Welcome to the Dentist's Office

Welcome to the Dental Office blog. On this site we will share information on how we conquer the real-world challenges that we each face in our pursuit of running high-quality, successful, profitable and harmonious dental offices.

The Dental Blog invites you to share your knowledge, successes, failures and crazy stories with fellow dental professionals. Sharing our combined knowledge, we can each create our own unique dream practices.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Looking for New Patients - Door-to-Door

When I first started my own private practice, I was short on two important things: cash & patients. I knew I had to do networking to help develop relationships in the community but that was going to be a long-term project. In the short-term I needed to do some form of advertising to get patients in the door.

Short on money, I used the one resource I had plenty of – time. I decided to print a free check-up and X-ray coupon and walk door to door in the area near my office. My marketing plan was not to just leave the flyer on the door but rather to knock on the door and personally deliver each flyer to the occupant.

Every day after work I would walk for about an hour and knock on doors. I would tell the people that I was a new dentist in the community and if they did not currently have a dentist that I would be happy to give them a free exam and X-rays for their entire family.

I figured I could knock on lots of doors each day but I found that I wound up talking to a lot of the people and only got a couple of dozen out each day. I had moms & dads ask me all kinds of questions and about dentistry for their kids. I had seniors ask about dentures and implants. I got all kind of questions. I started to hand out tooth brushes (with my name and office number on them) at the houses I visited.

The door-to-door marketing was working great and I was getting a lot of new patients. I even had a few dentists call me and ask me to stop soliciting their patients. I politely told them what I was saying as I went to each door and that I was truly not trying to take patients away from other dentists rather reach the 50% of people who did not have dentists. I also pointed out that other dentist flyers and other advertising went to my patient’s homes and that they did not seem to be bothered by that. I was marketing my practice – they were free to walk the streets too.

Although no other marketing project ever brought me more solid, long-standing patients than my walking campaign, I only did it that one year. Although many years have passed since my street-walking marketing campaign – the marketing would still work today. People WANT TO KNOW their dentist and people love to ask questions. If you are short on patients you might want to consider going door-to-door looking for them.

Dr. Corey Gold
President – Advanced Continuing Education Systems

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Make More $ with Cash Up Front Discounts

One of the best income and cash-flow generators for your practice is offering a discount for patients who pay for their entire treatment plan before the first session. The discount needs to be strong enough for patients to want to pay for the full treatment in advance. In my practice this was a 10% discount for complete prepayment.
There are several great reasons why accepting less upfront actually earns you more money and a smoother practice operation.

1                 Having the patient pay upfront ensures that you will be paid on all your treatment and greatly reduces your aging receivables. Your discount ensures that the patient waits for the insurance company to pay their share not you. It also means that you are always collecting your co-payments.

2                 Dentistry can appear expensive and everyone likes a discount. A reasonable discount percentage encourages people to seek the proper care and opt for the more complete treatment plan.

3                 Scheduling is a synch when most of your patients are fully paid in advance of their appointments. The patient simply calls and sets their times on your calendar. There are no more sticky phone calls between the staff and the patient before the appointment can be set up due to money issues. 

4                 You save considerable staff time and mental aggravation chasing past due accounts. Some dentist’s do not realize how much staff time it takes to collect money from people on payment plans. Not only does this staff time cost you money but it also means your staff is not working on other projects such as customer service, retention and other vital aspects of your practice.
I strongly suggest you consider giving cash up front discount for patients who pay in full for their entire treatment plan before the first visit. It is good business for you and represents a value to your patients.
Dr. Corey Gold
President - Advanced Continuing Education Systems

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Leading by Delegating

One of the biggest mistakes made by dental CEOs is that they tend to micromanage their office staffs. They believe to be in control of their practice that they must be part of every aspect of their practice at all times. They want to make all of the decisions on every aspect of their practice. Not only is this management style counterproductive but it is also exhausting.

The best management style on every level is to hire talented people, share with them what you want them to do and then let them do it!

In no way am I saying that you are not going to be coaching your staff as they need guidance or corrections but you must empower your staff to make decisions within the scope of their job description. Talented and mature staff want to know what you expect of them and then to be trusted to do their job.

Avoid the common management mistake of only correcting your staff when they make errors – while this is important – you must also look to praise your staff for doing what you entrusted them to do. Praise goes further than criticism.

