Posts

Podcast: Are team meetings valuable?

How do we conduct these meetings? Should we even waste time with these meetings?”

Manage Your Dental Practice. And Your Time.

Life is busy. The days go fast and the years seem to speed by – especially when you’re running your own practice. You’ve learned by now that being a dentist can be a demanding job, but just as equally rewarding. The key is mastering your schedule and making a plan so you’re not constantly running all over the place and working longer hours than planned. You’ve worked hard to get where you are, and you deserve to make the days go as easy as possible. So as your patient list gets longer and your availability gets smaller, you need to figure out how to manage the clock as best as you can.

These time management tips can help you get through the day not just more easily, but more effectively.

1. Ignore your phone.

Checking your phone in between appointments can mean working longer hours. Not only is it a distraction, but it can take up longer time than you think. Instead of picking up your cell, focus on other tasks you need to get done so you can complete your day earlier. Set aside a specific time of day to catch up on emails so that it’s not a distraction.

2. Don’t do it alone.

Just because you’re the boss doesn’t mean you have to control everything. You’ve hired employees for a reason, and they’re here to help. Stick to your dentist duties and don’t be afraid to delegate the rest. Assign specific tasks for each role in your office and let your team members do their jobs. If everyone does their work diligently, you’ll find you can dedicate your time more beneficially to the more important matters.

3. Take care of your team.

A successful office starts with a happy team. If they’re doing their job to the best of their ability, yours will be so much easier. Remember that they are the face of your office and the reason it runs smoothly. Make sure they have proper training so they feel

empowered. Provide good scheduling software so they can plan and prioritize quickly and simply. Take their feedback seriously and listen to their suggestions.

4. Put the patient first.

You (and your team) won’t have to spend so much time trying to make sure patients are happy if they feel comfortable and accommodated. And when they are, they’ll tell their friends. (Easy advertising!) Small things like providing good reading in the waiting area, fun activities to keep kids busy, a nicely decorated office, and a space that feels welcoming will go a long way. Go above and beyond where you can. Give gifts (everyone loves free stuff!) and a new tooth brush or travel size toothpaste is an easy, practical giveaway.

5. Have a site that sets you up for success.

Being a dentist today is a lot different than years ago. Now, patients can help make your job a lot easier, saving you and your staff a lot of time. Having a good website can reduce phone calls in your office, which will give your employees more time to focus on other duties. (Plus, it can keep your patients happy because they’ll avoid long wait times to speak to someone.) A good website will review the services you provide and share important information that answer basic questions like available hours, services offered and current team members.

6. Take a break.

Running around from morning to evening can be exhausting – and not very productive. One of the best things you can do for yourself – and your patients – is to set aside time to rest and reset. It doesn’t have to be very long, but it does need to happen. Set aside at least a half-hour each day as quiet time to let your mind take a break and to think about the nonclinical tasks you need to get through before you head home. Remember that working on your business, not just in your business is essential for success. It might be hard to find time to “give up” but this time will help you be more effective in the long run – and your practice and patients will be better for it.

Podcast: How to Hire

Dr. Kevin Coughlin believes you can offer an incredibly high level of care and service in a very efficient and effective way if you’re willing to invest in the technology, the training, and the team. This episode explores hiring – when, how, and most importantly why looking for the right team fit is key.

Podcast: The Jiffy Lube Experience


Dr Kevin Coughlin ruminates on the excellent customer service he received at the oddest of places – a Jiffy Lube – and connects the dots on how that kind of customer satisfaction can be applicable to the dentist industry.

Podcast: Motivation

After 35 years, I’d like to share with how I keep my employees motivated.

It’s a combination of things that will work based on your team members’ personalities. I think it’s critical as “the leader” of your team that you lead by example. If you come in with an angry demeanor, if you come in upset and aggravated, you’re not leading by example, you’re leading by failure. Somehow, you have to get up every single day, put your best foot forward, and provide the best example you can to your team.

I also think it’s critical that you offer your team members the opportunity for advancement – make the training and the time available to discuss with them their personal wants and needs. You have to physically make time in your schedule to meet one-on-one with your team members. I suggest you do not delegate to the management team. I suggest you take the time to meet with your individuals one-on-one.

Podcast: When is Enough…Enough?

The entire Dental profession realizes approximately 5,000 dentists will be graduating in the next few weeks and entering into the market force. Most of these young men and women will have very little clinical experience, but some wonderful educational background. The vast majority of these individuals will be bypassing specialty programs, bypassing residency programs, and going directly into the dental market or job and career areas. The question is: When is enough is enough?

