As the new year gets underway, many practice owners may be wondering how they can improve the overall efficiency and productivity of their office. Finding new ways to increase dental office productivity can improve the agility of your staff, boost the patient experience and help you bring in new patients. Improvement in any of these areas can help increase revenue in the process.
We asked the dental marketing and management experts at RevenueWell to share a few simple ways dental practices can increase office productivity. Here are seven ideas to get your dental office running like a well-oiled machine.
1. Cross-train to build a nimble team
These days, to increase your dental office productivity, you need agility. And nothing reflects agility like cross-training your dental team. The goal of cross-training is to build a team full of versatile all-stars with “T-shaped” skills. That means that each teammate possesses deep expertise in one area—say, billing—but also has some general skills in other areas, like scheduling and dental marketing.
Here are some ideas to get started:
- Map out four new skills each teammate should cultivate during the year
- Chat with your team about which new skills they wish to develop
- Share relevant standard operating procedures among the appropriate team members
- Set up shadow meetings between the primary owner of the job and the cross-trainee
- Modify job descriptions to include the new skills, and add new (achievable) performance goals
2. Go paperless at patient intake
Creating a paperless dental office has a ton of benefits for dental practices these days.
It simplifies life for the team: Know what’s a drag on your dental office productivity? Organizing the clutter of all those new patient forms and deciphering your patient’s handwriting. There’s no ROI for those tasks. By opting for digital check-ins, your team gains back a ton more time – and sanity.
It saves time and money in the long run: Going paperless could save practices $10,000 a year. The cost really adds up when you think about the cost of folders, charts, reminder postcards, paper supplies, printers, copiers, and storage, etc. Instead, take that $10,000 and invest it in some new technology that makes visits easier for patients (for example, a new imaging solution), bring in some part-time support for your team, or upgrade other office systems, like your phones. And don’t even start on the staff hours each year spent on filing.
It keeps patients safe and builds their confidence in you: As part of the new normal in dentistry, going paperless will help you as you move toward a touch-free patient experience to minimize the spread of COVID-19.
It makes your practice stand out: Patients today are constantly on the go and they expect their healthcare providers to keep up. Online forms save your patients the hassle of filling out form after form. They can be uploaded to your website or emailed directly to your patients, who will appreciate the convenience. (And don’t forget: online forms also ensure you get the signed documentation ASAP, which means no more delays from your patients.)
Also, according to the American Dental Association, being a paperless practice by using electronic health records (EHRs) offers “the potential to improve care quality and patient safety by enhancing both the quantity and quality of information available to providers for decision-making.”
3. Master the essential social media platforms
Social media platforms are one of the best ways to connect with your patients, existing and new. But there are just so many, how will you manage? Rather than feel overwhelmed, focus first on the essential few — Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn — and you’ll see your dental office productivity soar.
Start with these critical tasks:
- Creating a profile
- Updating your pictures and “About Us” sections
- Engaging with new and current patients via automated or customized content
- Posting new types of content, like patient video testimonials
- Running ads (especially Facebook ads and Twitter ads)
- Understanding each platform’s engagement analytics
4. Freshen up your online review profile
Online dental patient reviews are today’s word-of-mouth marketing, and they can truly make or break your business. You’ll want to make sure your online review pages, like those on Healthgrades, Yelp and Google Reviews, are spick-and-span.
Here are quick and easy ways to spruce up your online review pages:
- Claim your practice’s page (if you haven’t already)
- Ensure your practice information, like your address, website, hours, and payment information, are still up to date
- Enhance your practice description, and include new keywords
- Add new photos of your practice
- Make a point of requesting more reviews from patients, or let RevenueWell do it for you
- Review your policies for responding to dental patients’ online reviews
5. Revamp your approach to phone communication
The phone still matters in dental offices, a lot. From a customer service perspective, the phone is often the first point of contact patients have with your practice. And from a revenue perspective, it provides an opportunity for the team members working your phones to seriously drive production and new business. It’s also a channel to learn more about your patients’ dental needs, which your practice can proactively address and fulfill.
However, when handled poorly, the phone is also where your practice can lose new patients. Eighty-seven percent of new patients won’t leave a message or call back if their calls go to voicemail.
So, make this the year you revamp your approach to the phone. Here’s how:
Step 1: Evaluate your team’s phone skills
- How would you grade the team’s phone etiquette?
- Are you using “tell me” statements to draw patients out of their shells?
- Do you practice how to respond to questions about dental insurance or billing?
- Are you staying on the phone with a new patient for the right amount of time?
- How do you handle a patient who’s calling really to do price shopping?
Step 2: Assess your current phone system
- Does your phone system give you important patient info as soon as the phone rings?
- Can you text your patients from your main phone line’s number?
- When you’re on the phone, can your patients wait on hold, or are they sent to voicemail?
- Does it offer features, like auto-attendants, so you never miss a call?
- Does your phone system offer call recording for training purposes?
6. Add new marketing touchpoints
By adding touchpoints to your marketing efforts, you’ll improve patient retention, increase engagement and bring in new patients. Sometimes marketing gets a bad rap as being spammy or heavy-handed, but it doesn’t have to be. Get creative with your marketing, and patients will appreciate the outreach.
- Create some videos from the dentist or your dental office. Send them to patients after treatment to reaffirm what you told them in the chair. This personal touch goes a long way.
- Does your practice send appointment reminders via text message? You should. Start asking patients if they prefer to be texted. You might be surprised at the results.
7. Tighten up your daily huddle
Call it a meeting, a huddle, check-in—whatever you call your practice’s daily huddle, it is essential to the smooth running of a practice, regardless of size and volume. An easy way to tighten up your morning huddle is to template it. For example:
Monday – Look at the week ahead
Tuesday – Work on your handoff
Wednesday – Break down phone calls
Thursday – Work on ways the team can fill holes in the schedule
Friday – Look back at everything that went well during the week, along with areas where there’s room for improvement
Structuring a daily huddle agenda keeps you organized and focused and your team members will know their positions on each point. If your mornings are typically tight, consider a quick catch-up after lunch. Make sure everyone is calibrated and find out how everyone can support their fellow team members.
As you tighten up your daily huddle, just remember that overcommunication is never a bad thing.
Implement a few or all the above ideas at your dental practice and you’re sure to see improvements in office productivity. Learn more about RevenueWell and how the marketing platform lets practices automate patient communication and improve patient engagement at pattersondental.com.
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