Boost Patient Care with Flexible Financing Options

Whether planned or not, dental care is expensive. Although most Americans have private dental insurance through their employer or another plan, patients will likely have some out of pocket costs for the majority of preventive and emergency dental procedures.

These added costs are both frustrating and stressful for many Americans, especially given the impact that the coronavirus pandemic has had on jobs and the economy as a whole. But when a patient needs a crown or replacement filling, it needs to be taken care of. So what can you do to encourage patients to seek care even if it’s tough on the wallet? That’s where flexible financing options come in. Here are three good reasons to offer financing to your patients.

BOOST PATIENT MORALE

In today’s uncertain economic climate, major or even minor dental procedures can be cost prohibitive. For patients without dental insurance, even the cost of an annual cleaning may be too much. If you offer financing as a payment option, your patients can still receive excellent dental care without draining their funds to do it. This is especially important in today’s social and economic environment as a result of COVID-19. There are several ways to incorporate flexible financing into your payment plans.  Popular options from companies like CareCredit include low monthly payments, zero prepayment penalties, and low interest loans. If your patient has poor or no credit, they may still qualify for certain plans if that’s something you feel would benefit your consumer base.

ATTRACT NEW PATIENTS

Another benefit of offering flexible financial payment plans is that it attracts new patients who might otherwise be unable to seek high quality dental care. As stated before, consider the needs of your patients. How might the pandemic have affected their wallets? What options can you offer to assure them of their options even if they can’t afford standard procedures out of pocket? This applies not only to new patients but also to your existing ones.

INCREASE YOUR BOTTOM LINE 

Although it might mean less upfront revenue at the time of service, incorporating flexible financing terms can result in increased profit later on. Why? Because the alternative is that new or existing patients don’t seek dental care even in an emergency because of the potential costs. This not only puts your patients at risk for developing significant dental conditions, but also affects your practice if no procedures take place to generate income. Flexible financing payment plans are practical, effective and beneficial for your practice and for the patients you serve.

CURIOUS ABOUT FLEXIBLE FINANCING OPTIONS FOR YOUR PRACTICE?

Contact Dr. Coughlin today with any questions you have about how flexible financing options can boost your dental practice.

Benefits for your Team

When starting and running your own dental practice, one of the biggest concerns to think about has to do with how to manage your team. What needs do they have? What basic benefits should you cover for your team in your dental practice? Are there any basic requirements? This article will discuss some of those questions.

SOCIAL SECURITY AND MEDICARE

In the United States, employers with W2 employees are expected to pay for social security and Medicare benefits. These benefits make up part of your employee’s tax withdrawals on their paycheck.  It’s important to consider social security and Medicare benefits first when evaluating the costs of benefit programs because they are required for any W2 employee.

DENTAL INSURANCE

As a dental practice, offering your team a discount on dental services is appropriate and maybe even expected. There are several ways you could offer dental service benefits. Some practices cover 100% of employee dental services. You could also cover up to a specified amount per employee.

HEALTH INSURANCE

Another standard benefit for most employers to sponsor for their staff is health insurance. The practice’s financial situation often dictates how flexible you can be, but it’s best to consider what options are valued most for your team. If you can’t afford an insurance policy with both low deductibles and low premiums, which option fits with your budget and your employee’s needs? These questions are important to consider. In Massachusetts, health insurance is required, so don’t skip this.

RETIREMENT ACCOUNTS

Most employers offer employees the ability to contribute to a 401K, 403(b), or other form of retirement account. If your dental practice is profitable with a fair amount of room in the budget, matching your employee’s contribution attracts both current and potential new staff alike. Make sure your retirement benefit program works for both you and your team.

PAID VACATION & OTHER BENEFITS

Your team works hard to bring the best dental care to your patients. They deserve adequate, and even generous time off if your budget allows. Do you want to allocate a specified amount of time off up front for salaried employees? Would you prefer an accrual system? Keep in mind the differences and specific regulations between salaried and hourly employees and plan accordingly. For example, a Massachusetts dental practice with more than 11 employees is required to provide a certain amount of paid sick time as part of the basic benefits package.

