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If you own your single site practice it’s likely you face the same challenges that effect many small businesses. Unfortunately many dentists spend their training learning the art and science of dentistry and not the skills necessary to successfully operate a small business. To run a successful practice today’s dentist/owner needs to have command of three basic skills: Clinical proficiency, Communication Skills, Management.
Clinical proficiency - As practitioners we spend most of our time learning the art and skill of our profession. This is the base everything else is built on. Unfortunately for most of us, once we hit a standard proficiency level, this is the least valued skill of the three listed. Patients assume they are getting great care and honestly most cannot differentiate good care from great care. When asking patients how they choose their dentist or what they use to evaluate the practice, most value customer service over clinical proficiency. So once we have learned our craft, what does a competent provider need to do to differentiate them and be the preferred choice to new and returning patients? That’s where the next two skills come in.
Communication skills - When I ask dentists what’s the number one goal they would like to achieve to make their practice more successful; they almost always say the same thing. “I need more new patients”. That’s an interesting goal considering that the majority of practice revenue comes from follow up care or returning patients. 60% of new patients will not return after the first visit. What keeps a patient coming back is the relationship they feel with you and your staff. Consider this, if you have an acute dental condition any dentist will do. If you need routine care or possibly an elective procedure you will choose someone you feel connected with. It’s this emotional decision that affects most returning patients. You don’t want 1000 customers, you want 1000 friends.
Management – A good management system can be difference between practice survival and practice success. There are so many tools available today to help a dentist with the various management needs. The problem is often in trying to get all these tools to work together. New patient acquisition is one goal most usually focus on first. I’m often reminded that many patients get their first impression of a practice by its website. Does your website represent you well and does it help you build a relationship with potential patients. One interesting concept is how to use your website for patient engagement. Some of the best websites allow patients to fill out forms and submit them directly to the practice on line. If you are asking your patients to print out a form you are missing a potential engagement tool. Some of the best websites also offer a patient portal and allow patients to review and update their demographic and medical information before their appointment. This saves time in the office and again acts to increase affinity to the practice.
Summary- Before choosing a practice management system or a new service you will need an idea of your key practice metrics. Let analytics guide you where you should focus. It’s not uncommon for 60 cents of every dollar earned to go to overhead. Often reducing overhead is the easiest thing a practice can do to increase profits and still preserve a lifestyle. Cloud based dental software can give you practice metrics and can often save thousands in overhead when compared to traditional software options.