September 2012 Archives

A key part of your practice’s marketing strategy should be sending out emails.  Postcards and newspaper advertisements are good, but if you’re not taking advantage of email marketing, you’re missing out.  It’s easy to do, people read emails and it’s nearly free because there are no printing or postage costs.  However because emails are a new technology, sometimes practice owners have trouble figuring out how to start doing email marketing in their own practice.

Here are 5 easy steps any practice owner can take to make email marketing work in their practice:

1.  Set up email addresses for your practice.

This is step one.  If you don’t have a way to easily send and receive emails from your practice, you need to get that handled pronto.  Your staff need to be able to write to a patient or client without using their own personal email address, and patients need to have a way to be able to easily email your staff.  The best thing to do is set up emails for everyone in your practice which match the name of your website.  This is called owning your own “domain name.”  An example would be “frontdesk@millcreekdental.org”.

2.  Collect email addresses from everyone who walks through the door.

You can’t contact them if you don’t have their address.  Every time someone comes in for treatment they should fill out a form (if they don’t, this in itself is something that you should handle).  Look at every form or questionnaire that you have them fill out.  Do you have a line for the email address when they fill out their contact information?  If not, fix it.  Every time you ask for someone’s home address or telephone number, include a line for their email address.  Also, you’ll need to make sure your staff members actually get them filled out.  Put a little sign below the counter at the front desk that says, “Remember to get an email address” in order to remind your staff each time they have someone fill out paperwork.

IMPORTANT:  Include an “email permission request” under each line where you ask for their email address.  This is just a little check box with a statement in smaller print that says, “Yes, I give my permission for this practice to send me emails regarding products and services” or similar statement.  This is legally required for email marketing.  Most people are totally fine with giving permission, but it’s a necessary formality.

Now, what do you do with all the email addresses you collect?

3.  Use an online email management system.

You’ll need some way to manage all of these emails you collected; you can’t just file them all away and never use them.  The easiest way to do this is an online email system.  This will allow you to enter in all of the email addresses you collect, along with the client’s name and other relevant information.  Once the information is in there, you will now have an email list you can promote to.  You can now send out email blasts to your entire list, or any part of it.  Some examples of these online services are www.ConstantContact.com or www.MailChimp.com.  There are many more and they’re easy to find.  The advantage of using these services is that they already have ALL the tools you need in order to do email marketing built right into their online system.  They know the laws and rules and have set it up so anyone can do it.  They even have templates pre-made that you can fill out so that creating an email newsletter or special offer is as easy as writing a document in Microsoft Word.  Their monthly fees are tiny and they are made to be super user-friendly.

4.  Send out bulk emails.

Email is an amazingly cheap way to promote because there are no postage and printing costs.  Staying in touch with your clients is a breeze when you can send out newsletters or limited-time specials to your whole list and it costs you nothing!  And if you don’t want to be a “spammer,” then just don’t send out spam.  Make sure the emails you send are relevant and valuable and people will be glad to hear from you.

5.  Use email “autoresponders” to automatically send out reminders.

This last one is a bit more advanced, but extremely powerful.  Every online email service has a feature called an “autoresponder.”  An autoresponder is a series of pre-set emails that go out on a timer.  Once a name is entered into the system, it will automatically receive whatever emails you create, and on whatever schedule you want them to be automatically sent out.  Autoresponders make sending out reminders a no-brainer.  As an example, you could set up your autoresponders so that when a name is entered in the system, a reminder email will automatically be fired off six months from the date they were entered, then once a month for the next 3 months.  And you can customize the series so each email is different—that way you aren’t being repetitive or annoying.

There are a tremendous number of ways you can use email to effectively market your practice and reach your patient base.  This is just a short summary of tips anyone can apply to get started.  If you have more questions about it or would like a specific question answered, feel free to write us.  We’ll do our best to direct you to the right place.

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Hiring new staff is a necessary part of business but few practice owners find it palatable, and many outright hate it.  If you hire the wrong person, you’re stuck and they can cause tons of trouble for you.  Is it even worth it?

