Avoiding the September Slump: Four Tips to Improve Diagnosis and Treatment Acceptance

With the onset of the dreaded September Slump approaching, Dr. Tarun Agarwal from Raleigh Dental Arts shares four tips on how to make September a great month through improving diagnosis and treatment acceptance.

Dental Intelligence

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August 9, 2022

Office Operations, Treatment Acceptance, Patient Experience

Soon the warm summer days are going to end. Vacations will be over. School will be back in session. And your schedule is going to dwindle like the leaves on the trees. The dreaded September Slump is coming.

Sometimes also referred to as Sucktember, September can seem like a difficult month for dentistry. You may be scrambling to figure out how you can fill your schedule so you can continue to increase productivity and profitability at your practice.

Dr. Tarun Agarwal is a practicing dentist and practice owner of Raleigh Dental Arts and the founder of 3D Dentists, an educational training platform. He has seen that dentists have substituted busyness for business which has led to a decline in case acceptance, which in turn affects September’s success.

“We’ve worked in a model where busyness has been the key to ‘good business,’” Dr. Agarwal said. “When we allow busyness and chaos to take over, our diagnosis goes down, communication with patients goes down, and time that we spend talking about financial options goes down.”

Throughout his 22-year career, he has lived by four tips that have helped him avoid busyness while improving case acceptance and keeping his schedule full.

Diagnose better

“Diagnosing better isn’t necessarily doing more. Sometimes diagnosing better is actually doing less dentistry,” Dr. Agarwal said. “Sometimes diagnosing better is doing more ideal dentistry versus patch and filling dentistry.”

He feels that having a successful September starts with creating good habits in January that last throughout the year. He notices production in September heavily relies on what was diagnosed in July and August since there is a two to four week lead time on treatment.

“My team members feel Sucktember, but I personally don’t feel it because we are very conscientious about July and August and what we are diagnosing,” he said.

Improve communication about treatment

Dr. Agarwal firmly believes in spending a minimum of one hour for hygiene recall visits. That way, there’s time to communicate with your patients and diagnose treatment during their appointment. He has seen many dentists try to cut their recall visits down to 45 minutes because they have more patients they want to fit in.

“If you squeeze in an extra couple of patients a day because you squeeze 15 minutes off of each appointment, you are probably seeing three more patients which might be five or six hundred dollars more in total revenue,” Dr. Agarwal said. “Or you can give people a time to communicate and diagnose and all it takes is a diagnosis of a couple fillings, crowns, or implants and you’ve made up for all of those revenue issues.”

Experience has taught Dr. Agarwal that not all team members are great at presenting treatment to patients.

“Not everybody is born with the gift of communication,” he said.

Using tools such as digital cameras, X-ray machines, and digital impressions assists Dr. Agarwal and his team by filling any gaps in communicating to patients the treatment they need completed.

“When you have such great records, then you have all the tools to show your patients exactly what is going on,” he said. “Trust is born for most of us when we can show our patients what is going on versus just relying on words.”

For example, Dr. Agarwal enjoys using the CBCT machine because it allows him to slice and dice the images to show patients exactly what is happening. He believes patients don’t care about being taught about the diagnosed treatment. Rather, they want to be able to trust you and confidently know you are doing the right thing.

“Case acceptance and trust have a direct correlation to how much you show your patients, not how much you educate your patients,” Dr. Agarwal said.

If your practice needs an easy way to present personalized treatment plans that include intraoral photos or other visuals, check out Dental Intelligence Treatment Plans. These templates help patients understand why their treatment is needed in an easy-to-understand format.

Make dentistry more affordable

Dr. Agarwal often asks himself, “How can I make my dentistry more affordable?”

He notices giving patients different payment options, including monthly payment plans, directly affects the amount of treatment accepted.

“Affordability has very little to do with price and has more to do with the fact that the modern consumer is a monthly payment consumer,” he said.

With Dental Intelligence Patient Financing, you can make paying for treatment less stressful for patients and provide great options for them in order to make dental care more accessible (and get paid quicker!).

Leverage your schedule

“We, as dental professionals, are not taking advantage of this time to experiment with our schedule,” Dr. Agarwal said. “Starting in July and August, take advantage of the September slowdown with a new way of looking at it.”

For example, he finds that if your production is typically down 20 percent in September, that’s about six hours of work a week. Instead of keeping the same schedule, he suggests setting one day aside for ideal dentistry and then compressing your schedule the rest of the week.

By using Dental Intelligence Smart Schedule, you can see your schedule in a daily, weekly, or monthly view. This allows you to see, at a glance, how you could rearrange your schedule to make days that fall below production goals more successful.

At 3D Dentists, he teaches clients how to create what he calls “priority scheduling.” This allows dentists to prioritize the type of dentistry they enjoy and want to do.

Then, he suggests making your team aware of this goal and celebrating the happiness performing your ideal form of dentistry brings you.

“It’s amazing that when you put your goal out there, people start diagnosing to fill the schedule that you create,” he said.

He also discovers that new patient blocks are usually the first to be replaced by other types of appointments in most practices, yet he believes these appointments should be the most important priority.

“By removing new patient blocks, we are stifling our future in many ways. New patients, by and large, need more dentistry than existing patients,” Agarwal said. “New patients also adapt better to cultural changes in the practice.”

Finding joy in dentistry

Dr. Agarwal continuously teaches these principles to his own team and instills them in his own practice, as well as in other dentists who use his educational training platform.

“My goal is to help dentists find happiness and joy within their profession, so they can find and live happiness and joy in their personal lives,” Dr. Agarwal said.

For more tips on how to make September a successful month, check out our eBook “10 Ways to Avoid the September Slump.” If you want to learn more about Dr. Agarwal, you can find him on all social media platforms as “T-Bone Speaks.” Don’t forget to check out his educational courses offered at 3D Dentists.

Case Study: Increasing Production, Decreasing Cancellations

Do you have gaps in your practice?

Dental Intelligence

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September 8, 2021

Do You Have Gaps in Your Practice?

If you’ve ever been to London and have ridden the London Underground, you’re probably familiar with the phrase “Mind the Gap.” This warning is placed in spots where a gap exists between trains and walkways and is a reminder to pay attention to the “gap” so you won’t fall onto the train tracks. The phrase was first introduced in 1969 and has since become a metaphor for paying attention to the “gap” between desired outcomes and current realities.

mind the gap

So, how wide is the “gap” in your dental practice between what’s optimal and what’s happening right now? Just a few inches away from perfection? Grand Canyon-sized? Somewhere in-between? Do you know? Is it even possible to know? Paying attention to the business side of your practice is a good beginning, but insufficient. In contrast, knowing which key indicators to pay attention to, and knowing what to do to improve those mission-critical areas, can be transformational for your practice and patients.

Growing Pains

A few years ago the leadership team at CarolinasDentist, a fast-growing, multi-location general practice headquartered in Fayetteville, North Carolina, realized there were several gaps between where they were and where they wanted to be. Aggressive growth was great, but it was also causing some real challenges. Cancelled and “no-show” appointments were averaging 25-30% in some practices and were projected to cost CarolinasDentist $1.8 million in annual revenue.

Many patients were leaving the practice without a scheduled next appointment. Treatment was being presented, but if it wasn’t accepted while the patient was in the office, they often got lost and missed out on needed treatment. CarolinasDentist’s hygiene departments were also underperforming, or at least, it seemed like they were underperforming. These and many other issues were creating some real headaches for the leadership team.

Dr. Eric Roman and Dr. Clifton Cameron, co-founders of CarolinasDentist, had anticipated these challenges, and they believed the plan they had in place to respond to rapid growth would be more than adequate. Their combined experience from working in dental service organization [DSO] operations was the inspiration behind the formation of CarolinasDentist.

This included the creation of their Complete Dentist Process, a proprietary training program that combines 25 unique skills and philosophies in a manner that allows dentists, even new graduates, to produce more than double the national average for a general dentist by month nine of their time with CarolinasDentist. Top performers with The Complete Dentist Process will often eclipse the performance of the top 1% of dental providers in the United States and the process has proven itself time and again with more than 50 dentists.

Having this and other systems and goals in place were certainly a significant factor in CarolinasDentist’s success. And yet there was something crucial missing: Actionable data insights. The leadership team knew they needed to make some changes, and they knew doing so would have a positive impact.

But what could they change? And if they changed something, how would they know it was the right thing to focus on? Implementing change based on emotions or what one can visualize is one thing. But making adjustments or course corrections based on actual data is much more effective. Knowing this, CarolinasDentist began searching for a solution.

The Power of Actionable Data

After looking at different partners, CarolinasDentist chose to work with Dental Intelligence. Dental Intelligence helps thousands of U.S.-based dental practices to discover opportunities and develop processes within their practice that can be implemented, measured, and verified for effectiveness. CarolinasDentist wanted much more than just a way to view their practice data. They needed help in analyzing and interpreting the results of their data, so they could act.

Josey Sewell, Director of People and Hygiene at CarolinasDentist, recently shared some of the ways understanding the meaning of their practice data has impacted patients and team members.

Interview excerpt:

Dental Intelligence:

“What was an issue you were hoping to resolve using metrics?”

Josey:

 “We’d heard complaints that our hygiene team wasn’t producing to their full potential. At first this seemed valid, but in reviewing our numbers, we learned that, as is so often the case, what we thought was the issue, wasn’t really the issue.”

Dental Intelligence:

 “So, what was the issue? What did you discover?”

Josey:

 “Our real problem was cancellations and no-shows. In some of our locations they were as high as 25-30%. This meant that on an average day, three out of ten scheduled appointments weren’t coming into one of our practices, which meant we weren’t providing our hygienists with sufficient opportunities to diagnose and treat patients. With the patients they were treating, the data showed they were actually performing pretty well.”

Dental Intelligence:

 “With this insight, what did you do?”

Josey:

 “It was all hands on deck. We focused our entire team on lowering cancellations and no-shows. This included our front-desk team, doctors, office managers, treatment coordinators, and schedulers. Scripting was created that discouraged cancelling or missing appointments. Team members focused on helping patients to understand how important it was to keep appointments. Within a few months, our cancellations had dropped to less than 10% — a phenomenal improvement.”

Another problem CarolinasDentist’s senior leadership were trying to solve was the number of unscheduled active patients. With a monthly marketing budget of 4-5% of revenue, they were investing significant resources in trying to capture new patients. One of their locations with four dentists had a goal of adding 75 new patients each month, for each doctor. Before working with Dental Intelligence, CarolinasDentist’s total number of unscheduled active patients numbered in the tens of thousands. This number continued to grow each time a patient left an office without scheduling their next appointment. They knew this was a problem, but they weren’t sure how to go about fixing it.

As part of their training with Dental Intelligence, CarolinasDentist learned about a resource called Auto Follow Ups. This tool captured all of the unscheduled patients in a practice in one place, based on settings customized by the practice. For example, they could set up an automatic notification each time they logged into their software showing all unscheduled broken appointments or unscheduled treatment. Armed with this powerful data, CarolinasDentist focused on how to reduce the number of unscheduled patients. In January 2018, before they began using follow-ups, CarolinasDentist rescheduled about $2,500 in treatment. In February they went all-in. Between February 1st and the end of March, at just one location, they added over $66,000 in unscheduled treatment back onto the schedule. According to co-founder Dr. Clifton Cameron, “We committed to making follow-up calls daily, including a ‘Power Hour’ each day where every available team member jumped on the phone to call unscheduled patients.” In one “power hour” for example, they added over $16,000 in unscheduled treatment to the calendar.

