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to Dental Practice Solutions

Welcome to dentistry’s largest dental hygiene practice management resource center! We are the leading dental hygiene consultant/coaching business.

We will increase your TOTAL dental practice profitability without working more hours or days each year.

- Debbie Seidel-Bittke, RDH, BS, Speaker, Author. Dental Hygiene Coach & Consultant

Dental Practice Solutions - Debbie Bittke

Achieve Success with a “YES”: 3 Tips to Gain Case Acceptance

By: Debbie Seidel-Bittke, RDH, BS

May 24, 2010

It is important more than ever that today we achieve a “Yes” from dental patients for case acceptance. Everyone on the team needs to be on the same page. This year if you haven’t taken time to schedule team meetings to discuss a communication and case acceptance strategy put it on your agenda of team meetings for 2010.

In June Dental Practice Solutions will launch a web-based eBook on Effective Communication with exercises to participate as a team and role play. You will have opportunities to discuss what has and has not worked in various office situations. When you put a 1-2 hour team meeting on your calendar each week for two months you will be investing in a “Yes” to case acceptance. It will be a practice what you have learned atmosphere and a strategy for a positive outcome with added value to the practice, improved health to patients and increased revenue in 2010.

The more patients accept treatment, the more value you are adding to your services and the happier patients will feel when they leave out the front door of your dental office. You are keeping the front door open for them to continue returning to your dental office. Patients will be healthier and your practice bank account will be healthier which means improved revenues. Enhancing your team’s verbal skills can pay big dividends in terms of boosting case acceptance and improving customer service.

In our Communication eBook Dental Practice Solutions will gain the knowledge to enhance the communication skills of team members. Here are some specific ways you will benefit your practice:

Educate and motivate patients

Last week in our eNewsletter it was written that you begin communicating and educating your patients before they call the office (through your website and marketing tools, etc.) and even when they call your office for the first time. Never wait for patients to ask about your special services and the types of treatment that make your dental practice special. This is what you are proud of and what you want to brag about. You should not wait for patients to ask about treatment options.

At your next team meeting take time to discuss what services you are most proud of and what you want all patients to know about your special services. Discuss this and then write it down. Keep these notes available for reference in a 3 ring notebook to review, update and share as new team members come on board.

Knowledgeable and enthusiastic team members will communicate best when they all know what services to share and when they can effectively communicate and educate patients about the benefits. When meeting about this topic be sure that each team member has a comprehensive understanding about all the procedures offered. Write down the list and keep it available for review and for new team members to read.

Trust and patient relationships

What are you doing to build lasting relationships? Do you make notes in the patient charts to remember special occasions in their life? When talking with patients are you seated at a slight angle and within arms length when speaking and especially when educating patients?

We don’t want our patients to feel as if we are lecturing them so when we take time to sit at eye level to talk to our patients they are more likely to believe we really care about them. Patients are most likely to accept treatment when they have developed a level of trust and have a lasting relationship with the dental practice and team members. How will all of the team work to improve relationships with the patients?

Have you ever thought about what happens after the doctor makes the diagnosis for treatment? Does the patient then discuss this more? Does the patient then ask a team member about what was just diagnosed by the doctor? Does the patient want someone else’s opinion? Who do patients discuss treatment options and gain more knowledge with after the dentist has left the room? It may be the dental hygienist or the office administrator but they may ask about another person’s opinion or ask for more information.

Take time to meet as a team to discuss what will be mentioned to patients, the benefits of all services and discuss the benefits. What will you say to encourage them to move forward with the appropriate treatment? What will you do and say to encourage patients to say “Yes’ to scheduling the appointment for treatment?

Develop a trusting relationship with patients and help ensure they will feel the importance and value of remaining a life long patient in your dental practice. Take time to discuss and write down what message it is you want to give each patient. Keep this information in the 3 ring binder for future reference.

I challenge you to put a team meeting (At least one this summer) on your office calendar. Meet and discuss what treatment options are available to patients. Next to the treatment options write down the benefits to patients. Then have each member on the team write and give input on how they can share the benefits. Take time to discuss how you will communicate the special treatment options your dental practice offers. Keep it all written down for future reference.

Emotional benefits to patients

All team members should be able to rely on the notes from your meetings about Case Acceptance. When you write down the benefits to patients and remember to highlight the emotional benefits of these procedures. For example use the words: beautiful, more attractive, quality of life, more value in their career, etc. Think of a list of emotional benefits and write them down next to the other benefits.

