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Numbers to Grow by

By: Tammara Plankers

In this day and age of ever changing technology, dentists may look to new gadgets to take their practice to the next level. "If only I had a new laser, or new imaging, or a new phone system," But in speaking with doctors over the years I have found that growing your practice is often more about better using what you already have, and that includes having a better understanding of what numbers to track to ensure growth.

Here are some numbers that may not be tracked by every office owner.

Production by provider and average production per day.

Knowing how much each provider -- dentists and hygienists -- produce per day can help you understand how effective and efficient the practice is running. Looking at a daily production average may tell you much more than if you only look at the monthly total.

By monitoring and calculating your daily production average each month you have a clear view to the health of your scheduling system. If you have a good protocol in place, production between months is typically steady.

If your practice's daily production isn't healthy, look at the mix of procedures and whether or not you are allocating time for more production items. Practices typically need 2-3 productive procedures per day to maintain a healthy practice.

One easy way to improve your daily production and your schedule is to find 3 examples of ideal days from previous months. Let the team help you determine what constitutes an ideal day. It might be a factor of things: A certain production level achieved, you were able to break for a full lunch and end the day on time.

A practice may improve by having a longer morning session to do more complex procedures, lunch from 1-2 pm to allow working patients to be seen during the noon hour and a 10 minute time increment that allows the practice to better utilize and customize appointment time. For example, when you have an operative procedure that takes 18 minutes time, on average, you schedule 20 minutes (2 ten minute units) on the schedule instead of 2 fifteen minute units, or 30 minutes.

Production per day may also help you stay aware of case acceptance. If you need 2 production blocks per day, you may need to diagnose 3 or 4 on average. This never means creating a sense of treatment when it isn't there, but if you have had a day of healthy patients it is time to let your team know to go into the delayed treatment file to identify a patient who needs treatment.

Active patients

One of the most important numbers to know is the size of your patient base. First step is to define active patients, count all the patients seen in the last 12 months. In your reports section you can run a report by date period that will tell you how many patients you saw during that time period. Some practice owners only know the grand total of patients seen over the life of the practice -- this may include patients who are inactive. Some dentists may max out at 2,000 active patients so the goal isn't always to have more. Consider running this report using the same parameters every January for the previous year, it can help you see who is leaving your practice.

Knowing how many active patients you have may also help you determine other important goals, like how many new patients you need each month and how many days of hygiene is healthy for your practice.

Case acceptance

Some software doesn't adequately track treatment acceptance. Knowing how well your patients accept treatment may provide you with information on how to become a better educator and communicator.

Track everything you recommend. Put it in the patient record. If the patient makes a financial arrangement and schedules the next appointment, they've accepted. It gets tricky when a patient initially says "Yes," makes a financial arrangement, schedules the appointment, then cancels. A system that allows you to update can be important.

Part of the system of tracking compliance is the time you spend discussing how you did and how you can become better. Having honest discussions at staff meetings can help all of you improve this system. Regular verbal skills practice (dare I say "role-playing") can be helpful if you want to improve your effectiveness. The goal is never 100% acceptance. The goal is to be improving while focusing on patient health.

Number of clinical days

Some of my friends are dentists and like the control they have as owner of their business. Having the ability to pick your schedule is great; however, some owners may struggle and make a critical mistake by working too many days each month and each year.

Do you track the number of clinical days you work each year? You may want to consider it a part of your annual plan. Dentistry can be tough physically and mentally. If you want to stay healthy and inspired, include some down time in your schedule.

Dentistry can be hard. It can be tough on your spine, your eyes and hands. You may want to consider working 180 to 185 days a year. That's 15 days a month, on average. Take some time for vacation, for continuing education, for staff retreats. Refuel, reinvest and reflect. The happiest clients I've had over the years are ones that have had better work/life balance and have invested in themselves to understand how to have an efficient office with well-trained staff.

About the Author

Tammara is a Certified Healthcare Business Consultant with over twenty years of experience in consulting and training. At Wells Fargo Practice Finance she heads the internal consulting team, Practice Management Group and helps hundreds of new practice owners each year as they transition into ownership or launch their new practice. She can help practice owners understand and manage cash flow to reach profitability. Tammara has a Bachelor's degree in journalism, is a member of the Academy of Dental Management Consultants, the National Society of Certified Healthcare Business Consultants and a graduate of Purdue University?s Veterinary Management Institute. Contact: tammara.plankers@wellsfargo.com or 1-800-326-0376

View all articles by Tammara Plankers


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All financing is subject to credit approval.

Wells Fargo Practice Finance is the only practice and commercial real estate lender recommended for members of the American Dental Association.

All financing is subject to credit approval.

Wells Fargo Practice Finance is the only practice and commercial real estate lender recommended for members of the American Dental Association.

All financing is subject to credit approval.

Wells Fargo Practice Finance is the only practice and commercial real estate lender recommended for members of the American Dental Association.

All financing is subject to credit approval.

Wells Fargo Practice Finance is the only practice and commercial real estate lender recommended for members of the American Dental Association.

All financing is subject to credit approval.

Wells Fargo Practice Finance is the only practice and commercial real estate lender recommended for members of the American Dental Association.

All financing is subject to credit approval.

Wells Fargo Practice Finance is the only practice and commercial real estate lender recommended for members of the American Dental Association.

All financing is subject to credit approval.

Wells Fargo Practice Finance is the only practice and commercial real estate lender recommended for members of the American Dental Association.

All financing is subject to credit approval.

Wells Fargo Practice Finance is the only practice and commercial real estate lender recommended for members of the American Dental Association.

All financing is subject to credit approval.

Wells Fargo Practice Finance is the only practice and commercial real estate lender recommended for members of the American Dental Association.

ADA® is a registered trademark of the American Dental Association. ADA Member Advantage is a service mark of the American Dental Association. ADA Member Advantage is a program brought to you by ADA Business Enterprises, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of the American Dental Association.

All financing is subject to credit approval.

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