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Go for the Gold in 2021!

When you hear the name “Michael Phelps,” what comes to mind? Maybe his twenty-eight Olympic medals, including twenty-three gold medals, eight of which he earned during a single week in the Summer 2008 Olympics in Beijing, China? Or perhaps his thirty-nine competitive swimming world records set during his career? His participation in four different Olympics? Many rightfully consider him the greatest swimmer ever and perhaps even one of the greatest athletes of all time.

Of the literally thousands of races Phelps competed in over the course of his remarkable career, there is one that represents the true depth of his greatness. It’s the 200-meter butterfly final he swam in during the Beijing Olympics. Phelps was heavily favored to win, and he did in fact finish first and in world-record time. But it wasn’t until later that we learned what had happened at the beginning of that race that made his victory so remarkable: He swam the entire race essentially blind.

Here’s a recap from The Baltimore Sun:

Phelps owned the 200-meter butterfly through most of his career, right up until the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. He believed he was primed for a remarkable time in Beijing, one that no one would touch for generations. But as soon as he dived in, his goggles broke and filled with water. He had to swim essentially blind, relying on the sense of internal rhythm he’d built up over a lifetime.

“I thought he was either really tired or he was getting sick,” Bob Bowman [Phelps’s coach] recalled. “Because I could tell he wasn’t moving. He should’ve killed those guys.”

Phelps still won comfortably and set yet another world record. But he ripped off his swim cap and flung his busted googles in anger after he touched the wall.

Not long ago, Phelps spoke at an event where the sponsors replayed that 200-meter final. They were surprised to see him shake his head in disappointment as he watched it unfold.

“It still haunts me,” he said, laughing at his perfectionism.

Though Phelps might not agree, NBC commentator and former Olympic gold medalist Rowdy Gaines says the 200 butterfly stands out as the most remarkable swim from that remarkable week.

“I can’t begin to tell you how disorienting that is, to have your goggles fill with water like that,” Gaines said. “Any other mortal would have folded.”

This is amazing. Imagine trying to win an Olympic gold medal against the top swimmers in the world and you can’t see where you’re going. His goggles didn’t break when he was just a few meters away from the end of the race. They broke when he first entered the water. Incredible!

So, what does this have to do with preparing your dental practice for success in 2021? Lots! As you begin the process of planning for next year, there are seemingly countless things you need to consider in your planning. Are there any that should be considered essential to your success? We believe so.

Here’s where the Michael Phelps story becomes relevant in your own efforts to prepare. In a sense, 2020 was everyone’s 200-meter butterfly race. The COVID-19 pandemic was the moment our goggles collectively broke and we began swimming blindly forward, hoping there would be a finish line. For some dental practices, this was a devastating disaster from which they are still trying to recover. However, for a good number of practices, the last few months have actually been some of the most successful they’ve ever experienced. What’s the difference? Just as Michael Phelps relied upon his preparation and instincts to propel him to surprising victory, these thriving dental practices followed proven principles to overcome seemingly impossible obstacles in achieving such historic performance. Here are three things these practices did (and that you can do too) that led them to such surprising success.

1 – Focus on Hygiene: One of the doctors we recently spoke with, Dr. Smith in Wyoming, reached out to us to share his team’s remarkable success. He told us he and his team had done more production through June 2020 than they had during the same time period in 2019. How was this even possible with their practice shutting down for most of the second quarter? One of the keys was their focus on identifying how many patients left the practice each day without scheduling their next hygiene appointment. They then discussed this as a team and set goals to improve this metric. Although the hygienists had a lead role in rescheduling, every team member took ownership in making sure those patients got scheduled before leaving the practice. This had a huge impact. Keeping track of your hygiene re-appointment isn’t too difficult if you make it a priority. Whether you use a practice analytics platform like Dental Intelligence or even keep track of this on your breakroom whiteboard, you need to identify how many hygiene appointments you have each day and then note how many of those patients scheduled their next appointment while still in your office. You can also track this by individuals or departments like Dr. Smith’s office did, which provided great insights into who was leading the team and who needed additional training.

2 – Schedule to Goal: This one is often overlooked. Most practices understandably put a lot of effort into filling holes in their schedule with anyone that will answer the phone and say “yes,” but there is a better way. Instead of frantic last-minute phone calls, successful practices schedule to goal. For example, let’s say a dentist has a daily production goal of $6,000. If someone is looking out 2-3 days ahead to see how her current schedule compares to this goal, scheduling becomes more strategic and less reactive. Often this can be one of your front-desk team members, but regardless of who has this responsibility, they should have great phone skills and a commitment to helping the doctor reach her daily production goal, which in turn benefits the entire practice. In this scenario, your scheduler is looking for the best type of dentistry to schedule to hit the goal vs. making lots of phone calls. If, for example, you needed $1,000 more production scheduled this coming Thursday to hit your goal, you could schedule two patients needing crowns and hit that goal or instead, call 10-15 patients with overdue hygiene and hope 5-6 of them will answer their phones and agree to come in. (Bonus tip: Make sure you celebrate whenever this goal is reached, including this team member in your celebration!)

3 – Increasing Case Acceptance: “Obviously!” you might be thinking here. Every dental practice wants to increase case acceptance, right? One of the ways many practices address when a patient declines treatment is by focusing on either the one presenting treatment or the person responsible for scheduling the patient and asking them “What happened? How come they didn’t schedule?” This isn’t the right approach. Instead, these successful practices have done the following to increase their case acceptance while improving overall profitability:

  • Diagnose and treat the things that are important to the patient. So, if they want orthodontic care, we diagnose orthodontic. If they want crowns or cosmetic treatment, we diagnose those. By starting with patient preference, the likelihood of them accepting treatment automatically increases.
  • Track acceptance by provider. This is a powerful and often-overlooked metric. By paying attention to case acceptance % by provider, you’ll uncover powerful insights about who performs well and who would benefit from additional coaching. Again, Dental Intelligence tracks all of this automatically for practices, but it can also be done manually.
  • Track acceptance by team. Here’s another important way you can track and improve case acceptance – measure acceptance by presenting team. For example, Dr. Brown and Carol, your lead hygienist, have 15% higher case acceptance when working together than Dr. Brown and Sarah, your newest hygienist experience when treating patients together. This is valuable information that can help you to drill down on why some teams are more effective than others, why patients respond differently to certain teams, etc.

Virtually every practice was profoundly impacted by the events of 2020. At one point, everyone was swimming blind through uncharted waters. But for the practices that were prepared, they found a way to apply these and other principles to achieve record results. The best news? It’s not too late for your practice to begin seeing similar success. Although it will take some effort and patience, you too can win your own Olympic-size victories and enjoy a prosperous 2021 and beyond.

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. 

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