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Practice Management for Denturists

An entirely new way of processing your company's daily transactions, analyzing your monthly revenues and expenses, and constructing detailed financial statements instantaneously is at your fingertips! While producing an accurate portrait of your company's financial situation has always been time consuming, the inefficiencies, frustrations, and costs associated with it are perhaps even more troubling. The advent of computers and their integration into all aspects of company's operations and management, however, offers a very attractive solution to these problems. A new era in computer applications for the professional medical office has arisen and with it new software and automation systems which function to solve your financial accounting and management needs. This leaves you with the time, energy, and cost savings to dedicate to your clients and denturist practice.

While a computer provides instant and accurate information at the touch of a mouse, it does not offer an entire office management system. Rather, it is tool through which you can withdraw from the responsibilities of client bill processing, manual account tracking, and data creation and monitoring. This will allow you to focus on your core competencies — namely meeting with your patients, diagnosing their specific needs, and making great dentures!

Having said that, you do want to make your business as profitable as possible. Your income statement is one way to analyze how your business is doing. It does this by taking all your revenues and subtracting out your expenses to arrive an estimate of your profit, or net revenues. The revenue side of the equation asks the following questions:

  • How are you going to attract new patients?
  • How are you going to maintain your current client base?
  • What types of services will you offer?
  • How can you secure positive referrals from your existing patients?

A thorough analysis of your business also requires you to analyze your expenses. The expenses side of the equation asks the following questions:

  • What are your most significant costs?
  • How can you manage your business to reduce these costs?

An appropriate software package can allow you to answer these questions both accurately and efficiently. For the first question on the revenue side, a computer software application can allow you to acquire new patients. Acquiring new patients usually involves a combination of marketing initiatives and referrals. While a software package cannot produce a complete marketing plan for you, it can track how effective your various marketing initiatives are. Software can amalgamate data on your patients and produce statistics on how many new clients you have acquired within a given time frame, what types of work they have required, and how much money they spent. Furthermore, software can track the demographics of your current patients and include an analysis of their age, gender, and geographic location. In turn, this will allow you to review your current marketing strategies and develop new ones. Moreover, you can generate useful reports at the touch of a button. Picture the following: you enter the way a patient came to your office into the program, you press a few buttons, and you end up with a detailed analysis of which advertisements or promotions are most effective for attracting new patients. As well, it would allow you to discover which of your existing clients has referred more than, say, five patients in the last year. To express your appreciation, you could then send a bottle of wine to acknowledge and reward them for their loyalty.

Clearly, revenues are intricately connected to the level of service you provide to your patients. Service exists on different levels: the level of service you provide with respect to their denture (fitting & type of denture, cost-effective dentures, or premium dentures) and the overall experience you provide for the patient. Software can help you keep track what percentage of new patients are getting fitted with a premium denture. You can find commonalities between the premium patients and use this information to target these consumer characteristics and increase the number of new patients you can service at a premium level. Premium patients not only increase your immediate revenue but, moreover, with targeted marketing and service, premium customers will be more satisfied patients and thus will give more referrals.

The early 1980's witnessed a dramatic shift as the economy moved from one based on producing products with North America being the premier manufacturer in the world, to one where service and information was the most important asset. Now, as we enter the twenty-first century, we are rapidly moving into an "experience-based" economy. This means that consumers don't only expect great service but they also seek out great experiences. The industry leaders are becoming those companies that can go beyond providing great service to providing great experiences by making the customer feel special and valuable. While some health-related services are becoming increasingly de-personalized, computerization in your office may actual do the opposite - allow you to spend more quality time with your patients.