The trick of hiring is to be able to distinguish between the RIGHT person and the WRONG person for your practice.  But how do you know who will work out and who won’t?

There are a few simple steps any practice owner can use when interviewing new staff to determine whether they are someone who is likely to work out in their practice:

1.  Do they have an acceptable appearance?

This might seem obvious, but it’s worth mentioning.  Appearance can’t tell you everything about a prospective employee, but it will tell you whether or not you should even go further in interviewing them.  They don’t have to be wearing Armani, but if they have a bad appearance, poor personal hygiene or show up wearing inappropriate attire, don’t go further.  When employed, there are likely to be additional problems with this person’s attitude or life outside of work.

2.  Check out their ability to communicate.

Have them write a three paragraph essay about why you should hire them and why they’d like to work there.  This essay will show you a) handwriting, b) ability to communicate using the English language, c) what kind of representative they will be for your practice.

3.  Determine whether they are “product oriented” or not.

Look at their resume and for each of their last three positions ask them, “At (name of practice or company), what was your product?”  You are looking to see if the applicant is focused on production as opposed to their status or actions.  Being “busy” is not the same as getting things done.  Ask them how much quantity of that product they produced.  Ask them who can verify the things they just told you.

If the applicant isn’t focused on production but is focused on other things, don’t hire them.  You need employees who get things DONE in the real world and naturally have things as their focus.

4.  Verify what they just told you with their previous employers.

Call the names the applicant gave you.  If any of these people seem negative in general before you even mention the name of your applicant, end off.  Their information will not be valid.  If the person you are calling seems like an upbeat person then ask them to verify what you were told by the applicant.  Ask them if they would hire the applicant back.  Judge by the nature of their response what their thoughts are.  Is it a “no”?  Is it a “yes” but with a delay in answering and some other signs of uncertainty?   Is it a resounding and enthusiastic “yes” with a statement along the lines of “I wish she hadn’t left!”?  Or “I’d hire her back in a flash.”  Or “You’d be a fool not to hire her!”

5.  Determine if they’re negative about their previous employers.

Ask the applicant about their previous employers or places of employment and what it was like. If they then proceed to engage in negativity, complaints and criticism which are stated in a resentful way or a friendly but “gossipy” way, do NOT hire.  They have broken rules and agreements at that place.  They will do the same thing at your practice or company if you hire them.  They will quit or you will find it necessary to fire them.  Then, they will be back out in the community with one more company (yours) which they will bad mouth.

6.  Administer a “skills test.”

Do NOT accept that they have a skill just because they said they do or because they wrote it on their resume.  Depending on the position you are filling, do some work related to that position.  Have them actually USE the tools they will be using.  Give them your template for how letters are to be written and dictate a letter and see how they did on the formatting and the words per minute. Have them set up a new patient record in your practice management software.  Call in to the office as a pretend patient and see how they handle your call.

7.  Lastly, if you don’t like them, don’t hire them.

This is more important than you might think.  Your office is a reflection of you.  It’s your creation.  Your joy and your happiness are important.  An office should function as a team and you should be comfortable with all of your employees.  Don’t hire someone that you don’t like personally.

This is not meant to be a full list of everything to look for in an applicant or a “how-to” manual or full hiring procedures.  Background checks, drug tests and other tests may be necessary depending on the position.  However, the above gives you some good tips on things to look for in order to determine if the applicant in front of you is the right person for your office.

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This week’s management tip sounds a bit like a get-rich quick idea.  After all, it isn’t easy to double the size of anything.  It takes hard work, vision and tremendous persistence.  But it isn’t unrealistic and isn’t a scheme.  In fact, many practices across America don’t just double in size, but expand far beyond that.  So it is possible.

What does it take?

