A little-known trick to increasing your new patient numbers!
In other blogs, the importance of simply getting the name and phone number of every new caller to your practice, was emphasized. This is a control point in your practice. Driving your car down the road, you would want to be in full control, right? Control is a good thing when it comes to practice management too!
So what other control points are there in your practice? Studies have shown that the greater the control there is, in a business, the more income it generates, so let’s explore areas of the practice where you could put more control in — than you may be currently.
One super significant area of the practice to control, is the source of your new patients. If you graph your new patient numbers on a monthly basis for about the past twelve months, you can then identify which month is the highest on your graph. Next, find out what new marketing efforts were done four to six weeks prior to this particular month. Marketing efforts include any new promotional actions – so e.g.
- Any mailing from your office – even a “we’ve moved!” postcard; or e.g. a “use it or lose it” letter.
- Any new ads you ran
- A change to your website.
- Valpak promotion or other direct mailing to certain zipcodes
- A whitening or other special offer, to current patients
Next, once you identify the change that caused the high new patient yield, repeat it! Even if e.g. it was a seasonal marketing effort, do something very similar to it. Most business owners are always trying new things but marketing requires less creativity than one would think. The trick is to figure out what is working, and then beat it to death, i.e. until it is no longer producing results.
One way to make the above exercise very easy, is to ensure you always keep a log of any marketing changes/additions you make, so they can be cross-referenced to increases in new patient numbers 4-6 weeks later.
To Hire or Not to Hire a Consultant/Coach for your Dental Practice?
Every year, dental schools turn out thousands of dentists, highly trained as clinicians, with very little idea of how to run a business. Same goes for lawyers, MDs, veterinarians, even CPAs who although they at least learn how to interpret a profit and loss statement, have no idea how to hire, manage staff, market their practices, etc. But why use a management consultant to help bridge this gap in training? Why not figure it out for yourself? Speed, of course is the major factor here. Every week, month, and year that goes by that your profits are less than what they could be, mounts up to a serious sum of lost income– way more money than a dentist could ever save, by careful spending habits.
If the CEOs of phenomenally successful companies – like Google, think it’s a smart idea to seek outside input, then maybe there is something to be said for it. In an interview in 2010, Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google said “I have a coach who has proved to be very good for Google. Every famous athlete/performer has a coach. There is nothing like that outside perspective a coach gives you, to spot, good or bad, what we can’t see in ourselves!”
The top 3 benefits of having a consultant/coach, no matter what the industry or goals are:
1. Perspective – most of us have blind spots that impede our success – a good coach knows what these are and how to provide the right guidance to overcome them, without any judgement;
2. Accountability – with no one to keep you accountable, it’s easy to let things slide, that you know won’t help you to succeed;
3. Focus – with all the distractions in life, it’s very easy to lose focus. A business coach is a great way of ensuring that you stay on track.
The smart practice owner has his own business adviser, and as a result, achieves way more in practice, than he would otherwise do.
Typically, a dentist will seek outside input with some or all of the following:
1. creating his/her vision:
2. how to communicate that vision effectively to staff, and get them also working towards it;
3. How to attract ideal/quality patients and keep them coming back
4. how to hire & motivate staff
5. how to ensure staff are maximally productive;
6. How to keep team morale high
Of course, the biggest objection to using a consultant, is cost – and that is understandable. The benefits of re-investing in their practice is well understood by dentists and they are well known for constantly investing in new technology to provide better and better services. The same principle applies to investing in staff development and marketing – the financial return is indisputable, provided of course, the consultant knows how to get results, and is a good fit for the practice’s particular needs.
But why do some dentists rocket their practices with the help of a consultant while for others, the alliance proves to be less than successful. The trick of course is to hire the right fit for you, your goals and the current phase of growth your practice is in.
If you have sizeable goals for your practice and already know it makes sense to hire a consultant, but a) are not sure how to choose the best fit; or b) how to best utilize their services, then email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What Type of Dentist does Best with a Management Consultant?
I have done blogs on whether or not to hire a consultant for your practice, as well as how to choose one. On the other side of the coin, is the question of what kind of dentist does best with consulting.
