After providing state-of- the-art service to your patients, a large portion of the financial compensation you deserve gets bogged down in accounts receivable. You end up spending time, money, and aggravating hours attempting to collect for your services, and sometimes too little or no avail.
You arrive at the office in the morning fired up, enthusiastic to see patients, but you’re soon brought down by the unmotivated state your team seems to be in. Low morale blunts everyone’s enthusiasm, negatively impacts your team’s production, and reflects an unpleasant office environment to your patients.
You may not believe it, but just as there is no shortage of unhealthy mouths out there, there’s no shortage of good people looking for the “right package” and the right practice culture which will attract them to you. Knowing how to recruit good people is the key.
Profitability is dependent upon more than just increasing fees, down-sizing, and cutting corners. If it were that easy, you wouldn’t need to worry about productivity and overhead. Low profitability doesn’t allow you to grow your practice and still take a fair salary to provide for yourself and your family.
You know absolutely that a patient will need the treatment you and your hygiene team recommend. You know how valuable it is to his/her health and well-being. But you can’t get your patient to agree, and see its value as you do. So, you minimize, phase, or discount treatment.
It’s hard to find good people, and almost just as difficult to keep the good ones. High turnover creates dissention, hurts morale, causes lost productivity, decreases efficiency, and creates a financial burden on the practice.
Stress or worry can occur for any number of reasons. It can be very detrimental to you personally and to your practice. It’s probably the result of too many things left unaddressed or not completed. Stress breeds uncertainty and creates a tense office environment.
If you’ve lost your passion for dentistry, feel uninspired and unmotivated, it’s a sign you’ve lost sight of your purpose, your primary goal or aim, or the core reason you decided to become a dentist, which was to help others.
“A two times return on investment as determined at commencement on every dollar invested in the Core Program curriculum as measured by an increase in practice collections over the previous 12 months attained during the term of the program, or 100% of your fee is refunded.”
The basic rule to lowering overhead and increasing happiness within your practice is simple: Charge for what you produce, and then collect for what you produce. It’s easy to lose patients when they owe you money. In many cases that’s when they’ll complain – i.e. “it doesn’t look good,” “it doesn’t feel good,” “I could have gotten it done for less,” etc. The solution is a strong financial policy with a clearly understood and accepted treatment plan managed and coordinated by a dedicated staff member. Prior to beginning treatment, patients are made to understand and agree that payments will be made in full as each treatment is completed. A practice that is fee for service centered, rather than insurance dependent, greatly reduces, or eliminates entirely, the need to handle accounts receivable.
Managing accounts receivable does not mean handling accounts receivable. Not having AR in the first place – that is the essence of control and proper management of finances. With your team motivated and focused on the same vision to attain certain goals, individual workday stress is reduced, and opportunities for personal prosperity and happiness are increased. Along with exponential growth of your practice are the bonuses of having more fun, freedom, and fulfillment in both your practice and personal life.
Morale actually contributes to creating the energy of your office space, be it positive or negative, which will either draw patients to you, or push them away.
Increasing communication with and amongst your team, providing game-like challenges that they can accomplish on a daily basis, and spurring them into action by inspiring them with your own personal purpose, performance, and vision for the practice, will help boost morale, increase production, and create a more enjoyable office environment.
It can be costly to hire too quickly and attempt to integrate new team members who are not really a fit for your practice and its existing culture. Putting together the right package to attract the right type of person requires the right ads posted in the best places, the best referral sources, and understanding how to interview, evaluate, and assess people. Good recruiting provides the flexibility and freedom to assemble the best team to achieve your practice’s goals.
With low profitability, the business of dentistry conflicts with the practice of dentistry. In essence the business doesn’t fairly compensate you and your team for the services you provide. This unbalanced state of affairs creates frustration and a sense of failure.
The solution is simple, though achieving it takes some effort. Reducing overhead by working smarter not harder is the key. Make more money (i.e. increase production) while working fewer hours by emphasizing quality over quantity. Stop filling up time, creating the illusion of being busy, or spending time on marginal patients who are not a fit for your practice or aligned with your philosophy of dentistry. If the treatment is valuable enough to do, then it’s valuable enough to collect on. Never bill patients. Run a zero balance office where no patient leaves the office, or has treatment completed without payment in full. Avoid dependency on insurance, especially managed care plans, and aim to achieve a more fee-for- service practice. You can honor your patients’ insurance by helping them submit their claims for re-imbursement, but you get paid at the time of services rendered. Educate them as to why it’s to their benefit to do it this way. Don’t allow insurance companies to make you the bad guy or dictate how you should care for your patients. Finally, and most importantly, with a well-trained staff that you manage with strong policies and that you’ve provided with systems for them to manage patients and the business in general, overhead will be kept low and profits will be enhanced.
You wait and watch as conditions worsen, hoping the patient can someday afford treatment or see the need when the condition becomes more severe. Or worse yet, you hold back on recommending treatment for fear of what the patient will think of you and your motives. The result? The patient suffers. Your practice suffers. And, by compromising, you suffer.
