Many offices are seeing a drop in production due to the economy, which is worse in some areas of the country than others. Dentists have to be more strategic about how they operate their businesses to maximize the discretionary dollars patients are willing to spend. Many dentists I talk with are trying to reduce their involvement with PPOs, yet recognize they must then expand their patient base and production dollars from other sources. A few ideas:
1. Consider adding services that you currently refer out. This is more important if you are experiencing empty chair time as opposed to just not being booked out as far as you used to be. There are over 7,000 posts on this thread on DentalTown started by Dr. Tommy Murph discussing this idea with extractions: http://www.towniecentral.com/MessageBoard/thread.aspx?s=2&f=173&t=128068&v=1
2. Look into in-house dental plans that may offer your patients an alternative to traditional dental insurance. If you have a high number of patients who have lost their jobs this may be a welcome option for them, especially in light of the high costs of COBRA plans. If the idea sounds intriguing but you don’t want to create your own plan from scratch check out www.CompleteDentalPlan.com.
3. Get personal. If you or your staff have downtime, use it to make a personal connection with your patients. Hand written notes to overdue patients and personal follow up calls after major procedures make memorable impressions on patients. Don’t forget to say thank you for internal referrals!
4. Reign in overhead. When times are good we sometimes stop watching where every dollar is getting spent. Time to get smart about expenses again. This means not only managing supply bills and minimizing wasteful spending but also managing your hours and staff well. Maybe it’s time to keep the same number of clinical hours but shift them to some evening hours instead of the typical 9-5 schedule that might work well for your staff but not your patients. Make sure staff downtime is being spent doing something that will generate patient flow, not stocking shelves or purging charts. Being busy is not the same as being productive!
5. There are many ways to stay in touch with patients through email, text messages and online newsletters that are inexpensive or even free. Forget the traditional expense of stamps and envelopes. If you have never explored any of these services, check out what your practice management software might have available that you aren’t utilizing. For a free option visit www.DentalSenders.com
6. Stay educated at a fraction of the price. It’s no longer necessary to travel thousands of miles to see the best continuing education presenters. There is inexpensive or even free CE readily available, often through your local dental society, supply companies, labs, study clubs and many options on DentalTown or HygieneTown at www.TownieCentral.com
7. Whenever possible, pay with cash and be realistic about the impact debt has on your need to produce. The old adage “you have to spend money to make money” holds true in some respects but patient often notice fresh paint and chairside cable tv before fancy equipment that may be more impressive to dentists than patients. A modern image is important but now is the time to keep debt in check.
8. Unless you are the only dentist in town, you need a website. I’m a fan of social media as well, such as Facebook and Twitter, but a website is a must. You don’t have to spend thousands but there is a large part of the population that looks online before they make any purchasing decisions so you need to have a presence.
9. Scary thought, but there are some offices that aren’t making it right now and are looking to sell. If you need a quick influx of patients contact local brokers or pinpoint small satellite offices who may decide to sell their small base of charts only for a reasonable amount. No need to purchase unneeded equipment or office space but purchasing a few hundred charts from a small office or retiring practitioner can sometimes be an option that pays off quickly.
10. Check out Groupon, a relatively new idea in marketing for dentists. I’ve heard mixed reviews depending on the geographic market and practice style but worth investigating: http://www.groupon.com/