“The impact on our team unity and culture has been amazing,” Dr. Cameron said. “Being able to see our key numbers in one place and having a system that empowered us to act on those numbers has changed our practice. We now look at our key numbers together during our morning huddle — on our smartphones – and then plan around how to hit our goals for the day.” A recent example of how this impacted a patient’s health was shared by Gabby, the team leader at CarolinasDentist’s Fayetteville office.

"Our huddle was a home run!” Gabby said. “We had a hygienist who was doing a right-side SRP, and by using the Dental Intelligence app, she was able to easily see the patient also needed a filling on the right side. We spoke to the patient as soon as they walked into their appointment and added that production to the schedule right then!! The best part is how appreciative the patient was for only having to get numb one time!"

The compelling “why” behind all of these efforts at CarolinasDentist was simple: Improving patient care. Rescheduling cancelled/no-show appointments or unscheduled patients could now be directly correlated to an increase in the number of healthier patients. A meaningful side-benefit was the positive impact these efforts also had on the teams in each practice. Using metrics to drive performance wasn’t the real point behind all the work CarolinasDentist put in to these initiatives. Their vision was to provide more and better dentistry.

Case Study: How to Thrive in Challenging Times

Learn how Klein Family Dentistry used data to grow and thrive during the pandemic shutdown.

Dental Intelligence

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June 10, 2021

Office Operations,Metrics & Reporting,Team Culture,Production

In March of 2020, Klein Family Dentistry in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania joined thousands of other dental practices around the world in closing their doors in response to the COVID-19 global pandemic. For the next ten weeks, Dr. Gary Klein and his small staff prepared for the moment when they would once again be able to provide care to their many loyal patients.

This is the story of what Klein Family Dentistry did during the shutdown in order to provide even better care to their patients after the shutdown had ended. Although we all hope that we will never experience a pandemic again, it’s highly likely that there will be some type of future disruptions to business as usual. The steps Klein took are steps that any practice can take to recover from a disruption and come back better than ever. If Klein Family Dentistry can do it, so can you.

Klein 2


As a recent article in Inc. Magazine reminds us, hard moments can also be moments of real growth, but only if we see them that way and take action to capitalize. “Every business owner experiences hardship at some point, and it's never pleasant when it's happening. But if things were always hunky-dory, then we'd all become as complacent as the…frog that stays too long in the soon-to-be-boiling pot of water. The businesses that make it through downturns and emerge stronger are the ones that are nimble enough and resourceful enough to create new opportunities.”

Know Where You Are

According to Dr. Klein, “At the beginning of the shutdown we used this unique moment to look at all of our systems and practices. These are all the things we never had time to do when we were open.” This probably sounds familiar. In the busy hustle-and-bustle of running a dental practice, having the time to identify and address problems can be difficult. As Dr. Klein put it, “You’re not just a doctor; you are also the office manager, head of technology, etc., so your time is at a premium. You end up settling for ‘good enough.’ Things are working enough for you to accept that they’re not optimal, but you just don’t have the benefit of time to look at them more thoroughly, or, you let things go that aren’t working but feel the pain of knowing that if you’d make improving your systems a priority you’d see a significant impact.”

Dr. Klein saw this moment as one that might never happen again, and he decided to make the most of it. “We took a ‘scorched earth’ approach to our practice and took everything apart, including our credit card purchases, equipment, how and what we purchase, unnecessary duplication in systems and processes, and what software we were using and whether or not those tools were adding value. We looked at the cost and benefit of everything to determine what was working and what wasn’t.”

How did this all benefit the practice once it reopened? Since doing so, Klein Family Dentistry has had a schedule backlog, with every available slot filled well into the next several months. Dr. Klein discussed the importance of integrating Open Dental and Dental Intelligence, one of their newer software solutions, to assist them in strategic scheduling. “Dental Intelligence is helping us to ‘frontload’ our schedule with the highest-value patients – the ones who pay their bills on time, who don’t cancel, who show up on time for their appointments, have good insurance coverage, etc. Being closed for ten weeks meant we needed to jump-start our cash flow and being able to easily see which patients we should schedule using Patient Finder has been a very big part of the puzzle.”

Becoming a Data-Driven Practice

Another important benefit Dr. Klein has seen using these software solutions is better engagement with his team. “Dental Intelligence has helped me to have better conversations with my team. As we look at our practice data together and discuss what it means, we have all become more effective. Instead of me pointing out an area of improvement, my team can see for themselves what needs to change and take ownership of any appropriate action items. Open Dental is a very powerful PMS and integrates fully with DI, so each team member can view their own performance metrics whenever and wherever they need to. This integration allows my team to easily extract the insights they need in order to make changes. Dental Intelligence has also helped me ask better questions of my team, such as ‘Have you been able to look at your Follow Ups?’ or ‘How are you using the Patient Finder?’ DI provides a touchpoint for all of us to do our work more effectively.”

Klein

For any dental practice trying to grow, knowing where you are at the beginning of the journey is especially important. This isn’t easy. With so many different data points and sources of information flowing into the practice, being able to know what’s important and what it means is a challenge. This is another way that DI has become a game-changer for Klein Family Dentistry. “Filtering all of our data to find what we needed to find before we began using DI was hard,” said Dr. Klein. “We needed to know exactly what we were looking for as well as exactly where to look for it and then, to add to the complexity, we then needed to extract it from Open Dental and correctly interpret it. This also applied to trying to analyze all of our patient communications. DI has simplified all of this for us — it provides a hub for my staff to do their work much more efficiently and effectively. We can now see where we really are. Before we began using DI, we just went on our gut and assumed we were fine because we were busy all of the time. Now we can see areas where we are strong and where we need improvement — it’s already having a significant impact on our growth.”

Two problems that Dr. Klein wanted to address during the shutdown were to decrease cancellations and to increase his Annual Patient Value.

  • With the integration of Open Dental and DI, Klein Family Dentistry had a comprehensive view of every single appointment and cancellation and were able to identify patterns they could address more proactively. They were also able to formulate a plan for scheduling more strategically, so that higher-value patients (as defined above) were scheduled at more optimal times.
  • To increase their Annual Patient Value, Klein Family used the metrics built into DI to identify every single patient by the amount of annual collections they represented to the practice. Annual Patient Value (APV) is determined by calculating collections per patient for all active patients. If APV is increasing, it’s a great sign that you’re increasing the value of your patients, meaning they’re receiving more of the treatment they need. Determining APV gets rid of a lot of the “fluff” around gross production. Knowing the annual value of each patient helps you accurately answer questions like “Is my practice healthy?” “What am I collecting per active patient?” “Are we seeing our patients enough?” and others.

Although Klein Family was doing a huge amount of dentistry, there wasn’t a strategy in place for the kind of patients they were treating and the kind of treatment they were providing. Focusing on APV has changed the way this practice is caring for patients. As Dr. Klein shared, “If John Smith is coming in for a cleaning, let’s make sure we are very aware of what else is on his treatment plan in Open Dental and try to get that taken care of while he’s in the chair. It’s an easy and very effective way to care for our patients while also increasing the value of each patient to our practice.”

Dr. Klein had this to say about the benefit his team has seen from using Dental Intelligence in tandem with his Open Dental PMS. “DI is a no-brainer for any dental practice. At least try it out and see how it fits into your system. The integration with Open Dental has been critical for us. These solutions will increase the impact of anything you are trying to do to grow. You have to commit to act. You have to make sure your team is committed to engaging with the tools you are offering them.”

If any of these challenges sounded familiar to you, hopefully the steps Klein Family Dentistry took gives you some confidence to tackle your own challenges using the insights found in your practice data. As this team discovered, doing a thorough “checkup” of your dental practice is a powerful way to identify problems and opportunities. A tool like Dental Intelligence can be very helpful, but regardless of how you choose to go about this process of thoroughly examining your practice, make a commitment to do so. Using data insights to fine-tune your practice is the best way to prepare for future disruptions. Instead of waiting to react to such moments, becoming a data-driven practice will ensure you grow and thrive in any circumstances.

The Metrics Every Practice Should Measure

What are the most important dental practice metrics? Which KPIs should I be measuring? How can I improve the performance of my dental practice?

Dental Intelligence

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June 10, 2021

Metrics & Reporting,Production

How Healthy Is Your Practice?

As a dentist, you are constantly assessing the overall health of each patient. To do this, you use a variety of methods, technologies, and established procedures to diagnose and treat patients coming to you for care. You also draw upon your previous experience with each and every patient when determining what each one needs. This mental “database” is unique to you and is a critical part of your ability to provide treatment and healing.

In a similar way to how you call upon all of your expertise and resources in caring for patients, there are also important metrics, procedures, principles, and tools that can help you assess the health of your dental practice. Not only can these Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) help you diagnose what’s happening in your practice, they can also be used to help you improve the health of your practice.

At Dental Intelligence, we work with thousands of providers around the country. We frequently hear some variation of the following from them: “Which numbers should I be paying attention to?” This question reflects the commitment these providers have to improving their dental practice. However, in spite of investing significant expense, energy, and effort into understanding which metrics matter and why, many of these providers are still searching for answers.

Spodak office

Focusing On The Right Things

Dr. Craig Spodak, owner of Spodak Dental Group in Delray Beach, Florida, was one of these frustrated practice owners trying to use metrics to improve patient care and team performance. He went so far as to spend significant resources in building a custom solution to gain insights into the health of his practice.

During this process, he learned about Dental Intelligence and what we do to help practice owners and teams use data to grow their practice. After implementing our tools and processes, Dr. Spodak began to see improvement. The key for his practice to grow was understanding which metrics mattered and what to do to positively influence them. 

At Dental Intelligence, everything we do is based on our Profitability Formula®: Our goal is to help you start thinking about where your practice is today and to then determine what steps can be taken to improve. 

The Five Most Important Metrics

Here are five metrics, based on our Profitability Formula, that every practice should be measuring.

  1. Annual Patient Value: Are we increasing the value of our patients? Annual Patient Value is determined by calculating collections per patient for all active patients. If APV is increasing, it’s a great sign that you’re increasing the value of your patients, meaning they’re receiving more of the treatment they need. Determining APV gets rid of a lot of the “fluff” around gross production.

    Knowing the annual value of each patient helps you accurately answer questions like “Is my practice healthy?” “What am I collecting per active patient?” “Are we seeing our patients enough?” and others. APV is an important lagging indicator. If you look at this compared to Production Per Visit (PPV), you can see deeper into the health of your practice.

    For example, if your APV was $600 and your PPV was $325 — this means you’re seeing your patients at most two times annually, which indicates there is likely a lot of unscheduled treatment & production sitting in your practice management software. This is a really good metric for determining the health of the practice and relates directly to the next two metrics you should be tracking.

  2. Pre-Appointment %: This metric is determined by looking at your active patient base to learn how many of them have a future appointment. This tells you not only whether or not you’re getting new patients, recurring patients, etc. but also how many of them have a scheduled next appointment.