Not every patient wants to know all the details about the treatment procedure. Most people are all thinking WIIFM. (What’s in it for me?) You may notice that you lose the attention of many patients when you continue on about the treatment procedure. Leave these details up to the patient to ask. Explain what is necessary and then ask patients, “Is this something important to you?” Or let patients know, “I would recommend this procedure for my daughter or wife, etc.” Patients know you care when you tell them you would also recommend this procedure to a family member or a loved one.

Some examples of “benefit” statements include:
“This procedure will give you a beautiful smile.”
“You’ll feel and look years younger with your new smile.”
“Dr. Toothalot has performed this procedure many times and always has outstanding patient results!”

In Conclusion

Outstanding, excellent and effective communication skills are a must! These are the important tools which build trust. This is what keeps patients coming back to your office. Meet to discuss and write these facts down. You will create a Win-Win!

Happy Patients = Happy Life = Success!!!

Did you know you communicate to your patients before you ever meet them?

By: Debbie Seidel-Bittke, RDH, BS

May 17, 2010

Simple Ways to Communicate and Educate for Value Added Patient Care

Did you know that you begin educating your patients the moment they read your website? We are all a Google search away. Do you have before and after photos on your website? What types of writing is on your website? Has anyone taken time to proof read it? I recently read a professional website and I imagine that English is not the first language of the person who wrote or edited the website. Have someone who speaks English as their first language edit your website if the website is written in English. Whatever language the website is written in needs to be edited by someone who speaks that language as their first language and is able to professionally edit the site.

What does it say about you and your office when you have grammatical errors? What type of patients do you want to attract? These are just a few suggestions on your website. People do begin learning all about your office with just one click!

Have you called your office lately to learn how the phone is answered and what is being said? Are you put on hold immediately? You never know unless you periodically call the office and listen to what is said when the front office answers. When patients call your office they immediately learn what you are all about just by the tone in the persons voice who answers the phone and even by what is said when the phone is answered. How many times do patients call an office and only an answer machine takes a message? Times have changed and in dentistry they change very quickly. We now have virtual assistant where people can personally answer your phones when your team is away from the phone. If the dental team is in a morning huddle, a team meeting and especially when busy with other patients, it is still important to have someone personally answer the office phone.

Communication has a lot to do with how we observe (Our posture) and listen. When you greet your patient do you begin observing their posture? Can you hear the tone in their voice when you ask “How are you?” How do you respond if you suspect the patient may be fearful or maybe they just had a bad day at the office? How do you know if patients are concerned about money or time? Do you ask this on the patient questionnaire or do you know how to determine this? How will you find out the emotions, opinions, objections, etc. of your patients? These are important factors which when they are not identified will become objections and reasons for failure of case acceptance.

Let’s talk about Mr. Juan Rodriguez. He is a 65 yr old male who moved here from Peru about 20 yrs ago. He now lives in Omaha, Nebraska and as you may suspect English is not his native language. Mr. Rodriguez came to the office because he has pain around his upper left second molar. He is two months overdue for his annual dental exam and also overdue for his hygiene appointment. As dental professionals in the United States we know this tooth is called number 15.

Now let’s educate Mr. Rodriguez about the importance of dental x-rays. Yes, it has been a year since the last x-rays were taken but we also want to educate him about the need for more x-rays on this visit to be certain there is not an abscess under the crown. What is happening at the apex of this tooth causing Mr. Rodriguez pain? Does he has a perio abscess or is this perio and endo related?

Here is how the conversation will go:

“Mr. Rodriguez, as you know Dr. Toothalot recommends x-rays each year. We are going to take the annual x-rays and also take a couple special x-rays of the tooth where you are having pain. Is this okay with you?” Wait for his response.

If time or money is an objection you want to communicate to Mr. Rodriguez something like this: “We have had many patients come to our office with this same situation (or “challenge”) and when we took the necessary x-rays we found there was infection causing the pain. This usually shows up as a very dark black area on the x-ray. This is a tool to help us find the cause of the problem and relieve the pain. We don’t want you to lose this tooth. The sooner we treat the problem causing the pain the less money it will cost you. It may be that if you need a root canal it can take several appointments and we want to find an easy way to relieve the pain in fewer appointments if possible.” (This will cause less anxiety about money and time.) Does this sound okay?”

