Owning or working in a dental practice in today’s highly-competitive, highly-stressful business environment, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed with choices. “What new equipment should we buy?” “Do we have enough staff, and are they the right fit for our practice and patients?” “We’re spending a lot on Facebook ads. Are we spending too much? Not enough? Should we be spending more on Google ads?” “Should we offer implants? Sleep apnea treatment? Invisalign?” These and a thousand other decisions are constantly in front of you, and “decision fatigue” only seems to be getting worse. If you knew that focusing on a specific department’s performance would impact the growth of your entire practice, you would likely be all over that, right? Here’s the good news: Top-performing practices are making their hygiene department the focus of their entire practice and are seeing significant growth as a result. The even-better news? Your practice can absolutely see similar growth.
Dr. Joe Jeppson, a solo practitioner and owner of Jeppson Dental in Provo, Utah, has been practicing since 2000. After a recent comprehensive analysis of his practice’s growth trends, Dr. Jeppson realized he had hit a plateau. He was at or near capacity in terms of both new and existing patients. Adding an associate was certainly an option, as was adding new services or increasing his treatment hours. The problem? He wasn’t sold on doing any of these things and wanted to see if there were any other options for growth.
As Dr. Jeppson’s practice data using was analyzed using practice intelligence, we discovered significant opportunities for him to grow without needing to add new patients, staff, or production hours. According to Weston Lunsford, Dental Intelligence’s CEO, “Dr. Jeppson had a huge upside for growth, but it was sometimes difficult to locate and accurately interpret. We showed him how to find and use that data to grow his practice without adding a lot of new patients or additional production hours.” For example, in reviewing his hygiene team’s average dollar amount for accepted treatment, we discovered that the hourly revenue was around $80 per hygienist. But after helping Dr. Jeppson’s team establish goals with a focus on offering needed treatment to hygiene patients, that average amount jumped to over $150 per hour – an increase of $70 per patient! When averaged over a quarter, that equaled over $35,000 in additional quarterly revenue for the practice.
Your takeaway? By paying particular attention to your hygiene department as Dr. Jeppson did, you’ll discover growth opportunities that can impact your entire practice. What’s more, you likely won’t need to add new equipment, additional production hours, or new patients to see this impact. Improvement is never easy. Change isn’t usually very much fun. But instead of being overwhelmed with all of the changes or improvements you know could be made, start with your hygiene department. Although each practice is unique, there are principles here that will work regardless of what your practice looks like. Let’s focus on two things top-performing practices are doing to impact the growth of their hygiene department.
How often does this happen in your practice? A patient finishes their hygiene appointment and heads to the front desk to complete their visit. After handling payment, the patient is encouraged to schedule their next appointment. “Well, I don’t know what I’ll be doing six months from now. Can I check my schedule and call you back?” Just like that, they’re out the door and likely soon forgotten. Here’s a better approach. As soon as the hygienist finishes a cleaning or other procedure, she presents options for the next appointment based on what she already knows about the patient (in Open Dental this can be done using the Planned Appointments feature). “You like early morning appointments, right? We have two openings at this same time the second week of April. Would you prefer a Tuesday or Wednesday?” (In Open Dental, you can do this by putting the Planned Appointment on the pinboard, then using the appointment search to find openings that match your patients’ preferences.) Instead of creating a way for the patient to leave without a next scheduled appointment, this simple change in presentation almost guarantees an appointment will be scheduled. Our analysis shows this “small” adjustment in scheduling can lead to a 20% increase in hygiene reappointment percentage. That’s anything but “small!”
By making hygiene reappointment percentage a priority, you’ll begin seeing an impact on your schedule right away, but more significantly, six months or more from now. Another great thing about this Key Performance Indicator (KPI) is that it’s easy to track. You simply need to look at the total number of hygiene patients that kept appointments in a specific time period and then determine how many left your office with their next appointment already scheduled. There’s your hygiene reappointment percentage. Over time, as you continue to focus on this metric and discuss as a team how to help more patients to schedule before they leave your practice, you’ll see some exciting things start to happen.
A second way to grow your hygiene department is through offering additional services, such as fluoride or teeth whitening, at the time of treatment. You’re probably already doing this, right? If so, how are you offering these services? During a patient’s recent visit to the dentist, after the hygienist finished their prophy, she told the patient she was going to do a fluoride treatment and asked if he preferred mint or watermelon. The hygienist then explained the procedure for doing so and told him how much it would cost. She applied the fluoride and reminded the patient not to brush his teeth for at least four hours. He then checked out and paid his portion, which included the fluoride treatment. After explaining the benefits of this treatment, the hygienist didn’t need ask whether or not the patient wanted to do fluoride – she asked what flavor he wanted. The lesson here is found in how she presented the treatment: Purpose/benefit first, price second. This also shows how impactful a hygienist can be in increasing overall production in the practice. Your hygienist is seen as an educator – someone patients have a higher level of trust in than even their doctor. When a hygienist speaks to all of the current needs of a patient that she or the doctor could address, the likelihood of the patient accepting at least some of that needed treatment increases.
There are certainly many other ways you can expand your hygiene department’s impact on overall production, including implementing a bonus system, adding new services, among others. Having a conversation with your hygiene team about their impact on the practice and helping them feel empowered to care for their patients also has been proven to influence growth. Although people don’t generally like to be measured, if done in a framework of abundance and gratitude, people are likely to respond favorably. The best place to begin is by discovering where your hygiene reappointment percentage is currently at. That will give you a place on the map to start from. A low percentage (<40%) means you have lots of exciting growth ahead! Spend the next 2-3 weeks measuring this each day, and then evaluate. Once you know where you are, you can start implementing systems to move things forward. As the old saying goes, “A thousand miles begins with the first step.” Take that step today!
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.