This blog is about everything you didn't learn in dental school.
In general, I write about 3 elements.
How we attract the right patients to the dental practice (Branding & Marketing)
How we communicate with patients (Sales)
How we optimise practice operations (Leadership & Management)
The reason I don't deal much with functional occlusion, aesthetics, clear aligners, guided surgery, or the like is that I think it requires a completely different format for you to get anything useful out of it. Also, I think there are so many good opportunities for taking that kind of continuing education that I've chosen to focus on something that is much needed, that I have experience being good at, and that very few people can deliver in a format that is useful to dentists and their teams.
The reason I am not focusing on one of the 3 topics above is that they are inextricably linked. Below are 3 extreme examples to help illustrate why I believe it is all interrelated.
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Example 1 - ultra effective communication
Imagine a dental practice that is so good at communicating with patients that 95% of all patients seen in the practice accept the most comprehensive treatment plans recommended. The only problem is that there are only 200 patients left in the patient registry and they are all thoroughly treated. As a result, the practice will be closing down because there is not enough work to do.
Example 2 - Extremely efficient operation
Perhaps the practice has the most sophisticated systems that allow for extremely efficient days when the practice can perform many advanced treatments, see many patients and be super profitable. All while everyone in the team is happy and thriving. Unfortunately, not many patients want to follow the professional recommendations of dentists and dental hygienists. Just as the outflow of patients has been greater than the inflow for several years, which puts pressure on the practice's finances.
Example 3 - a great brand
It could also be that the practice has such a great reputation that it receives 10 new patients every day who want to join the practice. The problem is that the practice does not have effective systems in place to allow it to be productive and unstressed at the same time. This leads to stress, burnout, high absenteeism and declining turnover. All factors that threaten the existence of the practice.
The examples are drawn from the extreme, in an attempt to illustrate why none of the 3 elements: Attraction, Communication and Practice operation can stand alone.
Where to start?
Based on my experience as a former dentist and now full-time consultant, most practices would benefit greatly from looking at the elements of operational optimization first.
It's relatively common for me to talk to practice owners who want a team that's better at making patients want to invest in the care they need. Just as they want dental professionals who are better at "selling" comprehensive treatment plans.
Practice owners' desires are most often based on 2 factors:
The desire to treat more patients better.
The desire for better practice finances
Most dentists I know get frustrated on behalf of their patients when the patients opt out of the treatment that would professionally benefit the patient's oral and overall health the most.
The logical conclusion is therefore that everyone in the team needs to be better at communicating with patients so that they are more inclined to invest in the treatment they need.
Here we continuously post content related to everything we didn't learn at dental school.
There's just one challenge.
Nobody in the team has time to do anything about it in their busy and stressful everyday lives.
If the practice has to devote time to training and implementation, turnover drops and the practice's finances suffer significantly.
Therefore, it is often best to start by creating a foundation that provides daily surplus and calm for the practice's team(s) to have the resources to implement new knowledge.
With the right systems in place, the practice achieves:
Greater profits mentally and financially
Increased motivation for change
Better teamwork = TEAM
When the practice reaches this, it will become MUCH easier to improve communication and treatment acceptance. It will be much easier to implement patient experiences that create a strong brand with high loyalty and a growing group of ambassadors. This is a great place to be if you want to create sustainable growth.
The values of dentists
This growth model fits well with dentists' approach to dental care and practice management. Rather than an aggressive growth model of either acquiring practices or aggressively marketing. This approach is based on the values of most practitioners.
On paper, it looks extremely easy to implement the changes needed to achieve a calm atmosphere and profitable practice. Over the years, many external companies and consultants have tried to help dental practices achieve these results. The reason they rarely succeed is that they understand business operations, but lack an understanding of the unique circumstances of a dental practice.