In addition to paid time off, other “nice to have” benefits might include things like paid family leave, subsidized childcare, discounts to local attractions and businesses, and more.

STILL HAVE QUESTIONS?

Do you own or manage a dental practice and still have questions about benefits? Comment below or send us an email and we’ll help you out!

Dental Careers

Are you in your late twenties, thirties or even forties and want to start a dental career? Don’t think it’s a possibility? Despite what you might think, there are options for you to get started in the dental industry if you want to do it. We’ll discuss a few steps you can take to make your dream a reality.

RESEARCH DENTAL CAREERS

Whether you’ve worked in several positions and/or industries up until this point, knowing your career options as a dental professional is an important step. Do you see yourself owning your practice one day? Would you prefer the stability of a salaried position in an established practice? Have you considered a career in the dental research and academic space? What kind of dental career track makes the most sense for your life situation, taking any family or other commitments into consideration? You could even ask a dental school admissions officer some of these questions as part of your research.

TAKE PREREQUISITE COURSES

Dental schools do require basic prerequisites for admission. These typically include about two semester’s worth of classes in biology, general and organic chemistry and physics with a lab component. Some schools may also require additional prerequisite coursework like anatomy. It’s also worth noting that shadowing – where you observe the work and practice of an established dentist – is usually required prior to starting or during your dental school course load.

In terms of where to apply, much of that depends on things like location, clinical specialization preferences, community feel, and more. Are you willing to relocate, or do you prefer to attend somewhere close by? What kind of community and/or curriculum do you want? Do you have an idea of the clinical services you’re most interested in? All of these factors play a role in where you decide to apply.

PREPARE FINANCIALLY

Finally, the path to a dental career is rigorous and demanding, both in terms of the workload and lifestyle but also on your wallet. If you’re switching to dentistry from another career, you may have had time to grow resources or savings you can tap into. If your current employer allows it, you can ask if they would be willing to reimburse some of your education expenses.

If you need to finance your dental school education, there are several options you can choose from. They include federal loans specifically for the dental industry, institutional loans, and third-party financing alternatives.

For more information on financing dental school, go to the American Dental Education Association.

WHAT NEXT?

Thinking about a career change to dentistry? Already in dental school but don’t know which career path to choose? Contact us today and we can help guide you confidently in the right direction.

Re-Opening After COVID19

Covid-19 has impacted every global industry, and dental practices are no exception. If you work, manage or own a dental practice, this is obvious. The nature of dental work involves high-contact personal interaction, which puts both you and your patients at higher risk of contagion if you do not implement and follow recommended hygienic protocols. In Massachusetts, Phase 2 of the Covid-19 reopening plan gives the green light for dentists to offer non-emergent services, like routine cleanings. Although we’re just entering the beginning of the “new normal”, is your practice prepared to follow the recommended guidelines? Here’s just a few ideas you can start at your dental practice today to succeed in the re-opening stages.

ADMINISTRATIVE CHANGES

Due to the up close, personal nature of dentistry work, most dental practices opted to shut their doors or limit services extensively during the state and nationwide stay-at-home orders. According to the ADA, 79% of dentists closed except for emergency work, and 17% shut their doors entirely. But the fact is that revenue loss from such a drastic decrease in patient visits is devastating for many dental practices, despite the desire to keep everyone safe.

As we move into the “new normal”, work on streamlining your administrative process. You may already do most or all of these things, but here are a few suggestions to implement from an administrative standpoint:

  • Schedule appointments with enough time in between to facilitate proper cleaning and disinfecting.
  • Limit the number of patients and staff in the practice at one time.
  • If possible, consider staggering or dividing the staff into shifts to avoid having to shut the office down if someone gets sick.
  • Prioritize higher risk patients with a specified window of time after you open each day.
  • Call ahead to verify information with the patient beforehand and advise them on what to do if they feel sick before or after their visit.

