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Top 4 Excuses for Holding onto Bad Systems

Top 4 Excuses for Holding onto Bad Systems

Systems, systems, systems! Either you got good ones or you don’t. If you don’t, you’re asking for trouble!

Here’s the problem: most dentists think they have good systems when, in fact, they don’t. Sure, at one time, the systems were effective and efficient, but that was years ago. Management and marketing systems have a shelf life of about three years when they’re operating at peak efficiency.

After that, things slow down. As the practice continues to evolve, the old systems can’t keep up and they begin breaking down more and more frequently.

Doctors and team members will get out “the duct tape” to keep the systems running, but bottlenecks continue to multiply, forcing the staff to improvise work-a-rounds and other fixes that, of course, create additional problems. Before long, those once sleek, simple, super-efficient systems have transmogrified into a Rube Goldbergian nightmare. It takes more and more effort to get less and less done. Not a good situation for you, your team or your patients.

Yet dentists insist on holding onto outdated, production-killing, morale-destroying systems. Why? Here are the top four excuses dentists make for keeping bad systems:

1. It’s going to take too much time to replace the systems

You can’t expect to snap your fingers and have new systems like that. A better way to look at it is that new systems are an investment in your practice… in your sanity… and your financial well-being.

If your outdated systems aren’t working well now, what will they be like a year from now? How high will he stress be in your practice? How long will your team agree to keep working under such conditions… before they start looking for opportunities elsewhere?

2. It won’t be worth it

Can you remember what was it like when your current systems were new? How the days seemed to fly by with few problems? Patients weren’t backed up in the reception area. Stress was low or nearly nonexistent. And you weren’t putting in extra time in the office and at home, thinking about the practice 24/7.

You can’t go back to those easier, stress-free days with your current systems. But if you could get a better practice and a better life with new systems, would it be worth it?

3. We fixed systems before and nothing happened

Fixing systems isn’t replacing them. And that’s what you’ve got to do when systems become outdated. Your practice is continually evolving, and new systems can absorb only so many changes before they start to flounder. Think of all the changes that have occurred in your practice in the past three years regarding technology, supplies, personnel, protocols, equipment, etc.

I bet it’s a pretty substantial list, yet you’re operating with basically the same systems before any of those changes happened. It’s like running new software on an old computer. It either won’t work or it runs so slowly that you finally throw your hands up in frustration.

4. My team doesn’t want to change

It happens. Teams get comfortable with the status quo. But if your practice isn’t performing to your satisfaction, then it’s up to you to change it.

After all, you want to get the most out of your career. You don’t want to settle for lower income and lower profitability… just because your team is happy with the way things are.

Sure, you want your team’s input on how to improve the practice, but keeping everything the same shouldn’t be an option.

Conclusion

Your practice is a Ferrari. You can’t expect it to operate at peak performance if there’s a lawnmower engine under the hood. That’s what happens with old systems––they prevent you from reaching your practice’s full potential. Who wants to be puttering down the road when you could be flying full speed ahead into a much brighter future?


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Surprising Advice for Dentists from Sgt. Pepper

Surprising Advice for Dentists from Sgt. Pepper

It was 50 years ago today that Sgt. Pepper taught the band to play. What can the Beatles’ classic album released five decades ago teach us about practice management? You’re probably thinking not much. After all, there are no songs about dentists on Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. But as with every Beatles album, there’s a lot of great music and plenty of good advice. And some of it applies to dentistry. Let’s take a look…

With a Little Help from My Friends

It can be lonely at the top, but it doesn’t have to be. Even with the growth of DSOs, the majority of dentists still operate solo practices. That means you wear a lot of hats… you’re the main producer, the team leader, the CEO, the CFO and the CMO. Some days, it can seem overwhelming.

Fortunately, you don’t have to go it alone. Study clubs represents one of the greatest resources for practice owners. You can learn a lot from your colleagues, many of whom have experienced similar issues and challenges. You’ll get pertinent advice, learn about new clinical procedures and develop a support network that can get you through the tough times.

Good Morning, Good Morning

Morning meetings matter. Never underestimate the power of this brief gathering. Sharing information about the day’s schedule, patients, treatments, and emergences keeps everybody on the same page. Start your day the right way with a morning meeting!

Getting Better

That should be the goal of every practice. How can we improve? What’s not working and what could be working better? What are the solutions? What are the costs? What can we accomplish with the budget and manpower we have? As the practice leader, you don’t want to settle for the status quo. Because when you stop improving, you eventually start declining.

