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Can I Change My Dental Practice? 5 Barriers to Growth

By Heartland Dental

Dentists who own their own practice are constantly reevaluating the strategies to grow. Growing your dental practice is complex and requires a deep analysis covering much more than revenue projections or patient headcount.

Every business faces plateaus and seasonal dips. As a dentist, you have just as much responsibility to absorb and interpret those patterns as every other business owner out there. 

Granted, for a healthcare provider, those issues can be a bit more complex. Yes, you can market and advertise your services to the general public, like any service provider. You, however, have other guidelines and structures to put in place. And perhaps your staff may be too overwhelmed with processing insurance paperwork or tracking down reimbursements to provide you with marketing and growth insights. 

What are the most common growth barriers that solo practitioner dentists face? We know at least a few of them, and break down five of them below. If you can address even one of them, you may see increased patient retention, satisfaction, and income. 

Barrier #1: Lack of Automation

How much of your day-to-day business is still conducted and recorded on paper files? Operating in a paper-free, digitized environment not only improves efficiency but could also provide better privacy and security for your patients.

Hands-free charting, 3D imagery, and other software innovations increase time management during exams and treatments. The less time your staff has to spend updating records or verifying information in paper files, the faster you can move patients in and out of the office.

Automation and software offer a vast improvement over manual processes. Dental management software can migrate all of your systems together, including billing, appointment calendars, medical data, and more. HIPAA-compliant dental practice software is often more secure and reliable than paper records. 

Online payment collection can also help cut down on late payments. Cloud-based software makes it easier for patients to schedule and reschedule appointments online. Patients, especially young adults, have the expectation today that they can conduct most of their transactions directly from a cell phone. Offering those opportunities likely will increase cash flow and decrease patient attrition.

Barrier #2: (Lack of) Effective Growth Measurement

What is happening with those revenue projections you made at the beginning of the fiscal year? Are you on pace to achieve them? If not, how far out are you? What does your inbound business look like month over month for this fiscal year?

It’s one thing to establish revenue goals. It’s unlikely you’ll attain those goals consistently if you don’t actually track them. Only when you’re following your business’ growth in an organized, systematized way will you have meaningful and predictable measures in place to ensure long-term success. 

You definitively know the efficacy of your marketing campaigns, whether they’re print, online, radio, etc., only by measuring the ROI of those various tactics. If you don’t have a team in place to manage and measure those campaigns, you may need to hire an experienced marketing consultant to manage that for you.

A marketing team attaches a timeline to your goals, and makes meaningful and informed tweaks if you don’t hit them by a certain date. That same team provides you with regular analysis and consistent insight into your business cycles.  

Barrier #3: Attracting and Retaining Skilled Staff

Every good leader knows that they need to delegate workload to their staff. If you aren’t offering competitive salaries and benefits, you may not be able to retain trustworthy, talented people. 

Your staff also needs opportunities for skill improvement, training, and career development. HR responsibilities often overwhelm small business owners. If you neglect staffing oversight, and if you’re not clear about your expectations; the practice, and your patients, will suffer as a result. 

Your staff is an extension of you. You have to hire and retain skilled and motivated people you trust so you can effectively delegate to them. Outsourcing aspects of your HR, including recruiting, hiring, training, payroll, benefits, and more, will free up your time to focus on your core competencies of healthcare while your business continues to flourish. 

Barrier #4: Operational Challenges

How easy is it for patients to fit your appointments into their busy schedules? Do you need to tweak your hours of operation during the week to enable professionals to get treatments before or after work hours?

Take a look at your current location. Is it too out of the way for young professionals and families with young children? Remember that most people select dentists and other service providers based on where the office or facility is located. If your office isn’t located centrally, it could be impacting foot traffic. 

Take a look at your overall scheduling. Is there enough coverage so that someone is always at the desk to help a patient and answer the phone? If patients are often kept waiting, or if you see that the appointment calendar is constantly running behind schedule, a simple fix could be bringing in an additional hygienist or front desk staff. 

Make an inventory of every step of a patient visit, from the moment they walk into your waiting room until the second they leave. Monitor that process vigorously and look for ways you can improve that experience. Even if that means hiring more staff, investing in new waiting room furniture, or expanding your front office presence, those upgrades could be the difference between your revenue decreasing, stalling, or growing. 

Barrier #5: Ineffective Internet Presence

Every business in the 21st century needs a strong online presence. People reference your social media profiles and website to answer questions for themselves about your location, hours, and other common details. 

Make sure your website is up to date and that it displays clearly on mobile devices. Your home page should include your office phone number, contact email, address, and business hours. All of your other relevant information (your qualifications, services provided, insurance information, etc.) should be no more than one click away from your homepage. 

Also: verify that your social media presence and Google information are current and accurate. While it’s a given that new patients will discover you on the web, it’s nearly impossible to say where that will happen. 

Social media and online management is not necessarily something most dentists have the skill set to do well. The very reason that many dentists partner with DSOs is to delegate various aspects of the business, allowing experienced professionals to focus on providing quality care.

Speaking with one of our representatives about the challenges you face in growing and upgrading your dental practice will cost you nothing but an hour or two of your time. We are ready to discuss dental software automation, marketing, HR management and more. 

Contact us today to have an informative, educational discussion with our team.

Tags: Dental Practice Management, Grow Your Dental Practice