Today the incredible debt of private education and the downward forces from insurance companies and DSO’s and MSO’s make it extremely difficult for these individuals to make it in the real market place. I would strongly recommend negotiating your best contract but be realistic in what you ask for.

My personal opinion is in those first 12 to 24 months focus on education training, development of process and procedures, and make sure you have a mentor in the practice that can work you through the difficulties that all of us, as dentists, deal with when we first start our career.

Dental Practice Mergers: What You Need to Know

Merging your dental practice with another practice often sounds good on paper. Theoretically, it will reduce competition, grow your patient base and production numbers, and improve your bottom line. In reality, though, not all mergers are the right choice. Like any major business transaction, it is important to think through whether it is right for your practice at this time and what you will need to do to make it successful. Here is what you need to know.

Due Diligence

Once you find a practice you like, it is time to perform your due diligence. Analyze the details of each practice, from philosophy of care to operational details to software and technology. If the two practices are wildly different, consider the possibility that it simply isn’t a good match. If you decide to go ahead with the merger, sit down with the owner of the other practice to develop a new business plan that keeps the best of each practice while developing new methodologies that work well for both practices.

Identity and Branding

One of the most important aspects of a successful merger is the development of a cohesive new brand. Remember that each practice has been following a singular vision for a long time, but it is now time to create a new, shared vision. Involve both practice teams as much as possible to help them feel like part of the whole.

Communication

During a merger, many employees become nervous and the rumor mill heats up. Keep morale high by keeping your team informed. Explain the benefits of the merger, both for your practice and for them as individuals. Ask for their opinions and contributions, and let them know what you need from them. Keep them posted as to the progression of the merger and discuss how things will change at every step.

Collaboration

It is only natural for team members from each practice to feel loyalty to that practice, but this can quickly spiral into an “us vs. them” environment. Focus on building a culture of engagement by bringing both teams together frequently in a mix of meetings and teambuilding activities. Work with the other practice owner to reassure team members that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts and that everyone is working together for the same shared vision.

Preparing for New Patients

A top benefit of a merger is an influx of new patients, but if you aren’t prepared for them, it may feel like a curse rather than a blessing. Develop a plan based on forecasts, but remain agile and ready to make changes on the fly. Get your team members involved in the planning rather than springing such new changes as extended hours on them without warning.

A merger can be an excellent choice for your dental practice, but it can quickly go south if you do not take the proper steps. Start by ensuring that the specific merger is truly right for your practice, and then work hard to make the transition as seamless as possible for everyone involved.

Ready to Get Started?

If you are interested in learning how to take your dental practice to the next level, please contact Ascent Dental Solutions today at 413-224-2659 to learn how Dr. Coughlin can help.

How to Beat Burnout in Your Dental Practice

No matter how much you love dentistry, burning out when running your own practice is not uncommon. Problems unrelated to actual dental care, from staff turnover to low patient retention rates, can make you wish you could just sell your practice and work for someone else. While this is always an option, especially as corporate dentistry becomes more and more common, don’t take such a drastic step right away. In many cases, following a few simple tips can make you fall in love with your practice all over again.

Be the Leader

It is easy to get dragged down by the many responsibilities of being a business owner, but it can also be fun. Take this opportunity to think through how you can better empower your team members. Shift your focus to creating helpful tools, such as detailed job descriptions and transparent performance measurements. It’s a bit creative, and once these measures are in place, you will find that your staff is happier, more focused, and more motivated. Their improved mood can raise your own spirits. For a quick boost, you could even take your team out to celebrate putting the new measures in place.

Focus on Hygiene

Hygiene appointments are a win-win for both you and your patients. They are highly profitable, but they also help patients avoid expensive and uncomfortable treatments down the line. If your hygiene production has slipped, find out why. Most problems with hygiene production can be fixed relatively easily.

Make sure your scheduling coordinator is maximizing the hygiene schedule. Be sure your team is following up with reminders two days in advance, and determine whether your patients prefer reminders by email, text, or phone. You could also add online scheduling to the mix, allowing patients without an existing appointment to simply schedule their own.

Double down on patient education. They are less likely to cancel last-minute or no-show if they truly understand the value of hygiene appointments. After each appointment, provide the patient with a written summary that details what you did, what products you sent them home with, areas to pay special attention to between visits, and the date and time of their next appointment. Seeing everything in written format will reduce the likelihood of skipping the next visit.

