By Erick Cutler
Dental revenue has remained relatively flat in recent years, leading many dentists to wonder if the industry as a whole is in decline. Despite a tight economy, it is still possible for dental professionals to grow their practices and experience a considerable increase in income. This undertaking requires a solid strategy that encompasses five growth-producing factors.
Belonging to and receiving referrals from a PPO or HMO insurance network can bring in a fairly steady stream of patients, but the amount you can charge will likely be lower than your normal fees. Producing income at a higher level requires attracting patients outside of insurance-generated business.
Effective dentistry marketing isn’t just about placing ads in local papers and free neighborhood magazines, although these may be good places to start. Customers are increasingly turning to digital sources when they’re looking for a new health care provider. Having a modern website with an updated blog and active social media can make you more visible to a greater number of potential patients.
Positive online reviews help as well. Encourage patients to post reviews on sites such as Google, Healthgrades and Yelp and be sure to respond to any negative reviews with compassion and a willingness to rectify the situation.
Having the latest dental tools at your disposal is a good way to keep your practice ahead of competitors, but you can certainly do more. The technology that runs your back office needs to stay ahead of the curve as well.
Deploying the right enterprise resource planning software can increase efficiency across your practice, reducing costs while boosting revenues. These ERP (enterprise resource planning) solutions are designed specifically for dental practices, offering more value than their general-use counterparts.
Many are cloud-based, freeing up office space that would otherwise go toward servers and other computer equipment. This technology also eliminates the need for paper charts and records as everything can be accessed through cloud-connected devices such as tablets, mobile phones and laptops.
Furthermore, dental ERPs are essential for data collection and the evaluation of patient-, procedure- and staff-related metrics. These include the value of new and current clientele as well as the effectiveness of individual procedures and the efficiency of staff members. You can also track where your patients are coming from so you can focus on optimizing those channels while expanding ones that provide fewer customers. These parameters can facilitate more informed decision making, allowing you to drop processes that hinder the practice and increase activities that bring in revenue.
Staffing and Office Culture
Making sure the people who run the practice share the same vision for success is another key to maximizing your income. All employees need to adopt a customer-centric value system that prioritizes the patients and makes them feel listened to and well-cared for. In some cases, this may mean completely revamping processes and entrenched habits to create a customer-first environment that includes:
- Flexible scheduling options consisting of online and mobile options
- A pleasant, helpful attitude even in stressful situations
- Minimal wait times
- Consistent service
For other practices, regular team meetings will be all that’s needed to keep things cohesive.
This kind of unified office culture will help you retain your current patients, and positive word-of-mouth will attract new ones. It’ll also boost productivity as everyone works toward the same goals.
Most dentists aren’t salesmen, but it helps to utilize a few revenue-boosting sales tactics. One of these tools is the upsell. This involves suggesting additional services to patients before, during or after their appointments. It’s often easiest when you’re discussing treatment plans, as patients are already receptive to your recommendations. This benefits you by increasing your income and benefits patients by providing them with more comprehensive care. Of course, you should only upsell services that the patient really needs.
While it’s a fundamental task for dental practices, receiving payment for your services may also be one of the most arduous. Payment frequently involves receiving funds from both insurance companies and patients themselves, sometimes for the same procedure.
Inefficient accounts receivable procedures are responsible for a significant amount of lost revenue in dental practices. The reasons vary, but the main culprits are often billing code errors, mispriced services and out-of-date patient or insurance company information, leading to delays and denials.
You can cut-off this cash flow leak by implementing an advanced medical billing system that can identify and correct errors before the claim leaves your office. These systems can also connect directly to insurance company servers, ensuring that you always have current information.
For self-paying patients, a payment plan can make it easier to receive your compensation. Some dental practices choose to offer their own payment plans that break treatments and payments and into manageable portions. These are usually not credit-based. More commonly, dentists partner with health care financing companies such as CareCredit to provide loans or lines of credit that can be used to pay for dental procedures. This kind of payment plan usually requires a fairly good credit score, so it may not be an option for all patients.
Thriving in today's dental industry means adapting to an increasingly complex business environment where identifying and implementing the most effective strategy is vital. Putting more money into your practice's coffers requires an increase in income as well as a decrease in expenses. This five-tiered approach accomplishes both of these objectives, in addition to improving customer service and treatment outcomes. Contact the dental tax and accounting team at Goldin Peiser & Peiser if you would like to learn additional ways to increase revenue.
Note: This content is accurate as of the date published above and is subject to change. Please seek professional advice before acting on any matter contained in this article.