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Are you giving your patients the optimum dental experience? Metrics aside, happy patients are retained patients, which improves patient flow. And thatâ€™s one of the best indicators of a successful practice.
What kind of experience are patients having when they come to your practice? That might be the most meaningful measure of success you can have.
What does success mean to you? How do you measure it?
Those are not trick questions, and there is no right or wrong answer. That’s because every dental practice is different, and true success will depend on the individual dentist’s end goal. Are you looking to grow? Become a multi-practice? Or merge with a corporate dental group?
Drew Champgane, D.M.D., a partner with Sparks, Nevada-based Champagne Family Dentistry, says that when many dentists start out, they tend to get caught up in procedures. As a result, they can get very busy doing a lot of things and still not end up being successful.
“I think the best first step (toward a successful practice) is having the right patient flow,” Champagne says.
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Dan Croft, head of healthcare practice solutions at TD Bank, agrees. Croft says that the type of practice TD Bank would like to finance would exceed industry benchmarks in the area of steady practice revenue growth. In other words, acquiring new patients, and the number of active patient records.
DON’T GET LOST
Champagne has been with the family practice for about 10 years. He and his brother, Jason, purchased it from their father a while back. And while profit and loss statements, and overhead are important considerations, he believes too often dentists can get lost in those numbers.
“I think some of the most important things are new patient numbers,” Champagne says. “How many new patients are you seeing each month? And then, what’s your hygiene retention rate? Obviously, there’s going to be some attrition. But if you’re bringing in 100 new patients each month but losing 200 hygiene patients out the back door, that’s the lifeblood of your practice.”
To Croft’s success measure of number of active patient records, Champagne says the goal of the practice is to make sure every patient has his or her next appointment scheduled before they leave the office. If a patient comes in for a hygiene recall with X-rays and an exam, staff is making sure they’re scheduled for their next hygiene appointment, or perhaps restorative work, before they leave.
“We call it wins and losses,” Champagne explains. “A win is when you have that patient scheduled for their next visit before they leave the office.”
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RELATIONSHIPS — INSIDE AND OUT
Champagne says that his brother, Jason, is more of the “numbers guy” in the practice, whereas he tends to work off more of a gut feeling — much like their father did.
“I don’t know how many metrics dad looked at, but he always made sure everyone in the practice was happy,” Champagne explains.
That’s patients as well as staff, he adds, noting that many staff members his father had when he first opened the practice in 1981 are now retired, but are still patients of the practice.
“They love the environment he fostered,” Champagne says. “It created a great work experience. And sometimes, that’s even bigger than the money that comes in. Creating that work experience and amazing relationships with patients and staff members is something that lasts a long time.
It’s also something patients notice. Champagne acknowledges that the aspect of going to the dentist is often the butt of many jokes. He says that a dental practice is not an amusement park where people come and say it’s exactly where they want to be that day.
“I’ve had a number of patients tell me that when I work with certain assistants, they say they watch us work together and can tell we go hand-in-hand,” he says.
Speaking of going hand-in-hand, there are patients who are so comfortable in relationships with their hygienist that, if the hygienist calls out sick one day, those patients will often reschedule even if another hygienist is available.
“(The patients have) been seeing them for 10 years,” Champagne says. “(Patients) spend an hour with them, and it’s a pretty intimate hour spent together.”
BOTTOM LINE IMPACT
Champagne says he’s been fortunate in his career to have many mentors, from his father and brother to some of his father’s colleagues he worked with at the University of Louisville School of Dentistry — the same school his father attended.
“We’ve all come up with the same approach that if you treat patients right, if you keep them coming back, the money will come,” Champagne says.
Historically, he adds, dentists may not have been the best businessmen. But they were able to create a good business because they provided patients and staff with great experiences.
“Having good patient retention affects your bottom line,” Champagne says. “Without a doubt.”