By Roger P. Levin, D.D.S.
Now is a good time to take stock of your practice’s current condition, and initiate changes that will result in a more productive and profitable 2017. Focus your efforts in the following four areas to experience immediate as well as long-term benefits.
1. Financial Management
In many endodontic practices there’s room for improvement in the financial aspects of operations. To make sure you’re bringing in more of what you’ve earned and spending wisely, look for ways to improve:
- Overhead – Chances are that there’s some fat in your budget. Operating expenses have a way of creeping up if you’re not scrutinizing them regularly, so take a close look at everything. Renegotiating a lease, and shopping for better prices on supplies and services can add up to a significant improvement to your bottom line. If your current overhead ranges above 42%, which is a healthy number for endodontic practices, you can do better.
- Budget – Many small business owners either don’t create a formal budget or don’t follow it. Start 2017 with a line-by-line list of “allowed” spending, including a contingency fund. Then, exercise self-discipline to resist impulse spending.
- Collections – If you agree that you should get paid for services rendered, you should be willing to refine your approach to collections. Ensure that your staff is doing everything possible to get timely insurance reimbursements. Look at implementing systems that motivate patients to pay their bills promptly.
- Payment Options – Offer various ways for patients to pay their out-of-pocket charges, especially when they’re substantial amounts. In some nonemergency cases, this may encourage them to accept treatment (and accept it at your practice). It also can enable them to meet their financial obligation more easily.
2. Systems and Training
You’ll be undermining production and income all year long if you start 2017 using administrative systems plagued with bottlenecks or staff that needs training.
Take time now to discuss day-to-day operations with your team, pinpointing inefficiencies that can be ironed out with new systems and/or focused training. This will take time, but it is an important aspect of running an efficient and successful practice. When surveying your needs, take a look at yourself too, not as a clinician but as a team leader. Building a strong team doesn’t come naturally for most of us, so you might want to plan some leadership training or coaching to enhance your leadership skills.
3. Referral Marketing
Unless you’re turning patients away-and perhaps even if that is the case-you should strive to make 2017 a great marketing year.
An important step to take is to hire or appoint a marketing coordinator, or MC, if you have not yet done so. Referral marketing requires a lot of legwork, phone calls and face time with referring doctors and their team members. Although you should interface with these colleagues at key points, such as when you sponsor a seminar for them or have lunch with your prime referrers, you can’t do all the work that’s necessary. You need to focus on treating patients. Task your MC with developing and implementing a diverse range of marketing strategies.
These strategies should include a mix of social and educational events, informational materials for referrers to give their patients, food deliveries to referring offices to build relationships with team members, fun contests, and so on. Some strategies will be reserved for top referrers only (to reward them) and some will be aimed at prospective new referrers to persuade them to begin sending patients your way. These strategies will keep your MC very busy, and they’ll also increase the number of patients.
Finally, walk into your office one day as if you were a patient-but with a clipboard in hand. During the past year, there’s probably been some chipped paint, scuffed surfaces, frayed upholstery, etc. Taking care of these little things will make a big difference in how your practice looks, and in how you, your staff and your patients feel when spending time there.
This might also be a good time to upgrade amenities, redecorate, improve storage areas and make other overdue investments in your practice environment.
The best way to end the current year is to lay the groundwork for a great new year. If your practice is like most, there are probably things you can do right now in these four areas to achieve more success in 2017.
Dr. Roger P. Levin is a third-generation general dentist and the founder and CEO of Levin Group, Inc., the leading dental practice consulting firm in North America. He offers tools to help endodontists run more profitable, efficient and satisfying practices through the Levin Group Resource Center atwww.levingroup.com/endo.