Evaluate Your Treatment Presentation

Did you know that how you present treatment recommendations can have a huge impact on whether patients accept them? The most effective way of presenting recommendations is to move from the treatment room to a comfortable, quiet, private conference room. Patients need the time and space to digest the information and ask questions. If your schedule does not allow enough time, consider hiring a treatment coordinator whose only job is to help patients work through their treatment options.

Also refine the actual treatment pitch. Perhaps you or your team members are making assumptions about how much patients are willing to pay, presenting necessary treatments in a way that makes them sound like they can be put off, or otherwise giving patients a reason to say no instead of yes. Make sure each patient is thoroughly educated about his or her condition, all available options, and the consequences of refusing or delaying treatment, but present this material in a way that does not sound too “salesy” or high-pressure.

Invest in Continuing Education

Carving out a few days to learn some new skills can help you relax, recharge, and remember what you love about being a dentist. You will then be able to bring your new knowledge back to your practice, offering new services or better processes that will bring value to your existing patients and even help you draw in new ones. This can help boost your revenues and meet your production goals, removing some of the stress that led to your burnout.

Running a business is not easy, and many dentists start to feel burned out and run down by the administrative side of their practice. Fortunately, getting yourself back on track may be a simple matter of redirecting your thinking and implementing a few tweaks.

Ready to Get Started?

If you are interested in learning how to take your dental practice to the next level, please contact Ascent Dental Solutions today at

No matter how much you love dentistry, burning out when running your own practice is not uncommon. Problems unrelated to actual dental care, from staff turnover to low patient retention rates, can make you wish you could just sell your practice and work for someone else. While this is always an option, especially as corporate dentistry becomes more and more common, don’t take such a drastic step right away. In many cases, following a few simple tips can make you fall in love with your practice all over again.

Be the Leader

It is easy to get dragged down by the many responsibilities of being a business owner, but it can also be fun. Take this opportunity to think through how you can better empower your team members. Shift your focus to creating helpful tools, such as detailed job descriptions and transparent performance measurements. It’s a bit creative, and once these measures are in place, you will find that your staff is happier, more focused, and more motivated. Their improved mood can raise your own spirits. For a quick boost, you could even take your team out to celebrate putting the new measures in place.

Focus on Hygiene

Hygiene appointments are a win-win for both you and your patients. They are highly profitable, but they also help patients avoid expensive and uncomfortable treatments down the line. If your hygiene production has slipped, find out why. Most problems with hygiene production can be fixed relatively easily.

Make sure your scheduling coordinator is maximizing the hygiene schedule. Be sure your team is following up with reminders two days in advance, and determine whether your patients prefer reminders by email, text, or phone. You could also add online scheduling to the mix, allowing patients without an existing appointment to simply schedule their own.

Double down on patient education. They are less likely to cancel last-minute or no-show if they truly understand the value of hygiene appointments. After each appointment, provide the patient with a written summary that details what you did, what products you sent them home with, areas to pay special attention to between visits, and the date and time of their next appointment. Seeing everything in written format will reduce the likelihood of skipping the next visit.

Evaluate Your Treatment Presentation

Did you know that how you present treatment recommendations can have a huge impact on whether patients accept them? The most effective way of presenting recommendations is to move from the treatment room to a comfortable, quiet, private conference room. Patients need the time and space to digest the information and ask questions. If your schedule does not allow enough time, consider hiring a treatment coordinator whose only job is to help patients work through their treatment options.

Also refine the actual treatment pitch. Perhaps you or your team members are making assumptions about how much patients are willing to pay, presenting necessary treatments in a way that makes them sound like they can be put off, or otherwise giving patients a reason to say no instead of yes. Make sure each patient is thoroughly educated about his or her condition, all available options, and the consequences of refusing or delaying treatment, but present this material in a way that does not sound too “salesy” or high-pressure.

Invest in Continuing Education

Carving out a few days to learn some new skills can help you relax, recharge, and remember what you love about being a dentist. You will then be able to bring your new knowledge back to your practice, offering new services or better processes that will bring value to your existing patients and even help you draw in new ones. This can help boost your revenues and meet your production goals, removing some of the stress that led to your burnout.

Running a business is not easy, and many dentists start to feel burned out and run down by the administrative side of their practice. Fortunately, getting yourself back on track may be a simple matter of redirecting your thinking and implementing a few tweaks.

Ready to Get Started?

