A Simple Systems Check to Evaluate the Health of Your Practice
Written by epractice on January 27, 2020
You know how a look in a mouth can tell volumes about someone’s overall health. This is why regular checkups and hygiene appointments are strongly encouraged. Doctors need to have the same mindset when assessing the health of their practices. Problematic situations can seem like they pop up out of nowhere, but there are often signs that present months in advance. You should take an objective look at the practice regularly, just as you encourage patients to have regular hygiene visits and checkups.
Remember practices have two distinct sides: clinical, and administrative and management. Clinical generally commands most of the focus, because it’s why the practice exists—to deliver the highest quality of dental care possible to its patients. But administrative and management is the side whose actions most directly determine the level to which a practice will grow.
A simple glance at practice reports will not give you all the information you need to assess your practice’s health and operational systems. Instead, here’s what you need to do.
1. Track Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) of the Practice.
In a general practice, it’s important to minimally track the following KPIs:
- New Patients should be viewed as a long-term trend. Natural patient attrition ranges between 4-10%, so new patient numbers must minimally increase at the same rate. If this number is examined on a quarterly basis, corrective action can be taken before it is too late.
- Active Patients is the number of patients who attend recall appointments as scheduled. Patients who miss recall appointments beyond 30 days should be removed from this category. This is the most important metric for a general practice, as it’s a clear and accurate sign of practice growth, or lack thereof. If you’re buying a practice, it’s strongly recommended you conduct a four-year review of this number.
2. Gather monthly numbers for each of the above, and plot them on a line graph to view statistical trends.
Make sure to include the last 12 months when plotting each graph. This macro look will give you the best view of what the future looks like.
Monitoring the key business and administrative areas of a practice and taking appropriate actions to improve them can quickly rejuvenate a practice that’s slowed or hit a plateau. Your marketing and referral-management systems, HR and personnel needs, and staff training routines need to be routinely reviewed and adjusted.
A quarterly diagnosis can catch potential problems, and spotting them and taking appropriate action can prevent significant losses. Having a quarterly diagnosis also makes for much better control and can have a significant impact on the numbers.
Take Corrective Actions.
When a decline or “plateau” (very limited growth over a long-term period) is observed in any of the above KPIs, you should take the necessary corrective actions to improve statistics.
- Review your mission statement.
What’s the underlying purpose of the practice? The most successful businesses are driven by the why behind their actions. Keep the following questions in mind when doing a review. Do you have a mission statement for the practice that is current and accurately expresses your vision? Is this mission shared regularly with the staff, and do their actions reflect it?
- Set specific goals for your practice.
Ideally, this should be done on a monthly basis, and no less than quarterly. Examples of important goals to set for the practice are: new patients, patient referrals, staff referrals, overall % increase/per quarter or month (e.g. 3% growth over previous year’s quarter). Share these goals with your staff, and make sure they understand how they specifically should contribute to the achievement of these goals. This helps ensure they’re part of the team effort.
- Compare your KPIs.
For example, what does it mean if new patient numbers are declining, but production is increasing? It could be your recall system is working well and existing patients are returning for scheduled treatment, or you’re doing a better job of getting existing patients to accept treatment.
- Take time to review staff performance.
Schedule you or your office manager to meet with each staff member, and discuss how he or she is doing and what he or she needs to do to improve performance, set goals, and take corrective action as needed.
For more information, sign up today for one of the courses in our Management series!