How to Increase Dental Office Production – By Bruce Stephenson, DDS
Advice on increasing dental office production is often vague and equivocal. This article offers two very concrete suggestions.
The dentist may be the leader but need not come up with every bright idea in the dental practice. It is important to have a ten minute morning meeting each day and a one hour meeting at every 2-4 weeks with the entire staff. Brainstorm and listen to suggestions about ways you can increase your production using each of the two strategies discussed below.
Monitor the “Production per Dental Patient” Report
The absolute value of this number is not as important as the trend. You want this number to increase as your staff becomes more effective at communicating with each patient about needed and elective dental treatment.
How do you communicate more effectively? When you talk about treatment options, the language you use is important. “Do you want a mercury-silver filling or would you prefer the bonded white filling?” “Would you prefer the metal and porcelain crown or the cosmetic all porcelain metal-free crown?” “Would you prefer the flexible partial with the invisible clasps or the ridged metal partial with the metal clasps on your teeth?” “Have you ever thought about straightening your teeth? We can now do that for you in just a few months using Invisalign instead of metal braces. Is this something that might interest you?” There are many more possibilities that will help increase your dental office production.
Think about the pictures and emotional responses your words create in the mind of the patient. This is the very core of persuasive communication on any subject. Spend a little time in your staff meetings using “group think” to develop the best verbal skills for discussing treatment options.
There are recare-related topics that should be included. Are hygienists discussing whitening, Invisalign, night guards, cosmetic dentistry, fluoride trays, fluoride varnish, the need for more perio treatments, more frequent recare? Don’t forget treatment diagnosed but still not completed! Keep that dental office production on the rise!
A recare appointment should not be a “marathon sales presentation!” However, informed consent and professional ethics dictate that hygienists discuss these topics with each patient during each hygiene visit.
Give the patient a printed copy of the periodontal charting, with the areas of concern circled in red ink. This is very effective motivation. People tend to accept more periodontal procedures (and miss fewer recare appointments!) when they take home something showing the problem areas in their own mouths.
Again, this is a team discussion and a team effort. Everyone helps develop the “dental scripts” and everyone uses them to present a consistent, coherent message to patients. Everyone in the office contributes to improving your numbers! Use the production per patient report each month to monitor your effectiveness for your entire dental office production.
“No Patient Leaves Without an Appointment”
Too often, we see offices obsessed with acquiring new patients while they blithely let existing patients drift away from the practice. When a patient completes today’s visit, everyone (doctor included) needs to be silently asking, “Does this patient have a future appointment?” Even when the patient has great intentions, it is less predictable and more time consuming to try to get the person back into the office if they leave without an appointment.
Many offices book the next recare appointment before the patient leaves the hygiene operatory. Great! This keeps the hygiene schedule full, keeps the patient active in the practice, reinforces the importance of follow up visits and gives the patient the best choice of appointment times. However, it is also important that the doctor’s patients always have future appointments booked. The patient always needs some type of treatment in the future. Schedule it!
You can make this process easier by ensuring each patient has an organized, written “problem list and plan” (more information and a downloadable example can be found here). Anyone can quickly see unscheduled treatment, optional treatment such as Invisalign or implants, specific problems such as high caries risk, pending referrals, type and frequency of recare, anticipated frequency of radiographs, periodontal case type and frequency of full mouth periodontal charting. You should review these with the whole staff during the morning huddle. Assign a team member the responsibility of discussing this information with each patient. Usually the best team member for this job is a clinician – either a chairside or hygienist – familiar with the patient’s clinical circumstances. The best place to for the discussion is in the operatory, not the front desk! This requires a little time but pays big dividends in treatment acceptance. In addition, when all treatment is completed, be sure the next recare is scheduled.
In summary, the whole team anticipates the future needs for each patient, communicates effectively and schedules appointments while the patient is still in the office. This enhances office “busyness,” increases dental office production per patient and improves the quality of patient care. Develop these productive practice habits and ensure better outcomes for both the dental office and dental patient!
With our consulting services, we include automatic reports such as this one from Divergent Dental. This shows by provider both the production per patient and the percentage of patients with future appointments. These give valuable feedback on staff performance with easy to understand “metrics” but take no work to compile. We find they are very useful for daily and monthly staff meetings.
About the Author:
Bruce Stephenson has been a practicing general dentist in San Leandro, CA for 38 years. He now limits his part-time “retirement practice” to Invisalign. He is also a partner in Today’s Dental Consulting doing practice enhancement consulting, training and coaching. You can reach him at BruceStephensonDDS@gmail.com or 209-603-9944