The number of patients on your database is a key bit of information and something that should be tightly monitored and managed.
Patient retention is one of the most difficult challenges facing general dental practices at this time and your success if going to greatly depend upon your ability to win your patients loyalty and keep them attending regularly.
I have just completed an exercise involving a database of patients whereby 77% of patients had not attended for 18months or more! I should mention that this practice is doing well in terms of financial success, new patient numbers and profit growth so this figure was somewhat surprising to say the least but one not to be ignored!
So we started a lengthy analysis of the patient database, looking at those patients who had failed to respond to recalls and had subsequently fallen through the gaps.
Once we had identified those patients that we felt there was a possibility we could reactivate we considered ways in which we could attract them back.
We did a trial of a half price exam offer, sent out to 150 of the 'inactive' patients and the result has been amazing. In just 3 weeks we have seen a 11% response and a resulting income of £500 plus an additional £2000 of planned work of which approximately 50% is already in the book!
You could argue that offering a half price exam is loosing you money and in the short term you may be right although I would argue these appointments have taken slots of your appointment book that otherwise would have been left empty! You need to look at the bigger picture, you have earned additional income, you have achieved a great initial return on investment and you have generated additional income that you have yet to earn. The most important point to remember is you have reactivated dormant patients and you now have the opportunity to re-develop relationships and convert them into loyal, regular attending, friend and family referring customers!
After an initial sceptical response to this initiative the practice involved is now amazed by the response and will certainly be taking the time and effort to extend the offer to the rest of their dormant patients.
If you would like help planning and implementing initiatives such as this please get in touch on 07703627873 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Running a dental practice in today's economic climate requires a large degree of business focus.
Ask yourself these questions:
1. Do you know how much it costs to open your practice each and every day
2. Do you know how much you need to make each day to cover the fixed overheads, variable costs and pay yourself?
3. Do you know these numbers off the top of your head?
If you answered no to any of these questions you should read on.....
Knowing how much it costs to run your business is essential for success. Once you know how much you need to earn to cover all the costs you can plan more effectively and work out what you need to be earning on a daily or even hourly basis.
Its also important to know what your 'costs' are made up of, if you don't know what you are spending your money on how can you make sure you are spending it in the right place?
I recommend that practices do a full review of their costs every month to determine if essential savings could be made. By doing this it also focuses practices into becoming more aware of what they are spending and paying more attention to this ultimately results in less money being spent unnecessarily.
If you'd like to find out how we can help you control the costs of running your business and you'd like to learn ways to effectively monitor these costs get in touch!
Do you have satisfied customers?
Are you offering a level of service that your patients are happy with?
Have you found out what your patients think of your service?
Are you listening to what is not being said?
Most practices will have ‘satisfied’ customers but ask yourself this....is satisfied good enough?
Satisfied means they expect nothing more, their standards are mediocre and no-one else is doing it any worse.
Satisfied does not create loyal patients who are ambassadors of your practice, satisfied creates patients that are happy with the status-quo but who will jump ship when a better opportunity presents itself.
Your patients are your customers and they are buying a SERVICE and to keep them coming back that service needs to be top notch, anything less and that loyal patient will eventually take their business elsewhere.
If you are trying to improve your patient experience I would highly recommend a book called ‘Raving Fans’ by Ken Blanchard.
We can help you transform your patient experience and give you not satisfied customers, but raving fans who will recommend you time and time again. Call us today on 07703627873 or email email@example.com
We all send out recalls, traditionally by letter but hopefully now most practices have embraced modern methods of communication such as SMS and email, but what happens next?
Do you send out your recalls, sit back and hope for the best or are you proactively working to convert those reminders into appointments?
The first step in an effective recall system is encourage the patient to book an appointment before they leave the building, however I hear 2 main objections to this, these are as follows:
· The patient does not have their diary, its too far ahead for them to plan for it
· They book but then we get loads of late cancellations and FTA’s causing lost time in our appointment book
I believe the answer to the above objections lies within the communication skills of your team. If your team can effectively communicate and answer these objections with an effective response usually its problem solved! Role play and scripting is a great way to get your front of house team to communicate effectively with your patients. They will learn what to say, how to say it and to feel comfortable handling any objections.
