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Is one of these common problems causing stress in your dental practice?

July 3, 2018
Are you stressed running your dental practice? You're not alone. But there are some very common problems that cause those stressors. Here's what you can do about the four most common.
Sally McKenzie, CEO of McKenzie Management

The life of a dentist can be stressful. Not only do you have debts to pay and patients to treat, you have to manage the business side of practice ownership. There’s a lot to think about each day, which can get pretty overwhelming at times, especially if your practice is struggling.

If you’re constantly stressed out, it’s holding you back and making it nearly impossible to enjoy your profession. The good news? There are ways to keep stress under control, starting with recognizing the cause. With a few changes, you can alleviate common stressors, putting your practice back on the path toward success and profitability.

Here are four common stressors and how you can reduce their impact on you and your practice:

1) A messy schedule—An unorganized and chaotic schedule is one of the biggest causes of stress in a dental practice. One day you can barely keep up, and the next day you have open slots and you can’t find patients to fill them. Broken appointments are common, and you rarely reach daily production goals.

Hiring a scheduling coordinator can help. This team member is responsible for scheduling to meet production goals, not just to keep the practice busy. Once you hire a coordinator, I suggest you have this team member develop a plan to reduce and handle last-minute cancellations and no-shows. With a proper plan, broken appointments won’t happen as often, but when they do occur they won’t cause as much stress.

It’s also important to communicate procedure times with a scheduling coordinator. If you don’t, the person must guess, and this means there’s a good chance you’ll be scheduled for 30-minute appointments that really should be 60 minutes, which will put you behind and add stress to your day.

2) Team conflict—Whenever there’s a hint of conflict with staff, many dentists choose to ignore it. They tell themselves everyone involved is an adult who will be able to work things out on their own. Unfortunately, that isn’t usually the case. Instead, negative feelings fester and lead to a tense work environment. Team members spend time gossiping and being negative, and that means they’re less efficient and productive. If this gets bad enough, some employees look for a new job, which leads to more stress.

What’s the lesson here? Don’t ignore team conflict. Sit down with team members to create solutions. Keep conversations positive and don’t place blame.

While you’ll never completely avoid conflict, you can take steps to reduce its likelihood in your practice. Detailed job descriptions make it clear who’s responsible for which tasks, and proper training ensures all employees know how to properly perform their duties. Training will also make team members more efficient and confident in their roles, helping to strengthen your team and further reduce stress.

3) Patients aren’t accepting treatment—It can be frustrating when patients don’t accept treatment that you know they need. The problem is, patients often don’t understand why the treatment is so important. If you and your team members take the time to educate them about their condition and the possible consequences of delaying care, they’ll be more likely to say yes. It also helps them feel a connection with your practice, which leads to improved patient retention.

Besides providing education chairside, it’s also a good idea to hire a treatment coordinator to present treatment for all producers in the practice. This team member can sit with patients in a relaxed environment to talk about the procedure and answer any questions. The coordinator should be trained to follow up with patients who don’t commit to treatment before they leave. Once you implement these changes, you’ll see a significant increase in case acceptance.

4) Fees—This is a big one. Many dentists don’t raise their fees because they’re afraid they’ll lose patients if they do. So they keep their fees the same and convince themselves it’s for the best. The problem? If you can’t remember the last time you raised your fees, it’s costing your practice big. Undercharging patients by as little as 7%-8% costs you thousands of dollars each year, and undercharging by 40%-50% translates into a serious financial pounding.

To alleviate this stressor, implement a solid fee schedule. Look at what other dentists in your area charge, as well as your patient income demographics. Base your fees on the quality of dentistry and customer service you provide.

Too much stress can keep you from reaching your full potential. Taking steps to alleviate that stress will help make your practice more profitable, and your job much more enjoyable.

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Sally McKenzie is CEO of McKenzie Management, a full-service, nationwide dental practice management company. Contact her at (877) 777-6151 or [email protected].