If you are interested in learning how to take your dental practice to the next level, please contact Ascent Dental Solutions today at

No matter how much you love dentistry, burning out when running your own practice is not uncommon. Problems unrelated to actual dental care, from staff turnover to low patient retention rates, can make you wish you could just sell your practice and work for someone else. While this is always an option, especially as corporate dentistry becomes more and more common, don’t take such a drastic step right away. In many cases, following a few simple tips can make you fall in love with your practice all over again.

Be the Leader

It is easy to get dragged down by the many responsibilities of being a business owner, but it can also be fun. Take this opportunity to think through how you can better empower your team members. Shift your focus to creating helpful tools, such as detailed job descriptions and transparent performance measurements. It’s a bit creative, and once these measures are in place, you will find that your staff is happier, more focused, and more motivated. Their improved mood can raise your own spirits. For a quick boost, you could even take your team out to celebrate putting the new measures in place.

Focus on Hygiene

Hygiene appointments are a win-win for both you and your patients. They are highly profitable, but they also help patients avoid expensive and uncomfortable treatments down the line. If your hygiene production has slipped, find out why. Most problems with hygiene production can be fixed relatively easily.

Make sure your scheduling coordinator is maximizing the hygiene schedule. Be sure your team is following up with reminders two days in advance, and determine whether your patients prefer reminders by email, text, or phone. You could also add online scheduling to the mix, allowing patients without an existing appointment to simply schedule their own.

Double down on patient education. They are less likely to cancel last-minute or no-show if they truly understand the value of hygiene appointments. After each appointment, provide the patient with a written summary that details what you did, what products you sent them home with, areas to pay special attention to between visits, and the date and time of their next appointment. Seeing everything in written format will reduce the likelihood of skipping the next visit.

Evaluate Your Treatment Presentation

Did you know that how you present treatment recommendations can have a huge impact on whether patients accept them? The most effective way of presenting recommendations is to move from the treatment room to a comfortable, quiet, private conference room. Patients need the time and space to digest the information and ask questions. If your schedule does not allow enough time, consider hiring a treatment coordinator whose only job is to help patients work through their treatment options.

Also refine the actual treatment pitch. Perhaps you or your team members are making assumptions about how much patients are willing to pay, presenting necessary treatments in a way that makes them sound like they can be put off, or otherwise giving patients a reason to say no instead of yes. Make sure each patient is thoroughly educated about his or her condition, all available options, and the consequences of refusing or delaying treatment, but present this material in a way that does not sound too “salesy” or high-pressure.

Invest in Continuing Education

Carving out a few days to learn some new skills can help you relax, recharge, and remember what you love about being a dentist. You will then be able to bring your new knowledge back to your practice, offering new services or better processes that will bring value to your existing patients and even help you draw in new ones. This can help boost your revenues and meet your production goals, removing some of the stress that led to your burnout.

Running a business is not easy, and many dentists start to feel burned out and run down by the administrative side of their practice. Fortunately, getting yourself back on track may be a simple matter of redirecting your thinking and implementing a few tweaks.

Ready to Get Started?

If you are interested in learning how to take your dental practice to the next level, please contact Ascent Dental Solutions today at 413-224-2659 to learn how Dr. Coughlin can help.

Reasons Every Dental Team Member Needs a Job Description

Creating and managing a dental practice is a lot of work, and it is tempting to let things slide that don’t seem too important to your bottom line or the actual practice of dentistry. Yet creating job descriptions is actually one of the most important things you can do to boost morale, get your staff functioning as a team, and boost the overall health of your practice. Here are a few reasons every dental team member needs a job description.

Morale

How can your team members possibly know what you expect from them unless you tell them? As the CEO of your practice, it is up to you to let them know how you define success and how each role contributes to that success. With a clear job description, each team member has purpose and motivation, as well as the creative freedom to decide how best to perform tasks to meet or exceed your practice goals.

Accountability

Job descriptions clearly delineate what each team member is accountable for. When combined with training, the tools to perform their duties, and logical performance measurements, job descriptions make team members more successful and more confident in their roles.

Reduced Conflict

If everyone is responsible for everything, three types of employees will emerge: the go-getters who take credit for everything that goes right regardless of who actually performed the task, the workhorses who take on tons of extra responsibility without claiming credit, and the finger-pointers who do very little themselves but are quick to call others out for slacking. This leads to escalating tension and a sharp drop in productivity.

Job descriptions put each team member in charge of specific tasks. Rather than in-fighting about who does what, each person has just the right amount of work and the team as a whole becomes more cohesive.