Fixing a Hole

A full schedule drives practice growth. Gaps in the schedule are missed opportunities. To combat last-minute cancellations, keep a list of patients who are looking to move up their appointments. Contact them as soon as you have an opening. Also, use social media to get the word out. If patients have a break in their schedule, they often come in to catch up on their dental care.

When I’m Sixty Four

Are you saving enough for retirement? When was the last time you looked at your retirement plan? Are you currently working with a dental-knowledgeable advisor? Even if you’re a younger dentist and believe retirement is decades away, you need to start planning for it now.

A Day in the Life

Like any job, dentistry can become a grind… if you let it. As the practice owner, you have the power to create a fun, productive work environment. Don’t just put in your time. Create the practice you want. Sure, it takes time and effort. But the sooner you start working on it, the sooner it will happen.

Conclusion

It’s been called everything from the greatest album ever made to the most overrated record in the history of popular music. Wherever your opinion falls on that spectrum, there are still some surprising lessons Sgt. Pepper can teach us 50 years after its release.


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4 Lies That Hold Dentists Back

4 Lies That Hold Dentists Back

Dear Struggling Dentist,

Here’s some advice––stop being your own worst enemy!

Yes, I know, the dental economy isn’t the greatest and competition is heating up as DSOs continue to grow. And I realize that patients are less loyal than they used to be and even the loyal ones don’t come in for their twice-yearly hygiene appointments. On top of all that, the insurance companies keep chopping reimbursements and so on and so on.

Yes, these things are all true and they make it much more challenging to run a successful practice.

But I’ve met too many dentists who are struggling and yet continue to believe in dangerous, performance-depleting myths. Let me be clear, these internalized myths are far more dangerous than all the external threats combined.

Here are four of the most pernicious lies dentists tell themselves:

1. “Something Will Rescue Me”

Nobody’s coming. This isn’t a superhero movie where Batman shows up at your office, grabs a canister of “New Patient Attractor” from his trusty bat belt, douses your reception area with this magical elixir, and then suddenly your practice is overrun with new patients. Ain’t gonna happen. No way, no how!

You’ve got to be your own superhero. That means putting together a plan, brainstorming strategies and implementing them, tracking performance, making adjustments, and getting expert help when needed. No cape or Batmobile required.

2. “It’s Just a Phase”

I’ve heard this over and over from dentists whose production has been down three or four years. That’s not a phase, it’s a permanent condition! Well, that is, unless you decide to do something about it.

I get it. You want to be positive. You want to believe the practice will turn around. But belief alone isn’t enough. For things to improve, you have to marry belief to action.

It’s like losing weight. You may want to drop 20 pounds, but if you don’t change your diet or your exercise habits, you won’t shed any weight.

3. “But It Worked Before”

That doesn’t mean it will work now or ever again. And if it’s not working now, that’s your sign to change what you’re doing. The “it” can be a marketing strategy, campaign or ad. Just because something was successful in the past, there’s no guarantee it will succeed in the present.

 4. “The Economy Will Pick Up”

It’s already picked up. So if you’re expecting some turbocharged, super-heated, macro-economic miracle to lift the dental economy out of the doldrums, you’re bound to be disappointed.

But all is not lost. The business of dentistry is evolving and will continue to evolve. So, forget the economy and concentrate on something you can control, like the activities within your practice. Fortunately, there’s plenty you can do right now to make sure your practice is successful, such as:

  • Scheduling 98% of hygiene patients
  • Reactivating inactive patients
  • Collecting 98% of fees
  • Persuading at least half of your patients to make a referral every year
  • Delegating all administrative tasks to your team, so you can focus on patient care

None of these activities has anything to do with the overall economy. These are things you and your team can make happen on your own. So, what are you waiting for? Pick one and get started!

Conclusion

What we believe can either help us or hurt us. Too often dentists cling to false beliefs that limit their performance and their potential. Take a hard look at what’s holding you back. If it’s one of these lies, toss it aside and move on.


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Are You Working One Day A Week for Nothing?

Are You Working One Day A Week for Nothing?

Many dentists are, but they don’t know it. Why? Because their practice has a sense of “busy-ness” to it. But here’s the thing… “busy-ness” doesn’t necessarily translate to productivity or profitability.

An outdated scheduling system runs slow. It makes you believe that you’re busier than you are. As your schedule ages, the more bottlenecks it accumulates, slowing things down even more.

Stress increases, while productivity decreases. If nothing is done, employees eventually leave, creating even more stress.

