learn how better data = better dentistry.

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.


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