You will however always get those patients who do not want to book their next appointment too far in advance and will always prefer to be sent ‘a reminder’ closer to the time. So how do you make sure that each and everyone of those people books an appointment when that time comes?
The second step in an effective recall system is the wording of your communication, whether by letter, SMS or email, the message should be the same. Keep it short and to the point with a direct call to action. For email reminders I recommend giving the patient the option to request an appointment by reply, this saves them the time and effort of calling you directly. It is very effective and very simple to do. All too often I see recall letters/emails that are so long winded and give the patient a full lecture about the importance of regular dental care- this is not necessary, the patient is unlikely to read it and it distracts them from the call to action ‘BOOK AN APPOINTMENT’.
Recalls are a great marketing tool, whether you attach a flyer, a link to a webpage or social media site you can very simply get a marketing message out to your most captive audience and best of all its usually FREE!
So you’ve sent out recalls, some people have booked their appointment but others still haven’t been in touch, what now?
The final stage in an effective recall procedure is Follow Up. I recommend leaving a period of 2 weeks between the first and second reminders, you don’t want to seem pushy but equally you want the reminders to arrive a short interval apart thus keeping you in the patients mind. The second reminder should be very informal, reminding them that they are due to see you and telling them the ways in which they can book an appointment.
If after a further 4 weeks the patient has not been in touch we make a courtesy phone call. Now here the communication skills really are the key to success. We don’t want the patient to feel like we are harassing them into booking an appointment and that is not your aim. Your aim is to make the patient feel like we are offering a wonderful service, we’re worried that we’d not heard from them and we wanted to make sure everything is alright. Often patients ignore recall reminders for the following reasons:
· They can’t afford treatment right now
· They have not had previously recommended treatment and are worried about the consequences
· They are scared
· They (or a loved one) is in ill-health
· They have more important things going on- marriage, divorce, travel, change in career etc
· They have been dissatisfied with previous treatment or service but have not told you
Whatever their reason this call is all about learning what is stopping them from making an appointment and offering up solutions to overcome whatever it is that is holding them back. This is a great way to build relationships with your patients and to really make them feel like you are going the extra mile and often because you have taken the time to call them and listen to their objections and offer up practical solutions you can end the call with an appointment in the book.
If the patient still doesn’t want to go ahead and book their appointment, the best thing you can do is tell them you will amend your records and contact them again in a few months time or a time you agree with the patient. This way you are not repeatedly contacting someone who does not wish to book, keeping them happy and allowing you to concentrate your time and energy on something more productive.
All too often the importance of a recall system is overlooked, practices spend all their time concentrating on converting new patients and promoting cosmetic procedures as a way to increase productivity and ultimately profit however it is important to remember that a robust recall system helps to nurture ongoing patient relationships and help keep the flow of existing patients moving through the practice, generating treatment and income as they pass through. Routine appointments form the ‘bread and butter’ of most practices income and its easy to overlook the value that these appointment bring to your business. According to SOE during their webinar last week the average recall retention rate is 46%, with this system my practice continually achieves a recall retention rate of between 83% - 92% so its definitely worth investing some time and energy getting it right.
If you would like to learn more about improving, creating or implementing a recall system for your practice or help with team training and scripting techniques to improve the effectiveness of your existing system please contact us firstname.lastname@example.org or call 07703627873.
Today I have spent the day reviewing our practices performance for this year so far, comparing it to the previous year and looking at key information that can help us identify areas for improvement. This is something I do on a monthly basis but the purpose of today was to start the process of budgeting and forecasting for the next financial year.
With the end of the current financial year looming its a time to reflect on the past and plan for the future.
If you want to increase revenue and more importantly profits, this process is essential for success.
The budgeting process allows you to focus on what you want to achieve in the year to come. This could include the personal income you want to achieve, planning for projects requiring capital spend, introducing new revenue streams for example a new product or service or even the addition of another staff member, these are all things that need to be planned for both operationally and financially.