Being coachable is a skill. But here are some traits that I have found in common – in dentists who were extremely coachable and got results, that even exceeded their goals for consulting.
Even if you already have a consulting relationship, these points will help, as even dentists who invest over a long period of time in a consultant company, may not be maximizing the relationship. People in general, not just dentists, often resist help, even help they have paid for!
1. Many dentists just want to do dentistry! And while that is understandable – after all, that is what they spent all that time and money, studying, — running a practice successfully, requires some willingness to learn how to manage and build a team. Luckily, it doesn’t take nearly as long as becoming a dentist! A few key principles make a huge difference. If, the dentist is not open to wearing the management hat at all –e.g. finds it way too stressful, then he/she puts himself at the mercy of the office manager. And will succeed in direct proportion to her ability to manage the staff. In that case, one must definitely a) find oneself an awesome Office Manager, and b) invest in her training and growth as a manager. Practice growth will be limited or assisted by her potential, so any investment in her, is of course an investment in the growth of the practice itself. A good consultant, will know how to help you hire an awesome office manager.
2. Presuming the dentist has some willingness to wear the leader/manager hat, then a big factor in getting great results from the consulting relationship – is that the dentist has faith in his/her consultant. As a result of that faith, I have found, owners are much more willing to implement suggestions that weren’t always comfortable for them. In that discomfort, they found growth occurred. E.g. that could be as simple as asking for a daily report from a staff member – something many dentists struggle with, or it could be something a little more, like conducting a 10-minute morning team meeting.
3. Communication – practice owners who provide feedback to their consultant on what developments occurred since the last consultation, will do better. An informed consultant is in a much better position to suggest ways to either build on successes or address issues that arose, that could halt the progress being made.
4.The consulting relationship, like any other relationship. is of course a relationship, which takes investing in! So letting the consultant know when the owner feels they are not quite on the same page on any issue, or on the practice direction in general, will quickly enable the consultant to resolve that, and get everything back on course.
5. Of course, the ideal client for a consultant is one who has significant growth goals. The bigger the goals, the more motivated the owner is, to accept suggestions and implement them. The growth this then leads to, makes both consultant and client very satisfied with the progress.
6. A dentist who is willing to admit that some of what it takes to reach goal will require some personal growth on his/her part, as this leads to far more promising results, than one who blames staff for everything. Some healthy introspection is an asset to the consulting relationship – which just means willing to look at what the owner can do differently. It does not require that the dentist self-criticize or label him or herself as a “bad leader”.
How Motivated are you?
There may be many levels of motivation for people, but the two I want to focus in on today, are a) duty and b) money.
Duty is a very high level of motivation. People who operate at this level, feel that they have been tasked with the job of getting their product or service into the hands of the public. They know deep down that they have something superior to offer and they feel that it would be a disservice to not have as many people as possible benefit from it. This is a great level to operate at, as it means the person goes through life with a crusade, and a very strong sense of purpose. They will still of course have obstacles and challenges – at times it will seem that no one else cares, or that what they have to offer is not appreciated, but the strong belief in what they are about, will ultimately cause them to persist and prosper. If you know you are someone who has a sense of duty about your business, but begin to find that work is becoming “work” to you, then chances are its time to re-visit your purpose, why you are doing what you are doing, and not something else.
Most of the dentists that I’ve worked with over the years regarding their purpose, typically discovered that it had something to do with helping people. There are lots of ways to help people and everyone has a unique way of doing so. Therefore, no two dentists, will service their patients exactly the same way. But if they are passionate about what they have to offer, their patients will see that they care which will keep coming back, and referring others.
Next we come to “money” motivation. Duty and money are not mutually exclusive. It is totally okay to be motivated by both. The biggest problem is being motivated only by money. The ‘duty’ driven person should have no concerns about wanting to get paid for what they do. It doesn’t make less of the fact that they want to help people, to also want to get paid for it. Not getting paid or not getting paid adequately, just makes it harder for them to help more people e.g. to hire enough staff to properly service customers, to do adequate amounts of promotion, to buy themselves more time in other ways e.g. by investing in new technology etc. So wanting to be paid is nothing to be ashamed of – and it’s not an either/or situation – where you can’t operate out of a sense of duty, and be motivated to make a good income as well. In fact, if the only reason to focus on money, was to prevent financial problems that would pull you off your purpose, that would be reason enough to focus on it!
