Thrive to survive

The loss of PRSI state-funded dentistry and the proposed changes to the DTSS scheme has set challenges for us all. Surviving these changes for both our own and our team’s sakes will require a new outlook. I believe the setting of a goal that is focused on improvement will help us all to survive, at the very least.

Unfortunately there will be some casualties along the way. It is possible that not all practices will manage to survive, and certainly many hygiene and associate positions are precarious for the time being.

As practice owners, we must be aware that two factors are critical: the need to control costs and the need to drive up revenue will ultimately decide our fates.

Cost analysis will be crucial and, given that reception duties will be reduced by the lack of form filling, this role can be amended to include weekly cost analysis reports.

Together with our accountants we should devise a sheet that lists both fixed costs, such as mortgage or rent, wages and insurance payments, and all variable costs such as materials, electricity and telephone charges, Weekly, fortnightly or monthly analysis will help us to control, and be aware of, the financial health of the practice.

The initial shock I felt when March’s PRSI cheque arrived led me to think that staff reductions would be immediately necessary. I’ve since decided that closer attention to driving up revenue is the wiser option.

We principals need to make staff aware that their jobs depend upon ensuring the practice thrives. The days when the PRSI and medical card cheques sometimes made it a matter of turning up in order to collect a weekly wage are long gone. We now require each team member to market the practice in an active manner and know how to ensure patients not only come in the front door of the practice but also stop leaving through the back door.

Studies have shown that up to 68% of customers stop doing business with an enterprise purely because of indifference. We need to ensure none of our customers are allowed to feel as if we don’t need their custom or that of their family and friends. To this end, we should create a marketing strategy that will attract new customers, as well as helping to retain and upsell our existing clients.

Look at the overall customer experience from the patients’ point of view and work out ways of improving every contact point they have at the practice. Studies have shown that what customers want from a business such as ours is knowledgeable and caring staff. Now that we may be experiencing quieter days, we should ensure that all staff know how to explain procedures in a way that ensures patients will accept treatment. Educating them in the correct communication skills using the proper words is an important part of this process.

Communication is also key when it comes to our existing patients; it is the greatest tool in our armamentarium to ensure we stop our patients exiting via the back door.

By now it should be generally accepted that a practice website is essential in that it allows you to introduce the team to prospective patients, as well as providing a forum for communicating treatment options and presenting completed cases to show the standards of our clinical work.
With the growth of social networking sites we also have the option to set up pages on Facebook, for example. I recently set up a ‘Corkdental’ Facebook site along with a ‘Cork Six Month Smiles’ site. These are great ways of involving patients in the practice.

Reactivation letters with an incentive are also a great way to get in patients who may have lapsed for whatever reason.

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