We’ve attempted to lay down the basic steps any owner can follow in order to directly expand the size of their practice.  One could call these a road map to expansion:

1.  Think big.

You don’t have to be small just because everyone else is.  There are millions of business owners across the world with highly successful businesses, who are achieving their goals.  You can be one of them.  Don’t set your goals based on what your competition is doing.  Your potential is determined by one thing: what you decide it is.

2.  Exactly state your goal.

Define what you’re shooting for.  If you haven’t set an exact goal in terms of concrete numerical terms, it will be hard to achieve it.  You can’t hit a target you don’t aim for.  Figure out exactly what numbers you want to hit annually and write them down.  If you haven’t exactly stated what you’re attaining, then you won’t necessarily conceive of all the other actions necessary to attain it.  This is where a lot of practice owners fall down.  They want to get bigger, but they don’t state how MUCH bigger.  They’ve got to decide exactly what they’re shooting for if they expect hit it.

3.  Break it down by week.

Figure out how much production or collections you would have to hit per week in order to achieve your goals.  In order to make your goal achievable, you’ll have to take  it out of nebulous annual numbers and break it down on a weekly basis.  This puts the target into concrete terms of what has to be done by the practice each week in order to say, “Yep.  It was enough.”  Or “We did great last week, but let’s keep pushing.”  This serves to focus everyone’s eye on the goal so that you can all be working on the same page.

4.  Figure out ALL the practice numbers to hit your goal.

It’s very nice to say “I want ____ collections” but what does that mean in terms of practice production?  In terms of visits?  In terms of new patients or new clients?  In terms of promotional pieces sent out?  You can say you want more collections all day long, but this means you’ll need more production, which means you’ll need more patient visits, which means you’ll need more new patients, which means you’ll need more promotion and advertising.

If you set a goal to double your collections and production, then you’ll also have to set goals to double every other number in your practice that goes into making up those collections and production.  This is what makes the whole thing realistic.  If you don’t do this, then you just end up making a “wish” for your practice to get bigger.  If you actually figure out the goals for all the other numbers in the practice, you now provide a real roadway to expanding your practice.

5.  Work out the plan for each one of the those numbers.

Now you have to write a plan in order to achieve each one of those numerical goals you wrote down.  Again, it’s very nice to say, “I want to double my new patients” but how is this really going to be done?  You would have to sit down with your New Patients goal and figure out what promotion and advertising would have to go out in order to hit that goal.  You figure out how many staff this would take.  You figure out what resources you would need to do it, and you write this out in a plan.  Do the same thing for Patient Visits, for Production and all the rest.

Of course these plans will change in time, but they give you a starting point.  They at least provide a direction for you to start walking toward your goals.  As you learn more, you’ll change them until you eventually do hit your overall practice goals.

 6.  Get your staff on board.

Now you have weekly numerical quotas for each area of the practice, and a plan of action worked out to achieve each of them.  The next step is that you have to explain all this to your staff.  Get each person on board with the quotas and plans related to their area.  Get their feedback.  They may have some ideas themselves about how these goals could be achieved.  Work with them so that they are an active participant in helping you do it.

Set up a bonus system so that, as the staff get closer to hitting the quotas you set, they are rewarded more and more personally.  The important point here is that you actually get your staff to “buy in” and become motivated to attain the quotas for each area.

7.  Persist.

Achieving anything big requires persistence.  The world will tempt you to give up or wonder if what you originally decided was unrealistic.  It wasn’t.  Keep going.  I’m sure you’ve read about the number of failures Thomas Edison had before he finally succeeded with inventing the light bulb.  The moral of the story is that you just have to keep going.  Progress may be slight.  However, recognize that it is progress.  Little by little you will take the small steps along the roadway you’ve laid out until after a period of time you’ll look back and realize you ARE getting there.

The number one reason for failing to expand a practice is the inability to think big enough and set a goal in the first place.  The number two reason is lack of persistence.  The difference between someone who achieves their goals and someone who doesn’t often is simply that the first one didn’t quit.

No one assumes expanding a practice will be easy.  It isn’t.  But it can be done.  And if you want to be, you can be someone who does it.

