Practice Management

The More a Practice Changes, The More It Stays The Same


Ron Weintraub


November 22, 2017

November 22, 2017

Many contemporary influences affect the everyday dental environment. The challenges dentists face is to integrate the necessary, inevitable changes into our dental environment without damaging the essential timeless core values that allow us the privilege to offer the public professional healthcare. This type of healthcare includes the benefits and safeguards inherent in a regulated profession as opposed to being a commodity purveyor.

Maintaining Professionalism and Core ValuesThe most obvious stressor on existing or start up practices is the lack of an increasing robust demand for our services. This is part of a cost/value disconnect as well as what appears to be an excessive supply of dental outlets to serve the “existing” needs of our potential patient base. This truth is particularly evident in larger centres. In keeping with our thesis of wanting to uphold our professionalism and core values, how do we maintain a patient’s needs focus and help patients financially access the agreed upon treatment. First, we must consider that there are a number of strategies to AVOID:

  1. Reducing fees, thereby feeling justified in cutting back on some parts of the procedures that enhance the capacity to achieve an excellent predictable result;
  2. Engaging in costly advertising/marketing that states with the implication that we may be providing special services at no charge. Those particular services such as exams, whitening, and consultations, will be provided to newly acquired patients gratuitously while other patients of record are being billed for the same service;
  3. Resisting the attempt of prospective patients to canvass your fees over the phone and by inviting potential patients to attend the office for a thorough face-to-face discussion of the fees generally charged with a competent, administrative staff person.

What Really Stays The SameWhen we analyze the current patient phenomena, we realize that patients’ needs or wants are essentially the same as they always have been. However, the emphasis toward efficiency and utility has greatly shifted in prominence along with the tendency towards consumerism.

If you believe, as we do at Innovative Practice Solutions (IPS), that basic human nature is constant and that what people really look for in healthcare, even though they may not recognize the fact or articulate it, is the desire to receive consistent healthcare.

As dentistry is probably in the forefront of a personal, professional, and physical interaction with patients, that is, most of what we render requires hands-on physical intervention with their head, neck, and oral cavity. Therefore, their real priorities, although possibly unrecognized, are the following:

  1. A comfort with the concepts of professional competence. Even though new patients may see licences and plaques on the wall, it is important if the intake administrative member gives a brief synopsis of the clinical team’s experience. Particularly, if a patient is in for a specific problem, a good strategy is to assure that this office has the resources to deal with the issues successfully, but if necessary, the office would refer the patient to a certified specialist if it is in the his/her best interest.
  2. Being able to convey a sense of importance that the office affords a patient’s particular problem with care and attention. The team should impress patients with assurance of personalized individual care rather than as simply a routine not deserving of a high priority of care.
  3. Giving the impression that everyone is welcome into the practice in contrast to being allowed to join an “exclusive club”.
  4. Having an administrative person ask how the procedure went from the patient’s perspective upon completion of the appointment. Often a patient has positive comments that can be used as an opportunity to suggest a potential office referral from their friends and family. Stating a part of the positive result was probably because they were cooperative patients. We would always make room in our practice to treat their friends and family whom we would assume would be equally pleasant to treat.
  5. Patients, consciously or unconsciously, look for reassurance that the team treated them with positive values and integrity; therefore, the discharging administrator could take the opportunity to justifiably extol the virtues of the clinical team.
  6. Showing concern for patients’ often-tight schedule by respecting their appointment times (unless an emergency situation intervenes) and mentioning the fact of the dedication to keeping to the existing schedule.

These guidelines enhance the perception that patients are joining or are a part of the population of a Patient Centric Office where their needs and reasonable wants will be dealt with seriously. Consideration of the consumer/patient has always been a priority even though often not articulated. In the contemporary environment, these values remain in the present desires of individual patients and play an increasingly crucial part in building a more successful practice. After analyzing our most successful practices of the previous era, we found they have mostly by instinct, unwittingly presented this type of environment.

Basic human nature does not necessarily change, but our strategy to bring our solutions to the fore must be routinely reviewed and emphasized. The more a practice changes, the more the path to success stays the same.