In the wake of new realities, most dentists are feverishly working to maintain some semblance of normalcy, yet a growing number of worrywarts are talking about throwing in the cuspidor. Perish the thought, Doctors! As the demands of your practice and life itself are changing from one moment to the next, you can’t allow yourself to be paralyzed by the most troublesome prospects of tomorrow. Instead, you need to make a deliberate choice to be fueled by the challenges and opportunities to come. Although our nation is weathering its roughest storm ever, we Americans will surely prevail. But as the economy works to shake off the effects of traumatic fallout, your practice is crying out for some attention to its own economic viability. Let’s answer that cry together.
LOSING TIME OR MONEY IS NOT AN OPTION
If ever there was a time to maximize both productivity and profitability, this is it. And if ever there was a time to work smarter by harnessing the power of information technology, this surely is that time. The fact of the matter is that few practices today have the know-how to effectively manage the wealth of information stored in their practice computer system, which means that team members are not accessing or utilizing information technology to improve their job performance or the practice. By wading through a swamp of manual or digital data they don’t know what to do with, they can’t help but get bogged down in the process. But staff may not be to blame for an outdated modus operandi. Often, it’s a result of the doctor not putting much priority on the use of information technology or not providing adequate training for staff to make the most of computer software and system capabilities.
TURN 20/20 HINDSIGHT INTO FORESIGHT
Before trying to jump headfirst into information technology and make up for lost time, you and your staff need to stop looking at your practice management software as some bizarre relic from the space/time continuum that’s good for only limited data made available to a limited audience, during a limited time sequence, and only under the direction of some technogeek who knows how to tell it what to do. Instead, think of your computer’s practice management software as what I’ve termed a “Facts Machine”— a receptacle that holds information to address most any practice management question, problem, or obstacle you or your team might face. By providing instant access to all sorts of practice information, plus the ability to generate practical, user-friendly reports, your Facts Machine stands ready to distribute the logistical keys to most every practice management productivity and profitability issue.
TAKING CHARGE OF ACCOUNTS RECEIVABLE
Before getting to the mechanics of this area, I want to remind you of my Golden Rule for accounts receivable. Know the numbers, Doctor, at all times. You wouldn’t want to play a game and not know the score, yet you’d be amazed how many doctors don’t mind being clueless about their accounts receivable. This is one critical measurement tool that needs to be highly accurate and updated with every play. Here’s the scoop. . .
MORE THAN A SIMPLE RECALL REPORT
In addition to listing which patients are due for recall and which have not yet made appointments, by looking at recall interval and frequency this easy-to-generate recall report can also be used to determine the number of hygiene days actually needed per week. If 100 patients are on 3-month recall, for example, 400 hygiene appointments will be needed to service those patients.
COMPUTER SCHEDULING: POETRY IN MOTION
You’ve got a 3-hour opening next Monday … 3 solid hours of nonproductivity you could be using for a four-unit bridge. If your scheduling coordinator had been trained to use your practice management software’s scheduling system, she could just press a few keys, and voila, the computer could have scanned through jillions of bytes of data and found those patients in need of a 3-hour opening for a four-unit bridge! Suddenly, the cost of training her to schedule on the computer doesn’t add up to a hill of beans.
TREATMENT PLAN PROPOSAL OR WASTED PITCH?
Before getting to the benefits of information technology on the treatment plan, let me just remind you that a listing of tooth numbers with treatment needed is not a treatment plan. When you propose a treatment plan to a patient, that plan should include the number of appointments required to complete the treatment, which procedures will be performed at each appointment, chair time and doctor time needed, fees for each procedure, and how those fees may be paid out. Now that’s a treatment plan worthy of presenting to your patient and valuable enough to be entered into the computer system. This means, though, that someone must be in charge of getting it entered. And that’s not all. As procedures are performed, they should be posted as completed on the treatment plan. The computerized treatment plan can then be tracked as to percentage completed and treatment that still needs to be scheduled and performed.
Well, the case is irrefutable. Most any software system that is even remotely up-to-date can have a huge impact on both your productivity and profitability. And in times like these, that can mean the difference between mere survival and stunning success. Considering the fact that your earning power is the most valuable asset you have, you might just as well make the most of it. In dental practice today—as in war today—there is simply no substitute for victory.
Ms. McKenzie, certified management consultant, is a nationally known lecturer, author, and consultant to the Council on Dental Practice of the ADA. She is president of McKenzie Management and Associates, which provides in-office analysis of the business, clinical, and hygiene department; conducts on-site staff training; and offers a full line of educational management books, audiotapes, and videos. Since opening McKenzie Management in 1979, Sally has developed the most expedient practice systems, methods, and technologies as well as the most effective management approaches for the dental practice. Additionally, Ms. McKenzie’s 34 years of experience and expertise are now available as on-tap resources for her new ventures: practicemanagement-online.com and dentalcareerdevelop.com. For information on what any of these companies can do for your practice, call Sally toll-free at (877) 777-6151, and visit her websites at: www.mckenziemgmt.com; www.practicemanagement-online.com; and www.dentalcareerdevelop.com.