This above can be applied when hiring staff too. You want to find someone who has a sense of purpose/duty – not someone who would work anywhere for a paycheck. You could ask them e.g why they would want to work in this industry versus a completely different one? Staff who have a sense of duty will stay till the job is done, will generate more creative ideas to help grow the business, and will be far more fun to work with, than those that took the job just because they needed the paycheck. At the same time, a good employee, who wants to be paid well, or who maybe suggests a bonus plan, does not necessarily mean of course that they are purely money motivated. Having a sense of purpose does not mean they should not have any interest in providing well for themselves and their family. It is actually healthier that they have both motivations.
Finding and focusing in on your own purpose is the first step. Hiring staff that also have a sense of duty and communicating with them about your purpose on a regular basis, is key also, and will drive more success than most business owners can conceive of!
If have any questions on getting motivated or establishing a highly motivated team, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Is Business Planning Really all that Important?
I know we’ve all been told that if we want to be successful, it starts with a good Plan, and I am not here to argue against that. Planning is crucial! But the problem is when planning starts to get in the way of action and a person’s runway to achieving their goals, gets way too long.
Most of us have a general idea about where we want to go with our business, and it’s definitely well worth sitting down with someone, and figuring out the Plan. Getting started on any Plan rather than sitting and analyzing it, or waiting to have the perfect Plan, is the real key to success! Successful people are doers; they get into action quickly – sometimes even without giving much time to the planning process. You have to move because there is no perfect plan. What happens is — you tweak it as you go.
So, say e.g. you want to add another chair to your practice, your first step might be to decide how much more production your practice would be capable of, with this addition. If e.g. you are barely booked a week in advance, another chair might not pay for itself, at this point in the practice, but then that allows you to determine what you are going to need to do to get a fuller schedule. You decide what marketing to do, and then bam, right into action! When you start taking steps, you might find that the marketing is not giving you the level of patients you need, so fine, now that you know that, you look at other marketing options, till you find the one that opens the floodgates to your practice. Only taking action will give you the data you need to assess what is and isn’t working and what alternative action is necessary. The planning phase will never give you this information!
So, my message today is to prioritize action over planning – both are necessary but action is the key – as it will move you further to your goals, than any amount of planning will do!!
How do I Know if my Level of Treatment Acceptance is Good?
Recently, I’ve been working with a number of practices who, due to our having successfully increased their new patient numbers, are now focusing on conversion to treatment. When you see new patient, numbers increase, followed by no or a relatively small increase in production numbers, it becomes obvious that there is an issue with treatment acceptance. The correlation between new patient numbers going up or down, and then production following, is well documented in dental practices.
It’s a good idea to manage this – by regularly looking back over the past 6 months, for any New Patient spikes – i.e. higher than average new patient numbers monthly. Next, look at production numbers in the months immediately following. Was there a corresponding increase ? If so, great! Congratulations, you get a very good rating in the patient education/acceptance of treatment area of your practice. If not, then here are some factors that may be responsible for the shortfall e.g.
a) doctor too rushed to explain treatment effectively;
b) patients leaving without seeing the treatment co-ordinator, who is busy on the phone or juggling other hats;
c) no one in your practice, who is trained to handle patients when they say they ‘want to think about it’ or that they can’t afford it;
d) patients are not being followed up fully, after they leave the practice.
The purpose of this post, is not to fully handle this for each practice, but to make sure you know a) how to identify when it’s an issue, so you can then work on stopping the bleeding and b) to give you an initial checklist to figure out what might be causing this. To fully handle this area of your practice, contact me for a complimentary consultation for a tailored approach to your situation.
Increase your Schedule by 30 – 50%!
Here are some scenarios that I have encountered where implementing a key change in how a dental practice scheduled resulted in 30% to 50% increases in production. These scenarios may not fit how your practice is currently scheduled but I think you will see from them, how powerful it can be to evaluate your schedule to ensure that it is conducive to growth.
