When asking dentists and their dental management teams what is the most important thing they do in their practice, the typical answer is to continue getting a steady stream of new patients.
Don’t get me wrong, new patients are an important part, but keeping the patients you currently have and worked so hard to get is the most important thing.
Many of you are thinking, “but we DO keep all of the patients we see in office.” But do you? If you are not monitoring systems, you really have no idea.
Why managing systems – not new patients – is the lifeblood of your practice
Let’s start with your active patient base. What is your definition of it? How do you determine it?
If you have ever worked with a consultant or coach, you probably have a good idea. If you have ever generated that report in your practice management software, you are likely seeing a drastically inflated number.
Either way, knowing how many patients you have is the key to effective practice management. Why? Because everything starts there.
Once you know your true active patient base numbers, you can calculate how many hygiene hours are needed. How do you currently figure out your necessary hygiene hours?
If you said, “when the schedule is getting full and we can’t accommodate more patients,” you are not alone. The problem with that method is that there are no solid KPIs (key practice indicators) to support you. This can greatly increase overhead if you are not careful.
At the end of the day, a dentist can only see so many patients in a day/week/month. What is that number for you? There isn’t a bulletproof answer because every practice is different and capable of different things.
Going back to those KPIs, you can confidently look at your practice and decide when you want to stop growing, add an associate, add a location and more. The possibilities are endless if you have the data to support it!
Systems you should focus on
Now that you understand the importance of the true size of your patient base, the next step is to implement the systems needed to maintain every patient and make sure they do not get lost in the shuffle or fall through the cracks.
The most common systems are:
- Recare (if you are general or pedo)
- Unscheduled treatment
- Insurance verification/tracking
Sure, you know you need to work these systems, but are you working them efficiently, effectively, and consistently? Probably not.
When working in a busy practice and just trying to get through the day, there isn’t time to devote to the systems you need to keep on track. It’s the “trickle-down effect.” The key is to have systems that are “bite-size pieces.”
You will find it helpful to work on your re-care weekly, rather than monthly. That report can be daunting and you may never see the end. The same goes for statements: sent them weekly, not monthly.
Your patients will get a statement every 28 days, but you will only send a few each week. This will increase cash flow, help with questions and phone calls, and most importantly, make it easier to manage dental billing.
Gather information prior to visits, so you can verify insurance before the patient is in the office. Track your outstanding claims weekly or even use an outside billing company.
You can also use a binder for your unscheduled treatment to make follow-up consistent, but not overwhelming. Have you ever generated that unscheduled treatment report? It is long and overwhelming at best.
Understand your KPIs for managing systems
Systems are nothing if they are not monitored for effectiveness. Understanding your KPIs will help you move your practice in the right direction. There are companies out there that have programs to help, or you can track them in-office. Some of the KPIs to monitor are:
- Active patient base
- Hygiene pre-appointment
- Case acceptance
- Accounts receivable
- Outstanding insurance
- Production per hour/visit
- And more!
Help your office achieve the success it is capable of and fix problems before you feel the effects! That is the art of managing systems and a dental practice!
Meet the Author
Tonya Burns has dedicated her professional life to dental management help, and her top priority is helping dental practices succeed!
She began her career as a dental assistant and has progressed to Practice Management Consulting nationally. After 12 years in pediatric dentistry, she has a passion for this specialty
In addition to spending time with her husband and two daughters, Tonya enjoys volunteering in her community and serves as Director of New Members & Sponsors in her local AADOM chapter.