The most effective management style is to create an office of talented and responsible staff members who manage their areas of responsibility. Great staffs are full of members that respect each other and encourage each other to do their very best.

You are free to concentrate on your patient’s dental care when you know that your staff is professionally handling the other aspects of the office’s needs. Also, as the CEO of your practice, you are free to pick aspects that you want to control as your assigned areas. I liked to keep marketing, internet presence and continuing education as my areas of responsibility (aside from being in charge of the dental care).

Dr. Corey Gold
President - Advanced Continuing Education Systems


Monday, January 16, 2012

Monday Holidays: To Open or Close – That is the Question

Three-day weekend Monday office hours are a tough question for every dental office. On one hand you want to be open and present a convenient scheduling day for your patients, as most people have the day off work and school. On the other hand, your staff also wants the day off to be with their family.

In my practice we would look at the schedule in December and pick half of Monday three-day holidays to stay open and the other half to be closed. I would let my staff choose the dates to be open. The dates for the upcoming year were then set months in advance and allowed everyone to plan accordingly.

We would share these special Monday holiday open dates in our newsletter and website well in advance to try get the word out about these special availabilities. My schedule on the holiday Mondays were crazy busy. We would even start an hour early and run late. We would order in pizza for lunch and stay open all day as we needed the lunch break to get back on schedule.

As an offset for having to work the holiday Monday and filling the schedule to the top, I would allow each of my staff members to have an extra day off in the upcoming few weeks with pay. Only one staff member could take a day off at a time so the practice could still operate without much extra burden on the other staff members.

As a result, the office was open on a lot of Mondays of three-day holidays and presented a great opportunity for patients to get into the office. My patients loved using their free day to go to the dentist and not have to miss a day of their work. We were always crazy busy on those Mondays.

My staff loved the system too. They wound up having the same number of paid holidays. Half the usual Monday holidays and then they got to choose a day they wanted off with pay to compensate for the Monday holidays that we worked.
Dr. Corey Gold
President – Advanced Continuing Education Systems

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Take CPR and Emergency Response Courses as a Team

One of the best ways to build a friendly, professional and competent team is to build trust within the group. Trust and respect within the group is a key element of building a dental team that will work well together over a long stretch of time.

A key to building team spirit and a tight bond is doing things outside the office a group. Learning proper CPR technique and how to handle medical emergencies as a team is an important safety component for your practice as well as a requirement for licensure in most states. Use this opportunity to grow your team unity.

CPR and hands-on medical emergency response courses give an opportunity for each team member to learn the same materials and to each assume an important role within the team unit in the case of a crisis.

I believe that these type courses should be attended as a team in a classroom setting (not via correspondence course) and the team should practice as a unit. It is fun to go through the materials together, to laugh at each other and to master the material together. Taking the material separately or online does not provide for this important interaction.

On a safety note, it is important that one team member be responsible for checking the emergency response equipment on a regular schedule and report back to the team the condition of the materials and remind everyone where the equipment is stored. All materials should be up-to-date.

One last thought – Some offices pay for their team’s continuing education and others do not, regardless of your office policy on paying for dental continuing education, I would suggest that the office pay for the CPR and emergency response course fees.
Dr. Corey Gold
President - Advanced Continuing Education Systems
The largest provider of Live, Dental Continuing Education Webcasts in the world

Praise Staff Publicly & Correct Staff Privately

If you want to develop a loyal, respectful  and compitent staff, make sure that you take time to praise their accomplishments publically. Just as important, make sure that when you need to speak to a staff member about correcting behaviors or mistakes – that you do this discretely and privately.

As dentists and CEOs of our businesses, we are all very busy. We often just expect our staff to do things right. We don’t stop to think about praising them for correctly “doing their job”. We only notice our staffs when they make mistakes or act out of step with our practice philosophy.

Try to catch your staff doing things right and publicly praising them for doing their job as you expect. Your staff will feel very positive about being praised in front of patients and other staff members. It might feel foreign to praise people for simply doing things as expected but it will start to feel good to do. Your staff will love you for noticing them and for telling others that they are good at what they do.

