Technology Evangelist: Getting it done without doing anything

March 21, 2012
Dr. John Flucke
Dr. John Flucke

Dr. John Flucke is in private practice in Lee’s Summit, Mo. He also serves as technology editor for Dental Products Report magazine and keeps an active blog filled with thoughts and tidbits on the world of technology at blog.denticle.com.

Issue 8

I think if you asked 100 dentists to make a list of their biggest problems and concerns they have for their practices, “staffing” and “scheduling” would be ranked pretty close to the top. Finding and keeping good employees has traditionally been difficult in dentistry and the current economic conditions have created problems from a scheduling standpoint for many offices.

I think if you asked 100 dentists to make a list of their biggest problems and concerns they have for their practices, “staffing” and “scheduling” would be ranked pretty close to the top. Finding and keeping good employees has traditionally been difficult in dentistry and the current economic conditions have created problems from a scheduling standpoint for many offices.

Of course, these two problems also can go hand-in-hand when it comes to creating and solving problems in the office. Without proper staffing-especially within the administrative team-increasing scheduling and filling holes can be downright difficult if not impossible. Yet, without efficient and profitable scheduling, the practice can struggle with having the necessary financial resources to hire and retain the administrative staff necessary to provide profitable and efficient scheduling.

Those of you who have heard me lecture or have read my columns over the years know I’m not the kind of guy who focuses on making as much money as quickly as possible. I’m a lazy guy. I want to use technology to help me be as efficient as possible so I can spend more time with my family. However, I also think we owe it to our patients to be able to remind them of needed treatment that will keep them in the best possible oral health.

A solution to both problems
Now what would your response be if I told you there was a way-using state- of-the-art technology-to find the perfect, affordable, tireless and efficient employee who was uniquely qualified to contact your patients who needed treatment and get them scheduled?

Don’t rush your answer. I’ll wait…

Yup, I thought you’d say that. Would you like to know how I knew you’d jump at that opportunity? It’s because it’s the same opportunity I was presented with in late summer/early fall of 2010. At that point I had been studying the company and the product for more than a month. I’m a skeptic by nature, and yet I just couldn’t see a downside.

The idea is a brilliant one and comes to us from a company called ActionRun (actionrun.com). The product, Practice Activator™, is beautiful in its simplicity. ADA statistics tell us that on average, a general dental practice has between $700,000 and $1,000,000 in incomplete diagnosed treatment plans. Unfortunately for the average dental office, having the staff and business policies in place to follow up with these patients is extremely difficult if not impossible.

These problems also were noticed a few years ago by a young dentist in California. However, unlike most of us, she was married to someone who understood computer programming and statistical analysis. Her spouse, in turn, had friends at MIT and Stanford and soon a series of sophisticated algorithms were developed.

Results that speak loudly
In a nutshell, this is how the Practice Activator works: The office staff or doctor goes to a website, enters some info, and grants ActionRun access to the office server. The Practice Activator software mines your patient data looking for patients who have treatment that needs to be completed. When it finds these patients, Practice Activator sends a personalized letter detailing why the treatment is important and the risks the patient faces if  the treatment isn’t completed.

The program is run in your database multiple times and tracks which patients have scheduled and what revenue is generated via the data mining. In this way, you can actually see that Practice Activator is working for you. And you don’t need a large practice with lots of inactive patients for the service to work.

Let’s take a look at a typical practice that is producing a gross of $510K per year. In this scenario, Practice Activator will create an average monthly production increase of 6.1%. Not only that, but it also will create a monthly NET increase of 12.2% and will create 5.2 additional appointments per month.

How can a 6.1% gross increase turn into a 12.2% net increase? It’s a function of Practice Activator locating procedures such as fixed prosthetics that help generate revenue to fill gaps in your schedule related to your fixed overhead.

The joy of this system is that it is targeting your own patients. These patients already have been in your office, you have already established a doctor patient relationship, and they already trust you. These are just friendly reminders to return for important and necessary treatment.

ActionRun is an amazing kind of internal marketing that works in a gentle, personal way…and patients respond. In my time with Practice Activator we’ve seen the company deliver time and time again. The best part is that the service requires minimal effort on the part of myself or my staff and yet patients call, the schedule remains full, and my patients appreciate our efforts to remind them of needed treatment.