21 Tips To A More Profitable Dental Practice
If you want to know how to make your dental practice more profitable, you're in the right place.
Have you ever thought:
How do a run a dental office and make it profitable and enjoyable?
If you're a dentist, you know that dentistry can be a tough business to excel in; patients don’t always appreciate the difference between an ‘average’ dentist and a ‘great’ dentist. This leaves many struggling to find concrete, reliably discernible ways to improve their practice, improve their profit margins, and make the money their skill deserves.
We’ll discuss 21 ways for you to create a more profitable dental practice, including changes in method, staffing, advertising, and administration. Hopefully by the time you finish the list, you’ll be ready to put together blueprints for a more profitable practice.
We know that dental SEO is critical to the growth of a practice in this day and age, but it isn't the only way to market your practice, or to increase your profitability.
So hold on, sit back, and let's go through 21 ways you can make your dental practice more profitable.
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1. Educate Yourself and Your Team on Better Business Practices
Before anything else, focus on instilling a basic understanding of superior business principals in yourself and your team. Consider how each action of the day impacts the bottom line, value customer satisfaction as highly as possible, and learn to recognize and rectify wastes of effort, time, and resources. By teaching everyone on the team to pay attention and think about profit, customer satisfaction, and other concepts of value, you’ll get better returns on every other profit-improvement scheme you implement at your practice.
2. Create an Organized Marketing Plan
You may have something resembling a marketing plan in place already, but how much of it is ‘plan’ and how much of it is ‘haphazard collection of marketing efforts haphazardly enacted’?
A proper dental marketing plan should be organized from beginning to end, a coherent map of targeted campaigns, unified efforts, and incentives understood by everyone in the organization.
Your marketing plan should be shared and understood by everyone in your office, so they can spot gaps, offer insight, and pay attention to small details that may have slipped past them if they weren’t involved in ‘the big picture’.
Typically you'll want to make sure that online marketing is at the front and center of this plan.
Be sure to read this recent blog post about Marketing Myths.
3. Establish Goals
Setting reachable, challenging goals for your practice leads to better productivity than aimless endeavors or stretching for impossible results. Look carefully at your current profits, marketing success, etc., then set goals that will make each member of the team work hard and ultimately succeed.
Morale levels become increasingly important with every change you make to your practice; allow yourself or your people to lose their motivation, and your efforts will be for naught.
Everyone should know and understand the goals you’ve set for them and for the office as a whole. Talk about them, discuss them, work out the best approaches. Understanding what’s going on gets everyone invested, and invested employees work better.
4. Utilize Understandable Incentives
Incentives, used correctly, push your team to excel and improves profit across the board. But not all incentives work equally well.
There are two factors to consider when developing incentives to improve productivity at your dental office:
1. How incentives are earned
2. What those incentives are.
The first should be tied directly to valuable metrics, such as positive results from customer surveys. The latter should probably not be cash, as cash has been shown in many, many studies to have a negligible impact on worker effort—by the time the worker buys something with their incentive bonus, they’ve lost the association of ‘hard work’ and ‘that money’.
Try benefits, paid vacation, and other rewards that will maintain their association over time.
5. Learn the Value of Good Presentation
Quality presentation goes a long way in improving the profitability of your dental office. It’s not enough to be the best in town, or offer the best service—you need to be able to present your business as such. That means investing in a good camera for putting together marketing materials, showing patients the condition of their teeth, etc. It means revamping your office interior and exterior. It means hiring a quality web developer to make you a high quality dental website.
Presentation, in many cases, accounts more for profitability than actual quality. Combine both for maximum effect.
Unique presentations work wonders as well. If, for example, you sit your patients down to see the state of their teeth as a high-definition video on a big screen TV, pointing out problems and explaining them like a sports commentator explaining a play, that’s going to leave an impact. Leaving an impact gets patients to come back, and it gets them talking to their friends, family, and others they come in contact with.
Presentations done right, mean impact, and impact means profit.
Quality presentation goes a long way in improving the profitability of your dental office.
6. Revamp Your Patient Experience
Few people think of their dentist visits as a positive experience. Changing that mindset’s the key to extreme success in a dental practice, and that means making the patient experience as impressive as possible.
Everything you do should be viewed through the lens of the patient experience—because happy patients come back, happy patients tell their friends, happy patients leave glowing Yelp reviews. Happy customers drive every success story.
7. Improve How You Receive Calls
If you don’t have a plan for receiving calls, a method discussed among your team and a system for handling missed calls and voice mail, then you’re missing out on potential profit. Every conversation with a potential or current patient should be treated exactly the same as a sales call.
Your receptionists sell your practice, and that means implementing all the attention to detail, scripting, and secondary considerations that a sales agent would when communicating by phone.
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8. Automate When Possible
Automation’s key to improving worker efficiency, and in turn improving profit. Hours wasted manually entering data that could have been managed automatically by workflow software. Potential prospects lost because your solution for missed calls begins and ends with “State your name and the reason for your call after the beep”.
Follow up opportunities lost because you don’t have a system automatically emailing or calling patients after their visit.
Automation, when used properly, can make your dental practice infinitely more profitable.
9. Treat all Interactions as Marketing
A discussion on the phone, explaining what needs to be done after an examination, chatting during a procedure, setting the next appointment, all of these interactions impact the patient’s willingness to come back. So treat them was what they are—marketing interactions.
That doesn’t mean you should be making the hard sale every moment you’re with the patient, but it does mean you should be mindful of the interaction’s value beyond the immediate result.
10. Practice, Practice, Practice
Knowing that you need to prioritize good interactions with clients is important, but knowledge isn’t enough.
Put together scripts, come up with scenarios, have receptionists and hygienists and assistants sit down and practice their patient interactions.
