There’s a way to work around your potential financial troubles.
Every dental practice goes through high- and low-performance cycles. Understanding your dental practice model and how it operates can definitely help you manage your production and administrative duties. However, some offices need additional help to get them on the right track financially. The business side of dentistry is not always straightforward. It involves a ton of finances, ranging from payroll to supplies, equipment, technology, lab fees, and insurance policies. When you look at your dental practice as a whole, you can break down the areas that need adjustment and tweaking so you can maximize your time and profits.
1. Leverage your vendors.
Dental overhead is one of the highest costs for solo dental practitioners. Unfortunately, when it is not managed properly, it can be a burden on an office’s finances and can drastically affect a dental practice’s profit margins. According to DentistryIQ, for every 1% overhead goes down, profit goes up by the same 1%. This means an office needs to ensure the proper amount of spending and what dental vendors are being used.
For solo-owned offices, smaller dental supply companies may not be in the practice’s best interest because they cannot compete with larger companies, like Henry Schein and Darby Dental, on pricing. Do your research so you can guarantee the lowest prices on materials, lab fees, and equipment to keep your costs down and profits improving.
Have your office independently work with a company on negotiating fees when it comes to supplies and equipment. There are some suppliers that offer bulk ordering at lower costs or can help you order at discounted fees when you pay a small monthly membership fee (think wholesale pricing). If you have never bargained or researched lower cost prices with your vendors, simply ask, and they may offer you a competitive price to keep you as a client.
2. Implement orthodontics.
If you are looking to make a dramatic but beneficial change to your dental practice, consider incorporating orthodontics into your general or pediatric practice. Orthodontics is a lucrative field that is beneficial to nearly all patients. Whether your patient has slight crowding or a cosmetic issue they want corrected, continuing education courses like the Basic Straight Wire Course can help you learn to diagnose, treat, and manage orthodontic cases.
Many dentists apply orthodontics as a practice-building technique, but others tend to lean on orthodontics as a financial benefit. Some dentists even transition their dental practice into an orthodontic-focused office because it is less physically taxing and can be done in the later years of dental practice. In order to offer orthodontics and decrease the amount of outside referrals, consider taking an online continuing education course to avoid travel fees or closing your office.
Virtual orthodontic continuing education courses are beneficial because you can learn at your own pace while still receiving live instruction. You can still connect with colleagues about treatment plans and learn to treat 70% to 80% of the orthodontic cases you encounter in dental practice.
3. Consider dropping low-paying insurance carriers.
Dental insurance is a major burden on both dental practices and patients. It is complex, reimbursements are constantly dropping, and cosmetic services are not covered. Insurance carriers have so many guidelines and restrictions that it makes it difficult to treat patients because of all the limitations. Whether your patient is looking for a smile makeover with dental implants or veneers or you want to recommend a treatment that is not covered by insurance, you may benefit from dropping carriers that are low paying and restrictive.
Your office needs to look at many factors when considering dropping insurance carriers. This includes:
- Patient volume
- Insurance fee schedule
- Cost to deliver services
Many dental services that patients want and/or need are considered cosmetic and are not covered by insurance, or patients may have a large out-of-pocket portion. When you look at the percentage that patients have to pay out-of-pocket, it may benefit your office to drop carriers and review your office fees. Some dental practices even offer in-office discount plans to help patients pay for services.
4. Manage your schedule.
Your providers, both dentists and hygienists, need to be busy for production to increase. Regardless of your dental office model, schedules need to be filled for your office to see continuous improvements and profits. This means you need an efficient communication system with patients through confirmation of appointments to limit empty chair time. Most offices utilize a patient communication system with texting and emails, but old-fashioned phone call reminders are useful too. Schedules should be booked out six months in advance for hygiene so you know you have production constantly rolling in.
5. Be on top of patient billing.
Your office staff needs to be on top of your aged receivables and billing system. Insurance carriers are not the only system of payment in your office. Patients who have out-of-pocket fees, co-insurance, or co-pays need to pay at the time of service. To be on top of your billing, your administrative staff should never delay sending invoices and should apply insurance payments when they come in.
Have an office policy that says when a patient does not pay on time, there is an immediate phone call or email to the patient as a reminder of an overdue bill. Lastly, you need to document all communication in an attempt to collect their payment, as you may need it for a debt collection process or legal action.