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Where Does it Hurt?

Simple Steps to Fixing Your Practice Pains

Isn’t technology amazing? Not just with obvious things like mobile phones, electric cars, or the internet, but every piece of hardware and software you’ve ever used were at some point imagined and then invented by someone. In a dental practice, things like chairs, drills, scalers, periodontal probes, and many more are all indispensable tools that you use each day, likely without giving much if any thought to how different your life would be without them. Take, for example, your x-ray machine. Can you imagine trying to practice without this remarkable and essential technology?

The story of how x-rays were discovered is a long and fascinating one. Although not the first person to discover them, German engineer and physics professor Wilhelm Rontgen is often credited with advancing the research and scientific use of this phenomenon, including x-ray’s potential use in medicine. He even produced the first “medical” x-ray, an image of his wife’s hand, which led her to say, “I have seen my death.” Dentists quickly saw the enormous potential of this new technology, among them Dr. C. Edmund Kells, an American dentist practicing in the South, who was one of the first to expose a dental radiograph in the United States.

X-ray of Röntgen’s wife’s hand

Even with the innumerable advances made since the discovery of x-rays, many dental practices still use this technology to discover decay, fractures, and other problems in a patient’s mouth. Without using an x-ray or other similar technology, doctors would have no way of identifying and treating conditions that, if left untreated, might become more serious. X-rays help you provide essential care for your patients.

With the benefits of x-rays fresh in your mind, consider how helpful it would be to see an “x-ray” of your dental practice. What might you discover that is otherwise invisible? For example:

  • How many patients are leaving your practice without a scheduled appointment?
  • What is the percentage of patients accepting or not accepting presented treatment?
  • How many new patients are you seeing each month, and how many are you retaining?
  • What is your current collection percentage? Is it better or worse than last month?
  • Who is your top performing hygienist and why?
  • How much same-day dentistry are you performing?

These are just a few of the dozens of questions you should probably know the answers to when it comes to the health of your practice. Feeling overwhelmed? If so, that’s understandable. You’re trying to balance a hundred different things all at once and adding a bunch of new things to the list of items you should be paying attention to but can’t or don’t know how to can be discouraging.

The good news here is that there is (surprise!) technology that helps you to do a lot of this discovery and diagnosis with little or no effort on your part. Dental practice analytics using powerful software to gather, normalize, and present key performance indicators (KPIs) are changing the way that thousands of dental practices see what’s really happening within their office. Just as the x-ray transformed the way doctors treat patients, having the ability to collect and visualize this data is and will have a dramatic impact on the health of forward-thinking practices. Still feeling overwhelmed? We’ve got you! To get started, let’s look at just a few of the most important KPIs that are critical for any practice. You may even have some fun with the process.

When a patient first presents with an issue, what do you ask them? Something like “Where does it hurt?” or something similar, correct? This simple but important question is the beginning of diagnosing what the problem is and is a necessary step in developing a treatment plan. “Where does it hurt?” can also apply to finding and diagnosing problems in your practice. Before you can really address them, you first need to know what they are and, if possible, what is causing the pain.

Here are three common practice pain-points and suggested ways to use insights from your data to resolve them. These aren’t intended to be comprehensive or applicable in every situation. The key here is to give regular attention to the KPIs most important to you. Our analysis of over 8,000 dental practices tells us that those making this habit a part of their workflow are also the ones providing the best care to their patients. No doubt you share the same goal.

For the sake of simplicity, let’s look at one metric in each of these categories:

  • Where your practice was
  • Where your practice is
  • Where you want your practice to be
Pre-Appointment PERCENTAGE:

Pre-Appointment Percentage is the percentage of Active Patients (patients seen within the last 18 months) that currently have a scheduled appointment. When focused on keeping your Pre-Appointment Percentage above 65%, you can reduce your patient attrition, and additionally save thousands of dollars each year on recall attempts. A lot of time, money, and efforts are placed on generating new patients, but remember it’s equally important to ensure that your existing patients always have a scheduled appointment to ensure they are not lost.

Average Production Per Patient Visit:

Average production per patient visit is your 90-day production per visit, which is calculated by dividing total production obtained from the patient’s ledgers for the last 90 days by the total number of patient visits over the last 90 days.

Average production per patient visit gives you an idea of how efficient your practice is. Are you really giving your patients all the care they need, or are you selling your services short? You can be seeing an avalanche of people, but if you are not effectively getting acceptance on treatment plans, you won’t be doing as much production as a practice with fewer patient visits and higher production per visit. This metric will greatly affect the quality of life in and out of the practice.

Hygiene Re-Appointment Percentage

Hygiene Re-Appointment Percentage is the percentage of Hygiene Visits that on the same day of the Hygiene Visit have scheduled a subsequent hygiene appointment before leaving the dental office. This is one of the most powerful metrics when it comes to increasing production and improving patient health. Many practices believe their percentage is high – as much as 90% or better. In reality, most practices have lots of room for improvement in this category. The good news is that you can increase this KPI with some simple adjustments in how and who handles re-appointment. For example, consider having your hygienists re-appoint while the patient is still in the chair vs. having someone at the front desk attempt to do so.

These three KPIs are just meant to get you started. The process of regularly doing an “x-ray” of your practice can only take you in one direction – a positive one. No matter which metrics you choose to track, the most important decision is to start paying attention to the health of your practice. X-rays help you know what your patients need and help you decide how to treat them. Using metrics to see what your practice needs will likewise help you discover, diagnose, and “treat” the areas needing attention. Both your patients and practice deserve the best treatment possible. Who better than you to provide that care?

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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