    This greatly impacts visits because if your pre-appointment % is low (30-40%) it means a lot of your active patients aren’t coming back, meaning you’re not utilizing the visits that as well as you could be, so your ability to increase production and visits is diminished.

  3. Production Per Visit (PPV): This is one of the top metrics to look at. PPV helps you identify how much and what kind of treatment you’re providing. Are you decreasing, are you seeing lulls, are you seeing cyclical patterns? I recently received an email from a dentist and dental study group leader in Pennsylvania asking for industry benchmarks (see below) to help the many dentists he works with understand why they’re seeing a decrease in production.

    Measuring PPV lets you see if the volume of patients is decreasing or if this is caused by patients accepting less treatment. It also helps you identify at what rate you are getting acceptance of treatment and helps you see how you’re doing in overall treatment in relation to your patients.

  4. Hygiene Re-Appointment %: How are you doing daily in re-appointing patients who came in for hygiene? How did you do yesterday with getting your patients back in the practice, scheduled for hygiene? This also impacts annual value.

  5. Periodontal Treatment %: This helps you see from a preventative side how you’re doing as a whole, which drives production per visit. Are you increasing the amount of hygiene care you’re providing? This also drives hygiene production per visit. If you’re not finding perio-related opportunities, are you finding restorative production? And how are your hygienists doing in co-diagnosing this type of treatment?

Where Should I Begin?

Once you start tracking and understanding the meaning of these five metrics, you can then start drilling down into your case metrics, like treatment dollar acceptance percentage, patient acceptance and patient diagnostic percentage. These are the hardest KPIs to change but will also provide you with the clearest window into the health of your practice.

Once you have a firm grip on these metrics, you can also start delegating responsibility to different team members to take ownership of the different metrics. For example, your hygienists should be at a periodontal treatment percentage of 35% or better. 

So, if there was one metric to start with, it would be production per visit. Where are you currently at on PPV? Calculate this for each month. Figure out where you are at here and begin building from here. Be sure to calculate for this year and last year. Where do you think you should be? Where do you want to be? The benchmarks below can help you compare. Are you where you want to be, and if not, do you know what to do to get to where you want to be?

Metrics help you start to correlate your data with personal and team member behaviors. This then gets you to your case metrics, which can vary day to day depending on the patients coming in and how healthy their teeth are, but still open a wide window into patient health and practice performance.

Once you know where you are, you can begin setting goals to impact your production per visit, which will drive your annual patient value. Exciting things are sure to begin happening. 

If you're ready to learn more about how data can help your practice to grow, request a free demo of Dental Intelligence today. We're here to help you!

 

How Your Team Impacts Case Acceptance

How Your Team Impacts Case Acceptance

Dental Intelligence

|

May 25, 2021

Treatment Acceptance,Production,Team Culture,Metrics & Reporting

Here’s a familiar scenario:

Patty Patient calls your office complaining of a toothache. Lucky for her, another patient just cancelled and you have an open slot for Patty to come in later that same day. Once she’s in the chair and you’ve had a chance to examine her, the cause of her pain is clear: She has a cracked tooth. Patty then sheepishly admits to having chewed on some ice while at a party the night before. Some people never learn.

After sharing treatment options with Patty, you turn her over to Katie, your new dental assistant, and move on to your next patient, assuming you’ll be fixing Patty’s cracked tooth in the next day or two. However, when reviewing your upcoming schedule with your office manager at the end of the day, you see no sign of Patty on your schedule. What happened?

According to Katie, Patty said funds are a little tight at the moment and that she’ll schedule a time for that tooth to be repaired “as soon as possible.” Not what you wanted to hear, of course, but what can you do? The better question is this: What can your team do to with patients like Patty to help increase case acceptance percentage?

We’ve all heard that our team members play an integral part in patients accepting recommended treatment, but exactly how big is their impact? This is where Dental Intelligence plays a critical role. Using data integrated from your Practice Management Software and visualized in a cloud-based dashboard, DI gives you key insights into all of the vital metrics that impact your dental practice, including case acceptance, cancellation %, hygiene reappointment, and dozens more.

Armed with these metrics and insights, let’s now look at some recent Case Acceptance Data so we can see the impact team members have on patients saying “YES” to needed treatment. While not necessarily shocking, the results may surprise you.

In the examples below we show the Case Acceptance % of two dentists in the same practice. When looking at each dentist’s acceptance % we can easily pick the dentist who has the best presenting skills…or can we?

Without seeing the team members presenting with the dentist, it’s difficult to know for sure if the acceptance rate affected by the team member presenting with the dentist.

When we look at the team associated with each doctor’s cases, we can see the significant impact a hygienist or assistant has on the patient’s acceptance of your treatment plan. Practice leaders don’t always go this deep when analyzing Case Acceptance %, but the fact is, team members have a huge impact on a patient’s willingness to move forward in completing needed treatment, and because of this, we should make regularly reviewing Case Acceptance % a top priority.

Let’s look at the impact of treatment acceptance percentage by team members with Dr. Richardson.

WOW! The hygienist that was with the dentist presenting the most amount of treatment had the lowest acceptance %. So, why is there a 19% variance between Dr. Richardson with presenting with Cheri versus when he presents with Lindsey?

Do you have variances like this in your practice between Treatment Coordinators, Dental Assistants and your Hygienist? If so, do you understand why? If not, let’s learn more about this important way of measuring performance in your practice.


After presenting this information to the team and making it easy to monitor on a daily basis, the team decided in a staff meeting to discover the difference. Dr. Richardson asked Lindsey, “Lindsey, based on the data, we can see that you are clearly doing something different with the patients after I leave the chair in comparison to everyone else. Can you share with us what you are doing?” He then explained to the team that they weren’t doing anything wrong, but that he simply wanted to understand what Lindsey was doing different in order for everyone to obtain the same results. This is a great team approach to looking, discussing and discovering together.

Lindsey then shared with the team what she did with the patients after the doctor left the operatory. What she was doing wasn’t nearly as important as what happened when she explained what she was doing. After hearing what Lindsey was doing, Cheri, who had the lowest acceptance rate when treating patients with Dr. Richardson, let out a huge gasp. He looked at Cheri and said, “What is it, Cheri?” She proceeded to share with the team what she was doing differently and it was crystal clear that this was the cause of her acceptance rate being lower than her peers. Additionally, every team member expressed some differences from Lindsey.

No one had to tell Cheri what she needed to change in her interactions with patients. The data showed her that something needed to change. Once she had this self-discovery, she took steps to improve and incredible things started to happen. Let’s take a look at the very next month:

Not only did Cheri experience remarkable improvement in just one month, the entire team improved! This is how powerful data can be when used properly. In case you didn’t catch what happened, Dr. Richardson didn’t use data as a means of punishment. That's never the goal. Instead, he used it as a positive influence to coach and encourage, and incredible growth was the result.

Understanding how each team member is performing is half the battle. The other half is acting on the data you have. Seeing is believing, and once you and your team members see where they are in relationship to where they want to be, getting there is much easier than not knowing…and a lot more fun!

Therefore, What?

So, what does this mean for your practice? How can you act upon this information? Begin by implementing a system for tracking this data on a consistent basis. Some practices have done so using forms and spreadsheets to measure performance. Others have discovered the power of “Big Data,” meaning that they can now track this and many other KPIs through a dashboard, allowing them anytime, anywhere access to their data as well as the ability to define next actions.

Once you begin accessing this information, the next step is to develop a plan for acting upon the insights you are discovering. For example, if you see that a certain doctor and hygienist have a higher case acceptance percentage when working together, it makes sense whenever possible to schedule them together. Likewise, if you notice that one of your producers may be lagging in case acceptance, perhaps pairing them with one of your top performers so that they can be trained would be a wise move, but without data you are simply guessing.

Finally, stay flexible as you explore what works and what doesn’t. Charles Duhigg, author of the bestselling book The Power of Habit, said this about the process of using data to facilitate learning:

“When people bring some disturbance into their life, the next essential step is to take a step back a little bit later and say, ‘Okay, so I ran an experiment. What did I learn that worked, and what did I learn that didn’t work? How do I take that knowledge and build on it for the next experiment I’m going to run?’ When something doesn’t work, it’s not a failure. It’s an experiment that gave you some data. The only way it ever becomes a failure is if you don’t learn what you can from it and if you don’t make it useful.”

Getting started on a new habit is never easy, especially when it involves other people. But waiting until everything is “perfect” before starting is a wait that will never end. Successful practices everywhere are discovering how data can help them to improve patient care, office production, and team culture. When you think about it, improving case acceptance percentage is really all about taking better care of your patients. That’s a change absolutely worth making.

Online Scheduling Matters

Attract more new patients and elevate your patient experience by giving people the power to schedule their dental appointments online with integrated real-time scheduling.

Dental Intelligence

|

June 10, 2021

Scheduling,Patient Experience,Office Operations,New Patient Acquisition,Reappointment,Production,Metrics & Reporting

Patients Want to Schedule Their Own Appointments

The challenges currently facing modern dental practices are unprecedented. Rapidly rising overhead costs. Stringent new infection control requirements. Hiring and retaining qualified staff. Heightened patient anxiety regarding the safety of receiving needed treatment. No doubt many more items could be added to this list. Is it even possible to thrive in such a difficult business climate? Happily, the answer is an absolute “yes!”

In spite of all these and many other challenges, now is a wonderful time to own or work in a dental practice. Many reasons could be given, but for the sake of brevity, here’s an important one: Technology has, is, and will continue to change the way dental practices provide care, connect with patients, and manage every aspect of their business.

Both hardware and software are providing dentists with new capabilities in the breadth and quality of care they provide while also enabling them to manage their practices with greater insight and efficiency than ever before. What an exciting time to be a dentist!

One of the solutions now available is the ability to offer real-time online scheduling to patients using robust, innovative tools. Patients clearly prefer having the ability to schedule their own dental appointments vs. being required to contact their dentist to set an appointment.

In a recent survey, 77% indicated this as their preference. Significantly, 70% of patients also indicated they would be more likely to choose a provider that offers them the ability to schedule, change, and cancel their appointments online.

OS 2

The Impact of Online Scheduling

Two large & thriving practices have recently enjoyed great success scheduling significant numbers of patients using Online Scheduling from Dental Intelligence, the leader in online appointment bookings. Merion Village Dental in Columbus, Ohio, and Affinity Dental Management, based in the Northeast, are both excellent examples of what can happen when patients are given the ability to schedule appointments whenever and wherever they wish.

According to Corey Brown, Director of Analytics & Communications at Merion Village Dental, “Using DI’s Bulk Scheduling feature, we recently sent out an invite via text message to 1,900 of our unscheduled hygiene patients which included a link they could click to schedule. Within a few hours, 36 of those patients had scheduled an appointment."

Merion Village

 

"Several weeks later we did the same thing with a list of 1,200 patients and had another 19 schedule a time to come in. Adding over 50 new scheduled appointments would have normally required hundreds of phone calls and multiple attempts over several weeks to reach them.”

 

Devon Elliott, Marketing Director at Affinity Management, shared a similar experience when they sent out a bulk scheduling text to patients from five of their forty locations. “It was very easy to set up and saved a significant amount of time vs. calling each of those patients. It was literally sorting & filtering patients and then pressing a button. Using this new solution helped us to schedule several patients that might not otherwise have been scheduled.”

