Bulletin, August 2003

Exclusively to Clients and Friends
of Advanced Practice Management

The Rossi Dental Dow Jones for August:

Our sampling of 38 mature practices shows that through June of this year practice production was up 6.8% and collections were up 4% compared to 2002’s averages. Patient exams were up 2.5% and new patients were down 2.3%.
The average Doctor production per hour worked was $423. Hygiene per hour worked was $100. This sample includes both Metro and Outstate practices.

The collection percentage was just 92% which is reflective of PPO, Delta and Medical Assistance write-offs as well as bad debts. On the other hand, accounts receivables ratios have tightened to an average of 1.3. (Accounts receivables ratios of 2.0-2.5 used to be considered typical). Over the past 3-4 years there has been a significant pick up in use of VISA, Care Credit, etc. in Minnesota dental offices.

Employment Situation

The table below shows want ad positions for a sample period in the summer of 2003 compared to the same sample period in 2002. These are average weekly want ad counts.
They show this year a slight increase in hygiene openings and front desk openings. However, there were significantly fewer positions advertised for dental assistants.

Average Sunday Want Ad Counts
Number of Advertised Openings
  Hygienists Assistants Front Desk
Summer 2002 9 34 13
Summer 2003 17 21 11

In Minnesota, unemployment is at the highest level it has been in 18 years. More than 155,000 people are out of work…about 1 in 40 jobs having been lost since the recession began in March 2001. The unemployment rate is 4.6% and that is bound to have some effect on demand for dentistry as well as other services.

Well, we know we can’t control the economy but to a large degree you can control what happens in your own practice. As a businessman, I believe in the difference management can make because I see it all of the time. If your schedule is feeling a little spottier and patients a little more skittish it’s more important than ever for you and your staff to focus your efforts. And, keep the faith! I’ve seen many situations this spring and summer where practices had a few bad weeks and then things came around.

September’s coming.
Don’t freak! Instead, check for leaks:

It happens every September. I get calls about schedules being light. For most practices it’s harder in September to keep the hygiene (and therefore, Doctor) schedules full.
Remember Shakespeare’s quote (roughly), “There’s many a slip between cup and lip”? In your practice, like every other, not all the treatment you prescribe is done. Patients delay scheduling, or cop out of treatment by canceling or failing. Or, as I mentioned in my previous bulletin, by the time a predetermination is done the patients may have cooled off.

Almost all of you have computer systems that are designed to track lost treatment provided you are scheduling through the computer and you’re entering your treatment plans. If it’s been a while, ask your front desk person to print up a “pending or unscheduled treatment” report. There are other low tech ways to plug the holes though. An old method is to simply keep charts “in process” in a separate area. This can make it hard to locate charts since your staff has to look in more than one spot. Another method is to simply have vinyl folders that you put around charts in progress. Then they can be easily spotted in your file cabinets.

And, there is another very simple thing you, the Doctor, can do. Simply keep a little notebook of treatment recommended… any time you recommend a crown (or more) note the patient’s name, date and a short note about what was recommended. Keep it in your back pocket… and then as treatment is done cross it off. I guarantee you that you will catch at least $1,000 worth of lost treatment per month… probably several times that. This simple method will also help you find and plug the leaks in your systems.

In hygiene, some patients fall out of perio treatment… particularly perio maintenance. It should be up to the hygienist (not the front desk person) to call and follow up on these patients. At the very least the hygienist will get feedback as to why the patient dropped out of treatment which might help them in their approach with other patients.

So, don’t fret. Take advantage of the seasonal lightness to improve your practice.

Food label interpretation – do the math:

Are you taking the time to help your patients with this? As you are well aware, when you read the label of a soft drink, candy bar or other foods you see sugars listed in grams. What’s a gram and how does it convert into a measurement our patients are familiar with? Remember this simple conversion: 4.2g =1 tsp. This means a can of Mountain Dew with 50g of sugar has 12 teaspoons of sugar. Yikes! Help your patients make better decisions at the store with this simple conversion… from Matt Lahn, RDH.

Watch for it:

Hey, our upcoming Fee & Wage Survey will be in the mail shortly. Please help us help you and others by participating.

Yellow pages:

If you are or are going to be advertising in the Yellow Pages don’t wait until the last minute for the rep to show up at your door. That doesn’t allow time for us to get the design right.
Not sure of which Yellow Pages to be in? You can do some simple marketing research on your own. Simply tear off the covers of the phone books that are candidates in your area, show these covers to your patients and ask them, “Which one do you use at home?” Keep a tally and in just a week or two you will know where to place your advertising dollars.

Generally speaking it makes sense to go for an in column ad in the big books and a display ad in the local books (if you are in the suburbs). Unless you are really going to go for it display ads in the big book are too expensive. Through my clients I’ve seen that display ads in the suburban books can work quite well but each area is different and that’s why it’s important to do the market research mentioned above.

If you are spending money on Yellow Pages make darn sure that you and your staff are tracking your sources of new patients tightly. You don’t want to spend thousands of dollars and at the end of the year, still not know “Am I getting my money’s worth?” Roughly speaking, it’s not unusual to spend about $100 in advertising per each new patient received… about what you’d pay per record if you were purchasing a practice.

Yours truly,