In the past year, dentists have been met with many challenges: rising supply costs, availability issues, finding and retaining hygienists, making patients feel comfortable in a post-pandemic environment, etc. This is not news. And no matter how well you’ve navigated these problems, you’re probably noticing something as you check your finances toward year-end. Your profits aren’t what they could be. Costs are up, so where can your practice save? We’ve got some ideas!
#1 Rein in Hygienist Spending
We know, we know. There is a shortage of available and up-and-coming hygienists, so to some extent, decreasing hygienist spending seems impossible. That being said, there are some ways you can inventively work around this issue.
Do you have a dedicated dental assistant you respect and enjoy working with? Bingo! Have a discussion with them about whether or not they would be interested in transitioning to hygiene. If they are, offer to help them finance and make their way through hygiene school. Depending on the location and hours, you might even be able to keep them working part-time while they attend. But how does this return on your investment? You can put stipulations in a contract, noting that if you pay their way through hygiene school, they must remain with your practice for X number of years at Y salary. Here’s the big kicker: That salary can be lower than what you’re typically paying new hygienists.
This approach is one that many corporate environments take to ongoing education. It has great value in the long run for your employee, so as long as you’re transparent about the trade-off, we think they’ll see it as perfectly fair.
#2 Optimize Your Team’s Time
Sometimes, it probably feels like innovation eats up your revenue. This new equipment needs to be purchased; that new software has your front desk ogling; this new trend in patient experience means you have to redo the waiting room. But if you’re smart about it, this is a way you can help your practice save money too.
Consider the amount of time your team members spend scheduling and confirming appointments, fielding random other requests on the phone, and battling insurance reps. It’s a lot!
But there are ways you could reduce this. First, consider a dental membership plan. Because it places your patients on a subscription-style payment schedule, it eliminates the insurance dance. It also means that, come time for a cleaning, that patient has already been paying monthly. This makes them less likely to miss their appointments and need rescheduling, and it takes away the need for a checkout process.
If you combine your dental membership plan with a software like our own here at DentalHQ, your team could save even more time. We keep your members in a database that will even send automatic emails reminding them of appointments, etc. Less work for your team!
Another tip we love is to build out a portal for quick questions.
This will, of course, involve an investment up front, but we believe that it will prove lucrative in the end because of how much time it can free up for your team. It will also improve your direct connection to your patients, which is great both because it leads to more effective oral care and because you can advertise it as doing so.
As the National Center for Biotechnology Information notes, “Patient portals may enhance patient engagement by enabling patients to access their electronic medical records (EMRs) and facilitating secure patient-provider communication.” As we all know, a more engaged patient is a patient with improved long-term oral health.
And if you’re asking yourself how saving your team time can help your practice save, the answer is simple. It does so by allowing other much-needed tasks to be put on their plate, a great way to avoid a new hire with a whole additional salary. This is key, because if you don’t already someone on your team dedicated to marketing, you’re going to need it! No longer does word of mouth along suffice for dental practices to reel in new patients and retain existing ones. You must devote some attention to marketing and advertising.
But it doesn’t have to break the bank!
That brings us to our next point.
#3 Reduce Marketing Overhead
As we’ve just emphasized, marketing will only grow more essential to your practice’s success. But you can approach it with the intention of keeping your investment costs low. That’s the beauty of this part of business: It’s creative! There are many ways to do it, and some of them could cost you almost nothing.
Let’s start there. We’re talking about social media.
If you can open up some free time for your office staff, they could be placed in charge of your social media presence. While you can pay to promote ads, and purchase photo presets and planning apps, social media is one of the only avenues of marketing left that is pretty much free! Even your website and subsequent blog posts (which we do think you should create and maintain) demand money for hosting, domain names, etc.
If you’re looking to save your practice some money, consider taking back some of the money you’ve budgeted for a billboard or print mailings and narrowing in on social media instead. For more tips on social, be sure to visit the following two posts on our blog:
#4 Find Supply Discounts
Last but certainly not least, one of the best ways you can help your practice save is to cut down on those supply costs that have been causing a lot of the problem in the first place.
But of course, finding cheaper supplies is a lot easier said than done! Luckily, there are organizations like Elite Dental Alliance and Nifty Thrifty Dentists. The latter describes itself as “the Dental Garage Sale Facebook group,” and indeed, these types of websites are designed to help you get the most bang for your buck. In some cases, these groups will have membership fees. In others, you’ll just have to reach out to a brand with the equipment or item you need and explain that you found a discount code on the website (this is how Nifty Thrifty works).
Either way, you (or a team member) can nail down some savings when you invest just a little more time and maybe a bit of a monetary investment. Do the math specific to your practice and figure out if it is worthwhile for you, but we think this is a great idea to explore!
We hope this blog post inspires action items you can take to bolster your practice’s financial situation in 2022! To recap, here are the tips we recommended:
- Rein in Hygienist Spending
- Optimize Your Team’s Time
- Reduce Marketing Overload
- Find Supply Discounts
When you approach those concepts with an open and creative mind, innovative thinking will abound. And that’s when the greatest solutions always present themselves. Use this post as a framework to build a plan for success that is unique to your practice, and if you need some help with the dental membership part, let us know!