PRACTICE ENVIRONMENT

In terms of preparing your physical dental practice for higher patient traffic, the CDC has put together a detailed list of considerations specific to dental offices. Many of these guidelines are most likely very familiar to you. However, here are some basic recommendations when planning to re-open — or stay open:

  • Ensure that every staff member has access to personal protective equipment (PPE) which may include face masks, shields, gloves, and protective clothing.
  • Advise all staff and patients to wear a mask when not undergoing dental work.
  • Mark floors, walls or other visible areas to note proper social distance – ie. a floor marker every 6 feet.
  • Place hand sanitizer visibly around the office and implement strict cleaning and disinfecting protocols in between patients.

WHAT NEXT?

The “new normal” will be different in your dental practice than it was before, but you don’t need to feel overwhelmed. Want further guidance in how to ensure success in a post-Covid 19 environment? Schedule your consultation with Dr. Coughlin today.

Questions to Ask Before Offering Teledentistry Services

Over the past several months, social distancing and remote work have become the new normal for most Americans. For dental practice owners, implementing telehealth options to continue operations is in many cases a necessity in order to comply with both federal and state recommendations.

If your practice hasn’t already done so, consider getting your team and patients on board with a telehealth program. Not only does it mean that you can still offer your services, but your patients will also feel appreciated and thought of during this uncertain time.

However, there are some things you need to consider before turning your practice into a telehealth operation. This post will go over just a few of these factors.

HOURS OF OPERATION

The nature of dental work is that many visits are due to emergent scenarios like cavities or an infected tooth. Other patients may only see you twice a year for their checkups. This can make determining standard hours of operations difficult under “normal” circumstances, but remote services add more stress to the issue.

Here are some questions you need to consider regarding hours of operation in a telehealth-based world. By reviewing these and other factors, you can be more prepared for the changes that telehealth services bring.

• Do you want to set aside certain hours for emergency vs regular visits?
• Will telehealth services only be for non-emergent clients? How does this relate to cleanings?
• If your in-person support team are necessary for your business operations, how do their positions fit into telehealth practices? Is there room for them to work remotely if possible?

PROGRAMS

There are many different platforms available for telehealth programs. However, an important thing to note is that not all of the popular options (Skype, Facetime) offer HIPAA Compliant regulations for their video conference services. Platforms that provide HIPAA compliant protected teledentistry services include Cisco, GoToMeeting and Zoom. Since the privacy, protection, and security of your clients is of vital importance, this is an important aspect to keep in mind. It is also likely that some training for telehealth platforms may be needed for both staff and patients, so preparation in this area can be very helpful for all involved. For example, consider training and designating one staff member to be the “go-to” person for all things related to the technical side of telehealth services.

PAPERWORK

Much of the administrative aspect of running an efficient dental practice relates to the proper use, storage, and disposal of patient-sensitive paperwork. When it comes to preparing your office for telehealth services, make sure to go through these questions about paperwork to ensure as seamless a transition as possible.

• Do you offer your patients a disclosure form to receive teledentistry services?
• How do you plan to store paperwork from telehealth visits for record purposes?
• What systems do you have in place to properly secure paperwork if moving them from one program to another?

NEED HELP?

Want to implement teledentistry options during this time of uncertainty but aren’t sure where to start? Dr. Coughlin is here to guide, support and encourage you now and in the future to grow and sustain a dental practice that goes above and beyond. Call us today!

3 Simple Characteristics of Successful Dental Practice Owners

As an aspiring dental entrepreneur, you know that being at the top of your craft is of utmost importance. But when it comes to managing your own dental practice, your chances of achieving success increases if you possess certain personal and professional characteristics. The good thing is — all of these can be learned and practiced!

Ready to learn three simple characteristics that all successful dental practice owners have? Read on!

VISION-SHAPED AND GOAL DRIVEN

I’m sure you’ve heard the discouraging statistic that 95% of small businesses fail within a decade of first opening their doors. While that does appear to be a bleak prospect, keep in mind that by getting (and staying) informed of the common pitfalls that plague business owners, you can take active steps to avoid ending up in a precarious situation.

