The New Dentist Blog

By James V. Anderson, DMD, CEO/Founder eAssist Dental Solutions

Many dentists don’t charge enough for their services because they don’t have a real sense of what they should charge.  They don’t want to scare their patients or appear greedy.  Their fees were set years ago, sometimes at the practice inception, and they may raise some once a year, every four years and many not at all.   It is an inconsistent system based on what the insurance is paying at UCR or what the competitors are charging for the same service.  Because of these variables, the dentist is often confused as to whether the charge is fair or not.

Other businesses set their charges based on costs to operate the business (overhead) and what the market will bear.

Dental office managers will tell you to “keep the doctor away from the desk” because they are apt to give discounts or free services when they don’t need to.  This is far too common in the dental profession, but it doesn’t have to be this way.

Building good solid relationships with patients includes great service and dental care – and in turn, payment for the services rendered.  When the dentist gets involved with collections, it becomes a hit and miss result depending on their personality and comfort level with the patients.  “Throwing money at the source of your stress doesn’t make the stress go away.”  You still have to pay your bills.

First step is to do a sound fee analysis based on current data for your geographic area at: https://www.dentaleconomics.com/articles/print/volume-108/issue-4/macroeconomics/the-dental-economics-annual-fee-survey.html and then adjust them accordingly to be at the 80th percentile.

Second step is to have firm but friendly financial arrangements and options available for your patients to choose from. These options would include outside dental lenders: https://www.carecredit.com/dentistry/ and short term 90-day same as cash plans in-house to patients with good standing credit.

Third, have a support team: https://dentalbilling.com that doesn’t include the dentist to collect and follow-up on unpaid insurance claims and unpaid patient portion of the accounts receivables. Outsourcing this service will free up your team to spend more time with patients on positive outcomes of treatment acceptance and appointment/scheduling control. Professional billing experts can set up your computers with PPO fee schedules so patient estimates are far more accurate.  Your front office person(s) does not have the time to do this chore.

Having a dedicated collection team who works insurance and patient portion the way you want is far more successful than the “hit and miss” system, with all its inconsistencies, that causes patients to leave your practice.

Dr. Anderson headshotJames V. Anderson DMD is a practicing dentist in Syracuse, Utah and is the CEO/Founder of eAssist Dental Solutions, the largest national dental insurance billing company (www.dentalbilling.com) in the U.S.    

Dr. Anderson understands the challenges facing today’s dental teams and since 2009 has been providing proven solutions to dental/medical insurance billing, patient portion billing, accounting for dentists and related management services. 

He can be reached at james.anderson@eassist.me

By James V. Anderson, DMD, CEO founder eAssist Dental Solutions

Cultural fit is the likelihood that a job candidate will be able to conform and adapt to the core values and collective behaviors that make up an organization.

To date, there are about five hundred people working for eAssist Dental Solutions as independent contractors and employees in various departments and job duties.  One thing they all have in common is that they understand and embrace the culture of eAssist Dental Solutions.

Sure, I look for certain minimum requirements in my dental billers such as:

Years of dental front office management experience and knowledge

The ability and desire to set your own schedule and work remotely from your home

Self-motivated to achieve goals without being managed

Friendly and professional phone skills

Computer skills and applicable knowledge of the internet environment

Core values define what your organization believes and how you want your organization resonating with and appealing to employees and the external world. The core values should be so integrated with your employees and their belief systems and actions that clients, customers, and vendors see the values in action.

Our core values start with being proactive about your life and being accountable for your actions. Believing that your life doesn’t just “happen.” Whether you know it or not, it is carefully designed by you. The choices, after all, are yours. You choose happiness. You choose sadness. You choose decisiveness. You choose ambivalence. You choose success. You choose failure. You choose courage. You choose fear. Just remember that every moment, every situation, provides a new choice. And in doing so, it gives you a perfect opportunity to do things differently to produce more positive results.

Proactive people recognize that they are “response-able.” They don’t blame genetics, circumstances, conditions, or conditioning for their behavior. They know they choose their behavior. A proactive person uses proactive language–I can, I will, I prefer, etc. A reactive person uses reactive language–I can’t, I have to, if only. Reactive people believe they are not responsible for what they say and do–they have no choice.

For me, cultural fit is the bigger picture, more than job skills or work experience.  Some things like skills can be taught, but values come from within the person.  Someone who shares your core values by living them instinctively knows what you want and what the business needs to succeed.

Dr. Anderson headshotJames V. Anderson DMD is a practicing dentist in Syracuse, Utah and is the CEO/Founder of eAssist Dental Solutions, the largest national dental insurance billing company (www.dentalbilling.com) in the U.S.    

