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The Ultimate Guide to a Productive Dental Practice

In this guide, we will discuss real, practical strategies to make you more productive in 2021 and maybe even a little happier in the process.

This is not just some list quickly thrown-together, but rather, a comprehensive catalog of every productivity trick and tip we’ve come across in our research.

If you’re looking to have a more productive 2021, you’re gonna love this:

Contents:

 

How to Determine your Practice's Current Productivity: 

There’s a big difference between being busy and being productive. Most dental offices are the former, but it’s important to determine if you are the latter. 

Some examples of a busy but not necessarily productive practice: 

  • Missed lunches
  • Waiting room full of patients
  • Varying procedure times 
  • No standard practices for common tasks
  • Poor patient retention 

If any of these sounds like your practice, we want to help you determine your productivity and provide actionable steps to improve it. 

The first step to improving productivity at your practice is tracking the right metrics.

 

Important dental key performance indicators (KPIs): 

  • New patients per month

    The total number of new patients being seen every month. Understanding this metric on a monthly basis allows you to discover trends in your marketing efforts. Do you have a healthy pipeline of new patients coming in or are you only counting on existing patients?

  • Referral source

    Keeping track of where the new patients are coming from can be helpful in identifying good sources of growth for your practice. Why are patients choosing your practice? Referrals can come from friends, family members or collaborating dentists. They can also come directly from online searches.
  • Net patient gain

    The number of new patients attending your clinic, subtracted from those who have left (closed and/or inactivated files) will give you your net patient gain. You always want to be in the positive if your expectation is that your clinic is to grow.
  • Reappointment Percentage

    Next appointments should always be booked in advance; whether it is for an upcoming  treatment (filling, extraction, root canal), or their next hygiene appointment. If patients are unable to book their next appointment on the spot, your software should have recall options and patients access to book appointments. You should also access overdue recall lists to target the patients who are harder to confirm.
  • Case Acceptance

    For each diagnosis made in the hygiene and consultation room, how many treatment plans are presented to patients and accepted? This percentage is the acceptance rate! It measures your ability to present treatment plans in a way that your patients understand and agree to.
  • Overhead Percentage and Breakdown

    Keeping track of all overhead expenses (rent of establishment, employee salaries, cost of materials, laboratory fees, etc) and making adjustments could lead to big savings.
  • Annual patient value

    This can be linked with "reappointment percentage". For example a patient comes 2x a year for a cleaning, cleaning is 300$, therefore this patient’s annual value is $600.
  • Collection rate

    The percentage of patients who paid for their treatments received the same day.
  • Average Production Per Day

    This will vary significantly depending on the nature of your practice. Here are some industry benchmarks, broken down by practice type. The dental practitioners should come up with a realistic production rate. It is with this that the dental team will be able to determine the size of the dental team, and make adjustments to the staffing (hiring an associate, a hygienist, another dental assistant, more front desk personnel, acquiring a coordinator or office manager). All employees can add to daily production if needed in your practice.

Now that you are tracking the most important dental KPIs, it’s time to boost them...

Tips to Increase Productivity at your Dental Practice: 

 

1. Improving Dental Patient Interactions.

Why is the patient experience important?

  • Get more reviews:

    Having worked in dentistry you probably already know the importance of reviews. Dentistry relies very heavily on word of mouth referrals, and in the digital age, this means getting as many reviews as possible. Some research suggests that potential customers trust reviews nearly as much as they would a recommendation from a friend.

    If you improve the patient experience at your practice, those happy customers are more likely to give your practice a positive review.

    P.s. Does your practice management software offer an easy way to request reviews?

  • More repeat visits:
    As discussed above, an important metric for a productive practice is your ability to retain customers and keep them coming back. Below we will discuss some important strategies to ensure your customers have a positive experience at your dental office.
  • Improves staff morale:

    An angry patient is a source of stress for your staff. Helping improve the patient experience will also help keep your staff happy, making them more productive and less likely to leave.

 

How to improve the dental patient experience:

A) Improve Patient Communication

  • Train staff for common questions & complaints. 
    Develop a protocol for the most common complaints and questions so that your staff isn’t left guessing the answers to patient’s questions. Also having a protocol will enable you to maintain proper messaging to reinforce the practice’s values. Have a written or digital copy of these protocols for your staff members to refer to when answering phone calls or responding to emails.
  • Reach your patients on the technology they already use.
    New messaging apps are popping up every day, but before you jump on the latest technology, consider what your patients are using. Email and Text are two tried and trusted methods for patient communication. Many dental practice management software will allow for direct SMS and email communication. Using templates for common messages will also save your staff time.
  • Be transparent about dental treatment costs with patients.

