Question: I have been practicing for over 17 years in a relatively small town. There are a few other dentists practicing here as well, but I don’t think the city is overcrowded with dentists. I love dentistry and am very happy with my career choice. My practice grew rapidly when I started. Over time, the increase in patient care and income slowed down, and now these factors have been stable for several years. Is this situation normal? Should my practice continue to develop? My kids are approaching college age, and while my income is sufficient for all of the family’s current needs, I see the need to increase it as the kids prepare for college. . What should I do?
A: The developmental history of your practice is normal and most dentists have the same experiences that you have expressed. Some are happy with the status quo, while others see the need to change and produce more patient services and therefore more revenue. I will give you some ideas on how to increase the practice activity. They are not a priority and not all of them will be attractive to you or your situation. Integrating one of these requires proactivity on your part as the practice manager as well as the support of your staff.
If you think your practice needs major changes to be more productive, hire a team of practice management consultants to come and analyze it. Although these consultants are somewhat expensive, they can help significantly.
Here are some simple activities that increase practice that you and your team can incorporate into your practice.
Further reading: Improve net income
Focus on your existing patients
Many of the preventive and treatment procedures performed by dentists are clearly elective, such as veneers, adult orthodontics, teeth whitening, improving teeth anatomy through tooth reshaping, closures diastema, Botox, decreased snoring, preventative procedures, etc. (figures 1–3). Before the Great Recession and COVID-19, over 50% of general dentist activity was estimated by many practice management companies to be optional. Some of these procedures have disappeared over the challenges of the past few years.
The economy is stabilizing now and it is time to once again stimulate patients to request these elective procedures. You will find patients grateful to you for providing them with elective treatment and prevention options.
Increase clinical responsibilities of staff
This concept is important for increasing patient services. Some dentists wish to incorporate expanded clinical staff activities into their practice, and others are not. Several elective procedures can be easily and legally delegated to trained team members. A combination of increasing services for your current patients and delegating more clinical procedures to
Make your website attractive and educational
An informative and stimulating website is not self-glorifying, but an important educational tool for reaching current and potentially new patients.
Make sure your website is engaging for those who view it. Most patients do not have a comprehensive knowledge of the procedures dentists perform, so they are unaware of the potential value of these concepts to themselves and their families. Educate patients on your website with photos, short video clips, patient testimonials, and your personal testimony of the value of dental procedures. There are many companies out there who are eager to help you upgrade and improve your website. Keep it ethical and truthful. Patients can easily identify questionable market hype.
Get involved in civic / religious organizations
Many dentists who are involved in civic or religious groups do not tell their friends in these organizations what they are doing professionally. It can be accomplished from a selfless perspective to help people understand what your profession can do for them, or it can be overtly self-promoting. It is obvious which method is the best. Anyone would love to reduce or prevent the diseases dentists and their teams treat, but do they know your expertise in this area? Volunteer to provide educational programs for these groups. A simple PowerPoint presentation provided by you can motivate patients to become professionally involved with you. A brief educational article in your local newspaper or civic / religious newsletter is a great way to draw attention to your practice.
Encourage current patients to refer friends
Set up a meeting with your team on how to motivate satisfied patients to refer their friends and family to your practice. Some of your patients may think that you are already too busy to accommodate more patients. Make sure they know you are welcoming new patients. When someone refers a patient to your practice, a simple thank you note is appropriate and will encourage additional referrals.
Make your office attractive (not extravagant)
A modest, modern practice is attractive to patients. After decades of practice, I am convinced that patients judge you by many factors, but the quality of your treatment is probably not one of them. Your office is their first impression of you. I believe an office can survive about five years of constant patient flow. After that, it becomes worn and smelly, with old-fashioned decoration and furniture. Obviously, these factors are linked to the patient’s perception of your expertise and the quality of the treatment. I suggest that you take the time to sit down in your reception hall and look around. What do you see? Spider webs, dust, moldy magazines, stains on furniture, a smell of “dental office”? Sit in each of your operating chairs. Again, what do you see? Spots or dust on clinical lights, cobwebs on the ceiling, dirty air vents on the ceiling, chipped countertops or maybe a myriad of other unpleasant sights? Review, clean, or remodel your office periodically. Perform a full office inspection once every five years at least and reshape anything that doesn’t represent the image you feel is appropriate.
Encourage patient feedback
What do you do when you plan to go to a new restaurant, buy a car, or find someone to renovate your house? Most of us immediately go on the Internet. Staff members can effectively and tactfully seek Internet advice from your patients at the end of a successful treatment procedure, when leaving the office after a pleasant appointment, or at any time you deem appropriate.
But keep in mind that there is more and more evidence of corruption in this business activity and the validity of the opinions is in question. Any business or practice can cause businesses to provide them with false positive reviews. Articles appear in magazines and elsewhere about this unscrupulous activity. Nonetheless, patients still look to the reviews to judge you and your practice. Regularly monitor your online reputation and work to resolve any negative reviews.
These suggestions will encourage patients to speak positively to their friends about you and your practice. Word of mouth referrals are very valuable. Win them!
Growing a practice is a never-ending process. Your practice has a personality that is slowly becoming known to patients. Developing patient confidence is also an ongoing process. The longer patients stay in your practice, the more they trust a deserving practitioner. Use this confidence to educate your patients about all the changes taking place in dentistry and what these excellent prevention and treatment procedures can do for them and their families. Consider the suggestions made in this article. See which ones seem to match your practice, your community, and your personal and family needs. Then you can integrate the ones that suit your practice.
Author’s Note: The teaching materials following practical clinical courses offer additional resources on this topic for you and your staff.
One hour videos:
- Optimizing dental hygiene to the next level (item # V4799)
- Multiple Patient Planning – Work Smarter, Not Harder (Item # V4794)
Two-day practical classes in Utah:
- Restorative dentistry 1 – restorative / aesthetic / preventive with Dr Gordon Christensen
- Faster, Easier, Better Dentistry with Dr. Gordon Christensen
For more information, visit pccdental.com or contact Practical Clinical Courses at (800) 223-6569.
Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in the January 2022 print edition of Dental economics.