Dr. Anderson understands the challenges facing today’s dental teams and since 2009 has been providing proven solutions to dental/medical insurance billing, patient portion billing, accounting for dentists and related management services.  He can be reached at james.anderson@eassist.me

By Dawn Christodoulou, President/Owner of XLDent

After reviewing another month of stellar reports, you are feeling confident that your patient-focused style, team, and community presence have rounded up the best patients around. Adding an associate or two is sounding more and more like a great idea. You are confident that you have the know-how for business that is required for taking on the challenges with this type of expansion. Hopefully, there will be a doubling of profits in this venture – but watch closely for the doubling of risks too!

Just like in real estate, consider the location of the practice first. Is the community able to support another dental practice? Preferably, it’s one with a growing population of families. It’s worth considering buying an existing practice in a nearby area, because they already have a patient base established, and negotiations can include the selling dentist staying on for a few weeks to transition the practice. This can prevent a mass exodus of patients from the practice, while the new team is settling in.

When considering associate doctors to expand the new care team, word-of mouth recommendations are a great starting point. Dental school alumni and study club groups can provide some direction on potential candidates. Perhaps adding a specialist to your team and providing a wider range of services will be just the competitive edge your practices need. Don’t rush this part of the process. It will likely take multiple meetings and interviews to realize a good fit. You will want someone with a similar drive to grow the practice, and similar views on the best way to care for patients.

What about software? We would be remiss if we didn’t talk about the heart of the practice’s organizational structure, claims management, and record-keeping. There is a misconception that, if you have more than one location, you must have cloud-based software. This is not the case. XLDent offers a solution called “replication”, in which multiple offices are running instances of the database locally, as well as writing to each other database instantaneously. Staff has access to all records, patients can move freely between locations, and business operations can be done on an organizational level. This helps streamline day-to-day processes and can be especially helpful if your associate is on call for the weekend and needs to see the chart and x-rays for an emergency patient at the opposite office from where they usually go for treatment.

Goals for expansion can certainly be achieved with careful planning, management of risks, and an outstanding team beside you. Choosing a location, team, and business software to meet your needs will give your practice a strong foundation for growth in any direction.

To connect with XLDent, call 800-328-2925 or email xldentinfo@xldent.com

DawnDawn Christodoulou is the President/Owner of XLDent. She has more than 25 years of experience computerizing dental offices and helping both new and established practices streamline electronic workflows for increased efficiency, improve patient engagement, and achieve maximum profitability. Dawn is also a member of ADA SCDI Working Groups 11.1 Standard Clinical Architecture and 11.9 Core Reference Data Set.

By James V. Anderson, DMD, CEO/Founder eAssist Dental Solutions

When you first open a dental practice, you may not have what you consider a “team” of people.  There may be you and one other person that helps at the chair and at the front desk.  Even so, developing emotional intelligence is critical to communicating with your employee(s) and your patients.  “Emotional Intelligence” simply put is the ability to handle even the most awkward social situations with aplomb and make others feel at ease.

I know, they don’t teach this in dental school and I wish that they did.  When you open a new practice or buy an existing one there will be days when you are pushed to your limit and keeping your cool under pressure is slipping through your fingers.  Recognizing and understanding your own emotions is a critical part of emotional intelligence.  To become self-aware, you should be capable of monitoring your own emotions and how you are perceived by others.  Self-regulation requires that you manage your emotional response in a proper fashion.  When communicating with staff or patients there is the right time and the right place to express your emotions.  Learning important social skills that include active listening, verbal and non-verbal communication skills, leadership, empathy and persuasiveness is vital to building your reputation as a caring clinician.

One of the most important skills you can learn is that of empathy.  Putting yourself in someone else’s shoes for even just a moment will help you to communicate with care.  Patients will present you with their dental needs and at the same time, with empathy, you will be able to sense when they are feeling sad, angry or depressed.  Understanding your patient’s state of mind is key to emotional intelligence.

Motivating your staff to improve their skills and be accountable for doing great work is a key component of emotional intelligence.  Some people are not motivated by money and rewards, but have a passion that goes beyond the external.  Being attuned to this type of behavior will help you show your commitment to their development.

From my experience, getting coaching in this area from the very beginning of your practice development will help you create an environment where your patients and employees will want to stay, be loyal and promote you to the community.

Sources to help in your quest to improve emotional intelligence:

Goleman, D. (1998) Working with Emotional Intelligence. New York Bantam

Emotional Intelligence 2.0 by Travis Bradberry

 

James V. AndDr. Anderson headshoterson DMD is a practicing dentist in Syracuse, Utah and is the CEO/Founder of eAssist Dental Solutions, the largest national dental insurance billing company (www.dentalbilling.com) in the U.S. 

