There is a bigger game being played than the World Olympic Games. Yes, Olympic athletes train for years and many leave their families to accomplish these goals. As dental professionals we do this approximately 50 weeks out of a year and for usually, more than 30 years. Many of us spend thousands of dollars in college and then later another few hundred thousand dollars to buy an office. We have a huge legal and financial liability for many years. Profitability and sustainability are very important aspects of a dental professionals’ life and for many decades!
The year is more than half over and it’s time to get your game face on. What type of plays do you have planned for this second half of the year? How well did you and your team play in the first two quarters? Did you have a mid-year team meeting to evaluate the first half of 2012 and what are your plans to get the gold by December 31st?
If you have met with the team, what type of adjustments will you make? How do you plan to accomplish this year’s goals?
When you meet with the team, it will be beneficial to share what you discover when analyzing your mid-year numbers, systems, etc.
The Office of Dr. Doolittle
This dental practice started off with a bang! They not only met their goals by March but exceeded their production goals by March 1st for the first quarter of 2012. During the second quarter of 2012, things dramatically changed and they are currently $55,000 behind their year-to-date production goal. We also noticed that the employee salaries paid are up from June 30, 2011. We’ll need to talk to doctor about this challenging situation and how this could have occurred.
First of all, Dr. Doolittle acknowledged to us what went well the first quarter of 2012. He reports a steady flow of new patients, creative and very effective marketing, the hygiene schedule has 9.3% unfilled patient hours, and collections
Dr. Doolittle realizes that unless these revenues and expenditures are resolved, his deficit, when annualized, will be $110,000.00, or worse, if this decline continues. Doctor has planned to cover the overhead with the 2012 production goals. If these facts do not change over the last half of 2012 his expenses will not be covered. This creates stress!
After reviewing the numbers with Dr. Doolittle we decided to begin on a positive note and the half yearly team meeting began by celebrating success! Doctor gave each team member a personally written card with a note of how much they are appreciated. Inside the card he wrote specifically what each team member did to make a difference for the practice. The second step was for everyone to sit down and discover what created this $55,000.00 deficit the first half of 2012. The challenge was doctor’s plan to cover expenses with the production goals. During the team meeting and through analysis, they discovered many patients had unscheduled treatment. The total amount of unscheduled treatment was in excess of $100,000.00. The next step was to review patient communication for the unaccepted treatment. Where was the breakdown? Why did patients choose not to accept and schedule treatment?
After brainstorming together, as a team, they discovered:
1. Patients had not been taken into the new consultation room for private conversations. This is the perfect atmosphere to answer patient questions, concerns and overcome their objections to treatment. As you can tell from the above story, patients are returning for their hygiene appointments but by the time they returned for the next hygiene appointment (Months later) their enthusiasm that may have been there, had now faded. Any value added and benefits communicated at the time of diagnosis, had now been lost. The challenge was that too many patients said “I’ll call to schedule later…” and too much time had since passed to remember what they were going to “schedule an appointment for”. No follow through nor follow up was the big breakdown in this scenario.
2. Although the Financial Coordinator has been with Dr. Doolittle for over 8 years, and she does not have effective communication skills. She is a great listener but not real confident overcoming patient objections. She is also not confident in offering third-party financing. The final result is too many patients who do not understand the value of moving forward with treatment sooner than later. She is also not able to assist patients with their financial needs when they think they don’t have money to spend. People usually buy what they want, not always what they need.
There are three solutions to get this team back on track and accomplish their 2012 goals!
1. Effective communication must now take place in the new consult room
2. The auxiliaries will always offer third-party payment plans when finances are an objection
3. A follow-up time with patients, who do not schedule treatment, will be made before the patient leaves the office without a next appointment. This follow up will usually occur one week after the treatment plan was presented. A new change will be made to contact patients to follow up with outstanding treatment sooner than later.
Dr. Well May Throw Money Down the Drain
The economic climate aside, this office had a chronic hemorrhage in their daily schedule; both doctor and the two hygienists! (too many holes in the schedule, cancellations were out of control!) As of June 30, 2012, the practice production was down 43% from their 2012 production goal. Doctor spent $3,000.00 on a new website last year (2011) and this did not help any with potential new patients finding the office through search engine optimization. (Google, etc., type searches) The new website was unfortunately, not set up correctly! Dr. Well could just continue to “throw money” down the drain by continuing on with her current marketing plan and she could wish upon a star that the cancellations will come to a halt. W I S H is not how Dr. Well spells success. After meeting with Dr. Well, she set up a “half-time” team meeting to look at what specifically is going wrong. (half-time = half year)
Here are some questions they will ask at the meeting:
- What was working well last year (2011) and now has a deficit this year?
- How many hygiene patients leave their appointment without a next appointment?
- Do we check route slips prior to the patient appointments? Do we check if patients need a next hygiene appointment?
- Do we check the route slips to see if other family members need a hygiene appointment?
- When do we call to confirm appointments?
- What do we say on the phone call when confirming a patient appointment?
- Do we need to call to confirm appointments?
- What are alternative methods to call patients and confirm appointments?
- What is our patient reactivation system? (Continuing Care System)
- Do we allow our patients to leave a message with the answering service (voicemail) to cancel an appointment?
- Do our patients understand the value, benefits and risks to their health if they cancel an appointment?
- Do we have a cancellation policy?
- What can be done to create more unique visits to the new website?
- What are other low cost marketing aspects to keep an ongoing conversation with patients between appointments and attract new patients?
The Team Meeting
A key to success during team meetings is to have a facilitator who can keep the team ideas flowing. It is important that the facilitator supports the ground rules for meetings and this means starting and ending the meeting on time, no negativity or finger pointing, etc. Always come prepared with an Action Plan Form which outlines/keeps record of what solutions need to be created. If team members are assigned a project write this down in the Action Plan Form, along with the due date for the project to be completed, and plan a time to follow up with the plans created.
Lessons Learned from Two Doctors
What I enjoy about and applaud both of these 2 doctors for is that they “inspect what they expect”. Notice how they both agreed to take a proactive approach to solving challenging situations? Both doctors have great leadership skills which makes it much easier to work with. This makes it easier to create a system for improvement and overall success. These doctors were open to sitting down to analyze their challenges and then discuss/problem-solve with their teams. Both doctors realize it takes an entire team to bring about effective, solution-based change.
Both doctors have a positive attitude and never once did they go into panic mode. As the leader of your team, the team members find it easy to follow you. Panic is caustic and creates stress. Solutions are not easily resolved when panic or negativity exists. If you are proactive in your approach to deal with a challenge, you will lower your stress and the creative juices are more likely to flow from everyone. One positive creates another positive much easier than if you begin with a negative.
Both doctors have been solution-focused. Challenges arise in every business; it’s the nature of the beast and finger pointing does not resolve challenges. A good leader will not point fingers but will be solution-focused.
The plan of action, which direction you choose to take on your road to 2012 success, has everything to do with how you will be celebrating at the end of the 2012 game! This is a choice you need to make and your chances for success are greater if you take action today.
Need more “halftime” plays?
Purchase Continuing Care for Dental Practice Success. This is an eBook that you can access immediately. It has all the necessary tools to reactivate patients and then keep them coming back! Your cost is only $47.
Contact us to discuss Your Dental COO which is our proprietary yearlong consulting program. This is designed to streamline your systems for a GO! Or we have a lower cost virtual comprehensive practice management program called RAISE™. Read more about these.