To that end, one important characteristic of a successful business owner is to have a specific vision and goals that go beyond just the bottom line. Think preemptively about the many details that go into effectively running a business- things like staff, payroll, accounting, and software program solutions. The ability to balance your larger goals as a dental practice owner with the seemingly smaller day-to-day operations functions can go a long way to paving the way for your success.

ASTUTE AND EFFECTIVE MARKETERS

The difference between a successful business and one that struggles is often found in the way that they approach marketing. Do you know who your target market is? Similarly, do you have an ideal client sector you want to reach? Is your practice’s marketing messaging aligned with those goals?

If you are not able to reach the right customer with the right messaging, your business can end up suffering in the end. It might not seem obvious right away, but eventually, the need to narrow in on your desired target market becomes vitally important, especially in the face of any competition.

A successful business owner knows how to market their services to their ideal clients.

HUMILITY AND WISDOM TO ASK FOR HELP 

Entrepreneurship does require a level of self-reliance, which is in and of itself an excellent trait to have if you plan on opening your own dental practice. However, no one can do everything perfectly all the time. If you want to focus on your clinical efforts, for example, you need to rely on other people and/or systems to help manage the operations, marketing and other functions necessary to make your practice successful. It can be tempting to try and do it all yourself, but humility and knowing your limits helps protect you from burn-out and also encourages confidence in the members of your team. Dental practices do not consist of only the dentist. If you want your practice to be successful, humility is a practical characteristic that benefits not only you but the whole business as well.

WANT MORE GUIDANCE?

This post has explored three very basic characteristics of successful business owners. If you want to learn about more examples or feel there are areas you know you need guidance on, contact Dr. Coughlin today. Bridge the gap between knowing what it takes to run a wildly successful dental practice and actually doing it!

 

 

What Are Dental Service Organizations?

Most dentists are faced with the decision to choose either open their own business, join another private practice, or become part of a Dental Service Organization (DSO).

But what exactly are DSO’s? What benefits do they have for your dental career, or alternatively, what are some of the drawbacks associated with them?

This post will give you a basic understanding of Dental Service Organizations and answer these questions with a goal to see how they might work with your own dental career.

WHAT ARE DSO’s?

Dental Service Organizations are also referred to as Dental Support Organizations. They both are commonly abbreviated as DSOs, and at their core, their business models provides non-clinical functions for dental practices. In many cases, services can include things like human resources, payroll, marketing efforts, IT solutions, and practice administrative support. For a dentist that seeks to focus primarily on their patients without the stress or worry that operations and administrative tasks can create, joining a practice that is managed by a DSO is an attractive option. DSO’s generally promise greater mobility and work-life balance compared to practices who manage their own operations.

That being said, there are definite advantages and disadvantages when it comes to joining a DSO. If you’re a novice dental practitioner, here are some to keep in mind when making decisions that affect your career.

BENEFITS

As mentioned before, the primary benefit that DSO’s offer is the ability for dental practitioners to focus on their clinical and patient experience, while the administrative and operational duties are managed by a third-party DSO.

This potentially means more time providing high quality care and less time spent on menial operational tasks.

Similarly, participating in a DSO can yield access to cutting-edge technology that might not otherwise be attainable through an independently managed practice. There are also special mentoring programs, coupled with attractive starting salaries, that can be especially enticing for dentists in the early stages of their career.

DISADVANTAGES

The biggest drawback to signing up with a DSO is the lack of independence and autonomy. Because DSO’s manage everything from payroll to administrative staff, your practice does not have a lot of freedom (if any) when it comes to management in these functions.

Another key disadvantage to joining a DSO is that the focus can become focused on numbers instead of providing patients with a high-quality standard of care. While DSO’s can boast greater numbers because of their ability and scope to serve more patients, the quality and personal nature can often diminish as a result.

THINKING OF JOINING A DSO?

Whether you have a freshly minted DMD degree or you’ve been practicing for decades, the decision to join a DSO does affect your career. If independence and autonomy are some of your goals, DSO’s might not be the best choice for you. On the other hand, if you hate being bogged down by the operations side of things, DSO’s could help you take away some of that burden.

