Inflation is here. Costs for gasoline, food, supplies, and travel, just to name a few, are rising. Depending upon whom you listen to for advice, it could significantly influence your ability to be profitable and solvent. In its course, inflation can affect everyone, including your patients, who also think of ways to save money, such as postponing the routine dental visit. It is time to meet with your financial advisors and plot a strategy to design the best office policies to beat back the push of inflation. Here are seven savvy practice management tips to start implementing now.Here are seven savvy practice management tips to start implementing now.
Be smarter about dental supplies
Costs for personal protective equipment (PPE) have increased since the advent of COVID-19. Some of the supply chains for PPE have improved, but the cost of these items will likely never return to their prepandemic prices. Most dentists have responded by raising fees to offset the increased cost of providing dental care. Avoid stocking and storing large amounts of supplies that will take years to use. That is money on the shelf. Shopping for the best deals and keeping within a budget of 5% or less of total overhead can be achieved. Consider purchasing supplies every two weeks rather than daily or weekly; this helps avoid compulsive buying, and helps you also understand how much product you really need.
In the sterilization area, use cassettes and instrument tubs. Portable instrument tubs can be quickly moved from room to room and will reduce the number of times a doctor waits while an assistant hunts for a needed instrument.
Invest in newer and better technology
Use of AI or office automation increases efficiency. You can save time by automating tasks so team members can do other jobs. For example: Have the office implement a system to automate insurance verification. Eliminate the time and the extra staff hours on the phone. The system is more accurate and streamlined also.
Automate patient communication systems that include appointment reminders and introducing new procedures and services. Automated patient communication systems help eliminate no-shows and last-minute cancellations by demonstrating that you value patient time and expect them to keep their appointments.
Here’s an example of scripting: “[Patient name]: The pandemic has changed protocols on how we must schedule our patients to allow for distancing, assessing treatment, and time to take down and set up the treatment rooms. Because of this we are experiencing longer wait lists for appointments. We ask that if you need to change any appointment to please give us 24 hour notice or more so that we can give others the opportunity to receive treatment. There will be absolutely no charge if you need to reschedule as long as you provide us with that 24-hour notice.” Automated communication technology can free up time to focus on developing personal relationships with patients in the office. New technology also gives practices insight into business performance and improvement.
Consider outsourcing claims processing to a company that charges a small percentage of what they collect. Time will be freed up for your business team to focus on patients instead of sitting on hold for hours.
Look into more modern and efficient ways to work at the chair, such as isolation systems that offer more efficient management of patients for less chair time and fewer demands on having a dental assistant present.
When was the last time you considered your patient database program? Is it doing all it can do for your organization? Does it contain all the services you need to complete all the patient processes? If it has been years since you have looked, this may be a good time.
Increase production per visit
Find ways to increase production per visit to eliminate the patient having to return for another short visit. Multiple visits use up valuable PPE, time, and team salaries.
Are you diagnosing and scheduling quadrant dentistry?
- Ensure that your patients understand the significance and timely importance of the diagnosed treatment.
- Avoid technical jargon. Use clear and easily understandable language.
- Incentivize same-day treatment with a perk.
- Focus on listening to patients’ needs and wants.
Track proposed treatment
Tracking proposed treatment is essential. Have a team member accountable for this task, or it won’t get done. Ensure that all treatment plans, no matter the size, are charted into the treatment plan in the patient’s computer chart. From here, you can generate reports on which patients need treatment and are not scheduled.
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Raise fees if it’s reasonable
What type of fee increases are appropriate for your zip code since most insurance companies base their payment schedules on your practice area? It is reasonable to raise fees to reflect increased costs to operate your business. Knowing how much and which fees to raise can be confusing. If you are in the PPO network, check with each payer to see when you can raise prices and by how much.
Focus on team dynamics
Create a more effective and disciplined team. Discuss with the team how each member can contribute to the efficiency and cost control for the practice’s survival. Some examples include supporting the patient to appoint for treatment before leaving the practice, following up on unscheduled patients, and actively working recall.
Staffing payroll and benefits are the highest payouts in overhead expenses. Encourage and provide cross-training of the team to help when very busy or team members are out for illness or personal time. Show appreciation for your team daily and include them in improving practice systems for efficiency.
Continuing education via webinars, podcasts, and Zoom meetings decrease the cost of travel, hotel rooms, and conference speaking fees. Continue the education of your team through the use of online education venues.
Analyze your overhead categories
Have you lost sight of your overhead goals? Sit down with your financial advisors and go over each category with the thoughts of lowering costs and streamlining systems to save money and restructure plans.
Editor’s note: This article appeared in the March 2022 print edition of Dental Economics magazine. Dentists in North America are eligible for a complimentary print subscription. Sign up here.