Does your practice plan for the future?
Do you have a written budget and financial forecast for the whole financial year?
Does your team know what you want to achieve and how you plan to achieve it?
Have you got a formulated marketing plan that ties into your financial forecast?
If you answered no to any of the above, start planning now!
Someone once told me 'what you monitor tends to improve' and this is so true in the case of budgeting. If you have a written plan to work to for the year and you review it on a regular basis with your team you all become more focussed on the achievement of this plan and you'll be amazed at the results of this increased focus.
In the difficult economic climate that we are currently in, this planning process has never been more important. I firmly believe that for a practice to succeed or even survive in today's economy you need to be switched on and on the ball with your numbers!
You may be asking yourself 'where do I start?', well we can show you and support you through the whole process email us at email@example.com to find out how we can help, we'd love to hear from you.
Running a successful, profitable dental practice is enormously dependent upon not good but superior book management.
How do you manage your appointment book? Do you give it the attention it deserves or do you just open it up and hope for the best?
If you want to improve productivity and maximise the clinical time available in your practice then read on.....
The first step in superior book management is to operate a booking system which meets the needs of your individual practice.
Depending upon your practices main focus you need to create and implement a system that caters to it. For example if you're a well established general practice with a high number of loyal patients it would be wise to schedule specific slots for routine examinations to ensure there is a daily limit on the number of exams scheduled, leaving enough time in the day for more valuable treatments thus maintaining a good hourly/daily rate.
Before deciding how you want to structure your appointment book you must give some thought to several factors:
· What is your main focus?
· What would your ideal day look like?
· How much do you want to earn per day?
· Does your book tie up with anyone else, for example the hygienist?
The main aim of any book management system is to not only ensure there is room in your book for a full range of treatment but more importantly that your day is varied and productivity is maximised. There is nothing worse than a day filled with short, low value appointments, days like this leave you and your team feeling over worked and under valued, a full day of hard work ends up yielding little financial return.
Regardless of how you structure your system, you should make sure it incorporates some way to allow the following:
· Time for New Patients
· Time for Emergencies
· Time for Routine Examinations & Low Value Treatments
· Time for Advanced or High Value Treatments
It is important to involve your team in the design stage of a book management system, they can provide you with invaluable input that will really help the system succeed. They are also more likely to be supportive of the system as they will have a good understanding of what its all about and having been involved in the design they will really take ownership of it!
Once your system is in place you should stick to it, obviously some level of flexibility will be needed but on the whole it is important for everyone to understand that the system is the system and it should be followed.
The next stage in superior book management is to manage your system. You've trained your team and they all understand how it works and they are all working to it but having a system does not fill the space!
Book management should be PROACTIVE NOT REACTIVE. All too often practice teams REACT to gaps in the appointment, they are actively following up recalls, not handling cancellations effectively and are not pro-actively working to fill un-booked space ahead of time.
A good follow up system can transform book management and I believe all practices should adopt robust systems to track patients through the key elements of the patient journey, click here to read my previous post on follow up systems.
Set your team some targets specific to the appointment book, this could be based on utilisation of hours available, income yielded per day, x number of a specific type of appointment, set targets that are specific to what you want to improve and monitor the progress rewarding team members for success.
In summary, it is possible to unleash the potential of your appointment book but you must have good book management processes in place to maximise productivity. Your team must understand and support your book management systems and be proactive in filling gaps and handling cancellations.
At Practice Perfection we can help you improve your book management procedures, train your team and ultimately increase productivity! Get in touch to find out more email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 07703627873
In order to maximise your appointment book and develop amazing relationships with your patients your team need to master the art of follow up.
Follow up is something I cannot impress enough upon my team and my clients. I strongly believe that there should always be a next step and you should be the one in control. Success does not just happen it is something that takes hard work and dedication.