Usually when patients have objections such as time or money in particular they will feel less anxious if they know what someone else has experienced and what has worked for others. By addressing a solution to money or time the patient understands that you listened to them which also builds trust.

Next week we will address a few more communication obstacles you may experience in your daily practice with patients. Think about what words you will use to help Mr. Rodriguez understand what procedures you will administer and what words you can use to clearly communicate his needs. Dental terminology will not be appropriate but using language Mr. Rodriguez understands will be helpful in communicating and gaining case acceptance. This scenario or possibly something similar you have personally experienced in you dental practice can be used for a team meeting this month or one of your team meetings in the future. Discuss options and alternatives for positive communication and improved case acceptance.

The eBook I am writing is meant to be a tool for the entire team to meet, read, role play and then discuss together. Each of the modules builds on the next. Think of the modules like building blocks for successful communication and case acceptance. There are activities for the entire office to participate in after each module.

This article is just one example to guide your team to optimize your communication skills and discuss how you would handle these situations to improve case acceptance and the total health of your patients. It also encourages you to meet and discuss what is on your website. Take time each month; just one hour a month to discuss these types of challenges and how to overcome the obstacles. It creates a winning team!

Prioritize Your Schedule for Harmony, Patient Value and Increased Revenues

By: Debbie Seidel-Bittke, RDH, BS

May 10, 2010

tranquilA full schedule translates into revenues and production only if the patients come in. If a practice loses 1 to 2 appointments/day, either on the hygienist’s schedule or on the dentist’s schedule, the lost production from this could be anywhere from $100 (minimally) to $900 per day, depending upon the procedure. These are dollar figures for clients and dental offices during the year 2009. Let’s assume you have 200 working days during the year, the annual lost production works out to $20,000 at the low end to $180,000 at the high end. Take into account that you lose even $20,000.00 over the next 5 years. This is 100,000.00 which can be used in many areas for a successful and profitable dental practice. Think about your salary being reduced by this much. This can really hurt a dental practice!

These figures are for a solo practitioner, with one full-time hygienist. The figures multiply for a multi-doctor office, or for a solo practitioner with more than one hygienist. Improving practice performance in this one area alone could significantly improve the financial status of many dental practices.

Practice success depends on the strength of a strategically planned schedule. It is important to have a systematic method for scheduling patients. On a daily basis, the entire dental team probably spends much of their day discussing and dealing with the topic of appointments: cancellations, broken appointments, and no-shows. This is a big source of endless frustration. No-shows and cancellations are the biggest single source of lost revenue.

It is helpful to be proactive, have a strategic approach and design a systematic schedule. Having a system in place will decrease the level of stress and increase revenue in your dental practice.

Stephen Covey, author of many professional management and family management planning books has said, “The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule but to schedule your priorities.”

Your first thought may be that is seems impossible to create the ideal dental practice schedule. Every dentist and most auxiliaries practice on different days, each professional may have different hours, they will provide treatment at different speeds and they will offer different services. All successful dental practices will take account for all these scheduling variables. Having a scheduling system is what creates success in all areas of the dental practice.

Effective Schedule Systems

When you have an effective scheduling system the doctor and team are now in charge of managing the patient flow. The patient flow should not manage the team.

Think of the schedule as the center of all dental practice systems. This is one system that will significantly decrease stress. When the team manages the schedule it will become efficient and predictable. This is where productivity will create increased revenues quickly.

Six Steps to Manage Your Schedule

1. Use 10-minute units

Using 15 minute increments on the schedule costs the practice approximately seven days of treatment time every year. This means the doctors are working that much harder and not smarter. When you change the practice schedule to 10-minute units you are able to schedule procedures with a higher degree of accuracy. When you utilize 10-minute units of time the practice can schedule a 20-minute procedure with ease. With 15-minute units, the procedure must be scheduled either with not enough time (15 minutes) or too much (30 minutes). Ten-minute units will now offer greater flexibility and result in increased productivity.

2. Create a Template for each Operatory

Every 10 minute unit needs to be put into the schedule in advance. A schedule built on a 10-minute template outlines exactly how every 10-minute increment will be used for each operatory. Doctor and the auxiliaries need to take a look at the 10 minute units first. This is how they will know how each day is going to flow. This needs to be reviewed even before the team huddle begins.

3. Schedule By Production

Again this allows you to take control of the schedule and the schedule will not control you. When setting up your annual schedule template decide how much production you need to stay in the black. Decide what procedure blocks will be added and at what times on the schedule. Many practices make the mistake of scheduling by reactively filling empty time slots.

