Profit Centers Within Your Practice

March 1, 2006
Efforts to grow your business can also result in improved customer service and enhanced patient care.

Efforts to grow your business can also result in improved customer service and enhanced patient care.

WRITTEN BY Angela Pickett, RDH

Every practice has areas in which it can improve performance and increase profitability. Finding those hid-den profit centers will allow you to grow your business more rapidly, attract and retain quality team members, and invest in the best materials and technologies. Most important, these efforts to improve your practice frequently result in better customer service and enhanced patient care. Although there are numerous areas to explore, two critical methods for maximizing profitability are:

1. Building a more efficient schedule

2. Expanding the service mix

Building a more efficient schedule

The most important operational system in a dental practice is its scheduling system. Most practices can achieve growth by addressing key issues in the schedule. Creating an ideal schedule using the right mathematic formulas will be one of the best investments any dentist will ever make in her career. To create a more efficient schedule, you should:

●Do the most productive treatment first

Many practices make the mistake of scheduling by filling in holes. One of the key principles of scheduling is always to do the most productive things first. There should be time blocked off every day for productive procedures. Levin Group suggests that practices designate morning hours for large cases and schedule all minor cases in the afternoon. This type of schedule creates a better patient flow while generating a majority of the production early in the day when teams are less fatigued.

●Establish the ideal day and production

Practices should apply a mathematical formula to their daily schedules. The only way to achieve a desired annual production is to schedule an average daily level of production that will achieve the annual goal. For example, if a practice wants to produce $800,000 in 190 days, the team would need to schedule $4,210 per day. While you will not achieve this number exactly each day, it is the average over time that matters.

●Schedule the dentist and clinical team on a per-chair basis

When evaluating the schedule, look at each of the available dental chairs as an opportunity to increase efficiency. For example, a general dentist should use a minimum of two main chairs and effectively rotate between patients. This lowers stress and can increase production significantly.

●Use 10-minute units

Many practices still use 15-minute units for their schedules. Switching to 10-minute units will allow practices to schedule many procedures with greater accuracy. For example, a 20-minute procedure would be problematic using 15-minute units. For practices using 10-minute units, the procedure can be completed without rushing or creating nonproductive down time. During a year, a practice often can find extra days in the schedule by changing to 10-minute units.

●Schedule auxiliary services separately from the doctor

Many dental assistants spend a fair amount of their time ineffectively waiting for or watching the doctor. Instead, they could engage in highly productive treatment-related activities. This helps patients progress faster toward dental treatment and takes stress off dentists.

Once the schedule has been redesigned, evaluate other practice systems, including training, case presentation, and customer service. Every system has the potential to yield more efficiency and increase profitability for the practice. Levin Group recommends starting with the schedule because it affects every other aspect of practice operations.

➋ Expand the service mix

Practices can increase production and profitability by offering a variety of elective services, including:




Periodontal maintenance

Preventive services

Whitening - Many patients have used some form of over-the-counter tooth whitening products. Practices can capitalize on the value patients associate with retail whitening products by presenting affordable, more effective whitening procedures within the practice. Whitening is often a gateway service that leads to more productive cosmetic procedures.

Veneers - Dental patients are interested in the benefits of cosmetic dentistry. Chips, cracks, gaps, misalignments, and discolorations in the anterior teeth can detract from your patients’ appearances. Porcelain laminate veneers placed over anterior teeth can quickly and painlessly correct these imperfections. Veneers help patients accomplish healthy, natural-looking, beautiful smiles with little or no discomfort.

Implants - Implant dentistry can also be productive for specialty and general practices. Implants have many advantages over traditional edentulous treatment - they improve chewing efficiency, prevent bone loss, and provide patients with beautiful, natural-looking smiles. Implant candidates include denture wearers and anyone missing one or more teeth. Partnering with the right specialty practices can be a great solution for your practice and patients.

Periodontal maintenance - Developing a strong, soft-tissue therapy program can lead to increased production from your hygiene department. Levin Group recommends that hygienists should generate at least 25 percent of practice revenue, but practices can achieve even greater productivity by offering the right mix of hygiene-related services along with the appropriate training. Soft-tissue therapy creates opportunities to help patients through a complete periodontal program, which results in optimal oral health care and increased production.

Preventive services - New services are imperative to finding additional profit centers and enhancing patient care. Consider adding the OralCDx brush biopsy to your cancer-screening regimen. It allows dentists to detect oral cancer in its earliest stages. This diagnostic tool has helped dentists save numerous lives. Any technology that allows for earlier diagnosis enhances the quality of care for patients.

How do you find the hidden profit centers in your practice? Look at what you are doing. Then look at what you are not doing. Examine your systems, especially the schedule. This area is where most practices find bottlenecks that can be removed by redesigning their schedules. What services do you not currently offer? These represent opportunities to grow your practice and increase profitability. Last, always develop written goals for your new objectives - this is the best way to ensure long-term success.