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.
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.
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.
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.
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.