Are you one of those doctors working an extra day a week? Answer these five questions:

1. Is the current scheduling system three years or older?

If yes, that’s a big red flag. You might be saying, “Roger, my schedule is five years old and works perfectly fine. Why should I change it?” Your practice is constantly changing (and so is dentistry), even though it may seem the same as it ever was. In the span of 3–5 years, practices add services, update software, purchase new equipment, switch materials and experience turnover. All these changes impact the schedule and its efficiency.

2. Do you feel like your practice should be more financially successful than it is?

Over the past few years, I’ve met many dentists who ask me, “I’m busting my tail day-in day-out, yet why do I have so little to show for it at the end of the year?” An inefficient schedule is like a mirage… it tricks you into seeing things that aren’t there. It’s disconcerting when you realize all your hard work isn’t paying off like it should.

3. Does your practice consistently run behind two or more days a week?

If so, your old schedule is also killing your customer service and case acceptance. When patients are forced to wait 10–15 minutes or more, they will complain about your practice to their friends, cancel their next appointment, post a bad review on social media and turn down recommended treatment.

4. Has it been longer than a year since you performed procedural time studies?

If it’s been longer than a year, that’s another good indication that your schedule isn’t as accurate as it should be. When the appointment time is out of sync with scheduled procedure, you’re either running behind or have unnecessary gaps in your schedule. Neither situation is a good one.

5. Would you say your stress is higher than it used to be?

Outdated systems are the #1 cause of stress, and an outdated scheduling system is often the main culprit. The schedule affects everything you do. If it runs sluggishly, then you have unhappy patients in the reception area… frantic clinical staff trying to play catch-up… and an overwhelmed front desk team dealing with the fallout.

Conclusion

Who wants to work harder for less? That’s what old systems will do to you and your practice, especially an outdated schedule. If you answered “yes” to at least two of the above questions, it’s time for a new schedule. The sooner you replace it, the sooner you can reap the rewards!


Additional Resource

Need help with your schedule? Check out our new training module called “Scheduling for Maximum Production and Minimum Stress” by clicking here.

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Don’t Let Emergencies Blow Up Your Schedule

Don’t Let Emergencies Blow Up Your Schedule

How many times have you had a near-perfect day crash and burn… because an emergency patient showed up? Your schedule is humming along like a well-oiled machine with every patient being seen on time… until you get the call. It’s Mrs. Jones or Mr. Wilson, and they got a dental emergency.

Shortly after they arrive, there’s a big boom! That’s the sound of your schedule imploding. Moments later, a giant creaking sound… that’s the sound of your customer service system about to give way.

Your team struggles mightily to do what they can, but as the schedule falls more and more behind, your reception area fills up with patients who are waiting and waiting. They become increasingly restless and impatient and frustrated. They glower at their phones, shoot angry glances at the front desk, and a few of them even get into testy exchanges with team members. Some cancel their appointments. Some just walk out… perhaps never to be seen again.

In the span of a few hours, a seemingly great day quickly turned into a practice management nightmare. How can you prevent that from happening again?

Well, here a few things NOT to do:

Don’t tell every emergency patient to come in right away. Big mistake. Not all emergencies are the same. There are emergencies and then there are emergencies. Train your front desk team to triage patients over the phone to assess how urgent the emergency is asking patients questions such as:

  • Are you in extreme pain?
  • On a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being extreme pain), how would you rate the discomfort you are experiencing?
  • Have you taken anything to relieve the pain? Is that working?

If patients are in extreme pain, then bring them in right away. If they aren’t, you have greater flexibility with scheduling them later in the day.

Don’t take patients back to the operatory and forget about them. Patients in pain are usually extremely anxious, too. The longer they have to wait to be seen, the more time they have to worry unnecessarily about their condition. If you’re going to tell them to come in, make sure you see them as soon as possible. A quick examination followed by palliative care will ease their pain and anxiety. If the practice is extremely busy, tell them a staff member will check on them every 10 or 15 minutes and you’ll be in as soon as possible. Give them an accurate estimate, if that’s possible. These measures reassure patients that they matter and that their care is a priority.

Don’t pretend everything is normal when you are running way behind schedule. One emergency patient, even when the case is well-managed, can wreck the schedule. If that happens, you owe it to your regularly scheduled patients to tell them what’s going on. A simple script such as the following can help: “We’re running a little behind today because Dr. Davis is taking care of a patient with a dental emergency. We apologize for the inconvenience. We expect him to able to see you in X minutes. We understand if that doesn’t work for you and we can reschedule you if you would like.”

