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Dr. Roger P. Levin is the CEO of Levin Group, a leading dental management consulting firm. Founded in 1985, Levin Group has worked with over 30,000 dental practices. Dr. Levin is one of the most sought-after speakers in dentistry and is a leading authority on dental practice success and sustainable growth. Through extensive research and cutting-edge innovation, Dr. Levin is a recognized expert on propelling practices into the top 10 percent. He has authored 65 books and over 4,000 articles on dental practice management and marketing. He has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and Time magazine and is the creator of the Levin Group Tip of the Day, which has over 30,000 subscribers. To contact Dr. Levin, visit www.levingroup.com or email email@example.com.
There are powerful business principles that have a direct impact on practice production. The Levin Group has organized these concepts into what they refer to as The 9 Areas of Practice Expertise and formed consulting curricula and training in all nine categories.
Having worked for nearly 30 years with dentists and specialists seeking ways to increase both production and satisfaction in their careers, Levin Group has amassed-and deployed-an unequaled amount of expertise. Whether working directly with clients in consulting and coaching relationships, providing practical instruction in seminars and workshops, or producing educational materials that dental professionals turn to for guidance daily, we have mastered the business of dentistry.
I’d like to share with you The 9 Areas of Practice Expertise that are essential to the success of every dental practice:
According to the Levin Group Data Center™, 75% of dental practices in North America have suffered production declines in the past five years. This after decades of predictable growth for virtually all offices. The trigger for this sudden reversal was, of course, the Great Recession. However, as the overall economy slowly recovers, dentists are realizing that the game has truly changed and things will never again be as they were.
Levin Group has always focused most intensely on developing effective growth strategies for dental practices. Now, many practices come to us urgently seeking this expertise. We meet this vital need with proven methodologies for:
• Increasing the flow of new patients
• Generating more referrals from all sources-patients, doctors or the community at large
• Diagnosing, presenting and gaining patient acceptance for more-and more comprehensive-procedures
• Putting more emphasis on cosmetic and other types of elective treatment
• Scheduling that makes it possible to perform more dentistry without working more hours
Even practices with sufficient new patients and productivity may struggle financially if they do not collect the money owed to them. To reach their potential, they must have systems in place not only for managing accounts receivable well but also for controlling overhead and creating appropriate fee structures. When a practice has financial expertise, it will:
• Use protocols that result in a 99% collection rate
• Maintain overhead at or below a 59% level
• Promote patient payment options that reduce financial risk for the practice
• Set fees that are competitive while allowing for sufficient profitability
• Eliminate unnecessary spending and waste
• Insist on implementing marketing strategies with a positive ROI
Continue to page two for more important principles.
Perhaps the greatest challenge for dentists on a day-to-day basis is team management. This is the area in which the need for leadership skills is most acute-and where the greatest number of dentists fall short. To run a successful practice, with stress and inefficiencies kept to a minimum, the practice leader must learn how to:
• Use a practice vision statement and goals to instill a sense of shared purpose among team members
• Delegate all non-clinical responsibilities to team members, thereby empowering them and maximizing the team’s contribution to practice success
• Use training, mentoring and coaching to improve job performance and satisfaction
• Coordinate the efforts of all staff members and encourage cooperation, with well-planned meetings and other team events
• Enhance individual performance and career development with job descriptions and annual performance reviews
• Serve as conflict mediator and chief motivator
Scripts come into play whenever there are interactions between patients and staff. It takes a considerable amount of expertise to create effective scripts, yet they make it far easier to train team members to say the right things-and therefore get the right results-as they communicate with patients. The benefits of using expert scripting include:
• Building stronger patient-practice relationships faster
• Receiving more patient referrals
• Gaining greater compliance from patients
• Increasing case acceptance rates
• Reducing no-shows and cancellations
• Increasing overall patient satisfaction
Continue to page three for more important principles.
Need-based, single-tooth procedures dominate most dentists’ schedules. This can usually be attributed to a lack of case presentation skills. Dentists with expertise in this area begin with comprehensive exams and treatment plans-the basis for presenting multi-tooth treatment, cosmetic procedures and other elective dental services. Practices achieve high acceptance rates with a combination of:
• Careful relationship-building to establish confidence and trust
• Scripted presentations focused on benefits rather than clinical details
• Payment options that offer convenience and affordability to all patients
• Presentation follow-up strategies that give patients another opportunity to say “Yes”
• Involvement of entire staff in laying the groundwork for acceptance
New Patient Experience
Given the importance of new patients in any practice, dentists and their teams must become experts at working with them properly from the very first call to the practice.
To capitalize on the potential these patients represent-in current production, future referrals and sustainable, long-term growth-practices should employ such proven techniques as:
• Scripts for new patient calls that immediately begin to build a relationship
• A carefully orchestrated welcome to the practice during the first visit
• Conducting a comprehensive oral health examination
• Preparing a new patient treatment plan that lays the groundwork for more production
• Displaying exceptional customer service to create a “WOW” experience
In many practices, the hygiene department falls short of its potential, through no fault of the hygienists. Theirs is a special relationship with patients. On one hand, they have professional credentials, reinforced by their role as oral health educators. On the other hand, they spend more time with patients than anyone else on the staff, enabling them to serve as a vital communications link. By developing expertise in this area, practices can:
• Maintain scheduling continuity to keep patients active
• Acquaint patients with the full range of services available at the practice, especially those a patient may need or want
• Deepen the practice-patient relationship through extended conversations
• Increase hygiene production substantially-up to 25% of the practice total
• Enhance follow-up with patients who have deferred treatment recommended by the dentist
Continue to page four to learn about the final two categories
The schedule regulates the flow of patients and serves as the time management framework for doctor and staff. Inefficient systems not only disrupt production and customer service but also create high levels of stress. Practices that have scheduling expertise are able to:
• Create the ideal high-production, low-stress day
• Produce more dentistry in less time
• Reduce stress, chaos and confusion
• Manage new patients more effectively
Unlike external marketing activities, which usually require much more out-of-pocket costs yet yield much lower response rates, internal marketing is highly cost-effective. Aimed at existing patients, often while they are present in the practice, internal marketing leverages practice-patient relationships to generate word-of-mouth advertising-widely recognized as the most powerful type of marketing. Practices with an expert grasp of the principles and techniques of internal marketing can:
• Persuade 40–50% of current patients to refer at least one friend and family member to the practice every year
• Promote featured or new services to their patient base economically
• Create “buzz” among patients and the community with a well-executed social media program
• Use events to strengthen patients’ loyalty to the practice
The 9 Areas of Practice Expertise encompass all the aspects of practice management and operation that are essential for success in the new dental economy. Practices that master them will excel as businesses-and in their ability to provide outstanding care to a greater number of patients.
About the author
Dr. Roger Levin is the founder and CEO of Levin Group, Inc., a leading dental consulting firm. A nationally recognized speaker, Dr. Levin presents practice management seminars throughout the country. View his schedule at www.levingroup.com/gpseminars. As part of its educational mission to dentistry, Levin Group provides the free Tip of the Day to more than 55,000 dentists and team members. To help dentists improve the business performance of their practices, Levin Group offers the Practice Performance Analysis™. For more information, visit www.levingroup.com/ppa.