Bulletin, July 2005

Exclusively to Clients and Friends
of Advanced Practice Management

The Rossi Dental Dow Jones

The mature practices sampled showed growth of 4.5% over the first half of 2004. New patients were up 1.8%. The production per exam was up 3.7%. The production per exam is a function of fees, variety of services offered and case acceptance.
62% of the practices showed gains, 38% declines.

Seasonality in dentistry- get with the rhythms:

As you know, we track the data from over 220 offices each month here at Advanced Practice Management. This enables us to see patterns that help us in advising our clients.
I recently wrote an article about these patterns in Dental Economics, “Seasonality and Dentistry” March, 2005. Check it out. It can help you in planning your marketing efforts, hygiene capacity, performance reviews and even remodeling.

Speaking of seasonality, August is coming up fast so, if you have a family practice, expand your hygiene capacity now. Add a few extra days of hygiene or CRDA time for kiddie prophies in the last week or two of August. Your patients will appreciate it and you will pick up some extra business.

By the way; if parents are dropping off their kids be sure to get their cell phone numbers. And that way if Little Johnny needs sealants or something as simple as a quick filling you can call the parent and clear that, thus saving everyone the work of another patient visit.

Speaking of cell phone numbers, how many patients’ cell phone numbers do you have? When I ask most of my clients, it’s under 20%. Yet probably 80% of your patients have cell phones. This number is golden. It is less likely to change than any other number or address the patient has. You can’t schedule people you can’t reach. So really put in an effort in the next six months to collect these numbers.

Want more new patients? Do extended hours make a difference?

We are currently in the process of tabulating our “Current Practices and Procedures Survey” of 2005.
In last year’s survey, about 35% of the respondents said that they offered more than 3 hours per week after 5:00 or on Saturdays. Those practices attracted about 3-4 more new patients per doctor per month. In previous years’ surveys, we had found more of a relationship between the number of hours the practice was open per week than which hours.

The preliminary results of this year’s survey again imply that evening and Saturday hours can help in attracting patients. Despite the fact that most doctors who have dabbled with extended hours say they are frustrated by cancellations and no shows, it’s apparent that by offering patients hours that make it easier for them to come to visit you that you can attract and keep more patients.

Phone Coverage: It’s not uncommon to find dental offices’ phones being unmanned during lunch hour. Yet, that’s when many people get their personal errands handled. When do you check with the pharmacy, go to the dry cleaner, or call the garage? Patients expect you to be open during business hours.

Our results here aren’t finalized, but the early indications are that this does make a difference. Put simply, if you don’t have a human manning the phone one out of eight hours, that’s about 12% of practice time. That alone could mean about 1-2 new patients per month.

Non-par offices (not in the Delta network) average fewer new patients per month per doctor. It makes sense then for these offices especially to seriously consider offering more consumer-friendly hours and to make sure that the phone is covered during lunch hours.

If you must use an answering machine, make sure it sounds professional. I often hear poor recordings when I call offices. Bad sound quality, rambling scripts, and inadequate direction for emergency patients and so on. Have you called your machine lately?

If you want more new patients than you are currently experiencing, you have to do something. Too often, dentists will wish they had more new patients but are unwilling to take serious measures such as: expanding hours, making a serious investment in advertising, upgrading signage, and so on. No doubt this is due to the fact that these things are usually inconvenient and expensive. When it comes to new patients there is no such thing as a sure thing*…except that if you don’t take action, new patient flow won’t increase! It is possible to increase new patients, it just isn’t easy.

* If someone guarantees you “Scores, even hundreds of eager New Patients,” check references and watch your wallet.

Talking money – it isn’t easy to do!

Most of you have and want people at the front desk that are friendly and compassionate. It falls to these people to discuss sometimes uncomfortable aspects of money and insurance with your patients.
As you know, we take a positive approach. We don’t see the front desk’s duty as “enforcing a financial policy.” We prefer to see their role as “making dentistry as comfortably affordable as possible.” A well-trained front desk person doesn’t only collect money, but helps patients afford and follow through on treatment.

And that’s the approach that Shelly goes into in some detail at her annual “Collections Made Comfortable Seminar” which is coming up September 23rd.

This seminar has sold out for the last two years. Past attendees have rated it very highly. It’s exclusively for people that work at the front desk (sorry, doctors) and the exchange of issues and information from the attendees makes the seminar extra special.

As a client, you are eligible for a pre-announcement savings of $50.00 per attendee. You get first dibs. We will be mailing to the rest of the dental community shortly so call us by Tuesday, August 16th, to reserve space for your staff now. We guarantee you they’ll be glad they went (and you will too!).

Have a great summer!