When you tell patients what’s going on in the practice, they then then make an informed decision about whether they should continue waiting or reschedule the appointment. That kind of thoughtfulness is appreciated by patients.

Conclusion

Emergencies, by the very nature, are unpredictable. But they can be managed so they don’t blow up your schedule. If you’re making any of the three mistakes detailed above, now’s the time to take corrective action.


Additional Resource

Download a free excerpt from Dr. Levin’s popular Power Cell Scheduling. Go here and click on the “Read an Excerpt” button.

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Huge Profit & You: Learn Dentistry’s Most Profitable Treatments and How to Do More of Them

Huge Profit & You: Learn Dentistry’s Most Profitable Treatments and How to Do More of Them

“Roger, I want to make more money.”

I hear that all the time from practice owners at my seminars. Then they usually follow up with something like: “Don’t get me wrong, I love taking care of my patients, but I went to dental school for four years, I own a practice, and I’m bustin’ my hump every day, yet I’m making less than my neighbor who sells hot dogs outside the Home Depot.”

OK, that last part might be a slight exaggeration.

But there are a lot of dentists out there who are unhappy with their income.

Many of them then proceed to ask me what to do. I look them square in the eye and tell them that the answer is staring them right in the face all day, every day…

The most profitable services in your practice are the ones you already offer.

While adding certain services, such as whitening or implants, can definitely increase production, the FASTEST way to do more profitable dentistry is to hyper-focus on fully maximizing the value of the treatment that shows up in your chair every day.

If you haven’t already taken steps to gain another 10–15% profit margin on the procedures you’re good at and perform frequently, what are you waiting for?

Every practice has specific services that are more profitable than others. For example, in general dentistry, it is typically crown and bridge. While it can be debated which procedures are the most lucrative in dentistry, there are other factors that impact practice production and profitability, including:

  1. The Schedule. Too many schedules choke off production because they’re inefficient, inaccurate or just plain outdated. They’re based on old habits rather than sound business principles. Just because the team is comfortable with the pace of the current schedule doesn’t mean it’s the most effective schedule for your practice. Time and again we have shown clients how to manage multiple chairs (and often multiple assistants) smoothly, which easily increases production, lowers overhead and decreases stress. Many dentists and teams hold onto the status quo, believing changing the schedule will lead to rushing and higher stress, which isn’t true.
  2. Speed. In an era when insurance reimbursements are declining, time really is money. The faster the procedure, the more profitable it is. We have clients who range from 30 minutes per crown prep to others who take two hours. While these may be the extremes, simply shaving 10 minutes from most appointments is a significant time savings.
  3. The Cost of Services. Lowering overhead increases profit, which is directly proportional to take-home income. One of the best examples for cost savings is laboratory services. Some offices work with labs that are far more expensive than necessary to provide excellent care. If crown and bridge is one of the most productive services in dentistry, then working with an excellent dental lab at a reasonable cost can make a significant difference. As the number of crowns, bridges and veneers increase, the savings (and profit) can add up quickly. There are excellent national dental laboratories, such as National Dentex, that provide every possible service at a reasonable cost.

Conclusion

If your practice isn’t as profitable as you you’d like, the solution for fixing that is easier than you think. The question isn’t “what procedure is the most profitable?” but rather “how much more profitable can I make the procedures I perform?” The answer is always – a lot!


Additional Resource

Read a free excerpt from Dr. Roger P. Levin’s popular book, 100 Ways to Increase Your Practice Profitability. Go here and click on the “Read an Excerpt” button.

 

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3 Scheduling Mysteries Solved

3 Scheduling Mysteries Solved

There are three mysteries in scheduling that you must clear up immediately, because they can cost practices millions of dollars over the course of a career. The three scheduling mysteries are:

Mystery 1 – No-Shows and Last-Minute Cancellations

These are literally killing you by eviscerating your daily production goals and totals. You want your no-shows and last-minute cancellations—and make no mistake, a last-minute cancellation is as damaging as a no-show—under 1%.

Why do patients so often leave you with an opening that’s impossible to fill? You haven’t taught them to value their appointment.  Here’s a three-step process, based on phone scripts, that will solve this problem. When a patient no-shows, or cancels at the last minute:

  1. Have your scheduling coordinator create demand for the appointment by making the patient wait for a few weeks.
  2. If that doesn’t work, then threaten to charge the patient for the missed appointment (rather than actually charging, waive the fee as a favor, for which the patient will thank you every time).
  3. Put habitual no-show patients on a short list “to fill last-minute openings”… but don’t actually call them. They are money losers as regular patients. By default, whenever they do have a problem, they’ll be your future emergencies and add to production at that point.