 

OS4

 

Affinity also has seen the value of how efficient online scheduling can be as compared to other marketing solutions. According to Devon, adding the same or similar number of appointments to their schedule using other marketing efforts would require several days and hours from her and her team. Online scheduling campaigns can be built and sent to unscheduled patients in a matter of minutes.

 

The BIG difference between online scheduling & appointment requests 

 

Some may wonder whether there is any difference between this method of real-time, online scheduling handled by the patient and an online appointment request system, which is when a patient submits an appointment request on their dentist’s website which must then be scheduled and confirmed with the patient by someone in the practice. Here’s the difference:

  • Real-time online scheduling is just that: real-time. The patient visits their dentist’s website via a web browser or mobile device and schedules a day and time that works for them. That’s it. Their appointment is now set. No phone call or email required from the practice in order to confirm the time requested by the patient.

  • Online appointment request. Using this method, the practice must still attempt to contact the patient and confirm the appointment date and time. This can often require multiple attempts, which is frustrating for both the patient and the practice. This method also locks up that appointment time until it is either confirmed or rejected. Most concerning of all, 85% of online appointment requests end up not getting scheduled!

 

At Merion Village, they see an average of 100-125 online appointments scheduled per month using Online Scheduling, and of these appointments, 40-50 are new patients! Data indicates that some practices have seen an increase in new patients of up to 70% when offering an online scheduling link on their website. That’s substantial new growth coming into the practice.

Newton Dental

 

One of the features Devon most appreciates about Dental Intelligence is the robust reporting she has access to. “Everything is extremely user-friendly,” she shared. “I’m able to quickly get a bird’s-eye view of each practice without needing to login and logout of the software with a different username and password. We’re also discussing ways to use online scheduling to add unscheduled production in our practices by reaching out to patients we’ve identified as ones likely to schedule. This is especially needed right because many of our practices are dealing with post-pandemic staffing challenges.”

 

In a large practice like Merion Village (eight doctors, fifteen hygienists, etc.) being busy can often mask hidden opportunities for greater efficiency. When this practice began using DI in 2017, they assumed their hygiene reappointment % (i.e. those patients scheduling their next hygiene appointment while still in the practice) would be very high. In fact, it was only around 60%.

 

Armed with this startling metric, the leadership team at MVD collaborated with their hygiene team to increase their hygiene reappointment percentage from 60% to an average of 90%! This is the real power of data. When a practice understands where they really are, they can make better decisions and experience better outcomes. MVD also uses DI to identify patients with unscheduled treatment coming into the practice, which they then share with the doctor seeing these patients in order to prompt a conversation and doing so has led to an increase in their overall production.

 

As Devon at Affinity recounted, “Dental Intelligence and Online Scheduling tools have put our practices in a much better position for success. After being closed due to the pandemic for three months, we were able to scale quickly back to 90% or better much more quickly than had been expected. Having these tools to measure our progress and engage with our patients has made a measurable difference.”

 

For Merion Village Dental & Affinity Management, combining the power of online scheduling and easily accessible performance metrics has brought incredible value into their dental practices. Ultimately this means that more patients are receiving more of the treatment they need and in a timelier manner. Metrics certainly impact the bottom line of dental practices that use them well, but at the end of the day, what matters most is the health of each patient.

How to Increase Production by 125% (with Easy Steps You Can Take Today!)

Dental practice owners are virtually drowning in data, but it takes the RIGHT data to increase production.

Dental Intelligence

|

May 26, 2021

Production,Treatment Acceptance,Metrics & Reporting

Do you know what you don’t know?

Dental practice owners are virtually drowning in data. As a provider and business owner, you are required to make hundreds of decisions, both large and small, every day. Some decisions are small and of little or no consequence. Some decisions can make all the difference between your business either thriving or failing.

Under the heading of things that matter, let’s talk about case acceptance. Is this something you are tracking? If so, how so? Or do you wonder if it’s even possible to track case acceptance within your existing practice management software?

Why is case acceptance so hard to measure? There are at least two reasons.

First, dentists and hygienists aren’t consistently documenting in their treatment planner whether or not the offered treatment is accepted. This is a problem. It’s impossible to measure something when you don’t have data with which to measure it.

Second, there’s no way in practice management systems to accurately capture the dollar amount of the offered treatment as compared to the percentage of those that accept the offered treatment. The most common solution to this problem is manual entry. In other words, spreadsheets. Did you just swear?

One of the risks of this system (in addition to the amount of time and repetition required) is the natural tendency to skew those numbers to make things look better than they actually are. This shouldn’t be surprising. Human nature being what it is, we all want to succeed and to feel good about our performance. Thus, the manual entry of case acceptance may bring a smile to your face, but it likely won’t accurately portray how you’re performing in your case acceptance percentage.

Even if you are accurately tracking case acceptance, the insights you gain from such effort may be limited. For example, if you currently show a case acceptance percentage of 100%, that likely won’t reflect the possibility that you only presented treatment to 25% of your patients.

The real solution lies in accurate data insights. Using the power of cloud-based software, Dental Intelligence helps thousands of practices not only view actual case acceptance percentage, but more importantly, use this information to make plans and goals around improving case acceptance.

We do this by showing practices their average dollar-to-exams score. Without requiring any manual entry, this is an essential step in accurately tracking case acceptance. We do this by taking the exam and dividing it by dollars completed, not by what may have been accepted. In other words, we’re taking the opportunity and dividing it by the end result. If this number is going up, you can know that case acceptance is also improving. Nice!

We also help you to measure your diagnostic case acceptance. For example, if you saw 100 patients, how many of them did you present treatment to? The average among all the practices we track for this metric is 46%. Some offices are as low as 10-20%, which indicates this isn’t something they’re tracking. The provider is the only one that can improve this percentage.

Sometimes we think that the person scheduling controls this percentage, and that’s not accurate. When the provider presents the need for treatment to the patient in a way that appropriately stresses the need for that treatment, acceptance is much higher than if presentation is informal or done by someone other than the doctor.

How do we provide this data? We do it in four unique ways.

First, we track the diagnostic percentage, meaning, out of 100 patients, how many am I diagnosing for treatment? The average number for this is 43%.

Second, the acceptance percentage. For example, if I diagnose treatment for 50 out of the 100 patients, how many of those 50 being diagnosed are accepting treatment and then scheduling that treatment? This percentage should be in the eighties.

How many of those accepting treatment are scheduling this treatment before they leave the office?

The crucial measurement here is to improve the percentage of those scheduling treatment while still in your office. From experience, you know that the number of patients scheduling treatment drops after they leave your office. This metric helps you to focus on and then improve that percentage. You can start this today. We're being literal here — try it with your next patient and see if you can schedule treatment before they leave the practice. And then try it with the patient after that. You'll be amazed. 

Third, dollar acceptance percentage, meaning that X amount of dollars are presented and on average, patients are accepting what percentage of dollars for that treatment? For example, if you are on average presenting $1,000 of treatment, and on average, patients are accepting $100 of treatment, then your dollar acceptance percentage is 10%. We’re seeing practices average 20% in this metric. Many may think this number is higher for them, but the data says otherwise. The goal is at least 30%.

Fourth, average dollars completed per exam, meaning out of all of my exams, how many are actually completing treatment? This metric is inclusive of those that do call back after leaving the office to schedule treatment as well as any other treatment that actually gets completed. This measurement is more valuable to you than case acceptance percentage because it’s measuring treatment dollars you actually completed versus merely scheduling them.

We help dentists to set goals in each of these areas for both restorative and hygiene. Recently we helped a dentist set goals for improvement in these four areas that resulted in their average hygiene visits to dollars completed improving from $80 to over $150! When averaged over a quarter, this would result in an additional $35,000 in new revenue for this practice — without adding any new patients. Although this might be an extreme case, even a small increase in this average can yield significant dividends.

As a provider focuses on increasing these three percentages (diagnostic, acceptance, and average dollar percentage) by only 10%, they’ll see a 125% increase in production. You read that right. Meaning, if you’re doing $1,000,000 each year, that can be increased to $2,125,000 simply by making these three percentages a priority.

Even increasing just one of these measurements by 10% will result in a substantial increase in revenue, without needing to add a large amount of new patients or to spend additional dollars on marketing.

There are really only two ways to increase production dollars: increase the number of new patients, or increase the amount of production being performed on existing patients. It’s not too hard to decide which of these is more attractive.

If you're ready to start making decisions armed with data that actually matters, schedule a demo to see how Dental Intelligence can give you actionable insights into  improving your bottom line.

Proven Ways to Become a Profitable Practice

With action, data is just data. It's what you DO with your data that makes a difference.

Dental Intelligence

|

October 12, 2021

Metrics & Reporting,Production,Hygiene,Reappointment,Office Operations

If you think about it, dentists are truly remarkable. Part scientist, part doctor, part artist (and probably several other titles mixed in as well). What they’re able to accomplish as they care for each patient is nothing short of amazing. When “business owner” is added to this list of roles, that significant responsibility can seem overwhelming, and sometimes, in fact, it is overwhelming. In the daily battle of figuring out how to take care of everything that matters, dental practice owners face a real challenge: what should they be paying attention to?

There are lots of things we could or should be paying attention to in our practice. Most of the time, practice owners wisely default to the Big Three: Production, Collections, and New Patients. But are these the only important things you should be paying attention to? How can you know for sure? Even if they are the right things to pay attention to, you still have a decision to make: will you decide to do something about those things that matter most to your practice and patients?

Learning how to focus on both the clinical and business part of a practice isn’t really about whether or not you are using a certain kind of software solution. It’s about the decision to use tools and solutions that will improve outcomes for patients and improve the health of your practice and team. This choice can be stressful when a practice owner feels overwhelmed with all of the decisions they need to make — choosing to use yet another new “solution” can just feel like one more demand on your time and resources.

Thankfully, most of the doctors we speak to and work with care very much about their patients and are doing all they can to provide them with the best care — including using solutions that help them discover, understand, and impact the metrics that matter most. They just need the confidence to proceed into the unknown, trusting in the truth that insights come most often when we’re on the move.

Assuming you are both a caring dentist and practice owner, which key performance metrics should you be paying attention to? Let’s focus on two: lagging indicators and leading indicators. Lagging indicators show you things that happened in the past and can’t be changed. A leading indicator is something you may be able to change if you act upon the information you’re focusing on.

For example, production is a lagging indicator, as it literally refers to what was produced. Another lagging indicator would be what you produced in a specific timeframe (for example, what happened in the last three days). This can then become a leading indicator if you adjust through the remainder of the week to compensate for your current shortage in production. You are simply taking what happened (lagging) and making adjustments to impact future outcomes (leading). This is empowering.

In order for production to become a leading indicator, you need a goal tied to a specific metric. But knowing which metrics to measure and what goals to set around those metrics can be challenging — there are so many metrics! This is where being proactive in finding solutions that increase your ability to do more and better dentistry pays off.

Practice management solutions like Dental Intelligence do all of this intensive work automatically, eliminating the need to try and do this important analysis by yourself. Instead, you can quickly see the things that matter most, empowering you to convert lagging indicators into leading ones.