Dr. Anderson understands the challenges facing today’s dental teams and since 2009 has been providing proven solutions to dental/medical insurance billing, patient portion billing, accounting for dentists and related services for management of the accounts receivables.  He can be reached at james.anderson@eassist.me

 

By Bryan Stimmler, Advisory Board Member

What a loaded question! We’ve all heard the horrors of associating, the long thankless hours, the loaded schedules, lack of help/mentorship, etc. But have you heard any of the good stories?

Let’s start at the beginning here. First, do you know what you want out of the next three years? The next one year? The next month? That is where you need to start. Really sit down and analyze what you want to accomplish. “I want to get my speed up” is not an analysis. It’s repeating a sentence you’ve heard someone else say. What are your goals for your time in this profession? Be honest here. You can accept the stresses of ownership and working for yourself and take that path. If you value time over money, associating can be a beautiful thing. If you don’t want to deal with management, crunching numbers, or dealing with team members, that is OK. Just understand what you want in your future, because you alone control your future.

And here’s the silver lining: YOU CAN ALWAYS CHANGE!

So, you know what you want now. You can learn A LOT from being an associate. Some of this is dependent on you, some on your owner doc. Working in someone else’s office affords you a mentor, so choose wisely. You can sit back and learn systems, scheduling, billing, all of the things, if you take the opportunity. This is immensely helpful if you plan on opening your own office in the future. You can learn at your own pace, and choose what you want to learn as you get your feet wet. You may find you love surgery. Great! Go after that surgery CE and use this situation as practice.

Here’s a little-spoke-of aspect of associateship you may not have heard. You can learn all of the things you DON’T want to do. This is crazy valuable. Take a step back and look at all of the things that annoy you, that don’t work, that cause frustration to not only yourself but the team as well. Write them down, think about how they could be changed, altered, or improved. You now have a blueprint for how you would like to set your own office up.

Whatever path you choose, choose wisely, and do it with intent.

Dr. Bryan Stimmler (002)

 

Dr. Stimmler graduated in 2009 from the University of Southern California School of Dentistry.  After completing residency and practicing as an associate, he started a private practice in Brooklyn, NY which focuses on complete care and cosmetic dentistry.

By Sally McKenzie, CEO of McKenzie Management

Attracting and keeping patients is a vital part of any dentist’s success. It doesn’t matter how talented you are clinically if you don’t have any patients to treat. To meet your financial goals, you must build a strong base of loyal patients—but you also need to attract the right kind of patients.

Unfortunately, there are some patients who actually hurt your practice. Here are three types of patients who often end up doing more harm than good, and the changes you can make to help them become the type of patients every dentist wants in their practice.

1. Patients who are always late on their payments. Patients accept treatment, then forget they actually need to pay. They usually pay eventually, but only after team members spend valuable time sending reminders and calling them on the phone.

How can you get patients to start paying on time? First, establish a clear financial policy. When patients make an appointment, make sure they understand when payment is expected. Don’t leave any room for confusion. I also recommend offering third party financing from a company like CareCredit. This enables patients to pay in small chunks each month, making the cost of dentistry much more manageable. You get paid on time, and patients are also more likely to go forward with treatment they otherwise couldn’t afford.

2. Patients who don’t value the dentistry you provide. When patients don’t value dentistry, they don’t make it a priority. So if something else comes up that conflicts with their scheduled appointment time, they don’t feel bad about canceling at the last minute or simply not showing up at all. These broken appointments bring chaos to your day and often keep you from meeting production goals.

Spend time educating patients about the value of the services you provide. This education can come in the form of images from an intraoral camera, radiographs, videos and even brochures. Make sure patients understand why maintaining their oral health is important to their overall health, and the possible consequences of not going forward with recommended treatment. I also suggest confirming with patients two days ahead of their visit, giving you time to fill open slots if they have to cancel.

3. Patients who show up once never to be seen again. Patients come in for their new patient appointment, you think the visit goes great, but you never hear anything from the patient again—and you have no idea why. Patients don’t come back simply because they didn’t have a good experience. Once patients are in the chair, focus on building a rapport. Ask them about their families, their jobs and their oral health goals.

Patients are the lifeblood of your practice, but sometimes they can actually cost you money and create extra stress. Making the necessary changes will help turn these problem patients into the loyal patients your practice needs to thrive.

Sally

 

Sally McKenzie is CEO of McKenzie Management, www.mckenziemgmt.com, a full-service, nationwide dental practice management company. Contact her directly at 877-777-6151 or email sallymck@mckenziemgmt.com.

