Case Study: How to Thrive in Challenging Times
Learn how this dental practice used data during the pandemic shutdown to grow.
In March of 2020, Klein Family Dentistry in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania joined thousands of other dental practices around the world in closing their doors in response to the COVID-19 global pandemic. For the next ten weeks, Dr. Gary Klein and his small staff prepared for the moment when they would once again be able to provide care to their many loyal patients.
This is the story of what Klein Family Dentistry did during the shutdown in order to provide even better care to their patients after the shutdown had ended. Although we all hope that we will never experience a pandemic again, it’s highly likely that there will be some type of future disruptions to business as usual. The steps Klein took are steps that any practice can take to recover from a disruption and come back better than ever. If Klein Family Dentistry can do it, so can you.
As a recent article in Inc. Magazine reminds us, hard moments can also be moments of real growth, but only if we see them that way and take action to capitalize. “Every business owner experiences hardship at some point, and it's never pleasant when it's happening. But if things were always hunky-dory, then we'd all become as complacent as the…frog that stays too long in the soon-to-be-boiling pot of water. The businesses that make it through downturns and emerge stronger are the ones that are nimble enough and resourceful enough to create new opportunities.”
Know Where You Are
According to Dr. Klein, “At the beginning of the shutdown we used this unique moment to look at all of our systems and practices. These are all the things we never had time to do when we were open.” This probably sounds familiar. In the busy hustle-and-bustle of running a dental practice, having the time to identify and address problems can be difficult. As Dr. Klein put it, “You’re not just a doctor; you are also the office manager, head of technology, etc., so your time is at a premium. You end up settling for ‘good enough.’ Things are working enough for you to accept that they’re not optimal, but you just don’t have the benefit of time to look at them more thoroughly, or, you let things go that aren’t working but feel the pain of knowing that if you’d make improving your systems a priority you’d see a significant impact.”
Dr. Klein saw this moment as one that might never happen again, and he decided to make the most of it. “We took a ‘scorched earth’ approach to our practice and took everything apart, including our credit card purchases, equipment, how and what we purchase, unnecessary duplication in systems and processes, and what software we were using and whether or not those tools were adding value. We looked at the cost and benefit of everything to determine what was working and what wasn’t.”
How did this all benefit the practice once it reopened? Since doing so, Klein Family Dentistry has had a schedule backlog, with every available slot filled well into the next several months. Dr. Klein discussed the importance of integrating Open Dental and Dental Intelligence, one of their newer software solutions, to assist them in strategic scheduling. “Dental Intel is helping us to ‘frontload’ our schedule with the highest-value patients – the ones who pay their bills on time, who don’t cancel, who show up on time for their appointments, have good insurance coverage, etc. Being closed for ten weeks meant we needed to jump-start our cash flow and being able to easily see which patients we should schedule using Dental Intel’s Patient Finder has been a very big part of the puzzle.”
Becoming a Data-Driven Practice
Another important benefit Dr. Klein has seen using these software solutions is better engagement with his team. “Dental Intel has helped me to have better conversations with my team. As we look at our practice data together and discuss what it means, we have all become more effective. Instead of me pointing out an area of improvement, my team can see for themselves what needs to change and take ownership of any appropriate action items. Open Dental is a very powerful PMS and integrates fully with Dental Intel, so each team member can view their own performance metrics whenever and wherever they need to. This integration allows my team to easily extract the insights they need in order to make changes. Dental Intel has also helped me ask better questions of my team, such as ‘Have you been able to look at your Follow-Ups?’ or ‘How are you using the Patient Finder?’ DI provides a touchpoint for all of us to do our work more effectively.”
For any dental practice trying to grow, knowing where you are at the beginning of the journey is especially important. This isn’t easy. With so many different data points and sources of information flowing into the practice, being able to know what’s important and what it means is a challenge. This is another way that Dental Intelligence has become a game-changer for Klein Family Dentistry. “Filtering all of our data to find what we needed to find before we began using Dental Intel was hard,” said Dr. Klein. “We needed to know exactly what we were looking for as well as exactly where to look for it and then, to add to the complexity, we then needed to extract it from Open Dental and correctly interpret it. This also applied to trying to analyze all of our patient communications. Dental Intel has simplified all of this for us – it provides a hub for my staff to do their work much more efficiently and effectively. We can now see where we really are. Before we began using Dental Intel, we just went on our gut and assumed we were fine because we were busy all of the time. Now we can see areas where we are strong and where we need improvement – it’s already having a significant impact on our growth.”
Two problems that Dr. Klein wanted to address during the shutdown were to decrease cancellations and to increase his Annual Patient Value.
- With the integration of Open Dental and Dental Intelligence, Klein Family Dentistry had a comprehensive view of every single appointment and cancellation and were able to identify patterns they could address more proactively. They were also able to formulate a plan for scheduling more strategically, so that higher-value patients (as defined above) were scheduled at more optimal times.
- To increase their Annual Patient Value, Klein Family used the metric built into Dental Intel’s Growth Platform to identify every single patient by the amount of annual collections they represented to the practice. Annual Patient Value (APV) is determined by calculating collections per patient for all active patients. If APV is increasing, it’s a great sign that you’re increasing the value of your patients, meaning they’re receiving more of the treatment they need. Determining APV gets rid of a lot of the “fluff” around gross production. Knowing the annual value of each patient helps you accurately answer questions like “Is my practice healthy?” “What am I collecting per active patient?” “Are we seeing our patients enough?” and others.
Although Klein Family was doing a huge amount of dentistry, there wasn’t a strategy in place for the kind of patients they were treating and the kind of treatment they were providing. Focusing on APV has changed the way this practice is caring for patients. As Dr. Klein shared, “If John Smith is coming in for a cleaning, let’s make sure we are very aware of what else is on his treatment plan in Open Dental and try to get that taken care of while he’s in the chair. It’s an easy and very effective way to care for our patients while also increasing the value of each patient to our practice.”
Dr. Klein had this to say about the benefit his team has seen from using Dental Intelligence’s Growth Platform in tandem with his Open Dental PMS. “DI is a no-brainer for any dental practice. At least try it out and see how it fits into your system. The integration with Open Dental has been critical for us. These solutions will increase the impact of anything you are trying to do to grow. You have to commit to act. You have to make sure your team is committed to engaging with the tools you are offering them.”
If any of these challenges sounded familiar to you, hopefully the steps Klein Family Dentistry took gives you some confidence to tackle your own challenges using the insights found in your practice data. As this team discovered, doing a thorough “checkup” of your dental practice is a powerful way to identify problems and opportunities. A tool like Dental Intelligence can be very helpful, but regardless of how you choose to go about this process of thoroughly examining your practice, make a commitment to do so. Using data insights to fine-tune your practice is the best way to prepare for future disruptions. Instead of waiting to react to such moments, becoming a data-driven practice will ensure you grow and thrive in any circumstances.