Here’s one example of a metric that you need data to see and respond to: Hygiene Re-Appointment %. This is the percentage of active patients who left a hygiene appointment with their next hygiene appointment scheduled. To make this a leading indicator, ask yourself this question: how well are we doing at scheduling our hygiene patients for their next hygiene appointment? Another way to ask this: how many of our patients left our office yesterday without a scheduled next hygiene appointment? This refers to ALL patients, not just hygiene patients, even if they scheduled a restorative appointment.

So, if three patients all left with a scheduled restorative appointment, but none left with a hygiene appointment, your Hygiene Re-Appointment % for yesterday is 0%. The good news? This can become a leading indicator IF you choose to make sure each patient coming in today leaves with an attempt to schedule their next hygiene appointment. See how that works? Lagging is what happened. Leading is what occurs because you decided to own what happened and then (the best part) acted in order to change what will happen.

Keep in mind that your team may have had valid reasons for not scheduling those hygiene appointments. Perhaps one or more of those patients doesn’t keep their appointments. Or maybe they indicated they needed to check their schedule as soon as they got home and would then give you a call…but then forgot all about doing so. The responsible practice knows about and keeps track of each patient, so that no one falls through the cracks.

We spoke recently with a dentist in Las Vegas who was seeing 50% case acceptance in his practice. At first glance, this is a strong lagging indicator. However, case acceptance % is tied directly to whether or not you are diagnosing treatment. This particular doctor was, on average, only diagnosing around $200 in treatment per patient, which translated to a lot of fillings and not much else.

In speaking with him about this, he said he felt hesitant to offer more significant treatment to his patients because he thought they couldn’t afford it. Perhaps that was true. But if those patients actually needed that treatment, isn’t the doctor responsible for at least diagnosing and then, if possible, working with them to get the care done that they need? Of course! To his credit, this doctor “owned” the insights he saw in his data and committed to making improvements. His patients and practice will both benefit.

As “big data” and the power of analytics continue to be integrated into dental practices, it makes sense, with the goal of providing the best care, for every owner and provider to do all they can to understand as much as possible about their patients and their practice. Choosing to stay in the dark about your data is a short-sighted choice, with long-term impact on the health of patients and the growth of the practice. As owners, dentists, and team members choose to take ownership over knowing what’s happening in their practice and then acting on that data to improve, everyone will benefit.

Keys To A Successful Morning Huddle

An effective Morning Huddle can easily become the most valuable 15 minutes of the day in your dental practice.

Dental Intelligence

|

January 17, 2022

Team Culture,Office Operations,Morning Huddle,Product,Hygiene,Treatment Acceptance

You’ve likely heard some version of this statement before – Morning Huddle is an important factor in running a thriving dental practice. This being true, a surprising number of dental practices either don’t hold a huddle at all or, more commonly, their huddle often leaves something to be desired. The morning huddle is typically left to the office manager to oversee, with varying levels of support and involvement from owners and doctors. This means at least a few hours of preparation each week, requiring the office manager to comb through various reports to collect the information needed to run the huddle.

It also often means that the office manager ends up doing most of the talking while other team members are passive participants being told what happened and what is scheduled to happen. These and other factors can lead to a meeting that everyone dreads and that no one finds beneficial. There is a better way.

At Greenville Family Dentistry in Greenville, Illinois, office manager Whitney Thornton knows all about the challenges of holding an effective morning huddle. She recalls the many mornings her team would gather in their break room and struggle to stay awake as she reviewed their previous day’s numbers and went over the schedule. “They were there because they had to be there, not because they wanted to be. We tried to make it worth their time to attend, but they still didn’t find much value in being there.”

Practice owner Dr. Matthew McCullough had made key performance indicators (KPIs) a priority throughout his twenty years in practice and felt this would be a necessary part of any changes they would consider implementing in order to improve their morning huddle. His search led him to Dental Intelligence, the leader in cloud-based dental practice analytics, and Greenville began using the company’s growth platform in January 2020.

“Dental Intelligence Morning Huddle has been a huge part of our growth in the past year,” Whitney recently shared. “We use it daily to celebrate our successes and also to hold each other accountable. Instead of those frustrating huddles we would hold in our break room, we now stand together in one of our operatories and involve everyone in making the most of those few minutes together before we begin treating patients. It’s so much better than before.”

How has using this new platform helped Greenville to have a more effective morning huddle? According to Whitney, “Before we began using Morning Huddle, our team was very disengaged. At some point someone had read in a book or an article that we should hold a huddle, and so the practice started doing it, but there wasn’t a clear vision about how to make it actually worth doing. Now it’s so different. Everyone on our team has access to the huddle so they can see beforehand what we’ll be discussing each day. I also give each team member a role in making our huddle fun. On Monday we do ‘Monday Munchies,’ which means someone brings snacks or a treat. Tuesday is ‘TikTok Tuesday’ when one of our team members shares a funny TikTok video to watch. Wednesdays and Thursdays also have a theme. We’ve found starting our huddle with something fun and positive makes it more light-hearted and engaging for everyone.”

Don’t let the simplicity of this idea diminish the power of the principle it teaches. Our experience working closely with over 10,000 dental practices has shown that creating a positive culture around the morning huddle is one of the single most important factors in how successful a practice is. That’s right, the few minutes you spend in a huddle (and how you spend that time together) have an oversized impact on the overall performance of your dental practice.

Not convinced? Whitney shared how a team member took the time on a Sunday evening to text her about making sure to celebrate another team member’s success the next morning in their huddle. “The fact that team members feel they have something to contribute during our huddle is such a great thing for us,” Whitney said. “We try to make every huddle a celebration, even if we might have missed some of our goals from the day before. Highlighting even small wins does so much to unify and energize our team. Being able to see everything in one place using DI makes this so easy.”

Whitney also uses Provider Pulse to let the team see how everyone is performing relative to each other and to their individual and team goals. “The trust this transparency creates for our team has been so healthy and empowering,” she added. “We all feel like we’re doing this together and finding ways to help each other to succeed.”

Another victory for Greenville resulting from their improved morning huddle is a significant increase in their hygiene recall percentage. According to Whitney, it is now at or close to 100%. DI allows team members to see the names of every active hygiene patient without a current scheduled appointment, including the patients who left the practice the previous day without scheduling their next visit.

By reviewing this list each day during their huddle, the Greenville team has been able to consistently schedule virtually 100% of these patients for their next appointment. This is the impact that integrating data can have on patient health. By paying attention to their unscheduled patients, Greenville Family Dentistry is absolutely improving the health of those patients who otherwise would fall through the cracks.

By using Morning Huddle, Greenville has also improved team member accountability. Instead of the old model which required Whitney to handle all of the reporting, each team member now comes to the huddle prepared to report on their performance. “We’ve identified key things we want to look at daily and that has made such a difference in our outcomes,” Whitney said. “For example, our hygienists can see the impact they’re having and the production they’re bringing in with the fluoride treatments they’re doing. Looking at these daily instead of once a month is powerful. Trying to look at something a month or more after it happened leads to very little if any change. It’s hard to fix something that happened that long ago. But now we are looking at our performance within hours of when it happened, and that has been transformative.”

Whitney also emphasized the impact of being able to see openings on their schedule while they are in the huddle, whether on that day or within the next few days. “If you are looking at this in the huddle, you can say on a Tuesday, ‘Hey, it looks like we have some openings on Thursday,’ or ‘I see that patient coming tomorrow has some unscheduled treatment. Let’s give them a call today and see if they want to get that taken care of while they’re here.’ These are things we now look at every day. DI shows us the holes we need to fill — it’s really, really cool.”

Before dental practices had access to these robust, real-time insights about their performance, it was difficult to talk with team members about ways they could improve. As Whitney recalled, “Providing them with any kind of feedback was very subjective. Without data to back up what we were talking about, discussions about areas of improvement were all based on feelings, not facts. Data has changed all that for the better. When we look at numbers together, team members can see for themselves how they are doing. This has changed the quality of the conversations we have and the outcomes that result. Now we have a way to identify areas of improvement and also to celebrate success."

"For example, both of our hygienists recently did over $2,000 of production on the same day, which included 55 adult sealants between the two of them. We totally celebrated that in our huddle! These girls helped the entire office to hit our goal and we absolutely made a big deal about this. Just one way having this data handy is changing how we care for our patients.”

“Using Dental Intelligence helps us to operate at a higher level,” Whitney added. “No more running reports or trying to find out what’s happening in our practice. Now we know what’s happening. Instead of searching through our files for patients to fill holes in the hygiene schedule, we can find that information in seconds. It just feels like we can operate so much quicker and more efficiently, and I can’t say enough about the huddle and what it’s done for us. We also love the Auto Follow Ups feature, which has helped us stop our patients from calling through the cracks. It’s a powerful safety net."

"As a manager, DI makes my job so much easier. I can see the numbers and what is happening in our practice in real time. And with the huddle, there’s now so much more team involvement. We’re all headed in the same direction. Everybody sees it. Everybody is motivated to do better. They want to get our patients taken care of, and they hate it when those patients leave without scheduling their next appointment. DI has improved our practice more than any other solution we’ve ever used. I love it!”

How to Keep Patients from Falling Through the Cracks

Learn how to use practice data to improve patient retention.

Dental Intelligence

|

June 10, 2021

Filling The Holes

Dr. Green reached out because she was spending thousands of dollars on marketing, trying to get more new patients to fill the holes in her schedule. We're sure that might sound familiar. Unfortunately, after several months of expensive marketing, she still had holes in her schedule and not much else to show for her efforts. With Dental Intelligence, she stripped all the guesswork to discover a tangible solution to her problems. Dr. Green's findings were shocking and, at first, a little embarrassing. However, when she realized this information wouldn't be used against her and her team but to help them, we could use the data to figure out where her practice was now and where it was headed so she could identify steps to improve.

Changing the Status Quo

An incomplete schedule is one of the most common frustrations within a dental practice. So what can be done to patch the holes?

As we looked at Dr. Green’s schedule, here is what we discovered:

  • In January, she had 2004 active patients. In October of the same year, she had 2109 active patients, meaning she grew her active patients by 105.
  • From January to October, she added an average of 50 new patients per month for a total of 500 new patients!
  • In October, she should have had 2504 active patients = 2004 (active patients in January) + 500 (new patients through October).
  • The practice lost 395 patients: 2504 (the active patients that the practice should have) - 2109 (actual active patients in October) = 395 fewer active patients.

How did this happen? And more importantly, is there anything that can be done to fix it?

Why Practices Lose Patients

We lose patients for one of 2 reasons:

  1. Patients get marked inactive because they have moved, passed away, don’t want to see you anymore, or you don’t want to see them anymore. This should not equal more than 8-10% annual patient attrition.
  2. Patients who are marked active but have not been in the office for over 18 months. Studies show that only 5% patients who haven’t been in the office for 18 months will return.

What would you do if you were experiencing something similar within your practice?

Initial Action

When we dove into Dr. Green's practice data, the team saw how many patients were being lost each month and sprung into action. They didn’t want any patients to be lost if they could do something to stop it from happening. With these new insights, the team called all active patients without a scheduled appointment. Additionally, they sent a “Come back and see us” letter to the patients that hadn’t been in the office for the previous 18 months. These action items were great, but this was just the tip of the iceberg.