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Wait!  Before you decide this is just practice management mumbo-jumbo, read on.  This is a simple explanation you can use in the real world.

Management experts continually talk about metrics, statistics and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).  These are all different names for the same thing.  They basically mean, “ways of measuring how well a business is doing.”

Is it healthy?  Is it growing?  Is it headed for collapse?

This is an important subject every business owner should understand, but it is often made overly complicated.  Here is a simple explanation of how metrics relate to YOUR practice:

First, what is a metric?

A metric is a way to measure your practice.  It is simply how many products or services were produced by a business, compared to how many of those same products or services were produced at an an earlier time.  For instance, a practice that sees 150 patients a week is doing better than it was last year, when it was only seeing 100 patients a week, all other things being equal.  A lot of times people just call metrics the practice’s “numbers.”  Ultimately “metric” comes from the Greek word metron which means “to measure.”  They’re just ways to measure a business.

Why are metrics valuable?

Diagnosis in medicine is important as it allows you to determine what is wrong and what to do about it.  In order to diagnose a patient, there must be some way to analyze or quantify the condition of the patient.  It is the same way with organizations.  In order to “treat” the organization, you first must diagnose it.  That requires measuring its condition.  That’s why metrics are important.

What do you do with metrics once you measure them?

The most fundamental use of metrics is to determine one thing: “Do I change what I’m doing or do I keep doing the same thing?”

There are a lot of very skilled ways to view a practice’s metrics that go beyond this, but at the core metrics are most useful simply in telling a practice owner whether he should just let things run or whether he should jump in and do something.  If things are gradually going up, obviously you should keep doing what you’re doing.  If things are gradually going down, you need to change something.  If they’re steeply going down, change something now!  Simple.

How often should I track my practice metrics?

You should minimally track your metrics once a month.  In this way you can see how you did compared to last month, or compared to the same month in previous years.  However, it’s best if you can get to the point where you’re keeping track of each metric on a weekly basis.  This gives you a very close monitor on the pulse of your practice.

What time periods should I be comparing when I look at metrics?

When you look at your practice metrics you are always comparing some time period to an earlier time period.  So which ones should you compare?

1.  Look at the month (or week) that just ended compared to the one right before.  If you just finished July, compare all your numbers to June.  See if you were up or down for the month.  This is where you will find the small tweaks that you need to make in order to keep things moving up.  You won’t see major big-picture shifts in your practice, but you will discover if what you’re doing is working, or if you need to adjust something for next month.

2.  Look at the past 12 months.  Check out the overall direction of the line.  Is the line gradually going up, staying the same or going down?  This is important.  This is where you’ll see long-term shifts in the practice.  If you have declining Collections for a whole year you will need to do something, or likely it will continue to go down the next year too.  A year-long view won’t tell you how to tweak your practice for next month, but it WILL tell you what broad strategy you need to be executing in order to move the practice in the right direction for the long haul.

3.  If your practice experiences heavy seasonal fluctuations, you will need to compare the month that just ended to the same month the previous year, and the same month the year before that.  This way you’ll be able to see changes in the overall growth of your practice.  You can even put these on a line graph showing something like, “Total Production For The Past 5 Julys.”  This method is only required for a practice with large seasonal fluctuations.

What do I DO with all of this?

Now that you have an idea of what’s happening with your numbers, you go look at your practice to find out WHY.  You see the New Patients have been declining ever since October.  Better go back and look at your promotion.  Did you stop sending out postcards?  Now that you have a scientific method of finding out what the state of your practice is (good or bad), you go find out WHY it’s in that state.  The statistical trend tells you that things are getting better or worse, but it doesn’t tell you why.  It’s up to you to go inspect the practice personally and find out what’s going on, so you can come up with a plan to fix it (or, if it’s good, strengthen it).

Why does all this matter?