Regardless of where you stand, you don’t have to make the decision alone. Reach out to Dr. Coughlin today and we can help you make the best decision for your career and/or practice – whether it’s with a DSO or not.

Should You Lease or Own Your Dental Practice Building?

If you’ve decided to own a dental practice, there are lots of things to be mindful of to be successful beyond the day to day operations. Your time, money and other resources need to be spent on marketing, effective management techniques, and bookkeeping. In addition to all of these, you also need to factor the whereabouts of the physical location of your business. And with that comes the need to think about what your plans are for your practice for both the long and short term.

Do you want to have more flexibility for the physical location of your practice? Do you have access to funds for a down payment and mortgage for your practice space, if desired? These types of questions can help you hone in on the more practical option for your business needs and goals.

And these questions lead to a very important one.

Should you own or lease the office space for your dental practice?

 

PROS OF LEASING

Leasing is essentially the same thing as renting your office space. If location is of utmost importance to you, leasing allows you to have more flexibility than owning real estate. There’s a higher likelihood of being able to find short term leases, for example, if that’s something you feel you need. In many cases, leasing gives you more options in terms of property locations. Finally, you won’t need to have a large amount of capital to invest in real estate property if you decide to lease.

 

CONS OF LEASING

If you’ve had experience with renting at all, you know that one of the biggest drawbacks is that rental rates consistently increase over time. If you’d like your dental practice to remain in the same location for the long haul, signing onto a long-term lease might not be in your best interest. You also don’t get the benefits of property ownership, namely equity value and tax advantages, if you lease your office space.

 

PROS OF OWNING

Real estate ownership offers many advantages and benefits in general, and the same is true if you want to purchase property for your dental practice.  Some of the most compelling benefits are flexibility in controlling location and any future expansion projects, the ability to build equity as you pay down the financial terms, and to eventually earn a return on your investment.

 

CONS OF OWNING

In contrast, owning your dental practice location requires a significant amount of upfront capital. As a property owner, you would also be responsible for any upkeep and maintenance, including fronting the cost for any property-related damages. These responsibilities can take away from other tasks necessary to growing and sustaining your practice,like marketing, staff management, and accounting.

The decision to lease or own your dental practice property is based on a combination of your personal and business needs. It’s good to think through all of your options with either choice.

 

WONDERING WHERE TO BEGIN?

Are you just starting out with your practice? Sign up for Dr. Coughlin’s program that details the principles of success to learn what it takes to have a successful, thriving dental practice!

Do Your Potential Patients Know Your Dental Practice Exists?

Effective marketing can mean the difference between a successful, thriving business and one that’s just barely making ends meet. A clear, consistent marketing plan attracts the right customers, at the right time, in the right location. If they have a good experience, these patients then share your practice with others, come back for dental services, and the cycle continues. If this happens regularly, you’re likely to have a thriving dental practice. But what happens if you don’t reach these target customers?

They don’t discover your business, so they go elsewhere. And you (and your practice) suffer for it.

Luckily, there are some surefire ways to market your business, and are well worth it because of the return on investment (ROI). Interested to know if you’re taking advantage of these effective marketing channels for your business? Read on.

 

LIST YOUR PRACTICE ON GOOGLE MY BUSINESS

If you haven’t listed your business on Google, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity. Customers who search for dental practices typically are from your local community. And because they’re already searching for dentists on Google, you’ll be able to see what brings your patients to your door. That information alone is beyond valuable.

 

GET IN TOUCH WITH YOUR LOCAL CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

Have you joined your Local Chamber of Commerce yet? Since most dental practices are based locally, this marketing strategy is a great choice for you. Once a member, most local chamber chapters give you the option to list your business in their main directory. You can also participate in networking and other organized events throughout the year for additional community exposure.

 

BE ACTIVE ON SOCIAL MEDIA

Social media remains an effective and popular marketing channel for many businesses. In today’s fast-paced digital world, social media provides a way for you to keep up with your customer’s demands, expectations, and desires easily. Customer service usage options abound. You can even create targeted ads to reach your patients that perhaps may not have found you otherwise.

