Six Steps to a
by Cynthia McKane-Wagester
A successful dental practice is a practice in which all components work together for the benefit of patients and practice alike. Since the primary focus of dental care professionals is providing excellent care to their patients, practice operation is frequently haphazard. Often, personal preferences of dentists and their staff members are adopted and accepted as policy. If there is a change in staffing, new and equally haphazard ways and means of doing things around the office take their place. Sometimes the operating system is the legacy of a long gone senior partner. Through inertia or habit, the system remains in place and is rarely reviewed or questioned.
Whether your practice is “pretty good” or exhibiting significant signs of chaos and inefficiency that make you concerned about its future, an experienced professional dental consultant can make a tremendous difference. A dental consultant specializes in analyzing and improving the day to day management of the ideal dental practice. It is her job to carefully examine what works and what doesn’t work, and to recommend and implement appropriate solutions that will improve those things that need improvement. A good dental consultant will review every area of dental practice operations, focusing particular attention on Case Acceptance, Collection Efficiency, Marketing, Production Efficiency, Scheduling, and Staffing. Each of these areas has potential that is seldom tapped. Each is also subject to problems that can escalate if not effectively dealt with.
In too many practices, Case Acceptance suffers because patient education is either ignored or limited. A good dental consultant can teach busy dental practitioners to sell benefits rather than features, allowing patients to see the big picture rather than what happens during a single office visit. Patients who are well educated about their oral health and its impact on their overall health, are more likely to accept treatment programs.
Collection Efficiency in any dental practice can also benefit from the advice of an experienced consultant. Recommendations on this may range from consistency in backing-up computerized programs to designating an optimal location for storing hard-backed financial ledgers. Consultants can provide time management training for billing clerks and financial coordinators as well as remedial crash courses on dealing with insurance companies efficiently.
To live long and prosper, every practice must market itself. One of the services offered by all reputable consulting firms is Marketing. Particularly good consultants will focuses not only on new patient recruitment, but on reactivating patients who somehow fell through the cracks of a practice and disappeared. A consultant in tune with traditional and state of the art marketing trends can make a significant difference in patient statistics.
Production Efficiency is one of those areas that is most often dominated by and defined by tradition and inertia. In most dental practices, renovating is generally limited to a new paint job or the installation of an attractive tropical fish tank. But every savvy dental consultant knows that even a minor structural renovation, one which is designed for effective placement of equipment, can make productivity soar. An exceptional consultant will even be able to rattle off the specific number of tub & tray or cartridge set-ups needed in practice operatories, the best place to store them, and the best time to order them.
While most practices rely on a front-desk clerk to greet patients, answer the telephones and schedule appointments, a good dental consultant will recommend that Scheduling duties be shared by the dental hygienist. She will offer excellent remedies to prevent failed or late appointments, and can recommend the best time of day for scheduling certain procedures.
The success of a practice often depends on how well each department and each team member functions independently or as a unit. Optimal Staffing is the key to a harmonious and well coordinated practice, and a dental consultant can offer important tips on hiring and keeping qualified and enthusiastic team members. She will also be able provide dental practitioners with evaluation criteria that really mean something and with sound advice on conducting productive and positive staff meetings.
A dental consultant’s job is to ensure that the overall operation of a client practice is productive and efficient. If even one of the six practice areas described above can be improved, the services of a dental consulting may be your wisest investment. The rewards will be well worth the cost involved.