Keeping metrics puts you in the driver’s seat in your practice.  Without metrics you’re going blind, guided by hunches and guesses.  Once you start regularly watching the practice’s metrics, you don’t have to guess at what’s happening in your practice–it’s right there in front of you plain as day.  Now you’re in control, not relying on fate to ensure your success.

Practice management can be pretty dry.  But it is often the difference between success and failure.  Learn how to use metrics and you’ll have a peace of mind that others only dream about.

Stay tuned next week for the answer to the question: “Which metrics should a practice keep?”

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Disclaimer: we do realize that this subject can be boring and very dry.  This particular area of practice management may remind you of accounting, taxes or something equally exciting.

We agree.

But bear with us.  It really does need to be said and it is a vital part of managing any business.

We haven’t been able to find any really good articles anywhere that explain which metrics a practice should keep track of, so we had to write one.  The subject is so important for a practice owner that you should probably not only read this, but keep it on file to refer back to in the future.

Ok, so now that you’ve been warned it’s technical, let’s move on.  We promise we’ll write more emotionally gripping and inspiring articles later.

Metrics, or a practice’s “numbers,” are just ways to measure how well a practice is doing compared to how well it was doing at an earlier time.  That’s fine.  But that’s a lot of work, and no one really defines how to keep track of them.  Which metrics should a practice use?  How do you find them?  How do you view them easily once you have located them?

Below, we tell you which metrics are most important for you to keep track of and give you a step-by-step procedure to stay on top of them:

DENTAL PRACTICE METRICS

Total Dr. Production

This is the total production of all the doctors added together; the total production of all doctors in the practice.  This is the gross number of services rendered by doctors, before write-offs or free service.

Total Hygiene Production

This is the total dollar value of service produced by all hygienists in the practice.  This would be calculated by adding the gross production of each hygienist together.  This is counted before write-offs or free service.  It includes anything done in the hygienist’s room—including the doctor’s exam and x-rays.

Total Gross Production

Calculated as Total Dr. Production + Total Hygiene Production—in short, the total production for the entire practice.  This is the total dollar amount produced in services and sales.  Another way of stating it is the total dollar value of services delivered, before write-offs or the value of free or discounted service is deducted (including such service provided to staff, families of staff, other professionals,–as well as pro bono work.)

Adjusted Production (Net Production, Collectible Production)

This is the Total Gross Production minus write-offs or adjustments of all types (except does not include bad debt write-offs).  This gives the production figure that is actually collectible.  Any amount of the “Production” statistic that is actually legally owed to you should count as part of the “Adjusted Production” stat.  Whether it is difficult or easy to collect the legally owed money is another matter.  Any components of “Production” which are monies that the practice cannot legally collect would not be counted as part of “Adjusted Production.”

Patient Visits

This is the total number of patients seen by the practice.  This includes all patient visits for all doctors and hygienists.

Average Production Per Patient Visit

This is the dollar amount produced on the average for each Patient Visit.  This is calculated by dividing Total Gross Production by Number of Patient Visits.  This gives you an idea of how efficient your practice is.  Are you really giving your patients all the care they need, or are you selling your services short?  A practice can be seeing an avalanche of people, but if they aren’t effectively getting compliance to their treatment plans, they won’t be doing as much production as a practice with a higher “Production Per Visit.”

Collections (Gross Collections)

The amount of money actually collected by the practice.

Net Collections

This is the collections minus refunds, repayments, bounced checks, etc.

Number of New Patients

This is the number of individual new patients paying for and receiving treatment in the practice for the first time.  Does not include reactivated patients who have bought anything in the past, regardless of how long ago it was.

Net Profit

This is the profit of the practice and is what the practice would make for the owner, as though he were not a service provider.  Does not include compensation for the owner as a doctor, as an executive or as a landlord.  This is figured by: Total Collections minus cost of sales, direct costs, taxes, overhead, all other expenses and payments to owner as a provider, manager and landlord.

VETERINARY PRACTICE METRICS

Total Production

This is the total dollar amount produced in services and sales.  Another way of stating it is the total dollar value of services delivered, before write-offs or the value of free or discounted service is deducted (including such service provided to staff, families of staff, other professionals,–as well as pro bono work.)