Every patient whether new or existing should be part of a system and everyone in the practice should know where they are in this system. A traditional recall system is not sufficient to maximise patient retention and it does not demonstrate first class level service to your patients. A robust follow up system is necessary to capture every step of your patient journey and ensure no-body falls through the cracks.
A multi-level follow up system captures patients from the moment they get in touch until the moment they leave your practice for good (which is hopefully never!).
A follow up system is a fundamental part of good practice management and will ultimately lead to higher performance and productivity as well as amazing client relationships.
With an effective follow up system patients feel important, cared for and that you really do have their best interest at heart.
I recommended you identify the key follow up points in your patient journey for example enquiries that have not yielded bookings should always be followed up, as should patients who have cancelled and not re-booked an appointment.
Having a good system is only the first step the most important part of making a follow up system work is ensuring everyone in the practice knows HOW it works. Follow up communications are worthless when the message is wrong, in fact they can be worse than worthless they can be harmful, patients can feel hounded and harassed and this impression will not help patient retention. Your team need to know how to communicate effectively to ensure patients understand the nature of the follow up communication and that it is intended as a tool for improved customer service and efficiency rather than to ‘fill the book’. It is vitally important to know and respect the patients contact preference, many patients don’t like phone calls they may prefer to communicate by email where possible and it is so important to offer a method of communication that the patient is comfortable with.
Scripting is an effective way to ensure your message is being received, identify with your team the need for a follow up system, examine your patient journey to determine appropriate points for follow up and agree a system. You can then work together to create procedures, scripts and even email or letter templates to assist in the process. Make sure your team is on board with the new system and practice with each other (yes the dreaded role play that we all love so much, but it really does work!) after all practice makes perfect.
If you’d like to find out more about evaluating and improving your administrative systems and increase productivity please email@example.com or visit www.practice-perfection.co.uk
Welcome to the second edition of the 'Practical Guide to Compliance' series. This series is intended to act as informal guidance to dental teams working toward CQC compliance. The contents of these articles are based on personal opinion and interpretation of the CQC framework and other relevant legislation. Whilst the author has full confidence in the suitability and appropriateness of the information contained within these articles, the information shall not be regarded as fact and those requiring definitive information should consult the relevant governing body.
Outcome 2- Consent to Care & Treatment
What do the regulations say?
“Before people are given any examination, care, treatment or support, they should be asked if they agree to it”.
- CQC Essential Standards
Compliance to outcome 2 is all about making sure your patients are given the support and information to make an informed decision about their care, it requires you to have procedures in place to determine whether an individual lacks the competence to make a particular decision and for each member of the team to know what to do in this situation. For those that are considered competent, we need to be providing them with all the information relevant to their care this could include discussion of treatment options, information leaflets, videos or online information. We must make the patient fully aware of all advantages, disadvantages and alternatives for all treatment and ensure that they are fully informed before asking them to make any decisions.
Consent is not a new term in dentistry it is something we have all worked with for a long time but now is a good time to review your policies and procedures to make sure they are meeting the requirements of outcome 2 and any relevant legislation.
Through using the 4 stages of compliance method you can ensure that your practice and your team are covering all the bases for this outcome.
The first stage will see the creation and implementation of a solid consent policy, one that takes the Mental Capacity Act into consideration to ensure there are clear procedures in place for assessing competence and guidelines in place for dealing with a patient who is not considered competent.
Your consent policy should outline the procedure for gaining consent, how it is obtained and how it is recorded.
You should also have patient information available for all procedures, leaflets are a good option as they can be handed out to patients after a discussion to allow them to have a reference for what has been discussed. Other forms of information can also be used such as educational videos, handouts and directing the patient to an online source of information. Regardless of what information you provide and how you provide it, it is advisable to record that you have done so.
Consent forms are also a useful way to present information to patients as they will focus their attention to the important information such as potential risks or side effects that may alter their choice of treatment. It is important to remember that a signed consent form does not constitute as informed consent, these should be used as a means for providing information but not as the only way of confirming that the patient understands what has been said.
The Mental Capacity Act 2005 has a published code of practice which provides guidance to anyone who is working with and/or caring for adults who may lack capacity click here to download this document.