Mystery 2 – Dealing With The Late Patient

Even the best patients will be late from time to time. There’s no way around it. Usually, if you don’t see them when they show up, you’ll lose money on the case. It’s far better to squeeze in the offenders as best you can and to stress with patients going forward that they run on time.

For habitually late patients, try this: schedule them 20 minutes earlier than the actual opening. When they show up late, as usual, they’ll actually be on time.

Mystery 3 – Losing 10 Minutes Per Hour

Levin Group has now analyzed thousands of scheduling systems with scientific time studies and found that the vast majority of offices can easily improve performance by 10 minutes per hour. You can achieve this by analyzing the amount of time needed per procedure, delegating responsibilities so the doctor can spend more time chairside, and breaking old, inefficient habits.

The results will be nothing short of incredible. It’s like gaining two extra months of potential doctor production time per year… which, over the course of 24 years, adds 48 months. This is the equivalent of generating an additional two years’ worth of production without working one more minute!


Additional Resource

Download a free excerpt from Dr. Levin’s popular book, Power Cell Scheduling. Go here and click on the “Read an Excerpt” button.

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Consistent Behavior Gets Consistent Results

Consistent Behavior Gets Consistent Results

Inconsistency is the watchword for me in 2016 when it comes to practice management.

Last year, Levin Group analysts crisscrossed the country to perform hundreds of business analyses of general and specialty dental practices. As they look for what’s inhibiting growth, they have often discovered inconsistency in daily operations.

Specifically, most struggling offices lack documented management systems and scripts to guide team members in how to use such systems. As a result, their owners experience plateaued growth, declines in production and profit, and losses to the competition.

In many cases, doctors who were doing well until the past couple of years now feel confused and frustrated… and typically don’t understand that inconsistent performance of administrative and marketing tasks, due to a lack of proper systems and scripting, is the root cause of their troubles.

Creating smart new systems, writing step-by-step documentation, translating the documentation into scripts that are then used to train staff—this is the process Levin Group consultants rely on for turning practices around.

It works so well because it not only establishes the correct protocols for reaching the practice’s performance goals but also ensures that those steps are carried out consistently, patient after patient, day after day.


Additional Resource

To find out how you can benefit from an expert analysis of your practice as a business, click here for your free download of Dr. Levin’s whitepaper, How to Increase the Income from Your Practice.

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Today is Team Appreciation Day

Today is Team Appreciation Day

How do you get your practice team and others around you motivated? The answer is simple. Start appreciating them… and let them know it!

Most dentists would say they appreciate their teams. If you feel that way, answer these questions

  • Do you express your appreciation to every team member every day?
  • Do you notice the little things and try to see things from each individual’s point of view?
  • Do you find many ways to compliment team members… about what a good job they’re doing, how fast they’re learning, that they’re making a difference?

These are the techniques great leaders use to motivate their team. They know that when you show your appreciation, team members feel better about themselves and will be self-motivated to perform better.

Additional Resource

For more team-building advice, view Dr. Levin’s video, “Building the Best Possible Team.

Honest Mistake

Honest Mistake

One of the biggest mistakes dentists make as practice leaders is not being honest with their team members. I’m not suggesting that they say things that aren’t true. The problem is that they don’t say things that are true.

We’ve all been there. A member of your staff falls short of your expectations and, to avoid confrontation or discomfort, you say nothing. Hoping the problem will go away (which rarely happens), you tolerate her poor performance, negative attitude, or personal issue that’s disrupting office efficiency. As she spirals downward, your displeasure grows.

Eventually, you feel you have no choice but to terminate her. In short, your compassion has the opposite effect of what you intended. The team member in question—who may have had excellent potential—must move on, leaving behind a stressed and demoralized staff and a well-meaning team leader (you) who is learning to hate this part of practice ownership.

Rather than saying nothing about questionable staff behavior, speak up. Discuss the issue calmly and constructively in private with the team member. Help team members improve. Catch and help correct bad habits early and everyone will benefit… honest!

Additional Resource

For more about other honest mistakes practice owners make, read a free excerpt from Dr. Levin’s book, The 31 Biggest Mistakes Dentists Make, go here and click on the “Read an Excerpt” button.

Go and get grab your copy now!