Transactions

A Transaction is simply an individual invoice for services rendered and/or products sold.

Collections (Gross Revenue)

Defined as total dollar amount that was actually collected from clients for services and products; gross revenue.

New Clients

This is the number of individual new clients who purchased a product or service from the practice for the first time.  Does not include reactivated clients who have bought anything in the past, regardless of how long ago it was.

Average Client Transaction

This is the average dollar amount for each transaction.  It is figured by dividing the Total Production by the number of Transactions for a given time period.  This shows how well you’re presenting and closing clients on recommended products and services.

Average Client Transaction

This is the profit of the practice in terms of what the practice makes for the owner, not considering any other service he may provide.  Does not include compensation for the owner as a doctor, as an executive or as a landlord.  This is figured by: Total Collections minus cost of sales, direct costs, taxes, overhead, all other expenses and payments to owner as a provider, manager and landlord.

 

HOW TO TRACK YOUR METRICS:

Ok, so those are the metrics a practice should be keeping track of.  There are more, but the rundown above gives the basics.  Now that we know what they are, we should talk about how to keep track of them.  You’ll have to have these numbers in some sort of format where they can be viewed and updated.  What format is best for this?  A simple line graph.  The best method of viewing and comparing metrics is a simple line graph with each month running from left to right along the bottom and then the values of metric along the left-hand side running from top to bottom.

Now, how do we assemble such a graph?  There are a lot of different methods.  Below we will give you one way to do it–a step-by-step rundown of how you can find and track metrics.  There are other ways to do this with pen and paper, but this can be more time consuming.  The easiest way to approach this is to find someone who knows how to use the basic computer programs of your office and get their help setting all of this up.

1.  Finding The Numbers 

No matter which practice management software you use, you will be able to get these numbers out of there.  Export the numbers into an Excel spreadsheet.  If you need help on how to export these numbers, contact customer support for your software company.  This should be a relatively painless task for someone who is familiar with computers.

Depending on the exact software and how much you use of it, you may need to also get some other numbers from your accounting software, such as QuickBooks.  Again, this is a fairly simple matter of exporting numbers.

2.  Export Them By Month

The simplest way to approach it is just to export your numbers for each month.  That way you can see your Production for January, for February, for March, etc.  You want the total value for each metric for a given month.

3.  Keep Track Of Them In A Spreadsheet

Now that you have the numbers exported, arrange them into a spreadsheet, like Excel.  The easiest way to do it is just have all of the dates running along the left-hand side of the spreadsheet, and all of the different types of metrics running along the top.  This way you have a grid.  On the left-hand side of the grid you’ll have the earliest months at the top, with later months running down the side.  Looking across the top of the grid you’ll be able to see the different types of metrics.  In this way you’ll be able to see each of your metrics for any given month.

4.  Create Graphs

It is very easy in Excel to create graphs, or “charts.”  Create a line graph for each one of your metrics.  This way you can see how if your numbers are going up or down.  It is very easy to see what is happening with your practice, once you can see a visual representation of the numbers.  Your line graph should have the months along the bottom (x-axis) and the practice numbers along the left-hand side (y-axis).  This will be very frustrating for someone who doesn’t know how to use Excel, but will be a no-brainer for someone who can use the program.  If you don’t know how, get someone to help.

Conclusion

This can be complicated for someone who doesn’t know how to use computers.  However, there are many different ways to figure this out.  One simple way is just to get graph paper and use a pen to mark the lines monthly for each metric on their own sheet of graph paper.  Here we’ve just laid down a simple way to do it, using a computer program most people have.  The bottom line is that you just need to be able to see your practice’s metrics on a line graph, with the months running along the bottom.

We realize that this can be tricky for someone learning to do it the first time.  Therefore, if you have additional questions or want to see if you’re doing it right, feel free to write us.  We’ll do our best to point you in the right direction.

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