What is essential?
That question took on new meaning in 2020 and directly impacted many dental practices. Shortly after the COVID-19 pandemic began, dentists around the world were forced to close their doors for several months. The question of whether dentistry was “essential” took on enormous significance as owners and practice teams scrambled to respond to a situation no one could have imagined just a few months previously.
Now here we are, just over one year later, with most if not all practices fully operational and busier than ever. And yet, the impact of the previous year still lingers and will likely do so far into the future.
In reflecting on the question of “what is essential?” in a dental practice, many valid responses could be given. Doctors and team members, of course. Equipment. Operatories. Practice management software like Open Dental, etc. If asked, each clinician would likely list many different instruments and tools that, to them, are an essential part of their practice and patient care. On the business side, countless different technologies (both hardware and software) could also be included on this list. Technology has transformed dentistry and that will no doubt continue far into the future.
As you consider what your practice essentials might include, would analytics or actionable metrics make your list? Why or why not? Although the concept of using software to measure key performance indicators (KPIs) in a dental practice is relatively new, the idea of tracking and measuring certainly is not. Successful practice owners and leaders have long made keeping track of individual and team performance a priority. As Pearson’s Law states: “When performance is measured, performance improves. When performance is measured and reported back, the rate of improvement accelerates.” The truth of this statement has been verified by countless dental practices over time. It could even be argued that without a robust system of tracking KPIs, the quality of care provided to patients is diminished.
If measuring and improving practice performance is indeed “essential,” what should you be measuring? There’s no “one-size-fits-all” answer to this question, because each practice is unique and focused on different priorities. The principle of paying consistent attention to your KPIs is what matters here. In our work with over 8,000 dental practices, Dental Intelligence has found several key metrics that top-performing teams focus on that would certainly help any practice to grow. Here are three of them.
Production Per Visit:
An obvious one, right? Production Per Visit (PPV) is at the heart of any dental practice. It’s what makes all the other numbers go. Without growth in your PPV, there is no growth anywhere else. Here’s something important to remember when thinking about this metric: There are only two ways to increase production in a dental practice. Really! Here is our formula for that:
Simply put, to increase production, you can either increase the number of visits, or increase the amount of production per visit, or (ideally) some combination of the two. That’s it. This means you have some important decisions to make about your growth strategy. Most practices understandably default to increasing visits by adding new patients, and that approach certainly has validity. However, our analysis shows that increasing production per visit with existing patients is less expensive, more effective, and leads to better patient care.
What should I do next?
- Figure out what your current average PPV is by provider, both doctors and hygienists. Don’t go crazy here, but if you can determine what this is for at least the past few days or even the past month, this will be a great beginning.
- Armed with this data, start thinking and talking about where you want to go. What would a 5% increase in PPV mean? Is that possible? What would need to change? What’s the next step?
Annual Patient Value:
What is Annual Patient Value? Annual Patient Value (APV) is determined by calculating annual collections per patient for all active patients. This is a great metric for understanding the overall health of your practice. APV lets you see which patients bring the most value to the practice and why. This metric reveals the type and quality of engagement you have with each patient. If you look at this compared to Production Per Visit, you’ll discover important insights about how often you are seeing patients. For example, if your APV was $600 and your PPV was $325, you’re likely seeing your patients at most twice annually, indicating there is significant unscheduled treatment & production sitting in your practice management software.
What should I do next?
- Start by determining what your current APV is for each patient. This will require some deep diving into your practice management system. Or you can use a service like Dental Intelligence to process and present all this data for you. Regardless of how you capture this information, the first step is to gather it.
- Now that you can see what each patient’s APV is, look for opportunities to engage with patients who may have unscheduled treatment or who don’t have a current scheduled appointment. What would happen if just 10% of those you contacted accepted treatment or scheduled a time to come in?
This metric is determined by looking at your active patient base to see how many of them have a future appointment. This tells you not only whether you’re getting new patients, recurring patients, etc. but also how many of them have a scheduled next appointment. This impacts visits because if your pre-appointment % is low (30-40%) it means a lot of your active patients aren’t coming back. You should also look at this information for insights about how effective your current visits are in impacting whether a patient returns for a future appointment. This is a leading indicator – a metric that shows you trends and encourages you to adjust as needed to change future outcomes.
What should I do next?
- As with the other essential metrics mentioned in this article, your first step is to measure. How well are you doing at scheduling future appointments? Is the current percentage acceptable to you? If not, what would you like it to be? What steps could you take as a team to make progress here?
- This is also a great opportunity to talk with your team about your current pre-appointment process. Is it consistent? Does everyone understand their role? Who is handling this, and what are they saying when scheduling? Are there any changes that need to be made?
Can you see how essential data is to the overall performance and health of your practice? This is about much more than “just” numbers or measuring performance. Knowing the status of your KPIs is one of the best ways to understand how effective you are in caring for your patients. Every meaningful metric relates in some way to patient care. Don’t put off paying attention here. In the same way that you provide preventative care so that future problems don’t happen, monitoring these and other KPIs leads to a healthy and thriving practice. What could be more essential than that?
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.