In one case, the practice was in a number of insurance networks and when I first spoke to the dentist, she told me there was no way I could help her produce more, because she was booked out over 6 weeks and there was no place to put any more patients! Her profit margin was low – – but she was max-ed out production wise! When I studied her schedule, I could see that she was heavily booked with the in-network insurance patients. They were actually being given priority in her schedule – even to the extent of occupying the most ‘popular’ patient slots. They were easier to schedule as they had no out-of-pocket expense, so they got whatever appointments they wanted. Of course, they also pretty regularly no-showed. Patients who were fee for service, were being booked far out in the schedule because it was already full of in-network patients. Seeing this, the doctor agreed that the right priorities were not been given attention to, in terms of scheduling patients and we drafted a new policy. This policy limited the number of in-network patients that could be seen daily. We did not limit it too much to begin with but enough to shift the focus and cause everyone to work harder on getting the private pay patients scheduled. We also added marketing campaigns to ensure that there were a wider variety of patients to schedule. The staff were trained on how to successfully discuss treatment plans and handle any objections to scheduling — so they had more confidence that they could fill the slots without having to rely on in-network patients. This resulted in an immediate 30% increase in production within 2 – 3 months and is now closer to 100% – enabling the owner to hire an associate within one year.
In the second case, the practice was already fully fee for service, but a study of the schedule revealed that patients were been given whatever appointment slots were open, rather than slots that ensured that daily production was maximized. This resulted in the all-too-familiar situation of the doctor working long hard days and having very little production to show for it! It also resulted in the patients who needed a lot of work done, having to wait to get it scheduled and we all know that the longer a patient waits, the greater the likelihood they will not follow through! So, we drafted a policy that ensured that a minimum number of bigger cases were scheduled daily. Training was given to make sure this transition could occur. For example, the front office staff were trained on a variety of templates so they understood what an ideal day looked like for the dentist. Training was also provided on gaining treatment acceptance so there were more larger cases, to fill these allocated slots on the schedule.
Again, as in scenario 1, this dramatically shifted the focus from merely filling up the day’s schedule, to making sure patients who needed a lot of work got priority in the schedule. The result was tremendous for this practice – production went up by 50% within a few months and has continued to grow since. This has necessitated the addition of another assistant, another front desk team member and now we are adding a third hygienist!
Are different metals setting up a battery effect in your patient’s mouth?
Ever come across the concept of galvanism in the mouth? It’s when different metals set up a battery effect in the mouth – the current from which, can cause pain & sensitivity as well as a host of other health problems, – headaches, chronic fatigue, memory loss, sleep deprivation and even irritability due to its effects to the central nervous system. It can be tested for, and some of my dentists are getting calls from new patients, asking if they do galvanism tests! So it would be very good to inform your staff so they know what this is – in case they too get asked. Good article on it at –
What you need to know about Phase Two “Lost” Income Analysis:
A Holistic Analysis of your Practice:
Busy doctors don’t have time to analyze their practice fully and properly with a heavy patient load. Nor have they been specifically trained how to do so. Having a consultant gives them that opportunity, without taking away from the vital time needed for the production workload. That way, they can become aware of what is really going on and what needs attention, while continuing to focus on patients.
This introductory service studies all aspects of the practice and so provides a holistic approach determining exactly what is occurring in practice so as not to adopt a “band-aid-type” approach.
STEP ONE | Gather Practice Data – An Objective Look
This is the most important piece of data as it is objective and can be fully relied upon as accurate data. Whereas the next piece of data is very subjective, step one involves a purely statistical investigation including:
– 1-2 years’ worth of vital practice statistics – Production, Collection and New Patient statistics
– Other specific statistics as needed
STEP TWO | Gather Staff and Owner Data – An In-Depth Subjective Look
Staff – This includes confidential staff questionnaires which are subjective in nature in that they may or may not be factual. This focuses in on how each staff member views the practice, what they see may need work, if anything, suggestions and their overall evaluation of how the practice is doing.
Marketing Activity – An investigation will also be done of what marketing has been done, has been successful, etc.