The following scenario will allow you to envision how you and your team can create a more individualized experience for your patients: one week before their appointment a patient gets a friendly reminder of the date and time of the appointment prompted, of course, by your electronic scheduler and recall system. When s/he arrives at your office, the client is greeted by personalized conversation and "small talk" geared towards their interests — stimulated, of course, by the personal notes embedded in this patient's computerized file that were taken by a former receptionist two years earlier! Further imagine that when the patient enters the treatment room their favorite music is playing for them and their before-and-after-treatment pictures are ready to view on the computer screen! (Note: see www.dentvision.com for an example of this product). What the patient experiences in this situation is that everyone in the office has taken the time and expended the effort to create a positive experience for him/her. This if further reinforced when, one month later, s/he receives a personalized card (easily generated by your computer), phone call, or e-mail. E-mail has hit the denturist industry by storm, exemplified by the fact that the Renew website has been averaging one million visits and 200,000 requests for free samples every year! Interestingly, of the 200,000 requests for free samples about thirty percent (70,000) are Canadian! Clearly, e-mail is becoming an effective option for personalized contact and communicating with your patients.

The critical reason underlying why service is so important to the denturist industry is that it is very hard for a patient to actually know how skilled you are at making dentures. All that a patient knows and, consequently, all they tell their friends, is how they feel about their denturist experience. So give them something to feel good about, something powerful enough that will cause them to brag about you to others! Let your computer help you focus on the people skills side of your profession, allowing you to make your clients feel great!

While attracting new patients and providing good service is critical to your company's profitability, effective patient scheduling and an effective recall system are imperative to maintaining repeat patients. This requires a software system that will allow YOU to determine the criteria from which to run your business and which criteria to contact, send reminders to, and target in your marketing efforts.

Returning back to the income statement, some offices find themselves entering information into a billing system and then again into a separate accounting program. Not only is this redundant but accounting programs such as Simply Accounting expect the user to be familiar with the technicalities and language used by accountants such as GAAP (generally accepted accounting principles). Consequently, users must familiarize themselves with the definition and use of terms such as debit, credit, and contra-account, while learning an entirely new software program. This is clearly beyond the scope of a denturist's critical practice areas. Therefore, it makes logical sense that a denturist integrate a software package that does not require an in-depth knowledge of accounting terms and processes. Denturist Office Manager (DOM) from Specialized Office Systems is one such software application. Essentially, DOM automates all accounting entries. The user merely enters procedures and services required, prints invoices if required, and enters payments received. As well, the DOM user can print out computer-generated cheques or enter expenses paid with cash or a written cheque. By going about your business through an easy-to-use billing system, DOM automatically enters all the appropriate debits and credits. Even though the user has full access to manually enter debits and credits as they would in Simply Accounting, there is no longer a need to engage in this time-consuming and laborious task. Instead, real-time meaningful financial information and statements are ready for you at ANY time, including your Income Statement, Balance Sheet, and GST report. Keeping track of your business in real time means you always know exactly how much money is in your business account, and you have immediate access to all kinds of relevant data for managerial issues. This allows you to avoid redundancies in your office, through the utilization of a software package tailored the realities, opportunities, and challenges of managing a denturist office. Avoiding redundancy occurs with software that can handle your specific denturist needs from patient charts, scheduling, recall, and full accounting that makes sense.

In addition to reconciling patient charts, automating scheduling and recall, and eliminating inefficient accounting data entry, DOM can save you time, improve the image you project to your client, and save you money by reducing the need for extensive manual bookkeeping. In turn, this can allow you to increase your revenues and hence your overall profits by managing your business more efficiently. Good software has the ability to give you all kinds of statistical reports that are imperative for proactive management. There are many denturists who are excellent at making dentures and who possess great people skills but have never had formal training in management. Practitioners have reaped the benefits of hiring a professional management consultant like the ones at The Art of Management who specialized in helping health care professionals. A senior consultant from the Art of Management, Bob Wheeler, believes that statistics generated by a computer can help immensely with respect to managing your business. When purchasing software, however, it is important for you to find out specifically what reports the potential system will generate and exactly how it will help you in your managerial decisions. The right software application can give you the tools you need to manage a profitable, efficient, and patient-centric office, while allowing you more time to focus on what you do best — working with your patients and producing great dentures.

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