3. Be proactive. First Things First

Most people have more energy in the morning and

as the day progresses they tend to run out of steam. For many people the time after a lunch break seems to create a decrease in energy. Try having longer, more intensive treatment options in the morning. This is the time to fill the schedule with longer procedures and high-production cases.

When you have a strong scheduling system in place you have increased productivity and profitability. When you create a strategic schedule with production as a priority you create harmony, less stress and help the practice meet all the daily goals; production and otherwise.

Side note: With the correct systems in place your hygiene department can easily produce $1,500.00 per hygienist/ per day.

4. What is a “Perfect Day”?

It doesn’t need to be a calculus equation or statistics but there needs to be a strategic mathematical formula to make certain the practice meets their goals. It is best to schedule an average daily level of production which will be equal to your annual production goal. For example, if you want to produce 1.5 million in 200 days, you need to schedule $7,500 per day. This will include the hygiene schedule and doctor’s schedule. It is not realistic to produce this same number each day. The important part is the daily average.

Having “Perfect Day” schedules and daily production goals also tend to reduce practice stress because they allow doctors and their teams to achieve a consistent day-in day-out workload.

5. Your “Perfect Day” Schedule

It will increase efficiency when you schedule the doctors, hygienists and all auxiliaries separately. If you are utilizing an assisted hygiene model the hygiene assistant should also be scheduled into the 10 minute increments.

The doctor and assistant do not always need to be in the room together. This follows true especially when using an assisted hygiene model.

It may take a few weeks and a process of time but it will significantly increase the total office productivity, decrease stress, improve patient flow and increase the annual revenue.

6. Communication is the Key to Reduced Cancellations

It is the nature of business and life in general that there will be cancellations and no-shows. When scheduling tell patients that you are “reserving” this time specifically for them. Educate all patients about the importance and leave them feeling the urgency for reserving appointments prior to leaving the office.

When the front office is speaking with patients they need to request patients give 72 hours notice if they need to change an appointment. If patients need to change their appointment on Monday it doesn’t do the office any good to cancel an appointment on Saturday. This is why you need to ask for at least 72 hours cancellation.

Take time to retrain your patients about this policy if you don’t have this in place currently. Let patients know there will be a fee for a missed appointment. The fee needs to be dependent upon the type of procedure and should be written in all policies you publish to your patients. These policies are to be

included in the new patient package. Appointment cards need to mention there is an appropriate fee charged for cancellations outside of the 72 hours.

Quick Overview

  • Schedule in 10-minute units, with a template for each operatory
  • Schedule the most productive procedures first part of the day by creating “Perfect Day” schedules with ideal production goals
  • Schedule doctors, assistants and hygienists separately
  • Build patient value for appointments to reduce no-shows and cancellations

You will create a more efficient and effective system for scheduling patients when you create your “Perfect Day” schedule. The bottom line is harmony in the office, value to the patients, improved productivity, increased revenues and reduced stress. It is a “win-win” that creates success!

Do you need guidance setting this up? Do you know how many days and hours you actually need on the schedule? Please contact us for a free assessment. Find the answers to these questions, lower your overhead and increase your revenue.

debrabittke@comcast.net

Increase your ROI

By: admin

May 3, 2010

Written by: Danny Bobrow, MBA

magnifying_glassAccurately tracking your practice’s marketing efforts can help you determine what brings new patients to your office and what doesn’t.

Dental professionals, out of necessity, must pay close attention to detail. It is surprising, then, to learn how little attention is paid to monitoring and evaluating the effectiveness of dentistry marketing tactics.

The good news is, with a little planning and preparation, the process is simple and the benefits are huge. When it comes to marketing your practice, the more complete, timely and accurate the tracking, the better equipped you are to capitalize on opportunity and minimize cost.

Why anecdotal doesn’t work

Asking your patients “Who may we thank for referring you?” is an unreliable, risky way to assess marketing tactic efficacy. Here’s why:

  • The lag between exposure and response to a message means the new patient may not know or remember what prompted him or her to contact you
  • Because people often need to be exposed to multiple instances of the same message before they respond, it is likely you will only hear about the last thing they saw or heard that caused them to respond
  • It takes up team member time
  • It risks alienating prospective patients by interrogating them instead of selling them on practice benefits. People are contacting you to make an appointment, not to tell you about your marketing.

