The top 7 mistakes of high-performing practices: Part 1

Sept. 16, 2013
Sasha Burau, MBA, looks at high-performing practices and gives you insight into mistakes she sees every day that you can avoid. In this first of a three-part series, she focuses on the first two mistakes and suggests ways you can take steer clear of the same faults to keep from being sidelined.

I travel to offices all over the country, and — without fail — at each office, the dentist will tell me that he or she hasn’t visited more than three other practices! That’s a problem, because you don’t have anything to compare your practice or systems to. How do you know if you are doing something right if you don’t know what other dentists are doing? So, this month, I’m giving you insight into what I see every day. Let’s look at the first two mistakes …

1. Most dentists are unaware of their numbers.

You should know what your operating costs are for each day. Earl Estep (author of Blueprint to Success) used to call his office manager every morning and if they hadn’t scheduled more than $2,000 of production, he would tell him that he was going to go back to sleep until they scheduled more production for that day. Here’s how to calculate this:

  • Add up your monthly supply bill (if you don’t have that, add up your total from last year and divide it by 12).
  • Add your monthly staff salaries.
  • Add your building expenses (taxes, rent).
  • Add any other expenses that are required to keep your office open.
  • Now, divide that by the number of days that you work each month and that will give you your daily operating expenses. Your production goal should be well above this.

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2. If you do not have a person who is dedicated to recall in your office, you are missing out on a huge opportunity.

Dentistry is unique in that you have a captive audience that you see biyearly. Many offices delegate this to their hygienists, and consequently, it doesn’t get done. If you do not have a recall system, or have not been doing recall, you may want to start by reactivating patients who have not been in your office in the past 18 months. This can be done by running a report on your software or by going through your charts.

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Once you have reactivated or inactivated patients whom you haven’t seen in 18 months or more, you will want to introduce a system for recall. The first aspect that your office must adopt is to make sure that no patient leaves the office without a next appointment scheduled. The next step is to assign the job of performing recall to someone who will be able to spend time on this every week. If you have a software system, you’ll want to run a report every month that shows patients who are past due, about to come past due, and due but have not scheduled their next appointment. Your recall expert will need to call these people every month. Initially, this will be a big job, but, as you continue to appoint patients before they leave the office, the load will lessen.

Having trouble getting people in? Set up a day where your front office can come in or stay after from about 6:00 to 8:30 to make calls to these people who are past due.

I was in an office in June speaking with a receptionist about their recall system. She had been working at the office since January and didn’t have a handle on the recall system. As she explained it to me, she became more confused. She recommended that I consult the hygienist. The hygienist was very protective of her recall system and was unwilling to relinquish it to the “new hire.” Their hygiene department was slow but they were still unwilling to change.

You cannot be unwilling to change how you are doing something because it is comfortable. You also must have someone dedicated to recall and it must be done weekly. If you have a “slow” hygiene month, look back at what happened six months ago. If you took a lot of time off during that month or if patients were not being scheduled for their next recall appointment, you will have a place to start.

Stay tuned for more mistakes next month.

Sasha Burau, MBA, is a practice consultant who has worked with Excellence in Dentistry’s Dr. Woody Oakes. She currently coaches offices on systems and implementation. She can be reached at (810) 569-9587 or via email at [email protected]. Email her to receive all of the forms and handouts for systems discussed in this article.