It might be annoying, but it goes a long way—especially when unusual or confrontational situations arise.
When you get your team members familiar with the different ways a conversation with a patient or potential patient might go, they don’t panic when it happens. You’ll see improved morale, improved efficiency, happier patients, and through all that, more profit.
11. Specialize Your Hygienists
Specialists do better work—they’re more focused in their efforts, they’re typically working to their strengths, and they can better maintain their edge in the field, by narrowing the topics they need to maintain peak knowledge of.
Of course, specialization doesn't need to be about medical expertise--some doctors get along better with certain patients under different circumstances. Some can't stay focused doing the same simple procedure all day every day, others perform at their best doing routine work. Find what your hygienists do best and put them on those tasks and often as possible, and you'll see the profit in no time.
12. Pick Up an Exciting Procedure
Nothing beats the marketing potential of being the only option in town for a bleeding-edge technique. It doesn’t even need to be a particularly difficult or special procedure, just profitable, advertising-friendly, and new enough to be low in competition. The investment in time will return itself several times over if you pick well.
13. Build a Specialty
Focusing your entire clinic towards a particular type of problem, a particular type of client, or a particular procedure can also lead to great profitability. This takes time, research, and dedication, but it’s an extremely effective route to making more money. You might lose business from outside of your new specialty, but by becoming the go-to dental clinic for a specific type of patient, you can dominate a section of the market AND improve efficiency by refining your efforts.
14. Wow Factor
Awing your patients should be a high priority. Impress them with your ads, your building exterior, the inside of your office, etc. At each of these points, leave an impact—that means not looking like every other dentist’s office in the country.
This doesn’t have to be an expensive endeavor. Being a pediatric dentist that establishes vividly at every turn the focus on making a painless, fun experience for kids offers as much wow factor as being the high-end office with expensive furniture and nice paintings.
15. Collect Information
Any business can benefit from gathering information on its clientele. By getting a better look at demographics, satisfaction, return rates, and other data you might collect with a focused effort and the right software, you can adjust how you approach patients, how you advertise, and how you service your patients for maximized efficiency.
You can also spot weaknesses and act to shore them up with the proper data at hand—without it, you’re moving in the dark.
16. Data Management Matters
How many hours do your people spend fighting data which could be spent doing other things, if you invested in proper data management solutions? Collecting, sharing, checking, and organizing patient data can be a nightmare, but it shouldn’t be.
Taking the time to improve your data management scheme not only reduces time wasted by employees dealing with dated systems, but opens up better sources of information for your marketing efforts and efforts to get patients back through the doors.
17. Modernize Your Administration
Data isn’t the only place to modernize. Your entire administrative system can likely benefit from improvement; business process software can unify your data, keep your forms in line with governmental regulations, even allow for patients to securely fill out paperwork in compliance with legal regulations before they ever walk in the door. A modern medical office isn’t just one with the latest tools in the back, it’s one that manages every aspect of the business with unparalleled efficiency.
18. Keep Learning
Dentists who stop trying to improve, both in their medical expertise and their business, stagnate and fall behind. Momentum can only take you so far, regardless of how big your last burst of effort to improve may have been.
By continuously looking for ways to improve your craft, your customer service, your marketing, your team efficiency, you’ll stay ahead of the competition, ahead of stagnation, and ahead on your bottom line.
Continued Education is there for a reason. Use it. Don't be afraid to be a leader in CE hours.
19. Consider Mobilizing Your Team
A dental office that adopts the latest technology spends more up front, but ends up at the forefront of earnings as well. Mobile apps and tablet PCs may not feel particularly useful for you or your patients, but beyond any additional functionality provided by modern tools you’ll also improve your image, developing that “Wow Factor” we discussed earlier.
Of course, there are dozens of ways for a savvy office to utilize mobile technology to improve efficiency, so wow factor alone is a bonus, not the whole package.
20. Stay on Top of Dental Breakthroughs
Some breakthroughs mean nothing at all—others completely change the industry. If something big lands and you’re not waiting for the product to hit the shelves or the technique to receive approval for general use, you’re not paying enough attention to what’s happening.
This goes beyond cutting edge techniques, which have their own place in improving profit at a dental office—it goes to simple changes, such as cheaper ways of doing the same procedures, methods that cut procedure times in half, and any other number of profit-making breakthroughs. The investment of time to stay abreast and be the first to make these changes will more than pay for itself in terms of profit, customer satisfaction, and professional reputation.
21. Expand Assistant Responsibilities
Too many dental offices undervalue and underrate their assistants, and in doing so lose valuable profit potential. There are two keep factors to improving profits that tie directly in to assistants:
1. Every hygienist should have an assistant to work with at all times, one they can work effectively and regularly with. The improvement in efficiency simply can’t be understated.
2. Tasks that can be left to assistants should be left to assistants, if you want to maximize profitability. Unless your marketing has failed to a dreadful degree, putting dentists to work on tasks an assistant could handle only wastes valuable, valuable man-hours. If your doctors have nothing better to do with their time, your problems lay elsewhere.
Final Thoughts on Improving the Profitability of Your Dental Practice
Ultimately, most of the steps a dental practice should take to improve profitability come down to a few core concepts.
1. Understanding what customers need and want--through research, data crunching, and just plain asking them.
2. Standing out to customers while meeting those needs and wants--flashy presentation, perfect customer service, and unique treatments they can't get elsewhere.
3. Eliminating waste and improving employee efficiency-morale building efforts, practice sessions, improved software solutions, and a general buy-in to the goal of helping more patients have a great experience.
If you can keep up with those basic ideas, and always consider how your efforts effect those areas of your practice, you will no doubt grow, and develop a more profitable dental practice.