On the other hand, try with all your might not to criticize your staff in front of patients and other staff members. Keep your cool when things go wrong and make note to talk to the staff member privately later about the mistake or issue that needs to be corrected. Never talk down to your staff, never make your staff feel incompetent – rather reinforce that you like them as a person and just want to work on one area of their performance to help bring it up to the expected level.

After advising a staff member on how to correct an area of problem, look for reason to praise them in their performance in the next few days. Especially look to see if they are working to improve the area you spoke to them about. Make sure you mention you notice the improvement and appreciate the effort.

Staff members are people with feelings. We all want to feel we are doing a good job and appreciated. We all want to avoid being publically embarrassed. As dentist/CEO it is up to you to set the tone for your practice. Look for things your staff are doing right and let them know you notice and appreciate their competence and professionalism.
Dr. Corey Gold
President  - Advanced Continuing Education Systems

Friday, January 6, 2012

Does My Practice Need a Website?

Probably the most common question I get asked by dentist is “do I need a website for my dental practice”? In 2012, the answer is an emphatic “YES”!

Today, people go to the internet for almost everything. Whether we are surfing the net on our computer, iPad or phone – we are all internet crazy. If you are still paying for a Yellow Pages ad and you don’t have a practice website then you have it backwards. People look for a local dentist much more often online than in the local phone books.

In future posts I will discuss what features that you should have on your website and what features actually are liabilities for your website. For now, the important concept is that you must have a website.

Another quick tip – unless you are a legitimate website designer, DO NOT try to build your own practice website.  Nothing will send a prospective patient running to another dental office faster than a practice website that looks amateurish. The prospective patient will think if your website looks crummy then your technical skills might be as well. Your website does not need to look all tricked out it only has to look professional and clean.

In future posts, I will also discuss the benefits of hiring a local website designer to build your site versus hiring a company that specializes in creating dental office websites. Both options have advantages but I do prefer one option over the other. Your website does not need to be expensive to be effective for your practice.

There will be many dozens of future posts about how to make the internet your practice’s best friend. Don’t worry – you don’t need to be an internet wizard to make the web work for you.

Dr. Corey Gold
President - Advanced Continuing Education Systems

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Make Sure Your Back Door is Closed

Most dentists, when pressed, can tell you how many new patients their practices attract each month. In fact, many dentists judge the success of their marketing efforts by this number.

While it is terrific to attract new families to our offices, the success of your practice is even more dependent on the number of patients you retain each month. Most offices do not keep track of the number of patients they lose each month. It is more fun to watch the inflow than to score the outflow.

I know offices that spend a great deal of money on marketing for new patients and spend no time or money on retaining the patients they already have. I have found that a lot of practices that attract a large number of new patients are actually operating at a net monthly loss of patients – they lose more than they attract. In fact – they are paying good money to have fewer patients each month.

The most effective, fun and natural form of practice marketing is patient retention. Quality patient follow up and appreciation can not only help you retain the patients you have but your current patients are your best and least expensive source for getting new patients. YES – the best way to get new patients is to keep your current patients happy.

In future posts we will discuss effective patient follow up and appreciation strategies that your practice can incorporate into your regular operating procedures. Good patient retention is an entire staff process that does not happen by accident – it is a carefully executed plan. Your entire staff should understand your patient retention plan and know their responsibilities in this critical business activity.

If you want to improve the number of patients your office sees each year, start with closing your back door first. Patient retention is the least expensive and simplest form of practice building you can do.

Dr. Corey Gold
President - Advanced Continuing Education Systems

Know Their Kid’s Names!

The easiest and cheapest business building strategy you can ever employ is to build strong relationships with your patients. Not only do patients who like you tend to stay in your practice but they also tend to be your best sources of referrals.

I have never met a patient who did not LOVE to talk about their children (I love to talk about mine). I know that we are all busy, running behind schedule and going a million directions at a time during the day but nothing will help develop rapport with your patients than to ask them how their children are doing.

Better yet – ask them about their children by name and know a little bit about each one. Like, “How is Michael doing in soccer this year?” or “Did Mary take her SAT yet – I know this is her junior year.” Have a place on your chart that you can easily see that lists our all the family members names, ages and important aspects of their lives. Review this area before seeing the patient each visit.

Your patients will appreciate that you have taken the time to get to know a little bit about them and you will feel more connected to your patients. If you are not doing this now – start today.

Dr. Corey Gold
President - Advanced Continuing Education Systems