Roger P. Levin, DDS, centers a discussion on four ways to win in the COVID-19 recovery.
COVID-19 has changed dentistry forever. Practices are experiencing changes in areas such as infection control, patient volume per day, staffing patterns, and insurance reimbursements. However, even in the midst of all of this upheaval, the basic aspects of running an excellent business will still be the major factors that contribute to achieving and maintaining success.
Back to the Basics
Legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden won 10 NCAA basketball championships, including 7 in a row, making him one of the greatest college basketball coaches of all time. So, it’s no wonder that he was a renowned speaker and author on the subject of leadership. One of his most important leadership principles was that one should always stick to the fundamentals. He would literally start the first practice of every year by teaching the players how to properly put on their socks and shoes. Just imagine a player who had recently been part of an NCAA championship team coming back and starting the next season by learning to put on his socks and tie his shoes. However, the players did not complain because they understood that winning championships depended heavily on implementing the fundamentals.
The same is true for dental practices. Even in the face of challenging times, it is the fundamentals that will create and sustain a successful dental practice. In addition to making all the necessary changes that are required by a crisis, there are 4 fundamentals that every practice should follow to help ensure that they function at the optimal level.
1. Documented business systems: Over the last 36 years, I have had the benefit of watching practice after practice achieve high levels of success by documenting and understanding the steps of key systems such as scheduling, the new patient experience, financial management, collections, profit analysis, case presentation, hygiene productivity, and customer service. These systems all play a major role in practice success and must always be addressed. In challenging times, documenting the best systems and carefully following them step by step becomes not only important but, in many cases, also critical. Every practice should create targets for each system, including having the schedule 98% full, no-shows below 1%, 96% of active patients scheduled, and 98% of all money that is owed collected. Take time to review the major systems relative to specific targets and determine if they are meeting expectations.
2. Scheduling: Scheduling is the command center for the practice. Unfortunately, while many practices have a general guideline of how the schedule should operate, they don’t understand whether the schedule is functioning optimally. In fact, most practices have schedules that are 30% below real capacity. We regularly see practices that cannot fit in all its active patients, which means that those patients are overdue all because the schedule is inefficient. And in an era where many practices are seeing fewer patients per day, you must maximize your use of time. Practices must treat scheduling like a mathematical analysis and activity, using formulas to determine doctor production per hour, hygiene production per hour, doctor production per hour per doctor, and hygiene production per hour per hygienist to gain insight into the best way of establishing the right schedule. Using this process, we have seen many practices that could eliminate 10 minutes per hour of time. And at 8 hours per day, 4 days per week, and 48 weeks per year, doctor production time can increase by the equivalent of approximately 2 months per year without adding any real time at all. Achieving this result comes from performing procedural time studies, realigning the schedule, and streamlining procedures. This may seem overwhelming, but it is much easier than many may think.
3. Hygiene productivity: Practices must closely examine production opportunities in the hygiene department. When they do, they will probably find that their hygiene departments underdiagnose periodontal disease; are often behind on scheduled radiographs; and do not consistently offer appropriate ancillary services, such as sealants, fluoride, antibiotic periodontal treatment products, and whitening. Each of these services should be carefully reviewed, measured, and understood by the practice as viable options for certain patients. Offering beneficial services to enough patients can lead to tens of thousands of dollars of increased annual revenue.
4. Five-star customer service: Dentistry is a service-based business, so customer service is always an important part of providing care. Even in a crisis, customer service should be a priority. In fact, it may be more important than ever before as people are dealing with many anxieties and concerns. Always keep in mind that people gravitate to places where they feel good, appreciated, and important. In seminars, I always emphasize that one of the most important aspects of 5-star customer service is making your patients your friends. Why? Because people like, trust, and support their friends. So, I encourage you to treat customer service like another system in the practice. Once you establish what will be done, it must always be done for every patient. Greeting every patient as they enter the office, letting them know how much you appreciate them, and calling them at night to see how they’re doing should all be part of a step-by-step system of 5-star customer service.
John Wooden was right. Success comes from always relying on the fundamentals, and employing fundamentals during a crisis will be critical. Other modifications may be necessary, but when you’re facing a challenge, always go back to the basics.
Dr. Levin is the CEO and founder of Levin Group. A recognized expert on dental practice management and marketing, he has written 67 books and more than 4,000 articles and regularly lectures in the United States and around the world. He can be reached at levingroup.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.