After the team made quite a few phone calls, out of the 100 patients that were contacted, 20 of them picked up the phone. And out of those 20 patients, 80% of them scheduled. 16 patients were scheduled out of those 100 calls. When the team was asked if they liked making phone calls, the answer quickly given was "No!" Sara, one of the team members said, “I feel like I am wasting my time calling these patients.”

But Sara wasn't wasting time. In fact, Sara helped get 16 patients back on the schedule. If the average production per visit is $300, then Sara helped bring in almost $5000 into the practice. Sara wasn’t wasting time, she just felt like she was wasting time. Why?

Trust the Process

When Sara stepped back to see the cause of the problem, she initially came up with an inspired action item of calling patients to get them back on the schedule. This left Sara feeling exhausted and like she was only playing catchup.

Sara’s new first action item was to make sure that every patient possible leaves with a future appointment. For those that didn’t leave with an appointment, she would create a follow-up to call them on a specific date. Finally, for those that didn’t have an appointment or didn’t have a scheduled follow-up, she was going to call or text those patients or send them a postcard.

BeforeSara and the team looked at the mess and tried to fix it. Now, they looked for the cause of the problem and created an action item to eliminate it. This can be done by setting appointments, increasing case acceptance, improving collections, and many other aspects of a practice’s growth.

Real Results

When using their Dental Intelligence Morning Huddle, Dr. Green and her team began focusing on how many patients left the office without a scheduled appointment and why. By focusing on the cause of the problem and creating an action item, Dr. Green’s patients are now getting better care, and the team is performing at a higher level, meaning the office is producing higher profits. For Dr. Green, higher profits mean new equipment for the practice, team bonuses, training, and so much more!

Dr. Green discovered that taking better care of her patients, improving team performance, and increasing profitability didn't have to be complicated. She began by finding and fixing the source of the problems in her practice. By using Dental Intelligence’s tools, she was able to quickly see what was happening and what needed to be done to address the root causes. From there, she and her team worked together to change some of their systems and processes to keep these problems from happening again.

As you work together to fix your practice holes and implement the changes your data suggests, some really exciting things will start to happen. Be patient with the process. Growth takes time. But as you persist and keep track of the metrics that are important to you, results will surely follow.

Finding the Right Patients...Fast!

Thousands of practices are use Patient Finder to find the RIGHT patients to fill holes in their schedules.

Dental Intelligence

|

June 10, 2021

Production,Treatment Acceptance,Reappointment,Patient Communication,Office Operations

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of ideas out there for filling the holes in your dental practice schedule. Here are just a few:

  • Call 24 (36, 48, 72, etc.) hours in advance to confirm appointments
  • Charge a fee for no-showing
  • Free massages
  • Fresh-baked bread
  • Texting unscheduled patients
  • Gift cards for keeping appointments
  • Schedule today, enter to win a free (Sonicare, microwave, t-shirt, etc.)
  • Lifetime whitening
  • Netflix
  • A new Tesla!

Okay, maybe that last one is a bit much, but you get the idea. Practice owners and office managers are ALWAYS dealing with this challenge — every single day. We recently asked an office manager what a perfect day would look like in the practice. Guess what she said? “Every patient would show up on time. Every available appointment would be filled. My team and I wouldn’t have to scramble to fill cancelled or no-show appointments. Each patient would say ‘yes’ to the treatment presented to them. They would all reschedule before they walk out the door…and, they would all pay their balance before they leave the practice.”

Sounds too good to be true, right? Maybe not.

When asked how they measure success, many practice owners, office managers, and other team members responsible for filling the schedule have given the same response: No holes in the schedule. This is good. This is a worthy goal. Certainly, having every available spot on the schedule filled with a patient receiving treatment is something to aspire to.

But there’s an incredible untapped opportunity here that you might be overlooking.

For several years now, Dental Intelligence has regularly received calls from customers asking us for help with some variation of the following:

  • “We’re trying to find all of our patients that are covered by XYZ Insurance. Can you help us?”
  • “Is there any way to ONLY see the patients we’ve presented crowns to in the last three months?”
  • “We want to print out a report showing us every patient we’ve presented over $500 in treatment to in the last six months who still have insurance dollars available. Is that possible?”

These are fantastic questions. Really — this is powerful. Think for a minute about what these practices are asking for. They don’t just want to fill those holes in the schedule (again, not a bad thing to want to do). They want to find the right kind of patients. Is there such a thing? Are some patients “better” than other patients? (Hint: Yes!) And if so, how do we find them? Is it possible to enter a few keywords into your practice management software (i.e. Eaglesoft, Open Dental, Dentrix, etc.) and instantly find exactly what kind of patient(s) you are looking for? (Sadly, no.)

Patient Finder

This type of advanced filtering requires powerful software, and a solution dedicated to helping you improve patient care, team collaboration, and practice profitability. It requires a growth mindset shared by a practice team trying to grow. Dental Intelligence Patient Finder is the solution built for this very type of problem. Thousands of practices are now using the Patient Finder to find the patients and treatment cases that are most significant for their patients and practice.

It All Starts With Your Huddle

 Every morning, your practice team should be gathering for a few minutes to review three items:

  • What happened yesterday
  • What’s happening today
  • What’s happening tomorrow

This is also the best opportunity to celebrate successes and to collaborate as a team on ways to improve. Not surprisingly, it is also an optimal moment for you to discover those holes in the schedule and to talk together about how best to fill them. This is where the Patient Finder shines.

Before the huddle begins, an office manager or someone she assigns can build a custom search based on the priorities important to the practice owner and team. Let’s say, for example, that the dentist really likes doing crowns. In just minutes, the assigned team member can locate all of the crowns presented but not accepted (further filtering those with any additional criteria, if desired) and print out that list. Then, during the huddle, these names can be discussed and assigned to someone for a follow-up call.

What can happen when you use your huddle to focus on finding the right opportunities? Here are two recent examples:

Dr. Chad Perry’s team was consistently reappointing only 50-60% of their hygiene patients for their appointment. Dr. Perry was surprised to see this number was so low, and he set out to change it. Each morning during their huddle, his team would discuss hygiene re-appointment and look for opportunities to get unscheduled patients back on the schedule.

dr-perry-and-team

After only one week of doing this, their hygiene reappointment percentage jumped from 60% to 97%! Since then, they have averaged 80% hygiene reappointment, something they had only dreamed of before. If you scratch beneath the surface here, you’ll discover several keys that made this incredible improvement possible:

  1. The practice owner paid attention to an area of concern that was important to him.
  2. His team used their huddle to look at specific numbers and talked about them daily.
  3. They then used data (i.e. Patient Finder) to find opportunities to reschedule patients without a current hygiene appointment.
  4. They didn’t stop once they saw improvement – they kept focusing on this metric, every day.
  5. They celebrated!

Another example happened in one of CarolinasDentist’s six offices in North Carolina. During their morning huddle, they noticed several openings that had occurred that morning from patient cancellations the night before. Rather than simply printing out a list of all patients with unscheduled treatment, they instead identified treatment that had been presented but not accepted by patients coming in that day.

Here’s how Gabrielle, team leader at CarolinasDentist, described what happened:

Our huddle yesterday was a home run! We had a hygienist who was doing a right side SRP, and by using the Dental Intelligence mobile app, she was able to easily see the patient also needed a filling on the right side. We were able to speak to the patient as soon as they walked into their appointment and add that production to the schedule!! The best part is how appreciative the patient was for only needing to get numb one time!

 

There is remarkable power unleashed when an entire team focuses on a single objective. Instead of just meeting together each morning to talk about the schedule, consider super-charging this time to identify ways to schedule and/or reschedule the patients most important to your practice.

Intelligent Dentistry

We were recently visiting a dental practice in the Seattle area for some training and had the following conversation with Dr. Kari Mann, the practice owner:

Dental Intelligence: So, what is your favorite procedure?

Dr. Mann: I really enjoy doing crowns.

Dental Intelligence: Great! How many crowns are you doing per week on average?

Dr. Mann: Maybe 6 or 7?

Dental Intelligence: How many are you diagnosing each week?

Dr. Mann: Not sure. Maybe twice that number or more?

Dental Intelligence: How many patients have you diagnosed since the beginning of this year that haven’t yet received the crown you presented?

Dr. Mann: I’m not sure, but I’d love to know what that number is.

Dental Intelligence: Let’s go check your Patient Finder and see.

Dr. Mann had around 1,600 active patients. We filtered to show all the patients that had ever had crowns presented but not completed and found that she had presented crowns to 126 of those patients. We then asked the office manager how she would handle such a large list. She wasn’t sure, which was understandable. So, we then filtered to exclude the lowest paying insurance, which only eliminated 14 patients. The list was still too large. So, we then tried filtering to only include patients that still had insurance dollars AND didn’t owe a balance. The list got smaller. Our last suggestion was to filter by their favorite insurance companies. 28 names remained. Within a day of printing out this list, eight of those patients had a scheduled appointment to receive the crown they had been diagnosed with but hadn’t accepted when originally presented.

Kari Mann

Having a powerful filtering system like Patient Finder allows a practice to quickly identify the most meaningful patients for their practice. This is significant. Not all practices are the same, of course, and not all dentists want to provide the same types of dental care. Using something like Patient Finder enables each practice to find the type of dentistry and patient that matters most to the provider, using search criteria that they define.

Another example of this happened recently as we used Patient Finder to help a practice reschedule over $106,000 in just four weeks of phone calls from someone on our team, working part-time. You read that right. In four weeks, an average of $25,000 was added back to the schedule as we used Patient Finder to identify and contact patients with presented treatment but without a currently scheduled appointment. That’s the potential power of using this remarkable solution.

Treating the Right Patients

Dentists have many reasons for why they chose to practice dentistry. In a recent ADA survey,[1] a large sample of dentists were asked about some of the factors that influenced their overall job satisfaction. These influencers were then grouped into several categories, including income and benefits, hours and scheduling, work-life balance, and clinical autonomy, among others. Influencers that had a significant impact on job satisfaction under the heading of “Clinical Autonomy” included the following:

  • “Level of control in your work environment,” and
  • “I am able to practice dentistry the way I want to.”

These are the guiding principles behind the development of Patient Finder.

patient finder insurance

According to Dental Intelligence founder and former CEO Weston Lunsford, “Our motivation for creating Patient Finder was simple. We had countless requests from dentists and practice team leaders to help them identify specific types and groups of patients needing treatment who were ‘invisible’ to them, meaning they were difficult or impossible to find within their practice management software. We designed Patient Finder to allow dental practices to quickly and efficiently build custom patient lists using multiple criteria important to them. Patient Finder empowers dentists to do more and better dentistry.”

At this moment, which of all your current active patients are most in need of treatment? Although unique to each practice, you would likely respond that patients who currently have some decay, cracked or broken teeth, etc. are the ones you’re most concerned about. If this is true, what is your current method for identifying and scheduling them for treatment? If you’re anything like most of the wonderful dentists we work with, your answer might be something like “We print out the lists of all these patients and try to make contact with them.” That’s great news!

Does this approach allow you to customize your list by criteria important to you and to these patients? Does your printed-list (or equivalent) system enable you to prioritize which patients should be contacted, and in which order, based on the type of dentistry you most want to provide? Also, how long does it take for you to generate such a list, and how inclusive is the data you are drawing from?

