Is Your Dental Practice Healthy?

Dentistry is a business devoted to helping patients achieve better oral and systemic health. Yet many dental teams often do not consider the important business aspects of running a practice, or even know where to begin to review. Each person plays an important role in the business aspects of a dental practice, yet many practices and teams don’t see how their work impacts the bottom line. The key roles, defined:

  • Dentists are skilled at providing restorative and surgical care
  • Hygienists are the practice educators and skilled in nonsurgical periodontal therapies
  • Assistants provide the backbone of the clinical practice
  • The Business Team offers financial and communication assistance to patients

Business skills and knowledge are rarely taught in the curriculum of the various practice roles, so what is a practice and team to do? Having a practice analysis helps teams understand these often complex areas and how their role influences the practice as a whole.

A practice checkup

SWOT analysis

Similar to a physician reviewing a patient’s vital signs, the dental practice also exhibits its own set of vitals. In addition, an annual SWOT – a business’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats – is a great way to understand where the practice is and where it is going.

Practice vital signs range from numbers of active patients and case acceptance to production per provider per hour and accounts receivable ratios. Often in business, metrics and KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) are used to determine the health of a business. Metrics and KPIs are often used interchangeably, but in reality, they are two different things. See how these terms are distinctive:

  • A KPI is used to measure performance and success, usually over time, and can vary from department to department. A metric is nothing more than a number within a KPI that helps track performance and progress.
  • KPIs are strategic while metrics are tactical – KPIs are a quantifiable or measurable value that reflects a business goal or objective (strategic) and how successful the business is in accomplishing that goal or objective. A metric is also a quantifiable or measurable value, but it reflects how successful the activities taking place are (tactical) to support the accomplishment of the KPI.

An example of a KPI within dentistry would be the practice overhead while a metric would be hygiene production. An understanding of how metrics and KPIs interact within a practice helps determine a practice’s productivity and profitability, thus the practice’s vital signs.

Don’t just survive – learn to thrive

Stock photo depticing business growth.

On a day-to-day basis, doctors and teams are merely “surviving” in their software and in their practices – not using the tools in front of them to determine the practice’s vitals. Having an outside source, a company representative, along with a technology component, helps ensure the practice is aware of its vital signs. Having an informational interview combined with a SWOT analysis with the doctor, office manager and key team members as to where the practice is currently and where it wants to be, helps provide a road map to achieving goals.

Using this information – along with reports from the practice management software – an analysis of the practice’s vitals can be achieved. Areas that can be reviewed include active patient base, periodontal vs. healthy patients, unscheduled hygiene patients, patient retention and appointment availability, accounts receivable and case acceptance, along with a variety of other areas.

Moving forward

Paper airplanes

Utilizing these facts, metrics can be developed to improve the overall practice viability and KPIs. Yet, many times teams often are using inaccurate data. If the team lacks complete understanding of how the practice management software determines information, then inaccurate metrics will be developed.

This highlights the need for comprehensive software training. Once that is accomplished and the team understands the “why” behind the practice management software, appropriate metrics and vitals for the practice can be determined. Does your practice management software vendor offer a periodic checkup of the software?

The right tools

Dental Intel practice management software.

Patterson Technology Advisors provide in-office checkups and training to provide teams with analysis and training of the software combined with the practice’s goals. Additionally, having a program such as Dental Intel as a partner in the practice assists the doctor and team in achieving the metrics and KPIs desired. Dental Intel tracks, analyzes and automates the practice’s day by finding hidden revenue, reviewing metrics and providing feedback to the practice on how metrics are working.

Practice management guru Peter Drucker said, “What gets measured, gets managed.” Applying programs such as Dental Intel gives the practice a measuring tool to enhance viability. If a practice can’t measure its vitals, it can’t manage its business. If you can’t manage your business, then how do you know if it is healthy?

With the right tools, practices and teams can determine their health similar to reviewing a patient’s periodontal and restorative health by comprehensive or periodic evaluations. How healthy is your practice?