 

 

Guest post by Dawn Christodoulou, President/Owner of XLDent

Patients come through your door all day with problems ranging from periodontal disease to missing teeth. The biggest challenge isn’t in performing those treatments, it’s in getting a patient to agree to them. As a clinician, your role is much more than just doing the work, it’s listening to problems, educating, and demonstrating.

In most cases, the relationship between you and your patient must start with trust for the patient to feel confident enough to go through with your recommendations. No matter how large or small the proposed treatments are, there’s a personal element to each involved. A patient needs to hear and believe there’s a problem, before ever considering the solution.

One way to do this is to use visuals. Electronic dental charts and digital photos are good to start with. They show problems clearly and offer a focal point for your discussion. Focus less on the filling, and more on the recurrent decay or new caries that are seen and possibly felt right now by the patient. This step of the acceptance process should center around their goals and solving the problem (with your proposed treatment).

Understand barriers to acceptance and address them head on. Dentists think more times than not that the biggest roadblock to acceptance is money. In reality, this is true in some cases. However, it’s likely followed by fear or lack of understanding. Listening to your patient will bring you the most success at this stage. Get in the habit of repeating back what you’ve heard to confirm and reaffirm the barrier.

For example, you might say, “Mrs. Jones, if I’m hearing you correctly, your main concern is how much this treatment will cost. Is that correct?” Don’t be surprised if you get a response like this: “Well, I am worried about that, but I’m also just not feeling any pain right now on that tooth.” We can safely assume Mrs. Jones hasn’t truly seen or understood the problem, thus she doesn’t see the need for the solution. A repeat of the patient education and more focus on the problem is probably necessary.

The process of gaining treatment acceptance is much like crossing a bridge – each step connects to the next until you reach the other side. There comes a point where the patient understands the problem and can connect your solution as a means to solve it. The process of case presentation has a direct effect on a patient’s willingness to make that commitment.

To connect with XLDent, call 800-328-2925 or email xldentinfo@xldent.comDawn

Dawn Christodoulou is the President/Owner of XLDent. She has more than 25 years of experience computerizing dental offices and helping both new and established practices streamline electronic workflows for increased efficiency, improve patient engagement, and achieve maximum profitability. Dawn is also a member of ADA SCDI Working Groups 11.1 Standard Clinical Architecture and 11.9 Core Reference Data Set.

Guest post by James V. Anderson, DMD, CEO Founder eAssist Dental Solutions

Listening to colleagues belabor the management of their new front desk, it makes me wonder what is going on in their practices.

When I started my first dental practice, I know I made mistakes and some were because I trusted too much. You trust when you don’t know enough and the person in charge of collecting your money knows more than you do.

The dentist most often has the vision but not the business knowledge.  Dentist’s look to their front office person or people to get the practice running profitably.  When there is chaos, unaccountability and poor cash flow, trust becomes a distant memory.

The way to get around this predicament is to start the conversation.

List the most important things you would like to see change, with examples of workable solutions. This conversation should be synchronized with the give and take of ideas.  Approach the conversation with what is working before you talk about what needs improvement and change.

As the Dentist CEO, you should recognize that certain things might be hindering the ability to grow the business.  Sometimes staff are aware of these problems but often try to shield you from them or cover them up.  Require transparency, as all of you are components in accomplishing these goals.

Ideas to Start the Conversation

● “Our goals for the practice this year are _______, and are we on target?”

● “What goals do you feel we need to pay more attention to?”

● “Where do you want to focus our efforts to reach one or more of these goals?”

● “I need your help in getting the office to head in that direction.”

● “Do you have feedback for me about ways you can improve? How can I improve?”

● “What changes would you like the office to make to move toward these goals?”

● “How can I help you make these changes?”

The team needs to recognize that they play a significant role in helping achieve practice goals and to bring solutions for change.

Meeting Goals

● Focus on one or two things you’re going to accomplish now

● Have a Plan of Action for when and how you will complete the goals

● Set up future meetings to discuss progress on projects and innovative ideas

● Give praise and thanks for all the excellent work accomplished

 

Dr. Anderson headshotJames V. Anderson DMD is a practicing dentist in Syracuse, Utah and is the CEO/Founder of eAssist Dental Solutions, the largest national dental insurance billing company (www.dentalbilling.com) in the U.S. 

Dr. Anderson understands the challenges facing today’s dental teams and since 2009 has been providing proven solutions to dental/medical insurance billing, patient portion billing, accounting for dentists and related services for management of the accounts receivables.  He can be reached at james.anderson@eassist.me

 

Guest post by Sally McKenzie, CEO McKenzie Management

Naturally, one of the first questions many dentists ask is, “How much should be budgeted for marketing?”  For startup practices or offices that seek to market and grow aggressively, 4-6% of projected production should be allocated for marketing. The typical dentist should budget about $30k to $50k for the first year. For established practices, 3-4% of projected production should be allocated. The typical established dentist should budget $20k to $40k per year.

