Best practices for dental practice management – what is dental practice management and why it matters.

Running a dental practice can be incredibly challenging, especially as you are constantly searching for ways to improve your practice’s efficiency and bring in more patients. You may not know where to look for these insights or have enough time to search multiple places for them. 

To make your role easier, we have gathered the best practices for dental practice management, including those that will help you achieve your goals. Among them, you will find innovative advice on improving the business’s efficiency to save time and gain more patients.

What is dental practice management?

Dental practice management refers to running the day-to-day operations of a dental practice. Essentially, dental practice managers are in charge of most aspects of the business, other than the actual dentist services. 

Dental practice managers have numerous roles, including increasing revenue, collecting payments, building teams, communicating with patients, scheduling, marketing, and more.

Major trends influencing dental practice management, including KPI tracking.

The best way to track your dental practice management’s success is to use KPIs (key performance indicators). These provide an objective method of measuring how well your dental practice is doing and in which areas you should work to improve.

There are dozens of KPIs you could track as a dental practice manager, but the following are the most important: 

  •   Practice Production: Track production at various time intervals, including by day, week, month, quarter, and year. Practice production is arguably the most important performance metric. As a bonus, it’s incredibly helpful in helping you confirm that any changes you make, including those suggested below, are effective.
  •   Average Production per Patient: This helps you see each patient’s average value to the practice. This tends to be a long-term metric.
  •   Average Production per New Patient: This metric should be several times higher than the average production per patient.
  •   Profit: It should go without saying that you will track your practice’s profit, which is the collections minus the overhead costs. This is another metric crucial to measuring the success of various changes.
  •   Collections: Since the ultimate goal of the dental practice is to bring in money, you should also pay attention to the rate at which you collect payment from patients. After all, bringing in more patients is not helpful if they do not pay.
  •   Overhead: As a rule of thumb, you want the overhead to be about 59% in the case of general dentistry practices, with slightly different figures for specialized practices. You should ideally separate the overhead into categories and track each one.
  •   Percentage of Patients Currently Scheduled: You want to track the percentage of your patients that are currently scheduled for an appointment. To help ensure consistent revenue, most dental practices try to schedule the next appointment when the patient leaves their current one. The percentage of patients scheduled will vary significantly based on whether you follow this practice. Either way, pay attention to consistency and fluctuations. 
  •   Number of New Patients: This KPI helps you measure your practice’s growth. It also helps you ensure you make up for any lost patients.
  •   Patient Attrition: Ideally, this figure will be lower than or the same as the number of new patients.

Innovative ideas to help reach your dental practice KPIs – the individual pieces of dental practice management.

As you track your KPI’s, you should have a goal for each in mind. The following ideas will help you reach those goals.

Make the office appealing.

Unfortunately, about 60% of people dread a visit to the dentist. Unsurprisingly, this does not lead to a good patient experience. 

Fight the problem by doing your best to create a warm office atmosphere that welcomes patients and puts them at ease. This will lead to happy patients and more appointments, both from the patient themselves and from the people they recommend.

Start with an ideal office design.

The first step to creating an appealing office is to start with the right design. Even if your office is already established, you can incorporate a few dental office design tips as minor renovations.

Find a unique selling point.

Quote from Debbie Seidel-Bitt

Even if your dentist offers all the same services as most other dental practices, try to find a unique selling point that sets you apart. It can be a specialization or area of expertise, or maybe a free consultation with orthodontist appointments.  

Try broadening your services.

If you can, consider expanding the services that your dental practice offers. This can even lead you to find a unique selling point, such as in the previous point. The idea is that if you offer more services, you will not have to turn down as many patients. 

Additionally, patients are more likely to visit your practice if they can have all of their dental needs taken care of in one place, simplifying their schedules and minimizing time spent finding multiple dentists.

There are a few ways you can go about expanding your services. You can bring more dentists to your practice or encourage the dentists currently there to expand their skills. If neither option works, consider creating referral agreements with other nearby dentists who have different specializations.

Invest in free software to help.

Screenshot of Podium Website - Ultimate Messaging Platform

Consider investing in free software to help with your dental practice management. Podium starter is a great option, as it includes various features, all of which should help you keep patients happy and bring in new ones. 

For example, the SMS messaging and inbox features make it incredibly easy to stay in touch with patients and potential patients. They can improve productivity and save time. The SMS messaging feature will even help encourage more reviews, helping you build your online presence.

Encourage referrals.

Reviews and referrals are essential for growing your practice. To take advantage of these, encourage customers to refer others. Although it may feel like a big deal, take the time to ask patients to share their experience with others if it is good. At the very least, encourage them to leave reviews.

Engage with patients.

One of the best ways to get those patient referrals is to make sure you engage with your patients. This goes hand-in-hand with the earlier point of creating an appealing office environment. Talk to patients and try to reach out to them on a personal level. Stay connected with mail, email marketing, social media, and texts.

Offer flexible financing

screenshot of Dental Practice Management plans from Ring Central

Some patients put off going to the dentist because they cannot afford treatment, but that can cost you revenue. Avoid this by offering flexible financing options. Remember that offering more financing options will make it easier for patients to pay, resulting in more consistent revenue.

Consider a credit line.

It can make sense for your dental practice to have a line of credit available. You can then use this for the various short-term expenses or overhead costs of running your practice.

Watch daily banking

As you look at your financial KPIs, be sure to pay attention to your daily banking. Consider making daily bank deposits to help ensure your cash flow is recorded and that you collect all payments in a timely manner.

Evaluate supply costs

Quote from Kim Bleiwiss of ghMouse.com

Take the time to look at what your dental practice spends on supplies and confirm that you are not over-spending. Look for areas to cut costs; just make sure you do not sacrifice quality to do so. Additionally, any time you plan on changing supplies that are directly part of the treatment, always consult the dentists in your practice before doing so.

Include marketing strategies

Quote from Mike Pederson of TheDentalBoost.com

You cannot expect your dental practice to do well without any marketing efforts. Word of mouth can only do so much. There are plenty of marketing options you can choose from, including tv, radio and print ads, and digital marketing. The goal is to make people aware of your practice and encourage them to contact you.

 Digital marketing is critical in today’s world, so make sure to include SEO and PPC strategies in your marketing plan. You also want to include social media marketing, google my business and online ratings.

Dental practice management – following vs. not following best practices.

By choosing to follow the above tips, innovations, and best practices, you set your dental practice up for success. There is no need to start from scratch when other dental practice managers have already discovered what innovations lead to success.

Think of following the above recommendations to give yourself a head start or an extra boost that lets you focus on the most critical aspects of managing the dental practice.

Conclusion – Why you should care about dental practice management.

By following all of the advice outlined above, you should be well on your way to maximizing both the number of patients you have at your practice and your revenue. From general advice to free software like Podium, you are likely to notice an improvement in your KPI’s and goals.

Bryan Oram
Bryan Oram AVP of Healthcare Enterprise Sales

Bryan Oram is a Healthcare professional at Podium, the leading messaging platform that connects healthcare businesses with their patients.

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