While it can be argued that statistics can be used in any way to fit any scenario, when it comes to the financial health and profitability of your dental practice, the numbers don't lie.
What to measure and why
Out of the hundreds of reports available, there are 15 to 20 metrics/reports within your practice that provide a must-know picture of how your practice is performing. And each office will have its own unique set of metrics. The doctor should fully empower the office manager to track these critical practice numbers. Through consistent tracking and ongoing adaptation, your office manager has the information necessary to keep practice performance on target. To do this without an analytic tool is time consuming. So here are three specific, critical metrics that the office manager should track and analyze:
1) Average production per patient
3) Accounts receivable
With the help of business intelligence, these three metrics are not too difficult to track, yet they represent the most important numbers in your practice.
Average Production per Patient
This metric requires documenting all production performed on patients each day and calculating an average production per patient visit. This is done by dividing the total number of production for the day - let’s say $6,000, by the total number of patients seen in that same day - let’s say 24. If this was the case, 6k/24, your average production per patient visit is at $225. Knowing this number and how to increase it is a key to lasting success.
A busy practice is not necessarily a profitable practice. A dentist who comes to the practice each day and sees a full lineup of patients may feel successful because the practice cannot handle any more patients. But if the office manager does not track average production per patient, it's difficult for the dentist to know whether the practice is as profitable as it could be.
A practice is most effective when it is producing the maximum dentistry it can for each individual patient. A practice that sees 30 patients per day and averages only $150 of production per patient ($4,500) is not nearly as profitable as a practice that sees 20 patients a day, but averages $350 of production per patient ($7,000). The dramatic difference in revenue and profit is due to the fact that the "slower" practice takes the time to present and deliver more comprehensive dental care. The "slower" practice will also run more efficiently with less stress because the office manager has more time to focus on the most important tasks in the practice. Here are three steps office managers can implement to increase average production per patient.
1) Assure that a comprehensive oral health exam is scheduled for every patient, including periodontal probing, oral cancer brush biopsies, cosmetic dentistry evaluations, and potentially appropriate elective procedures. This will help dentists identify more dentistry that could benefit patients.
2) Develop effective scripts for case presentation for the dentist, treatment coordinator, and office manager. These scripts will focus patient attention on treatment benefits.
3) Offer patients the ability to have multiple procedures done in a single appointment (where possible). Patients generally like having as much dentistry performed in a single visit as possible because it's more convenient.
Many doctors look at this number, but few know what to base it off of. To measure the ability of the practice is to be paid for its production, we must be regularly reviewing our collection ratio. We recommend a 98.5 percent collection rate for any successful practice; this is the goal the office manager should strive for.
You may be surprised at the high number of dentists we come in contact with who have a collection ratio that is below 98.5 percent — far below in some cases! Why is this metric so critical to the financial health of your practice? When you schedule a patient for treatment, you block out a set amount of time, be it 30, 60, or 90 minutes, for that patient. At the time of service, the practice incurs all the labor and overhead costs associated with treatment delivery. When the fees for the procedure go uncollected, you lose the revenue for that procedure, the costs of providing the service, plus the revenue you would have made by delivering dental services to a paying patient.
In essence, the loss of revenue from dentistry that goes uncollected is far more detrimental to the practice than the amount of the lost fee. When a patient does not pay all or even part of a fee, it requires collection efforts that limit practice profitability. Recent Levin Group client research shows that the average cost of sending a bill to a patient is $4.50 when you combine staff time, mailing, and supply costs. If a patient becomes significantly delinquent on his or her account for a period of 90+ days and your practice sends bills monthly, that is a further $13.50 cost per patient just in billing — not taking into account the high cost of preparing the letter and the time of your administrative team. These expenses get added to the original loss in delivering the dentistry.
Collection issues can be particularly frustrating for the office manager, as the added collection efforts take his or her time away from other, more productive tasks. Three steps your office manager and dental team can take to increase your practice's collection ratio are:
1) Make information available that educates patients on the benefits insurance can provide for particular treatments. Train your staff to be knowledgeable about these benefits so patients have a clear picture of what portion of a fee is covered by insurance and what is not.
2) Make sure patients are aware of the fees they will be responsible for before a treatment is performed. This prevents any misunderstandings and allows a payment schedule to be worked out, if necessary.
3) Offer third-party patient financing through an external finance company. Such a company can often preapprove patients for financing before the treatment even begins. This allows the practice to be reimbursed immediately for the dentistry performed.
AR tracks uncollected production, which not only impacts your collection ratio and revenue, but, in the end, affects your practice's overall profitability. Do not think that you must accept a high amount of AR within the practice.
We recommend that 95 percent of your patients pay all fees to the practice within 60 days. We recommend this because our research has shown that you only have about a 20 percent chance of collecting accounts once they go past due for more than 90 days. A good goal is to have 70 percent of your patient receivables be at or below 30 days.
Unfortunately, a high number of dental practices that we've dealt with have more than the 5 percent recommended number of patient receivables that are more than 90 days overdue. These accounts receivable significantly impact the ability of the practice to reach profitability. To retain practice financial health, we suggest accounts receivable not exceed one month of average production.
If your practice is suffering from exorbitant or out-of-control accounts receivable, your office manager can implement three steps to relieve this problem:
1) One system that patients will appreciate and take advantage of is a 5 percent courtesy reduction on complete treatment fees when they pay in full upfront, at least 48 hours prior to the time of the treatment. This saves the patient money (which, depending on the procedure, can be a significant amount), while saving money for the practice because revenue is already collected and there is no overhead needed for billing.
2) Allowing patients to use credit cards for payment is almost a must in practices today. Very few patients have the ability to pay out-of-pocket for significant dental procedures, but credit cards allow them to pay in full upfront. They also have the option of preauthorizing automatic payments that are charged on a certain date every billing cycle. Again, this causes minimal overhead for the practice in terms of collections, and makes payment for dentistry more comfortable for patients.
3) Some patients who cannot pay the total amount upfront are willing to pay half of the treatment fee when it is agreed upon and the other half before the treatment is completed. The second half of the payment is collected at the beginning of the patient's final treatment appointment, meaning there is no overhead required for billing or collections.
KPIs measure performance and success
Measuring and constantly analyzing all the key performance indicators is the only way to accurately understand how your practice has performed in the past and predict what it will do in the future. It also is the best way to keep your office manager involved in one of the most significant management systems of the practice. Tracking KPIs allows the office manager to be a critical contributor to the success of your practice.
To learn more about how Dental Intelligence is helping thousands of dental practices and practice owners use the power of data to improve patient care, office production, and team culture, request a free practice snapshot today.