Here’s the great news: You are already working hard, every day, to try and get as many of these patients as possible back onto the schedule. Doesn’t it make sense to use a tool that can significantly reduce the amount of time you spend doing so? And wouldn’t you also want to ensure that you are capturing every possible search criterion when identifying the patients most in need of care?

Patient Finder is changing the way that thousands of practices practice dentistry. Before now, it was literally impossible to do an efficient AND comprehensive search of your practice management software for the patients and procedures you were interested in. But now, you can absolutely do so, quickly and easily.

We encourage dental practices to expand their vision of what is possible in their ongoing efforts to fill their schedule. With the “big data” tools and insights now at your fingertips, merely printing out a list of all unscheduled patients and slowly working your way through such a list is no longer adequate. With the help of Patient Finder, you can know more about and provide better care to every single one of your patients. Where should you begin?

Dental Intelligence recommends the following “best-practices” for moving this idea from “we should do this” to “we’re doing this” – all you need to get started is a pen or pencil and a pad of paper:

  • Determine a procedure or procedures you most like to do.
  • List search criteria that will help you refine your list, such as a specific time-frame, a high and low amount (i.e. more than $500, less than $1,000), ADA code or codes, insurance providers, etc. Remember, this is your Include or exclude whatever you want. Be prepared to have some fun as you watch your lists come to life.
  • Enter these criteria into your Patient Finder and watch the magic happen.
  • Once you have a manageable list, assign a team member to members to make those calls and schedule some of that unscheduled production back onto the schedule.
  • Review, revise, repeat…
  • Most importantly, celebrate! Reward your team! Throw a party!

Patient Finder was built to change lives – yours and your patients. If you haven’t put it to work yet, we invite you to do so. It may not make your smile any whiter, but it will certainly make it bigger.

[1] https://jada.ada.org/article/S0002-8177%2815%2900347-5/pdf

How to Decrease Your Average AR Days (and master collections!)

By closely monitoring AR Days, you become sensitive to fluctuations in either direction and can respond accordingly.

Dental Intelligence

|

September 3, 2021

Payments,Office Operations,Metrics & Reporting

 

When’s the last time you took a look at your Average AR Days? Most practices aren’t tracking this, and that can become a problem.

So, what exactly is Average AR Days? It’s the average time that it takes for your practice to receive payments owed to you — in terms of receivables — from your patients and from insurance claims.

Most insurance companies pay at around 30 days. The industry average for AR Days is 45 days, which means there is a 15-day buffer built in to allow for claims to be paid. If this number goes above 45 days, your cashflow is upside down and that’s not healthy for your practice.

There are several ways that paying attention to AR Days can improve the financial health of your practice:

  • Indicates the amount of production your practice had during a specific time period
  • Reveals how quickly patients are paying their bill
  • Shows if your practice’s collections process is working well
  • Helps you understand what the state of patient satisfaction is
  • Highlights if there are issues with certain patients’ insurance providers
  • Shows if credit is being extended to patients that may not be credit worthy

In today's practice environment, how quickly you're collecting your AR balances is a matter of survival. If you are taking more than 45 days to collect from insurance and patients, your ability to pay yourself and your team and manage overhead could be compromised. Getting to 45 Average AR Days or less is an urgent priority. 

woman looking at past-due bills

Think of it this way. If a patient receives treatment from you at a cost of $5,000 on July 1st, when will you see the full payment (patient portion + insurance portion) of that $5,000? Before COVID-19, the average time for a financially sound practice was 45 days. Meaning, treatment on July 1st, payment on August 15th. Since the start of the pandemic, however, this number doubled. That’s right, practices aren’t seeing that $5,000 for as many as 90 days or more. Multiply that by every patient and you can see the potential for a huge problem. Even though you still need to pay your employees, your vendors, and everything else included in your overhead each month, having a 90-day or longer gap between services provided and payment received isn’t viable.

Collection Percentage

One of the other important things you can learn from tracking your average AR Days is your collection percentage. Collection Percentage is the amount of dollars actually collected by your practice, divided by the Gross Production of the practice for a specific time period.

Why is Collection Percentage important? Collecting the net production earned provides a critical insight to the overall financial health of your practice. The process for calculating the collection % of your net production is done by taking your collections and dividing it by your net production (i.e. Gross Production less Adjustments/Write-offs.) At least 97% of all net production should be collected within 45 days of when the production occurred.

Knowing your Gross Production Collection % becomes extremely valuable when you need to know how much production still needs to be scheduled in order to obtain your collection goal for the period. For example, if you wanted to collect $100,000 for the month, you can take the collection goal of $100,000, divide it by the Gross Collection %, and you will then have an estimated Gross Production amount needed to obtain your goal. This is what we call an "actionable metric" — a number you can actually improve by taking action to do so.

Claims Aging

Another way that paying attention to your average AR Days helps your practice is with Claims Aging. How so? Let’s imagine a patient named John owes a total of $1,300 to you, $1,250 of which has been billed to his insurance company, MetLife, 90+ days ago. In your practice management software’s AR Report, you’ll see John’s outstanding AR balance is only $50. The truth is that you have an outstanding balance of $1,300 for John, but that’s not what your AR Report shows. Clearly, having this amount past due is impacting your average AR Days and is something you should be following up on to collect from both the patient and the insurance company. Practice management software does many important things very well. Claims Aging isn’t one of them, and this is the reason why. Not being able to see this important distinction about the total AR due (including insurance) vs. only the amount billed to a patient is the equivalent of driving a car while blindfolded – it’s not something anyone would recommend.

Reducing Average AR Days

With all this being said, how exactly do you go about reducing your average AR Days to 45 days or less? Although it is helpful to see the day-by-day AR Day value of your practice, the real impact comes when you look at the trends. Here’s how that looks for this practice using our Dental Intelligence to view their 13-Week trend:

Screen-Shot-2022-03-16-at-2.24.56-PM

As you see here, they fluctuate up and down, week by week, but on average are right around the target of 45 average AR Days. Having a way to visualize this can be extremely helpful to someone responsible for the financial health of a dental practice, enabling them to engage with patients and insurance providers to resolve outstanding balances and improve their collections %.

 

Blog Demo CTA

So, what’s the bottom line? The person who oversees collections for your practice holds the key to your financial health and sustainability. In order for them to be effective in their efforts, they should absolutely be keeping track of average AR Days. If not, you have a huge blind spot that could have serious consequences for your practice. For example, if a patient pays their portion of a bill and leaves the office, the report from the team member responsible for billing would tell the doctor, when asked, that the bill was paid.

Actually, only the patient’s portion was paid, right? Of course, the doctor understands that a portion of the bill is outstanding pending insurance’s portion, but that amount can get lost in the busyness of managing the day-to-day practice. But if the person responsible for collections is on top of the average AR Days number, they can easily see that an insurance payment is past-due and reach out to collect. When this process is multiplied many times over, it can be the difference between a financially healthy practice and one that is struggling to survive.

By closely monitoring this metric, you become sensitive to fluctuations in either direction and can respond accordingly. If a certain insurance provider is trending negative in how promptly they pay, average AR Days can expose that trend. On the other hand, if certain patients have a history of not paying their balance within your established policy, you can also catch that and take appropriate action. In either case, having this information enables you to act instead of just reacting. This metric, and those that impact it, are key indicators about the condition of any dental practice. And yet very few practices (less than 10%, according to our analysis) are looking at Average AR Days.

If you are like most practices, you have no shortage of important things to pay attention to. If “important” is measured by impact, then you’ll want to add tracking Average AR Days to your to-do list. Doing so will yield significant benefits and will help you establish and sustain the growth you are working so hard to create.

3 Ways to Know You Have a High-Performing Dental Practice

These 3 metrics are tried and true gauges of how your practice is performing.

Dental Intelligence

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September 3, 2021

Metrics & Reporting,Reappointment,Hygiene,Office Operations

Hot take: you should compare yourself to others more often. But not to individuals (or individual dental practices). Those sorts of singular comparisons — I’m not as toned as that one girl at the gym, our office isn’t as new as the competitor across town — will do nothing but drive you crazy. But comparing yourself to large groups — to statistics — is another thing entirely. Comparing yourself to large-scale trends is one of the best ways to set goals and keep you and your team motivated. In that spirit, let’s take a look at the kind of numbers it takes to perform as well as the top 10% of dental practices across the nation.

Growth: 26%

How quickly do high-performing dental practices grow? Our data shows that the top 10% of practices grows 26% or more year over year. For a practice that did $800,000 in business last year, that means they will do $1,008,000 or more this year, on pace to grow to $1,270,080 next year. 

Maybe you’re a small-town practice and you can barely imagine doing nearly $1 million in any given year, or maybe you’re a multi-location practice or DSO and only doing that much would be a disaster. No matter which end of the spectrum you land on, 26% growth is a goal that can work for your dental practice.

Attrition: 14%

High-performing practices don’t just prioritize filling chairs with new patients. Getting new patients in your front door only does so much if you’re continually leaking current patients out the back. Of course, some attrition is inevitable. But average attrition is 27%. That means the average dental practice loses more than a quarter of their active patients every year. That’s a big leak, and one you can definitely slow if you make it a point of emphasis at your practice. 

Pre-appointment: 70%

One of the best ways to decrease your attrition is by focusing on your pre-appointment percentage. It’s a stat that seems like it should be intuitive — of course, active patients should have an appointment on the books. We find that with most practices, unless they are actively tracking this number, they assume their pre-appointment percentage is far higher than it actually is. High-performing practices don’t typically do anything magical, they just use the tools already at their disposal to track down patients without appointments and get them scheduled. If you’re not sure what your pre-appointment percentage is or where to find it, don’t hesitate to reach out and let us help you. We can help you run a free practice evaluation to quickly show you how your dental practice is performing in all areas, not just pre-appointment.

Case Study: Stop Patients From Falling Through the Cracks

By identifying where you are and then developing a system or process for accountability and improvement, you can change your trajectory.

Dental Intelligence

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September 7, 2021

Reappointment,Patient Experience,Patient Communication,Patient Loyalty

The More You Know, the More You Can Do

Imagine a new patient (let’s call her Susan) comes into your practice for the first time. After she completes your patient intake process, one of your assistants walks Susan back to an operatory to begin her exam.

Once x-rays are completed, you enter the room, prepared and excited to meet your newest patient.

You: “Hello, Susan. I’m Dr. Jones. What brings you in today?”

Susan nods her head but doesn’t speak.

You: “Is there any pain you’re experiencing in any part of your mouth? Anything you think I should know about that would help me to help you today?”

Susan shakes her head.

You: “Susan, in order to provide you with the best care today, I need to know if there are any problems I should be aware of. Can you tell me what’s bothering you?”

Susan shakes her head.

You…shaking your head: “I guess there’s nothing I can do to help you today.”

Susan nods her head, stands, and leaves.

Happily, this likely isn’t something that’s ever happened in your practice, but there is a principle here that you are probably quite familiar with.

The more you know about the condition of a patient, the more likely you'll be able to care for and provide the right treatment to them.