     

    Transparency, which once taboo, is becoming more and more common because it benefits both your patients and your practice.

    The cost of care is critical for patients when deciding which dentist they will visit, as well as whether or not they will opt to go with an uninsured procedure. Being upfront about treatment costs will also avoid the headaches when patients are surprised by bills down the road.

  • Reduce late arrivals and no-shows with appointment confirmations.

     

    Now with technology, every patient has a calendar in their pocket, and sending appointment reminders is an effective way to remind patients that they have an upcoming treatment scheduled. However, it’s often not enough. To really reduce no-shows, allow patients to instantly respond to appointment reminders with e-mail and SMS appointment confirmations. 

    Having patients confirm their appointments reinforces their commitment and lessens the likelihood of them backing out last minute.

  • Automatically schedule follow-up appointments.

    Make sure your staff has a habit of scheduling follow-up appointments after every procedure. Before the patient leaves, there should be a clearly stated new appointment or follow up.
  • Bring Inactive Patients Back:

    Have your staff review your patient list and look for inactivity on a quarterly basis. Patients who have been inactive for a while should get a reminder, whether it’s a phone call, email, or text. Even if the patient has switched dentists, it’s important for your records and KPIs to keep your patient list up to date.

 

B) Shrink the time dental patients spend in the waiting room

This is especially important for anxiety-inducing procedures, the longer the patient has to wait in the office the worse their fear becomes.

  • Have your patient fill out all their info beforehand.
    Especially for new patients, allowing them to fill in their info before their visit saves everyone time. Avoid the pen and paper in the waiting room by sending out emails or using a patient portal. Dovetail’s patient portal also allows patients to request appointments online, update their personal information, and insurance policies as well as access their account statements and documentation; all at their own convenience.
  • Provide wait time information, be upfront and avoid surprises.
     In the day to day flow of a dental office, there will inevitably be some waiting time for patients. Give them as accurate a wait time as possible by benchmarking the time it takes for each procedure. These benchmarks will allow you to give accurate estimates to your patients.
  • Ensure waiting patients aren’t left without interaction too long. 
    In the unfortunate event that patients are waiting longer than anticipated, make sure your staff members are trained to engage with them before too much time has gone by.

 

C) Learn from patient feedback.

As a dentist your reputation is everything. While positive feedback is always nice to hear, it’s often the negative feedback that provides the best insights.

  • Read online reviews and address them
    Not everyone is going to like you, unfortunately, that’s just human nature. Getting negative reviews can also feel incredibly discouraging, both for your practice and yourself personally. But recurring negative feedback can be a helpful indication of some problematic trends at your practice.
  • Send post-visit feedback surveys.
    People, particularly younger people, want to feel as though their opinions are being heard. Feedback surveys also give your patients a means of anonymously submitting feedback they might not otherwise tell you. This is a great way to discover trends before they become problematic and avoid negative reviews.

 

2. Improved Mental Health for your Dental Practice

We should preface this section by mentioning that if you or anyone in your practice is struggling right now, please reach out to someone. Wikipedia has a comprehensive list of Crisis Hotlines for every country.

The Dental Mental Network is one resource aimed to remove the stigma surrounding mental health issues among dental professionals. They offer support and resources and provide a platform for those working in the dental industry to share their stories.  

Poor mental health is also something that can also have some deleterious to your practice if not addressed early. Issues with employee retention and burnout is a real problem in dentistry.

 

Tips to Improve the Mental Health of Your Dental Practice: 

A) The importance of taking breaks

Studies have shown that taking breaks reduces stress, helps maintain performance and reduces the need for recovery after work. While it may seem counter-intuitive to take breaks to increase productivity, the added mental benefits from taking breaks can actually help.

If you find it difficult to take breaks, try using a shared calendar among your colleagues and schedule breaks simultaneously. This ensures no one is in need of assistance while you’re trying to relax.

Settling alarms is another good strategy to ensure you don’t forget to take a break every once in a while.

 

B) Maximizing Downtime

Before 2020, downtime at a dental office may sound like an oxymoron. Now dentists understand that there are instances when it can pop up unexpectedly. Understanding this and having a plan is crucial to prepare for stressful times. If you find yourself with some downtime at the office consider some of the following:

  • Working your accounts receivables and any denied claims. Investigate any trends that may come up.
  • Update your practice’s policies. Whether financial, staff handbooks, or front desk scripts.
  • Take an inventory of your equipment; what needs to be updated or is no longer being used.
  • Upgrade Technology, like switching software or using the latest tools that can save you time.
  • Review your marketing activities. Understand which channels are driving the most new patients and double down on them.
  • Prospect for new employees, to replace those that may not return to the office. Be on the lookout for people who just moved into your neighborhood.

