“Transparency, as used in science, engineering, business, the humanities and in other social contexts, is operating in such a way that it is easy for others to see what actions are performed. Transparency implies openness, communication, and accountability.” (Wikipedia: Transparency)
Building and sustaining a successful dental practice in 2021 is no easy feat. Costs are up. Competition is fiercer than ever before. Group dentistry, whether of the DSO or corporate variety, is here to stay and rapidly expanding. Hiring, overhead, liability, government regulations, PPE, longer appointments, and many other obstacles stand ready to knock a practice down. Not to mention a global pandemic and all the unique challenges it has created for virtually every dental practice in the world. And yet, remarkably, many dental practices are thriving in this moment of transformation. How is that possible? Meet Q Dental in Champaign, Illinois.
Alicia P., Office Manager at Q Dental, recalled a period of time after owner Dr. Jung had purchased the practice from its previous owner, Dr. Sensenbrenner, and was focused on retaining as many of Dr. Sensenbrenner’s patients as possible while establishing connections with those patients and the Champaign community. “Dr. Jung spent a lot of time making sure the transition went well and patients felt comfortable with him,” Alicia shared. “He wanted to build on the work Dr. Sensenbrenner had done in the community while also developing his own connections.
After devoting a year or two to this effort, Dr. Jung felt it was time to grow. But in order to do that, we needed help.” It was at this point that Q Dental heard about Dental Intelligence, the leader in cloud-based practice analytics. DI supports over 10,000 U.S.-based practices who use the company’s growth and patient-communication platforms to improve patient care, team collaboration, and practice profitability.
According to Alicia, “We were looking for a solution that would make our practice more transparent. Even though we used a practice management system (PMS) to run things, pulling relevant and actionable data out of our PMS was pretty challenging. As soon as we saw DI’s visual interfaces and how user-friendly it was and that all of the work was already done for us, we knew we needed to make this investment. We can track day-to-day, week-by-week, year-over-year, or any customization we want. It’s so powerful to now see the trends and understand what they mean. This solution has helped to make us much more effective and efficient in our work.”
Has lack of transparency been a challenge for your practice? If so, that’s a common issue. Practice management software is a vital part of the overall function of a dental team, but extracting key performance indicators from your PMS can often be time-consuming and complex. Most make the effort but at some point, determine it’s not worth the struggle. For Q Dental, having a solution like DI to capture, normalize, and display all of their KPIs hasn’t just given them instant access to the things they need to know. It has also enabled them to provide better care to their patients.
“It was so easy to open DI and see the people we needed to immediately contact, or to quickly see what treatment plans needed follow-up, or who had missed hygiene appointments,” Alicia said. “We didn’t have a single patient fall through the cracks during the pandemic –having DI was like having a full-time employee who worked during the entire shutdown and had everything ready for us when we opened the doors again. All the info we needed was right there — easy to understand and immediately actionable.”
Do you have patients that have fallen through the cracks? Here are some questions that will help you to think about the importance of making sure every patient has a scheduled appointment:
- How many of your active hygiene patients have a scheduled appointment?
- Put another way, how many of your active patients are NOT currently scheduled?
- What is the percentage of your active patients that are scheduling their next appointment before leaving your practice?
- How many of your active patients have unscheduled treatment?
- How many of your active patients have family members with unscheduled treatment?
Other important questions could be added to this list, but these should get you started on some important conversations about how your practice is currently handling the scheduling and treatment of your patients. At Q Dental, Alicia shared how Dr. Jung spends significant time with each patient and is conservative in the treatment he presents to them.
This often leads to those patients leaving without scheduling that presented treatment, which is true of most practices. The difference at Q Dental is their use of Follow Ups, which creates a scheduled follow-up for every patient and then notifies an assigned team member when it’s time to contact that patient to discuss scheduling presented treatment. Can you imagine?
“Using Follow Ups allows us to focus on the things that we need to focus on: Running the practice, engaging with patients, managing the collections, and all the many other aspects that are vital to the health of the practice,” Alicia shared. “Before we began using Dental Intelligence, we had to spend that extra time running reports, tracking down patient information only to discover that six weeks ago, a new patient came in but didn't reschedule. Without that data, do you really even know they exist anymore?”
Please don’t miss the message here. Data is great and being able to really see what is happening in your practice matters. But even more important, data directly impacts the health of each patient. As the saying goes, “the more you know, the more you can do.” This is the true value of using metrics in a dental practice.
When asked what all of this new transparency meant for Q Dental and their patients, Alicia had an instant response. “Creating and, if needed, changing our goals is very easy with DI. We’ve seen an increase of 10% in hygiene reappointment from 70 to 80% because we have a goal that we can see and stay focused on. We’re also seeing success with our front desk and reappointment rate. When we started using this platform, more than half of our active patients (out of 2,000) didn’t have a scheduled appointment. But by focusing on this as a goal, we since have reduced this to around 800 patients.”
For leaders in a dental practice, having tools that encourage your team to unify around a culture of growth can be invaluable. Here’s how Alicia uses the Morning Huddle to create this culture: “Each morning in our huddle we all look at the same data together. This is so much more effective than one person doing all the talking and everyone else is just sitting there on their phones. We go through the schedule, who has family members needing treatment, who owes a balance, etc. The entire team knows the drill, which makes for a much smoother day. This ensures that our patients don’t fall through the cracks. We also focus during our huddle on these unscheduled active patients to try and get them scheduled, as well as on improving our diagnostic and acceptance treatment percentage.”
Data transparency. Do you have it? Are you able to clearly see and understand the information vital to the efficiency, function, and growth of your dental practice? Every person working in your office deserves to know what is happening and how they are performing. Every patient deserves to receive the quality of care that results from their dentist using meaningful metrics to guide how they offer and provide treatment. For Alicia at Q Dental, adding a solution like DI to their practice changed everything. In her words, “Dental Intelligence is now the core of our practice.”
“Dental Intelligence lets us ask what we want out of our work,” Alicia said. “Before we were just maintaining and not growing. With DI we can manage all of that — it’s like having an extra employee telling us what we need to pay attention to. Instead of me needing to hire that person, DI allows me to focus on other important responsibilities I have as the office manager — there’s so much less stress now. We know where we are and understand what we need to do to improve. It’s not enough to see production numbers — we need to know what they mean and what to do to improve them. Dental Intelligence helps us to do this."
"If we want to increase production, they help us to see the path on how to achieve this. It’s so simple to use. You don’t need to be tech-savvy. Anyone can benefit from it. It’s just so easy. It has paid for itself many times over. Even with a shutdown, we still hit our production goal for 2020. DI made it so easy to jump back in and focus on getting every patient we could have in.”
Yes, it is a challenging time to practice dentistry. It’s also an amazing time to practice dentistry. Technology and training and education have never been better. Data has transformed everything from how dentists provide care to how a practice is managed. New tools for patient communication, online scheduling, payments, and so many more are now available. Rather than fearing these changes and the incredible transparency they now offer, embrace the moment and anticipate the growth that you’ll experience. Let these powerful tools help you offer better care for every patient.