 

CREATE EMAIL MARKETING CAMPAIGNS

While social media is great, don’t forget about tried-and-true marketing strategies like email marketing and direct mail. Did you know that a recent study showed that 99% of Americans check their email at least once a day? That’s a lot of potential eyes on your content. If you haven’t built an email list for your dental practice, start today. Email marketing can be particularly helpful for retaining current patients, which can end up being more lucrative to you and your business than acquiring new patients alone. Try sending a monthly email newsletter or put together an email drip campaign that provides recipients with valuable information.

 

INVEST IN DIRECT MAIL ADVERTISING COLLATERAL

Finally, direct mail marketing collateral can be an effective way to market your business, particularly if you target patients in and around your physical practice. Send out a basic flyer with an introductory offer or collaborate with other local businesses to cross-promote your services.

 

WANT MORE GUIDANCE?

It can be time-consuming and frustrating to try and figure out the most effective way to market your particular dental practice. If you want personalized guidance by a fellow dentist and dental practice owner that’s been there, contact Dr. Coughlin today. We will help you find the right marketing approach that’s based on your specific ideal target audience that effectively meets your business goals.

 

 

Benefits to Owning a Dental Practice

The decision to open your own dental practice versus working as an associate at a larger managed organization is one that only you can make. However, if you’ve never thought about owning your own dental practice, there are benefits to it that you just can’t get as a dental associate. 

Take the time to weigh the pros and cons of each option to make the best decision for you and your desired lifestyle. 

Interested in opening your own dental practice? Here are some benefits of taking that entrepreneurial step. 

 

FREEDOM TO OPERATE AS YOU WOULD LIKE

Unlike managed organizations, if you own a dental practice, you’re free to run operations as you see fit. Practically speaking, this means that you call the shots of what goes on in the office; there are no middlemen making decisions for you. Even decisions like benefits for your team or customer service guidelines are in your hands. If you like the idea of truly being your own boss and enjoy detailed work, owning your own dental practice is a good option to consider.

 

MAINTAIN YOUR IDEAL ENVIRONMENT AND TEAM

A key benefit of owning a dental practice is the degree of control you have over the environment and team choices in the office. Instead of being forced to work with what you have, you can decorate the practice to your preferences. You can also hire employees that you have a personal connection with who may not otherwise be chosen in a larger organization. Because a dental office’s environment can play a big part in overall patient satisfaction, keep this in mind in the process of deciding what career path to take. If you value the ability to express your own individuality in the workplace, owning a practice could be a great fit.

 

SCHEDULE/FLEXIBILITY

Time: none of us seem to have enough of it, and busy dentists are no different, regardless of where they work. However, if you’re a practice owner, you ultimately get to decide the hours and schedule you want to work. Of course, dental practices are businesses. Things don’t always work out the way they should on paper – something inevitably always comes up at the end of the day. But the fact of the matter is that you still have the ability to choose and regulate the hours of your practice versus being forced to adhere to a set schedule each week. This kind of flexibility is appealing to many dentists.

 

WEAR MANY HATS

As an owner of a dental practice, you’re able to do far more than just interact with patients. You’re the decision-maker for the marketing, accounting, stability, and growth of your business – which means you wear a lot of hats. If you’re excited by the challenge of operating several different projects at once and get bored with performing repetitious tasks easily, owning a dental practice is right up your alley. At any given time, there’s always a different project to work on. Overall, your role as a business owner can be very administratively focused, especially when compared to an associate dentist in a managed dental organization.

 

FINANCIAL BENEFITS

Finally, owning your own business gives you significant financial benefits. Instead of working as an associate for someone else, you’re able to build wealth for yourself. There are also tax benefits to running a dental practice. Take advantage of the savings from writing off business-related expenses to maximize your financial gain.

 

WANT TO OPEN YOUR OWN DENTAL PRACTICE?

If you’ve decided to open your own dental practice, that’s great! Contact us today and let us help you grow and develop your business into a reputable and successful dental practice in your community.