    Bonus Tips: Partnering with local real estate agents is a good way to get your promotional material in front of new homeowners in your area.
  • Meet with your staff via remote resources like Zoom or phone. Check-in on their well-being. Don't hesitate to reach out to some of your most valuable patients too! Following up on complex treatments or surgeries personally is a great way to show you care.
  • If your office allows for it, consider having a couch where you can take a quick nap during downtime.

 

C) Creating a good dental office culture
  • Making sure your team is well trained.
    Staying up to date on the latest trends and tactics through Continued Education. This will help your staff feel more valued at the company because you are investing in both them and the productivity of your practice.
  • Make sure your team feels safe.
    This means having appropriate PPE but also making your office a safe space for staff to confide in you. Have security cameras and listen to your staff when they bring up concerns about their safety.
  • Make sure your staff knows you have their back.
    One of the most important techniques for any leader is Praise in Public, Criticize in Private. This means celebrating your staff’s achievements in front of other staff members and ensuring criticism and feedback is done in an appropriate environment. This way your staff members won’t feel like they are being singled out.

 

D) Maintain good Physical Health:

According to a study done in The Journal of the American Dental Association

“To enjoy satisfying professional and personal lives, dentists must be aware of the importance of maintaining good physical and mental health.”

Given the unique strains of dentistry, it’s likely you’ve experienced some kind of discomfort throughout your career. Romelo Rodriguez, a personal trainer from Toronto describes.

6 exercises all Dentists should know is a comprehensive list of exercises that can be done at home or in the office.

 

3. Dental Office Tips and Techniques for Improved Efficiency.

A) Note Taking

Having effective progress notes templates will save a ton of time.

As one Dovetail customer said ”I was accustomed to writing progress notes one way in school, but now that I've built out custom templates, that was such a help! I spent a lot of time writing notes each day and this tip reduces my time on this.”

 

B) Keep a clean desk

The importance of a clean desk is threefold:

  • Productivity: Having a clean desk void of paper work helps enable you and your staff to find important documents faster without searching through piles of paperwork.
  • Appearance: Your staff, especially front office staff, can help send a strong message of efficiency and professionalism to anyone that visits your office.
  • Security: Most importantly, having a clean desk ensures no sensitive information gets into the wrong hands. While unlikely, having patient's files unattended at the front desk is a risk to the security of your patients and your practice.

 

78495660_762758010853357_5298032568401133568_nUse a Mobile Dental Practice Management software and go completely paperless. 

 

C) Use a password manager:

You’re probably well aware that you shouldn’t be reusing passwords. Especially when dealing with patient information. But creating a new password for everything, and one that your staff can actually remember, is anything but efficient.

Use one of the many credible password management tools available. They will create randomly generated passwords for you and automatically insert usernames and passwords into appropriate online accounts.

 

D) Factory reset your computer

If you're experiencing a slow computer or one that crashes, often at the worst possible moment, consider giving it a factory reset. Factory resetting your computer will delete everything and restore it back to the state you first bought it. By deleting files and software installed on your computer, a factory reset allows it to run more smoothly.

But beware, if your software is installed directly on your computer, rather than a cloud based solution, you may lose everything. Highlighting one of the many benefits of a cloud based solution.

 

E) Have a script for common questions

If the question gets asked more than once, it's probably time to add it to the script. This is especially true for newer staff who may be left guessing about the proper responses to common questions. Having a good script for your front office staff not only upholds your practice's reputation, but it can actually help reel in new clients.

 

F) Automate everything possible.

  • Reminders
  • Follow-Up Appointment
  • Managing Online Reviews
  • Personalizing Patient Communication
  • Registration forms

 

G) Know what not to automate.

Patient one-on-one interactions should never be automated. Building good rapport is one of the most important things a dentist can do to ensure their patients feel comfortable. Thus making them more likely to come back.

 

H) Train your staff on proper medical billing.

One of the most valuable skills any dental office can acquire is understanding medical billing. Helping your patients minimize out of pocket expenses is a surefire way to retain them at your practice.

 

Conclusion: 

There you have it! A complete guide to a more productive practice in 2021. If you found any of these resources helpful, we encourage you to share it with your network.

Let’s ensure 2021 is our most productive yet!

Also, in the spirit of sharing, if you have some productivity tips that you didn't see included in this guide... write a response in the comments below. We'll add some of our favorites to an updated version. 

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