How to Make Your Dental Practice More Efficient

October 25, 2021

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“The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”- AristotleA formulary is a list of dental supplies. It’s that simple. So why is something so simple so important?Running a dental practice can sometimes feel like climbing uphill. You might struggle to book appointments or even feel like you're throwing your earnings into the void to pay for your dental supplies. And when you're only breaking even on profits, expanding your practice can be challenging.Thankfully, we've collected some strategies for how to improve your dental practice. Learn about ways to start practicing efficient and profitable dentistry below.

Is My Dental Practice Profitable?

With so many day-to-day responsibilities, it can be challenging to see your practice's larger financial picture. By taking time to reflect on your practice's financial health, you can find growth opportunities.Answer these questions to help determine if your dental practice is making a profit.

  • How much are you spending on inventory? The majority of the money your dental practice makes goes directly to inventory costs. By finding ways to reduce overhead, you can increase profit margins for your practice.
  • How much time do you spend on data entry? Ordering processes and tracking patient information is essential, but the more time you spend on administrative tasks, the less time you have to treat patients. Streamline processes as much as possible, and make sure the right person is delegated to the job.

Is your schedule full? Idle time equals lost profit. If you notice significant gaps in your patient schedule, you will want to find ways to fill those as much as possible.

How Can I Make My Dental Office Run Smoother?

Errors and interruptions can directly impact your practice's flow, resulting in wasted time and ultimately decreased overall revenue. Make your dental office run smoother by implementing these steps.

Track Inventory

Depending on the timing, running out of stock can be a minor interruption or an impassible obstacle, hindering the servicing of clients and damaging both your profits and your reputation. To prevent stock issues at critical moments, you must effectively manage your practice's inventory. Your management strategy should include systems for surveying stock levels and ordering supplies.If your practice is having frequent supply issues, inventory management software can help. Even if you aren't, it can help improve cash flow and guard your practice against the likelihood of having to write off damaged or expired stock.You can use software like Method to track your stock levels and know how much inventory you have and how much you need. You can also order from suppliers and track order statuses directly within the software, saving you time and organizing order information. Some systems, like Method,  can even track stock levels at various suppliers and provide approximate lead times (the time between placing an order and shipping), reducing the risk of late shipments.

Automate Tasks

In a dental practice, every second matters. Any time your staff spends scheduling tasks or processing billing information is time they could use to assist patients. By automating repetitive tasks, you can maximize your staff's time while also reducing human error.Here are some areas where you could save time with automatic processes:

  • Billing customers
  • Scheduling appointments
  • Paying suppliers
  • Implementing automatic chat support on your website
  • Sending appointment reminders

Organize Exam Rooms

Evaluating the flow of traffic in your practice can help save time and even prevent accidental collisions. All necessary equipment and supplies should be easy to access while performing a procedure, so you minimize time away from the chair. Work areas should also be far enough away from each other that your staff can move freely without the risk of interrupting another procedure.Also, consider removing cabinets entirely from your workspace. The act of opening a cabinet adds an extra step to the process. It can even cause accidents if you hurry to grab supplies, as shaking the cabinet might upset stored items and cause them to fall. Instead of cupboards, consider a system of open shelves and storage tubs. You can keep all necessary materials for specific procedures in designated bins, so you can quickly grab everything you need before performing a procedure.

How Can I Make My Dental Practice More Profitable?

By relieving your practice's financial stress, you can focus on serving your community with the best possible care. Follow these steps to make your dental practice more profitable.

Control Inventory Costs

As much as 64.5% of the money earned through the procedures you perform goes directly to overhead, and almost 10% of overhead is dental supplies. Any money saved on inventory improvements is an increase to overall profit. Unlike revenue, savings through improved purchasing and inventory management hit your bottom line dollar for dollar. However, comparing prices between suppliers can be challenging and time-consuming, and ideally, you should spend most of your time on procedures.Consider using purchasing software to aid in the ordering process. In addition to setting minimum and maximum stock levels, smart inventory management software can help you find the best price for your dental supplies. You can easily request quotes from multiple suppliers within the platform, then automatically turn quotes into orders.Purchasing software can also assist you in checking for discrepancies between quotes, purchase orders, and supplier invoices, ensuring you pay no more than you should. You can even check for duplicate payments and other billing errors. Whether discrepancies are an accident on the supplier's end or an intentional effort to make you pay more for a service, cross-checking all aspects can help keep you from paying more than you should for your supplies.

Hire More Employees

Hiring more staff may seem counterintuitive at first, especially if your practice is already struggling with finances. In reality, additional employees can help bridge the profit gap. Suppose your practice only employs a single front office worker. In that case, they are likely already working at total capacity by answering phones, greeting patients, checking patients in and out, and even filing insurance claims.These tasks are necessary for keeping the office afloat day-to-day. To maximize profits, you must fill up your schedule with appointments. A single office worker may suffer from burnout if they try to find ways to fill the schedule independently, which can lower their overall work performance and even cause long-term health complications.By hiring one or two extra staff for the front office, you will free up a significant amount of time they can use for contacting customers directly and providing top-tier customer service. When a new patient makes an initial call, your staff will have opportunities to nurture them and schedule an appointment. They can reach out to existing patients to remind them about upcoming visits or even reschedule appointments they might have forgotten.Perhaps most importantly, reducing your staff's burden will help create a more positive and less stressful office environment. Hiring additional staff will improve the moods of the rest of your team, boosting morale and productivity. Your patients will notice the positivity, and positive interactions with staff can help improve your practice's reputation.

