5 tips for successful dental practice management

Why are some dental practices in hot demand while others struggle to stay in business?

Though the answer has a lot to do with clinical excellence, the secret to a truly successful practice is keeping the operations running like a well-oiled machine. Without strong management, even the most talented dentists, orthodontists, and hygienists in the industry will founder.

Here are five dental practice management tips to lead you down the road to success.

1. Create customer service protocols

Patients are the lifeblood of your business, and your success relies on gaining — and maintaining — their trust. Today, patients are quick to write negative reviews for any perceived slip-ups by staff members.

Train your staff in customer service protocols and create scripts, documents, and checklists explaining how to interact with patients. These protocols will make it easier for your staff to maintain consistency in customer service, which will keep patients happy and coming back.

Just so you know

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Your reputation is integral to running a successful practice, according to a report by Dentistry iQ, which stressed the importance of providing excellent service and countering negative reviews online. Some patients will even go out of their insurance network if they find a practice with an excellent reputation, the report stated.

Make it a priority to ensure your patient-facing services are first class. Staff must look professional and presentable, as this helps reassure patients they’re choosing a trustworthy practice.

The reception staff is your practice’s first point of contact with patients, so always recruit employees who conduct themselves in a friendly, professional manner. They’re ambassadors for your practice, and the way they handle patients is particularly important since they will sometimes deal with people who are nervous and stressed.

Your customer service protocols should include things like how to

  • Answer the phone
  • Schedule appointments
  • Check in a patient
  • Handle payments and insurance providers

If you create and maintain these processes and procedures, your staff will know how to deal with every eventuality. Your patients will appreciate receiving the same high standards of customer service every time.

Once you have the customer service protocols in place, turn your attention to another important factor that nurtures a welcoming environment — your physical space.

2. Create a welcoming environment

A survey by market researchers DentaVox found that 61 percent of people suffer from dental fear. Pain, the smell of chemicals, and the sound of the drill are among the most common concerns, but other issues such as the discomfort of keeping their mouth open for an extended period or spending a long time in the dental chair play a part in patients’ anxieties too.

According to an article by Dental Products Report, one of the ways dental practices are combatting the complex causes of dental anxiety is by steering away from a “typical, sterile white dental setting” and opting for furniture and appliances in cheerful shades to help patients feel more comfortable and less nervous.

These days, having a welcoming and calming space is just as important as having a clean practice. Try these tips to help patients feel more comfortable while visiting your practice:

  • Choose colors that will help create a calming atmosphere.
  • Play soothing music in the waiting area.
  • Offer headphones with relaxing music in the treatment rooms for patients concerned about the sound of the drill.
  • Keep the air smelling pleasant to neutralize the odor of chemicals.

Now that your customer service is top-notch, and your space is inviting, it’s time to take a look at the IT solutions you need so patients get the seamless service they’re accustomed to receiving elsewhere.

3. Use simple tech solutions for seamless service

Patients in 2020 expect seamless service from the first point of contact. With the right technology, you can swiftly respond to them and, at the same time, create efficient and HIPAA-friendly electronic health records (EHRs). Using outdated software and online services can frustrate existing patients and deter potential new patients from booking an appointment.

Simple tools like Jotform’s free templates for appointment and contact forms can help dental practices implement more user-friendly tech, which can make scheduling appointments and checking in more pleasant and streamlined for patients. You can also use Jotform to integrate payment forms for bills and deposits, as well as customer satisfaction surveys to ensure you stay on top of customer feedback.

Since you’re dealing with private and sensitive information, make sure you have a secure EHR that meets HIPAA standards. HIPAA was designed to ensure healthcare organizations protect the privacy, security, and integrity of their patients’ protected health information (PHI). Using an up-to-date system with good quality antivirus and anti-hacking shields will help ensure you meet HIPAA requirements. Jotform offers HIPAA-friendly plans.

4. Foster teamwork and camaraderie

Happy staff work harder and are 13 percent more productive. Make sure you recognize and reward staff when they go the extra mile, perform particularly well, or use their initiative to solve a problem. Activities that can help build a better company culture include

  • Creating a list of values — such as communication, integrity, and teamwork — that define your company culture so staff will understand what’s expected of them
  • Having regular staff meetings to give feedback on employee performance and general practice operations
  • Using humor and fun where appropriate; staff often spend more time with colleagues than with their families, and humor helps make it an enjoyable place to work, according to a top practice coach

5. Set growth goals for the practice and its team

Goals for increasing revenue or attracting new patients can help you benchmark the success of your dental practice. This data can also help you identify problems early on and find new opportunities to improve operations. Professional goals for individual team members are also important; they can help boost staff morale as well as improve their skill sets.

Discuss individual development goals one on one with your team members, which can include targets like

  • Learning new IT and tech skills
  • Completing continuing education courses
  • Improving communication skills

The importance of dental practice management

If you stay on top of these major areas, your operations will run more smoothly. With a carefully selected team, the right tech, and an appealing — as well as hygienic — environment, you’re setting up your dental practice for sustainable growth. In turn, these factors will help improve your social media reviews and word-of-mouth reputation — which is critical to sustained success.

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