Monitoring quality, not just quantity, of response

Automating your response tracking allows you to identify opportunities to improve the quality of your communication with prospective patients, as well as eliminate obstacles to success. Because telephone calls can be recorded, you actually hear what scenarios are playing out at the front desk. This allows you and your team to work together to find better ways to field inquiries.

Perfection remains elusive

It is important to recognize it may never be possible to completely track the benefits of a marketing program. Do not expect your tracking system to monetize the benefits from increased name recognition and contribution to brand awareness. But remember it is possible to establish, implement and maintain a reliable tracking methodology (see, “Have a plan“).

Tracking with TTNs

Tracking most strategies is greatly enhanced by using tracking telephone numbers (TTN). TTNs make it possible to monitor and evaluate response quantity and quality. In choosing a TTN provider:

  • Make sure the area code and three digit prefixes are as close to the practice’s as possible. This helps reduce any confusion in the minds of prospective patients who may wonder why they are being asked to call a number that appears to be outside of the area.
  • Avoid using toll-free numbers, as any benefit from offering the caller toll-free service is overshadowed by the perception that yours may be a large, impersonal entity. Do everything you can to convey a local flavor to prospective patients.
  • Be sure the tracking telephone numbers are new or, if recycled, have been inactive for at least 60 days. Otherwise, you run the risk of being interrupted and distracted by (and paying for) wrong numbers

Your TTN provider should have the ability to notify you via e-mail whenever someone uses your TTN. The provider should also have an online portal that enables you to access the quantity and quality of response, for instance:

  • Quantity of calls generated by each campaign
  • Day and time of calls
  • Ability to listen to the calls
  • Disposition of calls (hang up, voice mail, disconnect)

On more than one occasion, this monitoring has identified disconnects as a malfunction with the practice’s voice mail, or voice mail not picking up until the eighth ring. These problems, left undetected, can be costly.

The outgoing message

In one case, a client discovered through her monitoring system that an inordinate number of callers were hanging up without leaving a message. It was subsequently discovered that the outgoing message was more than two minutes long. The solution was to provide callers with the option of bypassing the remainder of the message by pressing 0 or #, as well as shortening the message by omitting office hours and other extraneous information. Because nearly anyone who wants to make an appointment with your office needs to speak with you first, having office hours on your outgoing message is unnecessary, and only serves to try the caller’s patience.

Remember the purpose of your outgoing message is to convey sincere enthusiasm and appreciation that the caller is contacting you, your regret for not being able to speak with the caller personally, and your assurance that you will return the call as soon as possible.

Make it work for you

Now that your data gathering system is in place, what do you do with it?

Schedule weekly sessions to evaluate and discern any patterns such as hang ups, extended rings, one staff member converting more patients than another, etc. The interval between sessions can be extended to monthly, or even quarterly, once the practice is well along its learning curve. Regular monitoring helps ensure inquiries are handled promptly and appropriately.

You should also calculate your Return on Investment (ROI), and to do so, it is helpful to streamline the data evaluation process. Here’s one approach:

Each month, print out or display an alphabetized list of all new patients who have enrolled in the practice in the month just ended. Include name, first visit date, zip code and e-mail address. Most practice management programs can easily do this.

Print or display on screen your master leads list. Be certain to include all lead sources and to look for matches. You will be amazed at how this number differs from your subjective tracking system.

Do this each month and continually add leads to your master lead list. Again, the reason for this is the time interval between when someone responds to your marketing tactic(s) and when her or she becomes a patient. You will be surprised at not only the time lag, but also the number of touch points some people need before they bite.

The benefits

While it may never be possible to completely identify and attribute the return on investment from a particular marketing tactic, a reliable tracking methodology offers the twin benefits of confirming much of the return, and early identification of mid-course corrections necessary to increase ROI. It also arms the practice with a reliable tool to test variables, which can further improve your ROI.

Your tracking may never be 100 percent, but a little knowledge goes a long way. So stop flying blind and starting tracking. Knowledge is power, and accuracy means more profit.

Daniel A. Bobrow, MBA is President of American Dental Marketing, a health care marketing consultancy based in Chicago, IL. He is also Executive Director of Climb for a Causetm and The Smile Treetm, and Founder of 888-Now-Smile.

He holds two MBAs, one from the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business, and one from the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium. He is also a sought after motivational speaker, marketing and sales coach.

Contact:DBobrow@AmericanDentalMarketing.com 1-800-723-6523