THE NEED FOR SPEED
If there’s one word to describe practicing dentistry in New Jersey, it’s “fast”. The other would be “attitude”, but I’ll save that for a future article. What makes the business side of dental practice so challenging in these economic times, especially in this state, is that if you aren’t getting it all done yesterday in terms of serving your patients and team, you’re dead…or so it would seem. There’s always the next dentist over who’ll be more than happy to take your unsatisfied patients and disgruntled staff members off your hands should you happen to not take care of them with all the proper attention and coddling they so deserve at a minute’s notice every day. It can be difficult and stressful trying to keeping up with the Joneses as well (or more appropriately a last name that ends in a vowel of some sort) in an effort to gain a competitive edge in a state where there are more dentists and people per square mile than any other state in the country. So logic dictates that it takes a lot more than having the best signage on your front lawn, the snappiest direct mail campaign, or the largest yellow pages ad to differentiate yourself from your competitors in a sea of dental practices all vying for the same patients in a super-saturated market. So what will help separate you from rest? Quite simply the name of the game is service…and service that is efficient, attentive, productive, and yes, fast!
When patients patronize your practice, the first thing they notice and the last impression they will leave with is how well they were taken care of. This isn’t necessarily quantified first and foremost in the quality of the dentistry delivered or just how much of a discount you gave them off of your fees, which they mostly have no idea about on both fronts initially anyway. It is how much you value the patient’s time and the quality of the time you do spend with them while they are in your practice which creates the biggest impression in their minds in terms of their dental experience and their subsequent willingness to return and spend their money and their valuable time with you in the future. We all seem to agree more than ever these days with the old adage, “time is money”, but do you really know how much your time is worth and what it costs you not to run an on-time practice? Making patients wait by running behind or over on appointments is a symptom of many causes from scheduling inadequacies, unqualified emergency patient handling, an ineffective re-care system, poor treatment planning, doctor distraction or procrastination, and too many more to cover now, but all contribute to you taking a hit to your bottom line in the form of lost revenue and lost patients. More than anything else, patients hate to wait, and if you surveyed most other service-based industries, they would tell you that the primary way they lose customers is wait time. But for some reason because we are health care professionals, there is the mistaken notion that we can justify patient wait time as something that comes with the territory and is therefore understood and even tolerated by patients. This management fallacy costs you tens of thousands of dollars in lost revenue every year, and your fair share of new and existing patients as well.
As I asked earlier, what truly is the value of your time, and what does it cost you when it’s lost or wasted due to patient wait time in your practice? As a reality check, take only your total monetary production for last year and divide it by the total number of actual production hours you worked for the year (not all the hours you were in the office doing something else). You will get a pretty accurate figure of how much you generated per hour doing your clinical dentistry. For the purposes of the point I’m trying to make here, it doesn’t really matter what that figure came out to be. What matters is how much more it could have been when you factor in all the lost time in your schedule every day. Let’s say you came up with a figure of $500/hr. for your hourly production number for 2014, and on a typical day in your practice last year you averaged a mere 10 minutes behind schedule per hour for the day. Taking just a day of six patients in your schedule and multiplying times 10, that’s an hour of potential lost production per day. At a rate of $500 per day for even just a four day work week, you’re now out $2000 in lost production; multiplied by 4.3 weeks in a month, that’s $8600 per month. Using a 48 week work year, that’s a whopping $96,000 in lost production due to lost time in your day which can be controlled simply by running and insisting on an on-time practice each day as a starting point. Is this the only factor in your practice that contributes to lost revenue? No, it isn’t, but it’s a logical and intelligent place to start. It takes discipline, policy, persistence, and training to make an on-time practice a reality. But considering the value isn’t it worth the return on investment of your dedication to the importance of changing how much you should value you and your patient’s time from just a professional service perspective?
Yes, time is in fact money. It’s your money. So why waste it?