Practice Owner – An owner questionnaire is given to identify the owner’s goals, areas of difficulty. Etc.
STEP THREE | ANALYSIS
All collected data is reviewed, evaluated and analyzed before meeting with the practice owner. The key purpose in analyzing this data is to find out exactly what is causing the most income loss in the practice. In analyzing any business, you will always find lots of things to work on. But what will give the owner the biggest bang for his buck? That is the mission and objective of this analysis.
SUCCESS | Finding Lost Income in a Practice – Case Study:
In one practice, for over a year, new patient numbers had doubled – however, production and income had only gone up slightly.
Knowing the industry, this didn’t make any sense – there should be a big spike in production and income with that many new patients. An investigation was needed to find out what was happening with those patients.
Using several of the Lost Income Analysis tools, the situation was traced back to a single staff member who wasn’t doing a certain job and was in general disagreement with financial policy and fees. It was a hidden situation which was literally halting treatment plan acceptance and income.
After a solution was implemented, the practice got a “new lease on life” with more new patients accepting treatment and production soaring to highest ever levels.
Why I don’t have an Office Manager!
Recently I spoke with a dentist who has two offices and is in the process of opening a third. She was running herself ragged – barely able to find room to breathe in her hectic schedule. I asked her if she had an office manager and she said (with a sigh of relief) ‘no, we let one go, and she was so awful we all want to go without one”. While this is understandable, given the “once bitten..” scenario, it is proving to be very shortsighted, as it leaves ‘no one running the show’. The doctor might think he/she has the manager role covered, but if the doctor has patient care responsibilities in the practice, he/she cannot be the eyes and ears of the practice. Managing a practice without observation of day to day interaction and who is doing what, is very dangerous, as the doctor has to rely completely on “hearsay” and other’s opinions as to what is going on! The best practices I’ve seen, have awesome office managers! The trick is in knowing how to spot who has that potential, getting that person to demonstrate their ability and then really empowering them to wear the hat. The technique to doing this has been figured out and has resulted in practices where the doctor can come in and do dentistry and not have to worry about marketing, staff issues, the schedule, insurances etc.
Message from the CEO
Ciara MacMahon, CEO of Phase Two Management Consultants, has been consulting practice owners in the accounting and dental professions, for over fifteen years. The growth achieved by clients averages 300%, as well as increased time away from the practice, and less stress for the owner! Most practices, to be surviving at all, are doing a lot right and have very successful processes in place. They are either very good at marketing, selling, hiring or getting the work done efficiently, but often, there is one area that is not as strong as the others and is holding the practice back from reaching its full potential. Identifying and handling that area is what we focus on so that the practice can reach new levels of success. This is no cookie cutter approach – each practice owner receives a tailor made Plan around his/her goals and areas of need, rather than a laundry list of to-dos. Once the Plan is worked out, ongoing consulting support is provided, to implement that Plan and take the practice to the next level, ensuring full responsibility for each client achieving rave results.
Keeping your Team Motivated to Ensure Lasting Success.
Even the most resourceful business owner knows that they need a team of talented and loyal employees in order to remain a successful and profitable business.
Your staff are your biggest asset – without them on board, no practice can reach its full potential. Keeping them motivated may be something that proves challenging as we all fall into a routine and this is something that needs constant attention
The following are some easy ways to keep your team motivated:
Hold regular meetings:
Meetings should be held preferably daily. But these are short meetings based on the agenda for the day – the schedule in a dental office, and the jobs accountants are working on completing, in an accounting office. No negativity is allowed – the focus instead is on production and how each team member is going to contribute to make the most out of the day.
Praise, Appreciation and Positive Feedback
When an employee completes something or performs a difficult task, handles a client or patient situation smoothly etc., let them know. Focus on the positive and that is what you will generate more of. As employees, and as humans, people want to know that their effort is not taken for granted and the owner believes they are doing a good job.
Have you ever given an employee a task only to find that they misunderstood the assignment and it was done, in your mind, incorrectly? This type of situation is frustrating for both you and your employee. Ensure that your employees know exactly what is asked of them. By confirming that you are both on the same page.