In most cases patients don’t accept treatment because they don’t understand it or recognize its value. Unless you have an educational system in place handled by a treatment care coordinator, in conjunction with you and your hygiene team, treatment acceptance will always pose a challenge. The three barriers to treatment – time, money, and pain must be addressed adequately before the patient will consider treatment. Patient education, treatment acceptance, and sales need to be coordinated to work within an integrated sales system to assure your practice’s success.
In fact, each time you lose a team member it can cost the equivalent of six months of their salary to replace them. The benefits of retaining good people are obvious.
The solution? Make your staff No. 1 and patient’s No. 2. Your team wants appreciation, acknowledgement and, above all else, security in their position. Without these they will go for the money every time. Your team needs an environment that is stable, constant, free of distraction and stress like office gossip, or upsets like being pulled off their position to do other work or the work of others. A chaotic, harried office that runs on emotion rather than systems and policies is sure to create staff turnover. Make your people the practice’s most valued asset. Pay and bonus them fairly. Apprentice and train them thoroughly. And let them share in your success regularly.
It can put excessive pressure and urgency on your team when micromanagement to correct perceived problems only creates other oppressive conditions. Stress causes mistakes, accidents, errors of omission and commission that in general creates joyless, unproductive work for you and your team.
Facing problems head on and not avoiding them, such as establishing treatment and compensation acceptance by patients upfront to avoid future financial issues, helps you gain control over your practice. With good systems, firm policies, thoroughly managed finances and overhead, and surrounding yourself with a self-motivated team of entrepreneurial thinkers who take on responsibilities and contribute solutions to solve problems rather than creating them, stress is greatly reduced and kept at a manageable day-to- day level.
Helping people to look and feel better while helping them regain and maintain their health is highly commendable. Unfortunately, patient resistance, opposition from your team, insurance companies, labs, suppliers, and countless other forces can gradually wear you down. They divert you from your mission of serving others with the skill and healing gifts you’ve acquired. The result? You become “off purpose”. Your focus is on all the negative aspects of a dental practice and the negative, challenging patients. Sound familiar? There are ways to re-focus on your purpose, and re-kindle the fire for practicing dentistry. The first step is to clearly define and write down your purpose. Then, make it widely known to your patients, your team, your associates – everyone. People will agree with your purpose, and strongly support you when they feel it radiating from you each day that you are fired up and love what you do which is more important above all else. A good gauge for determining if you are on purpose is to ask yourself a simple question: Do you still enjoy talking about dentistry all the time, all day long? It’s amazing what transpires when your conversations are about what you love and believe in, rather than on what you dislike or what is superficial (i.e., politics, the weather, the economy, etc.). Remember why you chose to do what you do, and why you chose to make the huge commitment and investment of your time, finances, and other resources into the practice: To help sick people get well, and to prevent the well from getting sick. This a noble cause, and everything else that happens over the course of your day which does not align with this mission of serving other in this way, should be secondary, and should not negatively control your life.
One final suggestion would be to seek coaching. Having a strong and trusted ally in your corner, helping you overcome obstacles and challenges in your practice, can keep you on track and on purpose, which is a sure route to success. A good coach will help you stay on your game and remain enthusiastic. He/She won’t let you be content with your successes, and will keep you certain that the best thing that could happen to a person would be to come into your practice.
Annette Rivera has been a practice development coach with Staff Driven Dental since 2015. She began her career in the dental field in 1985 as both a dental assistant and a manager of several departments over the course of her 30 plus years in a multi-specialty practice. Annette worked and managed in pedodontics, orthodontics, periodontics, and general dentistry giving her a wide range of expertise, experience, and practice leadership mastery prior to starting her practice coaching career. Her management and organizational skills have served her well on behalf of her clients as she takes great pride in helping and guiding practices to succeed and achieve their maximum growth potential. Annette is a dedicated, enthusiastic, and knowledgeable coach who has a true passion for coaching and consulting doctors and their teams, while inspiring them to attain optimal results from every Staff Driven coaching program.
Michelle Massotto has been a Practice Development Coach with Staff Driven Dental since 2012. She started her career in the dental field in 1986, as a dental assistant in a multi-specialty practice which led to many opportunities for her personal and professional growth. Over her 30 years working in dental practices, she has had the opportunity to work in every aspect of clinical dentistry and dental practice management with a specialty in orthodontics. She is a Certified Orthodontic Assistant and a Registered Dental Assistant. Her expertise in managing and training staff while motivating them to play the game of dental practice helped her to improve morale, increase practice revenue, and provide a fun and fulfilling work environment as a part of every practice she has personally worked with. Her years of extensive dental experience have driven her to utilize her superior knowledge and insight on behalf of doctors and their teams who have the desire to improve and grow as professionals in the dental field beyond exclusively on the clinical side of dentistry, but as business owners, managers, leaders, and executives in their practices. Michelle is a driven, caring, and attentive practice consultant and coach who always takes on every practice as if it were her own.