Have you been feeling a bit overwhelmed lately? You’re not alone. In fact, this recent HPI survey reveals that most dentists have been struggling to keep up with rising expenses, longer hours, and a general decline in income. Are you one of them? If so, let’s see what you can do right now to overcome these challenges, simplify your life, and grow again.
The HPI survey findings:
According to the ADA Survey of Dental Practice, general dentists’ average net income in private practice plummeted 7% after the pandemic, despite dentists working 4.5% more hours in 2022 than before the pandemic. This has been mainly driven by:
- Annual revenue increases capped at 2.2% by insurance over the past decade.
- Expenses have soared 7.7% year-over-year, mainly due to inflation in labor costs.
Understanding the challenges:
These challenges are real. Times ARE changing. The dental industry is dealing with margin compression, and many formerly profitable practices are struggling to keep their heads above water as the cost of doing business is higher than ever.
So what’s the answer? Well, to start, it’s important to remember that dentistry is still a business. You, as the dentist who owns the business, are a business owner.
A good business owner manages their business by tracking a handful of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) against their optimum ranges and makes investment and operational adjustments to bring the KPIs back into their nominal range. In other words, they are proactively adjusting their business to adapt to the changes in the overall market instead of just passively accepting their consequences.
You can collect these KPIs by hand – just as you could still operate your practice using paper charts. Why would you do so if there are software tools that can do it automatically for you?
The right practice management platform will include the ability to automatically collect and report on the KPIs that are most meaningful for your dental practice. For example:
- Production: New cases, new patients, estimated forward revenue, etc
- Backlog: Number of active patients, estimated backlog revenue (nominal and per staff member)
- Receivables: Amounts earned and not billed, amounts billed and not collected, per time period and aged by 30-60-90-120 days overdue
- Collections: Amounts collected from patients, from insurance claims, per time period, vs. previous time periods
- Procedure Profitability: Per treatment type, per CDT code, per provider, per location, per time period
- Patient Activity Tracking: Per treatment type, per provider, per location, per time period
- And many, many others
What is more important than collecting this data is the actions you will take when the KPIs get out of the expected range (meaning that everything you measure should be actionable). For example:
- Procedure Profitability Analysis: With real-time data on the profitability of different procedures, you can determine which treatments generate the most revenue and make data-driven decisions like pricing adjustments or discounting.
- Patient Activity Tracking: Analyze patient behavior and appointment history to optimize your scheduling, reduce no-shows, and ensure a steady flow of patients.
Use automation wherever possible
Automation is like having extra staff to handle the routine activities, while your actual staff can focus on the more value-adding clinical tasks like attending to patients during treatment. Eliminate waste and routine, and your profits will go up. For example:
- Patient Self-Service: With integrated features like online appointment booking, treatment plan access, and online payments through a secure and integrated patient portal, your patients can take care of all these administrative details themselves. This not only frees up time for you and your staff but also puts the power of convenience in your patients’ hands. A win-win proposition!
- Integrated Email and SMS Engagement: One of the keys to a successful practice is having good communication with your patients, but reaching out to patients can be time-consuming and tricky if left entirely to humans. With integrated email and SMS engagement tools, your practice management software can quickly send out automated appointment reminders, follow-up messages, and even personalized promotions. Build trust, improve engagement, and keep your patients coming back.
- Electronic Signatures: The time it takes for your staff to print out patient registration or consent forms, hand over the forms to the patient to fill out and sign by hand, and then scan the signed forms into your practice management software’s document vault can be quite impactful to your overall profitability. This is not even mentioning your image as a modern practice. Switch to a practice management platform where all these forms can be mail-merged (pre-filled) by the software, with the patient having the ability to quickly review and sign electronically prior to the appointment, on a tablet in the office or even from home, and you have a winner.
- Auto-Pay: If you offer patient financing, having a software platform that can automatically charge those periodic payments on the patients’ credit cards or draw them from their bank accounts can eliminate a lot of your burden and frustration for your staff.
- Electronic Claims with Integrated Attachments: The fewer manual steps, the better. Some more advanced platforms even allow you to electronically submit your claim together with all the required attachments with just one click. Go for that!
- Simple, Intuitive User Interface: Nothing can be more frustrating to a new staff member than the steep learning curve of your old and tired dental software, which is why choosing a well-designed and intuitive practice management software is key (and perhaps you should consider a switch to a newer platform). A consistent, user-friendly interface that is easy to comprehend and operate ensures that everyone can navigate the software efficiently from the start. This ensures that new employees can self-train or get trained quickly, and everyone gets productive in the shortest time possible.
- Integrated Help & Training Videos: The more advanced practice management software platforms come packed with support resources, including some seriously handy, integrated help guides and training videos. These resources are designed to help you and your staff harness the full power of the software – even in those inevitable “patient in the chair, how do I do that now?” situations, enabling you to reduce your reliance on (and the typical delays in getting) external support or desperately searching the Internet for help with the patient in the chair. Get the answer you need, fast, and look like a pro. What’s not to like about it?
Switch to cloud-hosted software
In addition to making automation easier and cheaper, cloud-hosted software offers an additional benefit that makes it easier for you to hire and retain top talent that is increasingly valuing their work-life balance: the ability to work from home.
More and more staff members expect (and appreciate) a flexible work schedule with the ability to continue non-urgent charting, billing, and other administrative tasks later in the evening or weekend from home or wherever they might happen to be while attending to a sick child, parent, or relative. Switching to a cloud-based Practice Management System is a must if you want to be competitive today. If you haven’t already switched, do it now – don’t delay!
In conclusion: the 2022 HPI survey findings shed light on the recent challenges dentists are facing: working more hours while making less, mostly due to rising expenses. To combat these challenges and improve practice profitability, switching to a fully integrated, feature-rich cloud-based practice automation platform can be a game-changer. Embracing advanced software technologies in the dental industry becomes imperative – not just for advancement and growth but for survival in today’s increasingly competitive landscape.