The new year offers many opportunities to optimize a dental practice in successful ways. Just as people make resolutions, a dental practice also can rethink important priorities with a fresh perspective. In fact, setting key goals at the start of the year can allow a practice to become much more productive and ultimately more streamlined from the front office to the operatory. But it requires foresight, teamwork, and accountability to truly make goals a reality.
COVID-19 taught the industry a lot when it comes to preparedness, particularly when it comes to infection control and adaptable patient care. For the past two years, automated technology has played an important role in keeping patients in communication with their healthcare providers through lockdowns, masking and a generally uncertain time in the lives of many Americans. For the communication process to continue to be streamlined, a practice needs to remain invested in technology that can meet the demands of patient care during any current and impending worldwide health crisis.
According to the State of the Dental Industry Report last year, the biggest incentives for investing in new software (besides COVID-19) were to reduce paperwork, modernize the office, and reduce the costs of current or out-of-date software solutions. When it comes to investing in new equipment anywhere in the practice, there are many important factors to consider, such as how much the practice is willing to spend and what the benefits will be, not only in terms of monetary value, but also time savings, patient comfort and overall staff satisfaction.
Setting dental practice goals: Where to start
There are many considerations when evaluating a practice’s annual goals for the new business year. Expansion – whether physically or in terms of services provided – frequently is at the top of the list. For some practices, being able to offer more services can provide a competitive advantage; it also can go hand in hand with an expansion of the physical office space, especially if it means bringing in additional technologies.
While expansion can bring in new revenue streams, it’s also a major investment that may not be appropriate for every practice recovering from the costs associated with COVID-19. Instead, consider these other opportunities for growth:
- Offer in-house payment plans: The impact of COVID-19 is still being felt among patients who may have lost their insurance coverage as the result of unemployment, but there are profitable ways dental practices can create custom payment options that are not related to in-network insurance. For example, a dental membership plan ensures that patients can continue receiving important dental care with the opportunity to pay in installments. For the practice, it also means not having to lose patients because of insurance challenges.
- Provide ongoing educational opportunities: According to the eLearning Company, practices that provide learning opportunities for staff generate over 25% more revenue per year per employee. It’s lucrative to encourage staff to stay educated, and on top of changes and regulations, as well as the newest technology. Bonus: Most training opportunities are available virtually.
- Invest in the staff you have: If your practice can’t expand staff or services, consider finding ways of rewarding the staff that have been working through the pandemic. Financial incentives are great, but even keeping an important pipeline open for communication can make a big difference in morale. Encourage staff members to offer their ideas on how to make the practice run more efficiently and encourage those who are doing a great job with bonuses and promotions.
- Develop a new marketing message: No time is better than now to rethink marketing, especially as practices start to recover from the toll of the pandemic. Focus efforts online via social media, online reviews, and your practice website where there are free opportunities to connect with patients and potential patients in meaningful ways, such as by posting blogs about dental health and offering incentives for new patients through referrals. Ultimately, when it comes to your online message, you want to position yourself as a trustworthy dental resource. This means sharing free advice and using targeted online ads to reach potential patients. Also consider making yourself available for media opportunities, such as spots on the news related to oral health.
Supplies in demand
The practice’s operatory should also be an important focus of evaluation every new year, especially when it comes to safety protocols and equipment investment. The pandemic certainly created a renewed focus on infection prevention, and as such, investment in necessary inventory to combat risk will continue to be important in 2022.
PPE, and any other materials that help to prevent cross-contamination in the operatory (including sleeves for tools, covers for chairs and lighting, etc.), has become an important investment for patient and staff safety. But with supply chain issues on everyone’s minds, it is also mission critical to inventory the products needed to perform the most common procedures in a practice before you risk running low. These may include everything from sealants and fluoride to prophy angles and prophy paste.
And as patients revisit dentists after a potential year or two away during the height of the pandemic, practices are expected to see not only an influx of appointments, but also some of the more common oral health conditions multiply. Patients who may not have continued their regular checkups during the pandemic may be facing increased rates of developing caries and other issues that require treatment. Do you have the tools required to keep up with the demand? Speak with your Patterson rep for recommended dental products to keep your practice prepared for the year ahead.
Gawel R. The top 100 dental products of 2020. Dentistry Today. January 1, 2021.
Levin RP. Six goals of high-performance practices. Dental Economics. April 1, 2013.
Patel HH. Importance of pharmacology in dentistry. News Medical. February 26, 2019.
Roberts S. Set seven goals for your dental practice in 2021. Dentistry Today. March 25, 2021.
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A version of this article originally appeared in the January edition of OnTarget. Read the latest edition and view current promotions at pattersondental.com/dental/ontarget.