New dentists commonly assume that because they have a large family or are active in their church these individuals will be the new patients that sustain their practices. What is not considered is this may amount to only 20 to 50 people. They don’t fully realize how many new patients they need each month to make payments on the practice, pay the staff and themselves.

Marketing is an investment in the success of your practice. If you cut the marketing budget or have an insufficient budget, you are cutting the flow of patients to your practice. Without patients there is no practice, plain and simple. Invest in your practice. Create a budget and spend it intelligently – which brings me to my next point.

Marketing is far more than a single ‘Campaign’ or ‘Event’

I have watched dentist after dentist throw thousands of dollars into so called “marketing campaigns”, convinced that this one will bring in all the patients they need. It’s the “silver bullet,” the answer to all of their struggles. The campaign kicks off. The mailers are sent, the ads are placed, the special offers are promoted, the radio jingles are playing, and, yes, the phone is ringing. The schedule is full. Ninety days later, it’s over and so is the rush of new patients.

What happened? Was the campaign really a waste of money? Why are there holes in the schedule again? Who’s responsible for this disaster? Who, what, why – many questions and concerns arise when lots of money is spent and limited return is achieved. I have a word of advice for you – STOP.

Stop looking at marketing as a one-time external event. Marketing is taking place in every interaction with every patient. It is what happens when your business staff answers the phone. It is what takes place when you explain a procedure to a patient. It is the layer of grime on your front door that no one on staff notices because they’re always going in and out the back. Marketing is the small stuff and the big stuff. It is the “whole package.”

SallySally McKenzie is CEO of McKenzie Management, www.mckenziemgmt.com, a full-service, nationwide dental practice management company.

Contact her directly at 877-777-6151 or email sallymck@mckenziemgmt.com

Guest post by John “Cappy” Sinclair, DDS

As a student in dental school, I used to hear tales about how patients would come into practices during the cosmetic dentistry boom in the early 2000s just seeking elective dental care. I envisioned a future of patients on waiting lists and being booked out for weeks with veneer patients. Then the great recession hit, and many of those patients seeking elective care disappeared. But there’s one treatment I do in my office to open the door for elective services, and it’s one that you can start providing immediately right after dental school. What is this one service? It’s tooth whitening!

Prefabricated trays: New to the market just a few years ago, these are the go-to trays in our office. We use the 15% hydrogen peroxide (HP) for patients that are just looking for a quick way to maintain their whitening while traveling, 6% HP for teens in braces looking to freshen things up before school photos, or the 10% HP as a primer a few days before in-office whitening to pre-condition the teeth. These are the most versatile trays as well as the most cost effective. They also help motivate our patients towards the next phase of treatment.

Custom trays: I am sure there are many patients in your practice who have a set of whitening trays somewhere at home that haven’t been used in years. It could be because their trays no longer fit, or maybe they had issues with sensitivity from some of the earlier whitening products. The good news is your patients are already familiar with this treatment, and there are new whitening products for even the most sensitive patients. We also use custom trays to help with our periodontal patients. SDI has a great whitening product that is 3% hydrogen peroxide that we use prior to and after scaling and root planning procedures to help break down calculus and prevent biofilm from reoccurring.

In-Office: Before the recession, it seemed that in-office whitening such as ZOOM or Boost was all the rage, and patients were willing to pay a premium for it. Now, with fierce competition in the market, I have found a premium fee is a large obstacle for many patients. So how do you adjust your fee while still making in-office whitening profitable? One of the easiest ways to adjust the cost is by limiting doctor time. In our office, in-office whitening is handled by a team member. By empowering a team member to handle these tasks, the doctor’s time is left available for doing restorative and prosthodontic dentistry. If your team is a little rusty, many of the reps will come in and train them.

Many of our patients that have started the whitening process have asked about other enhancements, from replacing old stained composites to tooth alignment and even veneers. I may not have been practicing dentistry during the so-called golden era, but I’d like to think that for this generation of new dentists, the best is yet to come!

AACD.BLOG.6.7.18.Sinclair.Cappy.Photo (002)

Dr. Sinclair earned his Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) from the Medical College of Virginia at Virginia Commonwealth University. He has spent additional time in post-graduate training, studying under renowned leaders in functional and esthetic dentistry, and he currently serves as a board member for the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry and as a product evaluator for Contemporary Product Solutions and 3M.