“We Couldn’t See What Was Happening”

Robinson Dental in Wayland, Michigan, is everything you’d want in a dental practice. With three locations and a large, experienced team, Robinson has a proven track record of providing exceptional care for their patients. With over 400 Facebook reviews and an average rating of 4.7 out of 5.0, here are just a few of the many positive comments shared by patients:

  • The staff is very friendly. Amazing people doing amazing work.
  • The staff was incredibly helpful and went out of their way to make me feel welcome. 
  • I was very pleased with my experience and I will definitely be back for future appointments!
  • I can't say enough positive about Robinson Dental. Same day, even walk-in appointments available! Awesome state of the art facility, super nice staff…even a "welcome to the office" gift bag!
  • Robinson was very nice, thorough, and helpful, as well as the whole staff. I will definitely be continuing to come here for all dental work in the future.
  • Robinson Dental got me in right away, and planned a procedure within the week, far exceeding my expectations. They were my saving grace for a tooth that was creating extreme agony that couldn't be seen by anyone else for 1-3 months. Earned my trust, respect, and business for life.
Robinson team

Clearly, they are providing some great dentistry at Robinson Dental. This being true, the team at Robinson hasn’t always been satisfied with their performance. In a recent conversation with Michelle Davis, Hygiene Coordinator at Robinson Dental, she shared several challenges the Robinson leadership team spent a lot of time and resources trying to resolve, but with limited success:

  • More accountability. Robinson has some fantastic team members who are committed to providing patients with the best experience each time they visit. This being said, it was challenging to know how exactly each clinician and team member was performing relative to their capacity.
  • Being better able to track patients — who has been contacted, when, and what happened when they were contacted.
  • Reporting — this is one many practices wrestle with. How accurate are our reports? Are they outdated? Are they telling us what we most need to know about what is happening or not happening?
  • One of Robinson’s biggest issues was with patients falling through the cracks. Trying to track them manually was basically impossible, with lots of patients being missed. “If we didn’t capture them in the system, we might lose track of them entirely,” Michelle said. “Sometimes this also caused duplication of effort, meaning more than one team member calling a patient about the same thing, which was frustrating for both the provider and the patient.”
  • Robinson was spending a lot on marketing but kept losing a large number of those new patients they’d tried so hard to acquire. “Getting 100 new patients but losing 105 was painful,” Michelle added. “Awareness of what was actually happening was also low.” They were doing a pretty good job of rescheduling the new patients, but for those who weren’t reappointed, this is where they saw the loss.

Facts, Meaning, Feelings, Action

After considering a number of possible solutions to these and other issues, Robinson Dental chose to begin working with Dental Intelligence, a cloud-based software company that helps thousands of dental practices to use actionable metrics to grow in ways that are important to them.

robinson-dental-services-wayland-mi

According to Michelle, “Dental Intelligence takes all of the hard or impossible-to-find information in our practice management software and condenses it into an easy-to-understand dashboard so we can actually see where we're at. Not only a snapshot of where we are, but where we need to go on things that we need to adjust, to tweak, or to improve on. Most importantly, it helps us to prevent patients from falling through the cracks. This has helped us become much better at taking care of each patient, even if it’s as simple as transitioning from a filling a patient needed to get taken care but that wasn’t scheduled to somebody that needs complete extractions and full dentures or implants or something like that. We can see all of this information easily and quickly — even on our phones — and that enables us to provide more and even better dentistry to our patients.”

DI follows a simple four-step formula to help practices assess current performance in order to determine what needs to be done to improve where needed. Here’s how that looks in the evaluation process:

  1. Facts: Identifying where the practice was performing well, and where it may be falling short. This provides them with a position on a map — a point of reference so they know where they’re starting from.
  2. Meaning: You then need to determine what these facts mean in relation to patient health and practice performance. If patients were cancelling scheduled appointments and not rescheduling them, what does that mean for the health of your practice?
  3. Feelings: Using this data as a starting point, doctors and teams discuss how they feel about where they are. In order for anything to change, teams need to make an emotional connection to what is happening, and then decide what needs to happen.
  4. Action: Armed with clarity, a practice now has the ability to take action in order to begin moving the needle in the areas that matter to them.

Using Dental Intelligence didn’t magically help Robinson Dental to solve all of their problems overnight. What they did provide which proved to be most important was transparency. For the first time, Michelle and the leadership team at Robinson could see what was actually going on. This was huge. The second half of the equation that proved to be critical was understanding what to do. This came down to the leaders at Robinson choosing to take action on the facts, meaning and feelings they discovered about their practice.

Here’s how Michelle described that experience. “In order to make use of all the new insights DI provided us, we needed team members with the drive and a lot of follow-through that would take charge of their teams and their performance. This meant we all needed to understand the key performance indicators relating to our practice and then follow a system of accountability in improving those KPIs.”

Every practice can experience success similar to what Robinson Dental has seen. Although each practice is unique, most share similar challenges to those Robinson was facing. By identifying where you are and then developing a system or process for accountability and improvement, inevitably there will be a change in your trajectory. A dental practice that is thriving is a dental practice with thousands of healthy, happy patients. And that’s a fact!

Four Steps to Building Your Dream Dental Practice

Success is ultimately being where we want to be, when we want to be there, and knowing how we got there.

Weston Lunsford

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September 7, 2021

Office Operations,Metrics & Reporting,Team Culture
IMG_0162

What do you want from your practice? Take a moment and answer that question. Seriously, stop reading for 3-5 minutes and ask yourself, “What do I want for my team, for my patients, for my family, for me? What does it look like, what will it feel like when I actually get there?” We all have dreams, hopes, and ideally, a vision.

This is the story of how you get from here to there.

Right now, you’re here, but in the future, you want to be there and from here, there looks pretty good — but so few get there. Why is that? Of those who do “make it,” a few just get lucky, but most will have a strategy — they will plan and execute, set goals and review, and they’ll obtain the information needed to lead them to their desired destination. If you’re looking to get there, you need to chart a course and then monitor your progress every step of the way.

So, how do you reach a desired destination? Seems like a simple question, right? Well, maybe not so simple. It depends on the destination and distance and effort required to get there. Walking from your couch to the kitchen? Easy, hopefully. Getting from your driveway to the top of Mt. Everest? Definitely not easy.

But regardless of where you are right now, you can get to where you want to be. And the road between here and there is shorter for those who know the way.

For the past few years, I’ve coached the American Fork (UT) High School Mountain Bike Team. Three to four times a week we identify a trail we want to ride and a meeting destination, usually at the trail head or close by. With over 100 young athletes on the team there are always a handful showing up late to practice. Teenagers, right? Each team member understands we always start on time and, then, for latecomers, I provide detailed course instructions via text or email so they can find the trail and their team.

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Recently, we all gathered together to ride a trail called Thunder-Dome, which required my riders to follow a course just to get to the trailhead. Shortly after reaching the destination myself, I received a call from one of my late athletes. “Coach Weston, I can’t find the trailhead!” I asked him if he had followed the course I sent via text and he responded by saying, “I think so?” I laughed a little and asked, “Well, where are you now?” He then responded in a whisper and with some obvious discouragement, “I don’t know.”

Far too often I run into practice owners that have given up on ever getting “there.” Of course, they have a hope, even a belief that it’s possible, but they don’t take the time to first identify where they are and to then (the hard part) map out the course leading to where they want to be. If by chance they did have a course mapped out, they somehow fell off course without knowing. Does this apply to you? If someone asked where your practice is at, right now, would you also respond with “I don’t know”?

After working with over 8,000 dental practices, I have seen growth repeated again and again, with success being defined by the owner and the team — whether that be higher profits, exceptional patient care, a thriving culture, or even a healthy and balanced life. Success is ultimately being where we want to be, when we want to be there, and knowing how we got there. What are those principles? The principles of living to reach our goals.

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And now for your moment of truth. If I share these principles with you, will you try to learn? Will you discuss them with your team? Will you map out a course? Will you follow the course? If you can honestly answer yes to these questions, you will get there. I promise. Time and again, I’ve seen it happen. It can happen for you. But you must — must, choose to act.

We’ve all sat through classes and seminars on goal setting and understand the importance of setting goals in all aspects of life, but for some reason, we reach very few of our goals and sometimes even settle for less. Why would you do that? Why do I do that? Honestly, it’s simple. We have not learned how to master the techniques in living in a way to reach those goals.

I love data, and recently came across some statistics put out by Statistic Brain Research Institute, who performed an online and direct-mail response survey around New Year’s resolution and goals. Only 9.2% of the individuals surveyed were successful in keeping their goals. Why is this number so low?

  1. M. Russell Ballard, a successful U.S. businessman and religious leader, had this to say about reaching our goals, “I am so thoroughly convinced that if we don’t set goals in our life and learn how to master the techniques of living to reach our goals, we can reach a ripe old age and look back on our life only to see that we reached but a small part of our potential…”

We all have unrealized potential, right? Whether personally or professionally, there are still mileposts yet to reach. If we don’t want that future day to come when we look back on our lives and regret what might have been, we’ll need a vision and a plan.

This all being true, let’s start with four important steps toward reaching your goals:

  • Identify where your “here” is: Where are you right now?
  • Identify what your “there” is: Where do you want to be?
  • Design and develop a process. This is a map for you and your team, your path to get from here to “there.”
  • Measure your progress every step of the way. This is the step that will help you know when and if you fallen off-course.

After a couple of years of seeing plateaued results, one of our most successful practices owner decided to actually do something about not reaching his past goals by putting these four steps to work. At the time, he was trying to figure why his patient volume was up by 12%, but his gross revenue was flat. He knew he had a problem, but he didn’t know what the problem was. Or, in other words, he knew where he wanted to be, but he didn’t really know where he was. He was lost. Why? There were lots of possibilities, but just guessing wasn’t an option. He knew he had to first know “why” he wasn’t growing in order to make needed changes. This doctor used the power of practice intelligence to go below the surface and find the root cause of the problem. In other words, using data, he worked hard to discover as best he could where he really was, and that’s when he found the source of his problem: There was a decrease in average production-per-patient revenue.

Now for step two. Armed with this data, he and his team began looking at all of the possible reasons for the decrease. After rejecting several possible causes because the data didn’t validate them, this practice determined that the cause of their lagging performance was same-day treatment acceptance. They got excited, because this metric was something they could do something about!

Step three was to meet as a team and discuss and practice techniques that would increase same-day case acceptance. Every member of the treatment team took ownership of their role, and then they went to work, focused on improving their case presentation skills with patients who needed treatment. In just a few short weeks, they saw an amazing 10% increase in case acceptance and a 50% increase in presented treatment, leading to an all-time high in total practice revenue.

I’m happy to report this successful practice owner and his team continue to monitor this and many other key metrics in their practice. Step four, in case you missed it.

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So, back on the mountain here in Utah, after giving my young rider the assurance that he’d get to us and be able to practice with the team, I then asked him if he could find his way back to the parking lot. He answered hesitantly, “Yes, I think so.”

Well, I was willing to work with that hope. I instructed him to ride to the parking lot and promised him that I would be there to meet him and that, together, we would navigate through the course to the trailhead. I’m happy to report he found the parking lot, and together we made our way to the rest of the team. I’ll never forget the smile on his face when he made it to his destination.

If you’re not quite sure where your practice is at right now, don’t stress! Dental Intelligence would love to help you discover your current “location” and then share several steps you can take to reach your desired destination. We call this a “practice analysis” and we provide it to eligible practices at no charge (i.e. you just need to use one of our approved practice management software programs). Visit us here and request your analysis today. You CAN get there from here!