Dental Protection has produced a useful document on consent click here to download it. The GDC document ‘Principles of Patient Consent’ is also useful guidance click here to download it.
So now that you have laid the foundations for compliance to outcome 2 you can now move onto stage 2- train your team. Your team should undertake some training on Consent and the Mental Capacity Act to ensure they have a thorough understanding of the subject as this will help them apply the principles to their day to day work.
As a team you should agree the implementation of your consent procedures and also agree a consistent method of recording consent, this will allow for much easier monitoring of compliance at a later stage.
It is important that your team understand what is considered valid consent. All discussions with patients should be recorded with consent in mind, did you explain the procedure, did you invite questions, did you give satisfactory explanations, were all the patients questions answered, did you verbally confirm that the patient understood what had been said and most importantly did the patient agree to the procedure? These are all important questions that need to be applied to every treatment discussion.
So you’ve laid the foundations and you have trained your team, it’s now time to practice, practice, practice! Implement the procedures and the learning that has occurred and apply this to your daily work.
You are almost there, now that you have everything in place you must monitor and review to achieve ongoing compliance. This could involve audits of consent and patient records, team quizzes and spot tests or even patient surveys. The important thing is that you regularly measure the effectiveness of your procedures and make any necessary changes when things are not working. As part of this process it is important to stay abreast of any changes in legislation that may affect how you work.
In summary, in order to achieve compliance to outcome 2 we must respect a patient’s right to choose whether or not to have a dental procedure, we must assess a person’s competence to make a decision and their ability to understand information relating to their treatment. If a patient is considered incompetent to make a particular decision we must act in line with the Mental Capacity Act Code of Practice to ensure we are supporting the patient and/or their carer to understand and make an informed choice. It is our obligation and duty to provide the patient with as much information as is appropriate and relevant and we must invite and answer any questions the patient may have. Gaining consent is not merely getting a signature on a form it is a process of communicating information to a patient about their needs and your recommendations. You must ensure that consent is volunteered and the patient is fully informed. It is vital that good records are kept on all matters concerning consent to care and treatment, consent should form a part of every single clinical record made. Last but not least monitor consent and regularly review the effectiveness of your procedures.
If you’d like to know more about how Practice Perfection can help you with CQC compliance please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org
We all make some conscious effort to attract new patients to our door but what happens after they make contact with you?
As well as running Practice Perfection I also run a dental practice and in my experience this is one of the biggest challenges facing a practice.
Have you assessed how well you are handling enquiries, how quickly do you respond? What impression is that potential patient being given from the word go? Are your front of house team effectively communicating the value of your service to convert these enquiries into new patients?
This is such an important exercise and one that will ultimately win you patients! You need to know that every enquiry is being dealt with effectively and efficiently and that every single person that contacts your practice is given an amazing impression of what you have to offer!
If you’d like to find out more about evaluating and improving your patient experience please contact email@example.com or visitwww.practice-perfection.co.uk
Today I have spent the day at a beautiful practice in Southampton. The practice is a busy Implant Referral Centre with a very small yet efficient team.
They asked me to visit them today to help them customise their practice management software to help make admin tasks more efficient and streamline systems for patient/referrer communications.
I have worked with the same practice management software for a number of years and despite having no formal training from the software provider I am not afraid to say I consider myself somewhat of a 'super user'. I can navigate my way around the software at great speed and can utilise it to it's full potential, setting up functions that many don't even know exist!
It continues to amaze me that most practices utilise their practice management software at its most basic function, but how would they know any different when there is a severe lack of training available on the subject.
Training from the software provider is great for new users and teaches you to the basic 'how to' of the programme but as far as advanced usage goes, there is very little provision.
What if I told you that your practice management software had the power to:
· Improve efficiency
· Improve customer relations
· Increase productivity
· Streamline internal marketing strategies
Wouldn't you want to know how to do this?
Welcome to the Blog!
I want to help you build the practice of your dreams, I hope you find insight and inspiration in my blog.