By Roger P. Levin, DDS
In the new reality we are now living in, getting back up to speed is challenging. With little time to prepare, most practices were forced to shut down. As we reopen, new regulations and infection control processes have decreased patient volume, and some patients are hesitant to return due to safety and financial concerns. All of this has the potential to seriously disrupt orthodontic practice production. It may seem like a time to sit back and wait and see what happens, but speed counts in a recovery. And the key to minimizing and mitigating lost production and revenue is to take action–NOW!
It’s Not Business as Usual
My single biggest fear is that after the COVID-19 crisis unfolds, orthodontic practices will go back to work with the new infection control protocols in place and do everything else the same way they always did it. This is not a formula for success. Systems, strategies, treatment coordinator consults, and many other factors need to be revised or completely changed.
Get in a Start-up Mindset
Orthodontic practices must reimagine how they operate. The best and easiest approach to this is to think of your practice as a start-up. This makes sense because in many ways we are restarting orthodontic practices. So the question is: What do start-ups do? Answer: They build from the ground up. That may sound like a lot of work but you simply must get used to it. One thing this crisis has made clear is that the unexpected sometimes occurs. The key is to be nimble and flexible and to have the right strategy, pricing, products, or services that will meet the new needs of your target customer base. So how do you make this happen?
The best way is for the orthodontist to pretend that he or she was just hired as the new start-up CEO. They should imagine that their practice is a new business that is no longer functioning as it did in the past and that their responsibility is to build it and make it successful. Consider these strategies as you enter into a start-up mentality:
- Eliminate all unnecessary waste. The key word here is “unnecessary.” Get rid of what you don’t need but be careful not to cut expenses to the bone or you might not have enough resources left for a successful recovery.
- Reactivate and catch up all overdue patients. You don’t want overdue patients to lead to extensively overdue debonds. Overdue debonds are simply 100% overhead and represent unused productive chair time that’s needed for other patients in a lower volume environment.
- Retrain and reallocate your team. If you have team members that aren’t able to perform at the highest level on the most important practice areas, the practice will be hurt. These areas include marketing, treatment coordinator, collections, and insurance. All of these areas should be focused on increasing production and revenue. Make sure every team member is up to speed and in the right position.
- Measure everything. In a recovery there are a few key items that must be measured daily. These include the number of new patients, number of starts, production, revenue or collections, number of active patients, number of overdue patients, and doctor income. These are the most important criteria for understanding what is happening in the orthodontic practice. If these measurements are positive, the practice is moving in the right direction. If not, course correction needs to happen.
COVID-19 has cost orthodontic practices significant revenue that may last well into the future. To improve your situation it will help if you start thinking of yourself as the CEO of a start-up and look at your business with fresh eyes. What would you do today that you weren’t doing before? What changes can you make to daily operations, systems, and labor? Use the strategies listed above to get your practice moving with effectiveness and speed. Having the mindset of a new CEO at start-up will make your thought processes better, deeper, and more effective.
Roger P. Levin, DDS is the CEO and Founder of Levin Group, a leading practice management consulting firm that has worked with over 30,000 practices to increase production. A recognized expert on dental practice management and marketing, he has written 67 books and over 4,000 articles and regularly presents seminars in the U.S. and around the world. To contact Dr. Levin or to join the 40,000 dental professionals who receive his Practice Production Tip of the Day, visit www.levingroup.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.