Five statistics critical to every successful dental practice

November 17, 2013

Numbers tell a story. Knowing the right numbers to monitor and why you are monitoring them can be the challenging part, especially the “why.” I was recently teaching a seminar in Seattle and we were talking about what reports the doctor or accountant requests from the team on a monthly basis. One of the office managers rattled off a couple of reports that she has to print on a regular basis and I asked her why she printed them. What does the doctor do with the information? She didn’t know. Then another attendee said, “I print this really long aging report and put in in a binder on a shelf.” I asked her why and she responded, “Because that is what I was taught.” This is simply not good enough. You have to know why you monitor the numbers and what they tell you. Numbers tell a story.

 

With that in mind, here are my top five pieces of statistical information that every practice should know . . . and why the practice should know them.

 

Over the counter collections

This is number one on my list because it gives you so much information. The money you collect at the time of service is like gold. It is extremely valuable because now you don’t have to send the patient a billing statement or make any collection calls. Also, your money is worth more today than it is 30 days from now.

Why should you track this number?

It all starts with the new patient phone call. Training your patients with the financial expectations of the office right from the start will avoid any uncomfortable situations at the time of the appointment. When your patient comes in for his or her first visit, he or she knows the out-of-pocket payment will be requested at the time of service. Also, talking about money with your patients will build trust.

This number is also affected by how firm your financial arrangements are during your treatment plan presentations. As I mentioned above, when you discuss money openly and directly, then you will build trust with your patients and they know the expectations before they schedule the appointment. Now that you have a firm financial arrangement with your patient, you can collect at the time of service easily and without hesitation.

Over the counter collections helps decrease overhead. Now you might not see a direct impact on your overhead number, but what it does do is allow your financial coordinator to divert some of her resources away from collection calls and attend to something more productive.

Net new patients

Now I don’t mean to bust your “70 new patients a month” bubble, but do you know what your patient retention is? Yes, I agree that new patients help fill the doctor’s schedule with treatment, but if your office is a revolving door this could be more damaging than you think. So why do you track this number?

If you keep track of the patients who are leaving the practice, it is a great opportunity to have an exit interview with them and try to find out their reason for leaving. In my office, I attempt to talk to every patient who is transferring to another office so I can use it as a team training session on how to improve our office. In many cases, patients have been so thankful that I called and they were able to express their frustrations. We were even able to come to a resolution and I was able to retain the patient. Your office reputation is at stake if you let a frustrated patient leave. Take the time to make the call.

If your patient retention is down, this could be an indicator that your recare system needs some attention. Do you know what reports to work for patients who are past due for their cleaning? What system do you have in place to communicate with patients who are due to come in for their cleaning? Do you preschedule patients? All these things will affect the Net New Patients number or your patient retention.

Percent of perio production to overall hygiene production

Many doctors think they have a strong perio program in their office, but after evaluating the numbers it becomes obvious that many hygiene programs are not as strong as they think. Why is this number so important?

The perio statistics can be a good indicator if your team is coding procedures properly. I still see offices where they are alternating the D4910 code with the D1110 code because they think that it is helping their patient. In reality, it is not only hurting your patient but it is insurance fraud. If you code properly, your patients can maximize their benefits properly without putting your office in harm’s way.

Hygienists by nature are givers and want to help their patients in any way they can. One way they feel they can help is by often underdiagnosing and saving the patient some money. When the appointment comes, they will treat them like a perio patient but not bill for it. You are putting your and your doctor’s license and reputation at risk if you do this. If the patient transfers to another office or needs to be referred to a specialist and proper diagnosing of the periodontal disease is not documented and billed, then trust is broken and the office could be liable for the potential outcome.

Unscheduled time units

This is lost production, period. How you track this is by adding up the time units that should have been filled. My rule of thumb is anything 30 minutes or more is counted. Why should we care about this number?

If your office is not able to fill short-notice changes in your schedule, it could mean that your front desk team needs some training on the reports to work in your practice management software. Every practice management software system I know has a short notice list or another list to pull patients who are due for an appointment. Know your reports.

Accounts receivable

I was working a trade show once and a doctor came up to me and said he needed some help with the systems in his office. Specifically he didn’t know what reports to run and check. When I did an assessment of his office, the accounts receivable was over $800k. This might be OK for an office that produces $2 million a month, but his office produces $80k per month. This was not OK. I was glad he was asking for help. Now why should he know what his A/R is?

If he ever needed to get a loan or was in the market of selling his practice, this would be an extremely important number.

Keeping this number in check lets you know that your over the counter collections are at an acceptable level, your insurance companies are paying you in a timely manner, and patients with leftover balances are paying them off. The doctor should have in the back of his or her mind at all times. Bottom line … if you’re A/R goes up, your overhead will go up.

Numbers tell a story. Work with your practice management software to find out how you can pull these numbers monthly. If you are reading this article and you use the Dentrix software in your practice, check out my blog at www.thedentrixofficemanager.blogspot.com. If you use a different software, find out where your resources are and plug into them.

Editor's note: Image used in this article from Lars P. on flickr.com.