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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.

Attitude is Everything

Attitude is Everything

In the introduction to my book, Get a Life and Keep It!, I discuss how important it is to have the right attitude. For those of you who haven’t yet read the book, here’s an excerpt:


Leaders lead by example, and a dental team is always watching the doctor. If your outlook is not positive, you will find it difficult to motivate others and many won’t find you believable or persuasive.

Enthusiasm and great attitudes equal credibility in the minds of others.

If you want people to trust you, you will need to display an astonishing level of enthusiasm through an extremely positive attitude.

Do you want to have a great attitude? If the answer is yes, and I certainly hope it is, then all you have to do is make up your mind that a great attitude is what you want.You decide that from now on complaining, excuses or whining will not characterize your life. You will not react to circumstances with a “why did this happen to me?” mentality.


I wrote this a number of years ago, but it resonates more now. There will always be setbacks, challenges, bad days and long nights, but overcoming these obstacles usually starts by having a positive attitude.

Additional Resource

Dr. Levin’s book Get a Life and Keep It!, which focuses on the Levin Group mission of “improving the lives of dentists,” is available here. Click the “Read an Excerpt” button to read a sample.

Don’t Tolerate Poor Performance

Don’t Tolerate Poor Performance

Serving as CEO, team leader and doctor poses many challenges.

One of the biggest is being honest. I’m not saying that dentists are dishonest. Most dentists are honest to a fault in terms of what they say. But there are two types of honesty.

Beyond what you say, there’s the question of what you don’t say. If you’re not speaking up about certain subjects, that’s a form of dishonesty, too. Many of us (and I am definitely including myself here) don’t always say what we should.

As the team leader at your office, do you always tell team members what you’re thinking? Do you point out that you’re not happy with their performance?

We often avoid confrontation, hoping the problem will go away—which almost never happens. Too many team members who could have improved have ended up spiraling downward over time. Had the dentist communicated early on that there was displeasure in the way something was handled, things might have turned out better.

Compassion for the members of your team may lead you to suppress critical comments about their performance or attitude, but that may leave you no choice but to eventually terminate a team member. How compassionate is that?

Far better for everyone if you speak up as soon as you see a problem—and speak honestly. Your silence could have a very negative effect.

The next time you wonder if you should say something about a team member’s performance, make no mistake… you should say it.

 

Additional Resource

For more on this subject, check out Dr. Levin’s popular whitepaper “Level IV Leadership.

 

 

Go and get grab your copy now!