Now, I know it may seem like I'm trying to single myself out. That's not the purpose. The purpose here is to give you an insight that you can act on when you are looking to improve your practice yourself, or need to find a suitable advisor to help you. Think about where you get your inspiration. It is perfectly possible to draw inspiration from other sectors. You just have to be prepared to use the resources (especially time) it takes to adapt the ideas to our industry.
Let me give you an example.
Last week I had a meeting with a company that has been working on implementing software to help dentists gain better insight into their own business. The company has been working exclusively with dental practices for 10+ years in several different countries. The company has challenges with too few practices using the unique capabilities of the software. Quite large sums can be saved and earned by simply using the system.
Despite the fact that the company had been working with dental clinics for 10+ years, they were surprised when I told them about what a realistic day in the practice looks like. They were surprised that a dentist doesn't have 5-10 minutes an hour to look at numbers. Just as they found it hard to understand that a receptionist doesn't necessarily have time to fill in forms and pull reports from the system to present at a staff meeting later on. They had difficulty understanding how the way patients are booked in a general practice can make it almost impossible to find appointments for patients who have been attracted through expensive external marketing.
The company had done a field study in 20 different dental practices, to map the patient experience in a regular dental practice. It surprised them that they were subsequently left with 20 different ways of doing it! There was nothing in the industry that was standardised.
In other words, the company hadn't understood how time-optimised and pressurised most dental practices are run.
The big players in the dental industry are no better
The example is not unique. The largest dental companies are managed and run by people who have no idea how a dental practice is run. They have read and heard about how a practice works, but find it extremely difficult to understand how it is possible to run a business in this way. (I have been advising several of the biggest dental companies in the world since 2010)
Most DSO's have also had to learn some very expensive lessons in this area.Because external business people have tried to implement best practice from other types of businesses in the dental practices.
We tend to forget how challenging the conditions are in which we work. Not only in the mouth, but also in the internal structure of the practice, we are challenged by the framework. It is highly demanding when we want to change something.
It's so easy to let things go. Slowly we get used to the fact that conditions are getting worse and worse. We can keep that up until the day we realise we're heading over the edge. That is what has happened with the remuneration of our work, for example. Over the last 40 years, the monetary value of dental care has been eroded piece by piece in tiny bits. With annual inflation at around 5%, this is quickly going to have a major impact on a large number of practices.
Avoid wasting your time and money
Do yourself a favour and think about the following:
Often, dentists take a whole bunch of courses over the course of a year.
How much of what dentists learn on the courses do you think is realistically implemented into regular routines in dental practices?...
Not very much, is it?
It's cheap, easy, quick and fun to take a course.
Implementation is the exact opposite.
That's why there is usually not much improvement in the practices after a course.
Changes - like this!
If you want to make changes in your dental practice, my best advice is to set aside time for them.
Obviously, don't just mindlessly set aside a lot of time. It requires a bit of preparation. Among other things:
Start by writing down what you want to achieve.
Define what it takes for you to consider it a successful implementation.
Define how many resources you will need (time, people, money, training, etc. - note that you should expect to spend 2-3 times as much time on implementation as you expect to spend... MINIMUM!)
Set a deadline - when do you need to be done (be realistic)
Remember to evaluate when the deadline is reached.
If necessary, use your team to help you. They will often be far better than the clinic owner at setting realistic deadlines and assessing resource needs.
Practice optimisation is unique
These are some of the reasons why I find working with practice optimisation so exciting. The dental industry is unique and therefore super interesting (I think). There are so many dynamics that can't necessarily be put into one formula. What's right for you isn't necessarily right for the practice next door. Everything has to be tailored to each dental practice so that it works within that practice's unique framework.
Much can be used across all practices - but most needs to be adapted to work optimally. I've previously described the foundation for success of any dental practice. It is a general model that can be used by all dental offices.
It looks so easy when you look at the model.
In reality, however, it is considerably more difficult than it first appears.
If you would like to know how your dental practice can minimise stress and increase profits, so that you have more time and more profit. Feel free to call or write to me.
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Many kind regards
Jesper Hatt DDS
P: +45 6127 2228