Mixing it up
Financial advisers frequently tell their clients to diversify. Dentists would do well to adopt the same mentality regarding the service mix in their practices.
In most cases, increasing elective dentistry can make a tremendous difference in both the enjoyment and profitability of the practice.
Before adding new services, practices should examine their current systems to ensure efficiency, productivity and patient satisfaction. New services will have a great impact on the following practice systems:
• Case presentation.
Adding new services to an already inefficient schedule only compounds the problem. The schedule should reflect the reality that different services require appointments of various lengths. The way to approach scheduling from a productivity standpoint is to categorise your services as well as determining the time needed to provide them. The practice should design the schedule based on the different categories of production, reserving sufficient time for the most productive and profitable procedures.
Practices that focus on expanding more productive services, such as cosmetic dentistry, have higher profit margins, increased production and greater patient satisfaction. This is why the dentists at these practices typically have lower stress and retain a tremendous passion for dentistry.
Team members must be trained on new services before they can educate patients. Establishing step-by-step presentation guidelines for new services is critical to implementing them into your practice.
Use structured morning meetings to reinforce procedures and protocols for current and new services. Appoint a practice manager or a senior staff member as your training person. New employees should receive training on all services before they interact with patients. If well-informed about your services, your team will be able to provide accurate information and increase awareness, which should ultimately lead to higher case acceptance.
Too often dentists over-educate and under-motivate patients. Don’t mistake explaining a service for motivating a patient to accept such a service. Benefit statements are an excellent technique to educate and motivate at the same time. To improve case acceptance, you must tell patients what’s in it for them, not just why they should have the treatment. When patients understand how they will benefit, they are more likely to accept your recommendations for treatment.
Once your systems have been fine-tuned in preparation to expand your services, it is time to decide exactly what services you should add or upgrade. It is a good idea for practices to offer a variety of need-based and elective services, including whitening, implants, veneers and periodontal maintenance.
Most practices these days offer whitening. Many, however, do not take full advantage of the treatment’s potential. Tooth whitening procedures are becoming extremely popular, thanks to the success of retail whitening products and extreme makeover television shows. Dentists can capitalise on the value patients associate with retail whitening products by presenting affordable, more effective whitening procedures within the practice.
Dental implants have opened a new world of opportunity to help patients improve the quality of their lives. Although implants are often an unfamiliar topic for patients, they are typically very impressed when the many benefits of implants are explained.
Successful implant practices make it a habit to educate all patients who may potentially benefit (denture patients, patients who are missing a single tooth etc). Implant dentistry can also be extremely productive for both surgical and restorative practices.
Your patients’ appearance can be compromised by chips, cracks, gaps, misalignments and discolourations of anterior teeth. Porcelain laminate veneers placed over front teeth can correct these imperfections and help patients achieve a beautiful smile. Veneers can bring to patients a healthy, natural-looking and beautiful smile with little or no discomfort.
As practices seek to increase production, periodontal services are an excellent place to begin. Many patients who visit a dental practice once a year or less show signs of gingival or periodontal disease. Practices need to design and develop a programme that focuses on soft tissue therapy.
Given that the hygienist should generate at least 25% of practice revenue, it is extremely important to maximise hygiene productivity. Soft tissue therapy creates opportunities to assist patients in recognising the benefits of your comprehensive periodontal programme.
The right service mix is key to providing appropriate choices for your patients, as well as helping the practice to succeed. Many dentists are busier than ever, but they are still struggling to increase profitability. Why? A significant number of practices rely too heavily on single tooth treatment. This type of high volume, low profit dentistry is taxing for the dentist and the team.
Promoting comprehensive dentistry can reveal untapped potential for production in a practice’s patient base. The result is increased production, less stress and greater profitability – all excellent goals.
Roger Levin DDS is chairman and CEO of Levin Group, a dental practice consulting firm.