Life is complicated for dental practice owners these days. (Actually, when hasn’t life been complicated for a dental practice owner?) Insurance (yeah, sorry to remind you). PPE and new safety protocols. Payroll. Government regulations. Fees. PPOs. Overhead. Collections. Student loans. CE. The list could go on and on, couldn’t it? And if there aren’t enough things for you to handle as an owner, let’s add a second full-time job to your list: Dentist! Thousands of practice owners are also practicing clinicians, which means they are trying to work the equivalent of two jobs every day.
The results of an ADA survey of dentists about their greatest causes of stress, therefore, probably won’t come as a surprise to you:
- 79.4 percent feel low in energy
- 55.8 percent blame themselves for things gone wrong
- 34.9 percent feel hopeless about the future
- 29.1 percent have no interest in things
- 23.5 percent have feelings of worthlessness
- 41.9 percent have difficulty concentrating and making decisions
Of these respondents, 22.6 percent indicated moderate to severe depression. Other studies found similar responses: 34 percent frequently or always felt physically or emotionally exhausted and 47 percent were somewhat happy to unhappy with little interest in life.
These are some discouraging numbers, but also not unexpected. No one would dispute that dentistry is a stressful profession. But it can also be a very rewarding livelihood, even for practice owners who are also practicing clinicians. But that doesn’t just happen. An enormous amount of effort and focus are required in order to rise above the strains and pressures these professionals feel each day. Just as there are many causes of stress, there are also many solutions to coping with and overcoming it. In this article, we’ll share how using actionable data can help you to build a team where everyone thinks like an owner. Imagine having every member of your team take ownership of their assigned areas of responsibility. Instead of trying to do it all, this model empowers all team members to own their areas of responsibility using metrics to measure performance and growth.
As an example of how this can be done, meet Dr. Gabrielle Cannick, owner of Grand Oaks Dental in Anderson, South Carolina. Anderson is a small industrial center about halfway between Charlotte, NC, and Atlanta, GA, and is known as “The Electric City” for having been one of the first cities in the Southeast to have electricity. Dr. Cannick has owned her practice for just over seven years. Before opening her doors in 2013, Dr. Cannick had decided she wouldn’t allow owning a dental practice to overtake her wish to start a family. Having worked with another dentist prior to opening Grand Oaks Dental, she knew how easy it would be to allow owning a practice to push everything else out of her life, and she was determined not to let this happen.
Knowing What’s Really Happening
For several years, Dr. Cannick used a well-respected practice coach to help manage her practice and saw great results from doing so. In 2018 she determined the cost of paying for a coach was prohibitive and decided to try managing her practice without one. She knew she would need a strong analytics partner, someone with deep expertise, and a track record of helping practices around the country. She would need a tool that would allow her to not only measure but also improve production, profitability, and team performance.
At the time, the Grand Oaks team’s process was to print out their daily schedule and stand around talking about it – with Dr. Cannick doing most of the talking. Their notes would come from the day before and they would all look at the schedule on a computer screen. Now the team can see everything together – Dr. Cannick and her hygienist use the Dental Intel Mobile App during their huddle as they discuss the day together. This has led to a much more effective and more interactive huddle. “We’re not just reading off the schedule,” she said. “Now there’s more engagement and that is leading to better planning and coordination for the day.”
“The huddle is probably my favorite feature,” Dr. Cannick added. “I like being able to see the month and what our goals are vs. what is scheduled. My team can then review in their huddle and go over patients coming in, what they are coming in for, how much unscheduled treatment they have – this has really helped to increase our same-day treatment. Team members will say things like ‘Dr. Cannick, do you think we’d have time to squeeze in another filling or squeeze this in because he needs to do this, or she needs to do that?’ This has been the biggest benefit so far of using Dental Intelligence in our practice. It’s really helping to change our culture.”
A Team of Owners
This is also translating into more ownership in the practice from team members vs. just Dr. Cannick being the owner. They are more aware of the need to pay attention to each patient and what they are coming in for and what they need, which helps to create more meaningful conversations with each patient. Instead of team members thinking ‘That patient is coming in for a crown,’” Dr. Cannick shared, “They’re thinking instead ‘While they’re here for their crown, is there other treatment they need but don’t have scheduled?’ or ‘If they get that crown done, how much insurance will they have left to get everything else taken care of?’”
Recently Dr. Cannick invited her team to take some time to write down their personal mission and vision as part of the practice. Not what the office mission or vision should be, but what they personally thought about their job. “Why do you work here? How do you feel that working here has helped you to accomplish your goals?” Having measurable standards and expectations helps them to better understand what’s really going on. She’s trying hard to instill a sense of mission and vision in her team for the “why” behind the “what.” “My real goal in dentistry is to help people feel better about themselves, to be more self-confident about their smiles, their health, and their overall wellness,” she said. “This requires that we have an office environment that is welcoming and safe. We also need to convey a positive feeling in all of our patient interactions. In order to accomplish these goals, I need to make sure my practice is a positive place to come and work.”
One of Dr. Cannick’s greatest challenges is dealing with patients. This is true for virtually every practice owner out there. “Every day, patients come in and say ‘I hate the dentist. Not you specifically, but dentists in general,’” she said. “It’s challenging to know that people pay you to hurt them. We’re not trying to hurt people – we’re trying to help them. Seeing a patient roll their eyes or cringe when you walk in the room isn’t fun. We try to make their experience as positive and pain-free as possible, but there is still likely going to be some pain involved.” Incorporating key performance metrics has helped her team increase their insights about each patient, including being able to see their total treatment history, their treatment acceptance %, how well they keep appointments, payment history, and much more. “The more we know about each patient, the more effectively we can determine how best to present and provide treatment to them.”
Dr. Cannick is learning this same need for more actionable data applies to her team. “With my team, it can be hard when I have a certain vision and goals for the practice, but things aren’t working the way I want them to. When things aren’t going well, it can really irk me. I want everyone to be happy and love coming to work. I also recognize they sometimes have bad days and that life sometimes spills over into work.” Tracking practice data has enabled her to turn performance numbers over to different team members, giving them the responsibility of owning how those different metrics are trending. “Instead of me having to pay constant attention to everything happening in my practice, Dental Intel has increased the accountability and attention that each of my team members gives to their work. In a significant way, it is helping them take ownership, which is huge.”
If your practice is anything like Dr. Cannick’s, you probably still have things you are trying to improve. That’s actually a wonderful thing! Knowing you need to improve proceeds the process of actually moving forward toward the growth you want to achieve. Having the right tools and a plan for implementation is key. Here’s how Dr. Cannick put it:
“I would tell someone that there are great tracking tools out there that can help you to consolidate all the data that you have in your practice management software and present it in a format that’s easy to understand, where you can look at your productivity, look at your collections, look at your case acceptance, and be able to speak in real-time with your team members about those numbers so that it can help you to achieve your production goals.”
Your job doesn’t have to be stressful, even if, as a dental practice owner and clinician, you have two of them. You can create a thriving practice built on sound business principles and use the power of actionable metrics to develop a team of responsible, self-managed professionals. Success is within your grasp.
At Dental Intelligence, we’re committed to helping your practice grow. We’d love to help you see where you are, so you can achieve the goals that are most important to you. Visit us today to request your free practice analysis.
A penny for your thoughts...