Improved Ownership

Team members who know their exact roles take more ownership of those roles. They feel more connected to the practice and are motivated to perform their jobs to the very best of their ability, as they realize the importance of their roles to the company’s overall success.

For best results, sit down with each team member to co-create that person’s job description. Let him explain how he sees his duties and contributions to the practice’s success. Also work with that person to set both individual and company goals. This further heightens the sense of ownership and lets your team know that their input is valuable.

Ready to Get Started?

If you are interested in learning how to take your dental practice to the next level, please contact Ascent Dental Solutions today at 413-224-2659 to learn how Dr. Coughlin can help.

4 Common Ways Dental Practice Owners Cause Themselves Stress

Owning a dental practice can be a high stress life. Not only do you need to ensure that you give your patients the best possible care, you also have to be a responsible business owner. Paying the bills, collecting debts, marketing, equipment maintenance, and constantly trying to grow your practice can quickly make you feel overwhelmed. Many dental practice owners inadvertently add to their own stress. Here’s how and what you can do to alleviate some of the burden.

Disorganized Schedule

If you are like many dentists, your schedule may be out of control. One day you are overscheduled and running behind, and the next day you have several open appointment times. This constant back and forth between too busy and not busy enough can be a huge source of stress.

To streamline your schedule, consider hiring a scheduling coordinator. This position’s primary duty is to schedule patients in a way that meets your identified production goals. Your coordinator can also develop systems to reduce last-minute cancellations and no-shows, and to manage them when they occur.

Be sure to communicate procedure times with your coordinator to ensure that each patient has the time he needs without throwing off the rest of your day. Some dentists like to take it a step further and reserve one day each week for complex cases, scheduling only 2-3 patients for that day. That way, if a procedure runs long, there is plenty of time in the schedule to compensate.

Staff Conflict

Many dentists prefer to stay out of office drama, believing that everyone involved is an adult with the skills to work it out. Unfortunately, this rarely what happens. Instead, negativity tends to fester, leading to tension and gossip and killing productivity. If things get bad enough, staff members will start to leave, and those who remain will have to pick up the slack.

Minimize staff conflict from the outset by writing detailed job descriptions that delineate who is in charge of which tasks, and by providing enough training and support that all employees are able to perform their job functions efficiently and confidently. Strive to create an atmosphere in which all staff members feel valued and able to express their concerns. Consider implementing regular teambuilding activities, from in-house pizza parties to bowling nights.

When conflicts arise, take them seriously. Encourage both sides to present their arguments in a healthy and constructive way. Listen carefully, validate their concerns, and help them reach a solution without taking sides or assigning blame.

Patient Reluctance

Many patients are reluctant to accept treatments, even when those treatments are clinically necessary. Most of the time, this is because the patient doesn’t fully understand the treatment or why it is important. Financial concerns also play a big role in patient reluctance.

In some cases, you can provide the needed patient education chairside. Strive to always explain clearly and succinctly what your diagnostic findings are and how the treatment will help. Let your patients know that your experienced office staff will help them understand their insurance benefits and out of pocket costs for the needed treatment.

Unfortunately, some patients are not so easily convinced. A treatment coordinator can be extremely valuable to your practice. She can sit with patients in a conference room or other relaxed space, away from the dental chair, to discuss the procedure in more detail. Make sure the person you select is not “salesy” in her approach, but instead is extremely knowledgeable about dental treatments and committed to patient health and wellbeing. Part of her job should be following up with patients who do not commit to treatment before leaving, always with a calm and helpful demeanor.

Low Fees

If you are undercharging by less than 10%, you are losing thousands of dollars per year. Many dentists haven’t raised their fees in decades, and may be undercharging by as much as 50%. You might be afraid to raise your fees for fear of losing patients, but the reality is that if you do not charge competitive fees, you will need to treat twice as many patients as the practice down the street. This is a recipe for stress and burnout.

Take a hard, clear-eyed look at your current fee schedule. Research your competitors’ pricing in your local area, as well as your patient income demographics. Also consider the quality of your dentistry and your customer service when deciding on your fees.

Stress is an inevitable part of life as a dental practice owner. However, there is no reason to add to your own stress levels. Hiring talented help and streamlining your practice can go a long way toward alleviating much of your stress.

Ready to Get Started?

If you are interested in learning how to take your dental practice to the next level, please contact Ascent Dental Solutions today at 413-224-2659 to learn how Dr. Coughlin can help.