The Key to Sustainable Practice Growth

By Dr. Mark T. Murphy

When asked what would solve their lack of busyness problem, most dentists respond by saying they “need more new patients.” Although a steady increased stream of clients would help fill the hygiene and dental schedules in most practices, it is expensive and the most difficult to quickly achieve. Acquisition of new business requires either a strong social and public media blitz (tougher to effectively target market without spending a lot) or steady referral growth (which takes time). Fortunately, there are diamonds at our feet that we can take advantage of, but it requires a bit of a paradigm shift in thinking.

How we look at the problem sometimes is the problem. That’s why a shift in perspective sometimes is needed to move past a recurrent obstacle. By looking at the problem differently, we may be able to see solutions that were previously limited by our point of view. “More new patients” is not always the right answer.

The single biggest opportunity for sustainable growth in most practices is right under our nose. In the average practice that we have worked with or researched, a little more than 70 percent of the existing patients are leaving with a re-care appointment scheduled for a specific date and time. Most of us think we are better at that, but when you actually stop and measure it for one month, you will feel differently. It is easy to significantly increase the percentage and impact how full your hygiene schedule will be.

1. Measure: Just by measuring, your team will become more attentive to this behavior (prescheduling re-care) and the results will improve.

2. Track: By setting an improvement goal and tracking how many patients leave with a next hygiene appointment in real time (using notes on the day sheet, an excel spreadsheet or software like funktionaltracker.com), your future schedule will be more full.

3. Speak: Rehearsing verbal skills around this helps to get more patients to schedule. “Mrs. Jones, I know how you feel. Sometimes I don’t know what I am doing in six months, either. But, let’s do this: Let’s book something for now that looks like it might work. If you have to change it as it gets closer — no big deal. But, it is so much easier to trade a one-hour time slot for another one if you already have an appointment than if you don’t have one.”

4. Celebrate: Re-measure the result each month and share the success with your team. Reward them appropriately so they know how much you appreciate their effort. It is way less expensive to pre-book and stay busy than to try to fill an empty schedule a few days ahead of time.

The obvious part of this story is that it works! The bonus is that when you have more hygiene patients and a fuller schedule, you will de facto have more dentistry to do from that. Most practices range from 25-35 percent of their production from hygiene visits and the rest from restorative. So, for every dollar you find by pre-booking better, you should find $2-3 more of restorative need. Helping more patients have healthier mouths and getting to do more of the dentistry that is fulfilling drives these behaviors. Money never leads, it only follows.

 

Dr. Murphy is the principal of Funktional Tracker and lead faculty for Clinical Education at Microdental, and can be reached at mtmurphydds@gmail.com. He will be speaking at FDC2016 on Thursday, June 16 and Saturday, June 18. “Introduction to Treating Sleep Apnea in Your Practice: From Getting Started to Medical Billing” will be on Thursday at 9:30 a.m. and “Evidence-based Shade Communication in Restorative Dentistry” will be later that day at 2 p.m. On Saturday, he will present, “Improving Case Acceptance, Moving Past Insurance Entitlement,” at  10:45 a.m. during the New Dentist Program, “Success is your Future: The New Dentist Practical Guide for Success.”

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