An Introduction to the Use of Data Analytics in Dental Offices
Most of us are very aware of the fact that large corporations, government entities, and nonprofits are using Data Analytics to enhance their revenues, profits, and customer experiences. As a practicing dentist and business owner, I was very curious to see how I might be able to use these new technologies to improve the performance of my dental practice. Little did I know that I was about to open the door to an all new understanding of my business and its potential. The most amazing thing about this revelation was the simplicity of the tools available and the incredible impact that they could have on my business.
What is Data Analytics?
Data Analytics is used to organize, interpret, and analyze the digital information that is generated and stored as we interact with our patients and employees. When I started my dental career in the 90s, dental practices organized and stored most, if not all, patient information on paper.
Patient appointments were handwritten into an appointment book that was then typed and photocopied in order to be shared with other team members. Paper charts were the norm and continue to be used in many dental practices today. Payments were logged into a ledger book or possibly into accounting software that was part of an early practice management program. The information was difficult to share, easily lost or destroyed, and almost impossible to cross reference in any way.
As dentists embraced the digital age, we began to see that our practice management software could use our data to generate reports that quickly gave us insights into our businesses. Production, collection, accounts receivable, and many other reports were available with a few clicks of a mouse – but something was missing – if I wanted to know my production per hour or my collections per day I had to run a report, count the hours or days, and do the math. If I wanted to look at another time period or provider, I would need to repeat the entire process. You get the idea. I have used five dental practice management software programs in my career that provided a variety of reports, but nothing beats the dashboard interface in Practice by Numbers.
Welcome to the 21st Century: Data Analytics Dashboard for Dentists
The way I look at the business of dentistry changed forever when I was introduced to the dashboard analytics software program, Practice by Numbers, a highly specialized data analytics software that organizes and displays the practice data, and presents it in easy to understand diagrams, much like the gauges on my car’s dashboard.
Dentists and their business management teams typically monitor simple metrics like production and collections on a regular basis, but these metrics are historical. They tell us how we did, but do not offer suggestions for improvement or accolades for outstanding performances. They are known in the data world as lagging indicators. They are the result of many other activities. Leading indicators are direct measurements of the things we do to achieve a result, and help us to predict future performance. In a dental office, leading indicators might include number of patients reappointing for their next hygiene visit, or trends in treatment plan acceptance rates. For example, an upward trend in treatment plan acceptance may predict an increase in revenue for the practice, or a shortage in hours available to offer treatment. For the sake of simplicity, both are considered Key Performance Indicators, or KPIs. It has been said, “What gets measured gets done.” KPIs are the measurements that help us get things done and improve the performance of our dental practices.
Which KPIs are Most Important?
There are literally hundreds of KPIs that can be monitored and analyzed for any given dental practice. Each practice should select the ones that help them achieve their specific goals.
Some of the ones that I find very useful include:
- Hygiene KPIs: Using Practice by Numbers, I was able to easily set up a custom dashboard for our hygienists. It tracks production per hour, production per day, percent of scheduled hours utilized to treat patients, reappointment rate, percentage of Perio out of gross hygiene production, and percentage of patients receiving a fluoride treatment. Having my hygienists aware of these numbers on a daily basis helped them improve their own performance and revealed weaknesses in some of our systems, which were then corrected.
- Patient KPIs: Dashboards can help you understand the value of your patients by displaying metrics such as; number of active patients, number of new patients (including source), patient retention, production per active patient as well as per new patient, and patient treatment acceptance rate.
- Opportunity KPIs: The Revenue IQ tab in Practice by Numbers provides instant access to hygiene and restorative treatment opportunities that your team can use to fill provider schedules. Team members can log contacts and create tasks to help keep patients from slipping through the cracks. Accountability for scheduling efforts can be easily tracked by owners and managers.
- Financial KPIs: Practice by Numbers provides very detailed information regarding the financial health of your practice. Through its integration with QuickBooks, practice overhead can be analyzed by hour, day, chair, employee, and in many other ways.
- One of my favorite features is the accounts receivable aging portion of the program. In a matter of seconds, you can see trends in outstanding revenues as well as account detail. With one click, the data can be organized by oldest balances, largest balances, alphabetically, etc. Patient account information is readily available so your team can contact guarantors, make notes, and schedule tasks to help improve collections in your practice.
- Patient Demographic KPIs: Your team can instantly view information regarding the age of your patient base, which insurances are most or least prevalent, the number of patients per specific employer, and much more. This information is critical in making many decisions such as insurance participation, office location, and marketing material content.
These are only a small sample of KPIs that Practice by Numbers dashboards provide to help you make sound business decisions, identify opportunities, and share accountability within your dental team. The integration of Practice by Numbers with Open Dental allows you to unlock the true value of your data, so you can manage your business with confidence and achieve your goals. To see your data in Practice by Numbers dashboards, start a trial today.