Start a Membership Program

When appropriately used, membership programs are excellent tools for patient acquisition and retention, especially for those who cannot afford dental insurance. Rather than directly offering your services at a steep discount, you can use a membership plan charged as a monthly fee to provide preferred pricing to your members. Membership programs help promote patient loyalty because the patients feel more "attached" to your practice.Membership fees can also act as a stable source of revenue for your practice. By setting a monthly fee for your members, you guarantee that you receive a dependable amount of money each month. For example, 50 members with a membership fee of $30 per month will give you an extra $1,500 per month, even if your patients only come into the practice for a cleaning once or twice a year.Another advantage of membership programs is that they are entirely separate from insurance companies. They allow you to communicate rates with your patients with complete transparency, so your patients only pay for the treatments they need, and you can avoid juggling insurance issues.

Implement a New Procedure

Standing out among dental practices in your area can be challenging. To ensure your offering catches attention, try finding new and exciting ways to serve your patients. Look through your competitors' services and identify holes in their offering. For example, there may be a surprising lack of practices that offer dentures and veneers. When you find a service that fills a community need, seize the opportunity and try implementing the service in your practice.

Create a Marketing Strategy

The first step to bringing in patients is to let them know you exist and you're eager to serve them. There are many ways to spread your practice's message, including internet marketing campaigns and customer referrals. Whether you launch a campaign on your own or use an external marketing company to lead the effort, you will gradually reach more potential patients and increase the likelihood of scheduling an appointment.Here are a few easy ideas for getting started with a marketing strategy:

  • Send gift baskets to businesses and organizations.
  • Incentivize patient referrals and reviews by offering gift cards or discounts.
  • Follow up with patients after lengthy procedures.
  • Reach out to longtime patients who may have forgotten to schedule an appointment in the past year.
  • Offer free in-person or online educational lectures.

What Can Increase Productivity in a Dental Office?

Make the most of your valuable time with these steps for increasing productivity.

Streamline Ordering With Smart Software

Ordering processes can take a significant amount of time away from your staff's other duties. From comparing prices between suppliers to keeping track of current inventory levels for making purchasing decisions, the process can take hours away from your practice each week.One way to ease the burden is with intelligent purchasing software. You can use the software to quickly request quotes from multiple vendors at once and compare them side by side when purchasing. The cost analysis helps you select the best price for your supplies, including shipping and handling fees, helping you save time and money.Other productivity-boosting features include the ability to view all orders, invoices, and payments regarding an order in a single place, so you can quickly find any documents you need. You can also use rapid auto-order tools to quickly generate and send purchase requests for products you need to order frequently. With improved inventory management and streamlined ordering, you can begin to bucket orders, reducing the overall number of orders being placed, deliveries you need to receive and put away, and invoices you need to pay, improving efficiencies throughout the purchase to payment cycle. Ordering less often also means you can take advantage of larger price breaks and save even more.

Outsource If Possible

While some tasks are necessary for you to take on yourself, you may be able to save on employment costs by outsourcing them. For example, it's essential to keep the building clean to ensure patient satisfaction and health. Rather than asking your staff to clean, you can hire a cleaning service instead. Outsourcing everyday tasks allows your team to focus on more critical functions like maintaining healthy relationships with patients.Other tasks you may consider outsourcing include:

  • Laundry services
  • Insurance verification
  • Security
  • Marketing
  • IT support

Allow for Online Scheduling

One of the quickest ways to fill up your appointment schedule is to implement an online scheduling system. The ease of access makes a world of difference for patients and your staff alike. For patients, the convenience of an online scheduling system allows them to review all available time slots at their preferred pace, which lets them cross-reference their schedule. Online scheduling systems increase customer satisfaction, increase bookings and even reduce cancellation rates.For your staff, introducing an online scheduling system will help them reclaim part of their day. That way, they can spend less time looking at a calendar and more time helping your patients.

Improve Patient Communication

Providing easy and convenient ways for patients and staff to communicate can help boost productivity. Consider implementing a system for text alerts, live chats on your website, or even a mobile app for your practice. With a text alert system, you can easily send appointment reminders to patients without the need for a call. And if you have a method for text communication, you can provide patients with even more ways to engage with your staff. Patients who prefer texting over phone calls will be more likely to respond to your communications if you reach them in the way that works best for them.

Invest in Your Employees

Recent hires and long-term staff can benefit equally from professional development opportunities. By investing in employee growth, you can teach your team more efficient processes for their daily tasks, which boosts productivity in the long run. Your staff might even be willing to learn and accept new duties, allowing your practice to grow in exciting ways.

Maximize Efficiency With Method Purchasing Software

One of the most significant barriers to a dental practice's efficiency is inventory costs, making purchasing and inventory management software an outstanding ally. Method purchasing software streamlines the procurement cycle so you can focus on building your practice while saving money. From keeping track of current inventory to automatically sending quote requests and orders to suppliers, we can help you reclaim your schedule and better control your spending.Even smaller private practices can benefit from Method's cost-saving features, allowing for thousands of dollars in savings to your bottom line. Our modern interface is easy to use, allowing for increased productivity with little to no training required. We also believe increased efficiency and improved financial results should be accessible to everyone, which is why we offer pay-as-you-go subscriptions with transparent pricing.If you're ready to increase productivity and reduce cash lost on inventory, request a personalized demo or contact us today. If you have any questions, feel free to call us at 800-742-2100. Our client success team is ready to support you every step of the way.

Learn More About Dental Practice Management

Ready to build a better dental practice?

Method Procurement Technologies gives independent dental practices and DSOs the inventory management and procurement capabilities they need to succeed. With our full, end-to-end solution, ordering dental supplies is straightforward and hassle-free.

Learn how Method Procurement's spend management solutions can improve your bottom line. Get in touch with our team today or request a demo to see it for yourself.