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KPIs: What they are and why you need to know about them

March 30, 2022
Numbers and statistics often have a bad reputation, but you need KPIs—key performance indicators—to track team success and pinpoint areas that need to be improved. Here's why.

You're in a team meeting, and numbers are being rattled off. Team members are wondering why these numbers are important, if they can they really do anything about them, and when they can get back to work.

I have personally found myself in this position many times and left meetings feeling overwhelmed. This scenario can cause headaches and confusion if no one knows why these numbers are important and how they directly affect the practice.

Numbers and statistics often have a bad reputation and when routinely discussed, some employees start to believe that everything is just about money—but actually, there’s a strong connection between data and your systems. KPIs, or key performance indicators, are used to track team success and pinpoint areas that need to be improved. Dentistry is a for-profit business; the office lights must turn on, the team needs and deserves to be paid for a job well done, and supplies must be ordered. The list of expenses and investments for a dental practice and team indicate the importance of also understanding and tracking KPIs. In this first of two articles on KPIs, I explain the connections between systems and KPIs so the perception can start to change.

7 important KPIs for your dental office

An everyday example of KPIs

Weight loss is relatable way to start thinking about the relevance and importance of KPIs. Think about the process or “system” of losing weight. There must be a starting point and an end goal. First, you’ll have to think about numbers and stats, and the data might not be what you were expecting. This process might be uncomfortable times; there could be back-sliding and learning different aspects that might not necessarily have been important to track before.

But if the weight loss is not tracked on a scale, how could someone know if the process has been working? It might feel like there is success, and some changes are visible, but knowing the actual numbers allows for a celebration—or helps to identify what needs to change. Simply said, “You can’t improve what you don’t measure.” Both KPIs and weight loss need to be measured daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly. The numbers can fluctuate just as office KPIs do, but you need to know the reasons why.

Tracking the success of your systems with KPIs

An easy way to understand KPIs is to think about how they are related to a system. A system is a specific way for the team or departments to carry out a process such as phone scripting, delivering treatment, and scheduling. When there are specific systems for the team to follow, everyone knows what their role is, and those actions can then be tracked as KPIs. Numbers show if a system is working or not. For example, an important KPI to track is hygiene patients who schedule their next appointment before they leave. This can be tracked per month and at different intervals throughout the year.

If the KPI is at or around 95%, the team should celebrate! A percentage in the high nineties shows that the system of asking patients to return is working. In comparison, if that KPI is below 89%, the system of asking patients to schedule their next appointment needs to be improved. Most offices often say that there are only a few patients who don’t reschedule; however, if this isn’t being tracked, the office could be missing many unscheduled appointments. The health of the practice could then be affected because 40-60% of the doctor’s scheduled comes from hygiene patients. If specific KPIs have a lower percentage, the team needs to do some detective work.

Here are the questions you’d ask in that scenario:

  1. What’s keeping patients from scheduling?
  2. Are we rolling out the red carpet for new patients?
  3. Was the patient asked if they want to reschedule?

It's possible that this KPI could be much higher after the questions have been answered. This is a specific system that should be discussed at a team meeting.

Changing the perception that KPIs are only about money is easier when they are compared to systems and the weight loss example. And if your KPIs show a lower percentage, use it as a team-building opportunity and brainstorm ways to improve. Praise what you want repeated and celebrate successes!