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Front office team should look for opportunities before they look at numbers

Dec. 10, 2019
This dental office manager tells his peers that it's important to track the "health" of the practice. When Greg Prince's practice faced challenges, the team worked together to tackle them head-on, and they've found profits and strong systems.

It’s important for a dental practice to have objectives because what you measure you often improve. Our team looks at our key numbers each month to make sure we’re tracking the health of our practice, and that we’re able to react immediately and adjust if things go in the wrong direction. We measure key performance indicators (KPIs) such as new patient acquisition, recall, and treatment acceptance. But we also use numbers to find any gaps in our practice, and we implement new ideas to try to achieve better results.  

For example, we examined parts of the practice that have the most opportunity for growth without adding overhead. Each day our schedule indicated a very busy day, with all appointments confirmed and no holes in the schedule. But on some days, we ended up with almost 25% of our schedule empty due to cancellations and no shows. This was an issue because it meant our clinical team was unproductive for 25% of the day, and the front office had to increase call volume to handle all of the rescheduling. This is a waste of time and valuable resources that directly impacts patient care and practice profitability. 

As a team, we worked to solve this problem by improving the ways we communicate with patients and how we handle no shows. For example, we call patients to “verify” their appointments, not “confirm” them. Their appointments are confirmed when they reserve time in the doctor’s schedule. When patients call to cancel, we try to understand what is preventing them from coming in, and we offer solutions instead of simply rescheduling. Often, it’s just a matter of helping someone rearrange their priorities, especially when we reaffirm the value and urgency of care. When we began this, within months we saw progress because we were focusing on numbers, making changes, and constantly monitoring what worked and what didn’t. 

We had another opportunity to be more efficient with time and resources within our financial system. We were sending over 750 statements a month, which is a big cost to the practice in both financial and staff time. We concluded that we are not a lending institution and our time is better served addressing patients’ health. So, we started a different financial conversation and began to offer the CareCredit credit card instead of mailing statements and billing patients. Within six months, that 750 number decreased to fewer than 300, we saw our cash flow improve, and our front office team had more time to devote to activities that strengthened our patient relationships. 

Every practice, no matter how profitable and busy, has opportunities available that they have yet to realize. It’s about identifying gaps, working as a team, and embracing change as a way to live up to your ultimate potential, both professionally and personally. 

Greg Prince is a Fellow of the American Association of Dental Office Management and AADOM’s 2019 Practice Administrator of the Year. He currently manages a pediatric dental practice in Nashville, Tennessee, for the last four years, and is president of the Nashville AADOM chapter. Ownership changes, team building, practice growth, and office design keep Greg busy during the day. After hours, he volunteers at Interfaith Dental, is Logistics Coordinator for Sacred Selections’ Nashville chapter, and offers event support for the Heimerdinger Foundation.