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Even the best practice management software won't improve your practice unless you use it effectively. Here's how to do so.
Are you using practice management software? Are you getting what you want out of it? Are you getting what you need to run your dental practice more effectively? More efficiently?
Trends in the dental industry, from corporate consolidations to insurance coverage, are squeezing profit margins. Dentists are doing more, and they’re getting paid less.
“If you compare to 10 or 15 years ago, many dentists are making less money for doing the same procedure they did back then,” says Tammy Barker, practice development sales manager for
. “The only way you can really thrive in this type of economy is to drive efficiencies. And make sure that patients don’t slip through the cracks.”
Having a solid practice management system in place, and using it uniformly and correctly, is key.
In and Out
Barker explains that what you get out of a practice management system depends on what you put into it. She likens it to taking a car in for maintenance. You do that periodically to keep your car running well; you don’t neglect it. The same philosophy is true with dental practice management software systems.
For example, Barker believes that the initial training dental practice staff receive on the software is insufficient. It’s also impossible for them to retain everything they learn in one eight-hour session.
“And then, if you don’t use it, you lose it,” she says.
The problem is compounded by practice turnover, which Barker says happens, on average, every 12 to 18 months.
“And the kicker is that the new team member is trained by existing team members who don’t have adequate training to begin with,” she says. “Then we wonder why patients are slipping through the cracks, and why our hygiene numbers aren’t what they should be.”
It’s also a question of the data. Do you trust it? Barker asks, “Do you ever look at a report and circle a number because you’re not too sure the number’s right? That’s a red flag.”
The solution, like bringing a car in for maintenance, or having a trainer give you helpful tips at the gym, is to use the system correctly and uniformly.
“Because when you have good data,” Barker says, “then you can take it to the next level and make meaningful business decisions.”
Clinical and Business Tools
So, how do you know if your staff is using the practice management system effectively, or if they need a refresher? Barker says one of the tools Dentrix utilizes is its
program. Each member of the practice team can test to assess his or her skill level. There’s also a practice advisor assessment that checks all key performance indicators.
“What percent (of revenue) is coming from hygiene versus the doctor?” Barker asks as an example. “And of the patients who come into hygiene, what percent reschedule their next hygiene appointment before they leave?”
From the assessment, Barker and her colleagues are able to customize a treatment plan, so to speak, that is a combination of advanced training and consulting.
“I find very often that a practice will invest in clinical ongoing education,” she says. “And I’m the biggest advocate; they’ve got to have that same type of investment of time and money in ongoing practice management and education.”
Barker says that helping dental staff use the practice management system more effectively is about driving it into the day-to-day processes and answering the ‘why’ question.
“It’s really hard to get a team motivated on a long-term basis,” Barker says. “So, we talk about the whys; how [the practice management software] makes the team member’s life easier. How it positively impacts better patient care—which is a top goal for every dental practice, otherwise they wouldn’t be in business.”
The Daily Huddle
Barker also stresses the importance of Dentrix’s Daily Huddle Report. Each morning, for no longer than 15 minutes, the practice team huddles up to look at the numbers—from the day before, and how things look for the remainder of the month.
“You don’t wait until the end of the month to say, wow, we didn’t meet our goals,” she explains.
And then they examine which patients are coming in that day. Where are there holes in the schedule? The Daily Huddle will reveal patients who are coming in but also have an outstanding treatment that isn’t currently scheduled. That can save, Barker says, 60 to 90 minutes each day having staff look through patient charts gathering information.
“It saves them labor costs,” she says. “But more importantly, it helps them maximize their patient care.”