The balance between saving money while preserving quality is a tale as old as time itself.
Dental practice owners far and wide struggle to hit that happy middle where they’re providing top-notch care without breaking the bank.
Overspending to give your patients the best possible results is commendable, but it’s not sustainable. Conversely, skimping on quality means you have to work twice or three times harder to deliver the same patient outcomes as you would with a more strategic approach.
Today, let’s explore a few ways you can get more for less at your practice by cutting down on overhead expenses without sacrificing your standard of oral care.
Understanding Production and Overhead in Your Dental Practice
Before delving into the meat of this article, let’s go over some important terms.
First is production: how much money your practice brings in for dental services provided over a given time. This period could be monthly or yearly, for instance. Many businesses do quarterly reports.
Adjusted production stems from weighing factors such as insurance participation, refunds, or discounts and subtracting them from the amount discussed above.
The collection is how much money is received from the adjusted production.
Net income, or profit, reflects what remains after your expenses are paid, and you’ve collected your revenues.
How to Reduce Overhead Without Sacrificing Quality Care
Overhead is a tricky notion. It cuts directly into your profits, but your dental practice can’t exist without it. Not investing enough into your dental practice will undercut your team's performance.
Fortunately, there’s a way to wisely invest so that you’re not risking your finances to deliver top-notch care. We’ll discuss those methods below:
1. Boost Hygiene Production
Many dental practices — perhaps even yours — are missing out on at least six figures of revenue per hygienist per year.
The majority of dental practices out there operate with hygienists treating less than ten patients per day, along with providing ancillary services (e.g., bitewings) and prophylactic treatments. Although the above treatments are crucial, you could take advantage of the hygiene department in your practice much more than you do now.
Hygienists can also contribute by selling in-office products, resulting in more revenue opportunities and enhancing your reputation with patients. Furthermore, your clientele is bound to appreciate not having to scour the ends of the earth looking for products your hygienist recommended.
Some products dental practices have successfully sold are electric toothbrushes, whitening kits, and water jets.
Most crucial is ensuring your hygienists don’t feel like a separate entity from the rest of your practitioners.
Hygienists need to know they’re integral pieces of your dental practice. They should be aligned with your goals to work to reduce overhead and increase productivity the same as everyone else.
2. Reevaluate Labour Costs
The only way to staff properly is by knowing your practice and its business model inside and out and ask yourself the following questions:
- Does your practice use an outside coordinator for insurance or third-party sterilization technology? If so, should you pay for eight hours a day, or could you outsource?
- Can assisted hygiene get rid of appointment wait times and bolster the experiences of your patients?
- Can you combine prophylaxis with fixed or removable deliveries, operative or postoperative visits?
Another consideration is the rise in salary for hygienists. For some practice budgets, it’s plainly not affordable. Yet, you still can’t sacrifice quality. So, instead of hiring more hygienists, many practice owners bring on new assistants at a far lower cost while still seeing more patients without sacrificing standards or performance.
Of course, you don’t want to take away anyone’s job, but this approach works best when you’re undergoing changes in staffing (e.g., a hygienist has quit). Plus, you’ll want to keep on hygienists wherever possible – your patients know and like their hygienists, who bring so many benefits to your practice.
3. Keep a Tight Inventory
Do not get sucked into the subscription-based schemes that many supply companies utilize to capitalize on practice owners. Supply companies will also slowly increase contracted rates under your nose if you take your eyes off the prize.
Moreover, you might negotiate great prices initially, and you could be part of specific business groups to receive discounts. Yet, you still might look into your cabinet drawers, operatory shelves, and supply closet and get a nasty surprise.
We suggest taking a weekend, getting a bunch of containers, and starting the decluttering process. Then, take out every supply you have, and before organizing everything, label your shelves.
At this point, it’s time to create your inventory lists. That means counting everything.
Under no circumstances should you order anything without knowing what you already have. Eventually, delegate this task to staff members before ordering supplies. At first, though, you should do it on your own to garner a hands-on understanding of your inventory.
We must then emphasize that you shouldn’t have a list of what’s empty – only write down how many supplies you have.
Also, remember what you paid for supplies when you bought them previously. This knowledge helps prevent price creep from your suppliers. Buy items with long shelf lives in bulk if you have lots of storage space (e.g., an unused operatory), and always keep an eye open for sales.
Ensure that staff marks the packing list next to delivered items. These new supplies must be stored in their designated space, and the stock must be rotated.
4. Own Your Practice's Real Estate
Owning the land on which your practice is located offers several key advantages. Namely, you can control your rent and build your retirement nest egg since you’re increasing equity. You can either earn income as a landlord or eventually make a sale, presenting enormous money-making opportunities.
Additionally, you have more control and freedom with your practice when you outright own it.
Keeping the above factors top of mind, refinancing options are worth exploring for your office property.
Provided a sale isn’t possible for you, we suggest investigating the following options:
- Free introductory rent
- Investing in extra signage to increase visibility
- Ask about allowances for tenant improvement
- See if you can renew your lease and if COVID concessions are available
- Ask your landlord to refer patients
5. Bring in Balances Owed
Collecting what you’re owed by patients and insurance companies will remove a huge chunk of your overhead.
Run an aging report on the last day of every month. Mark it in your planner or calendar to ensure you don’t forget.
Hand out a printed copy of the account balances from the past two months to your front desk team.
Start with the insurance companies, since collecting those balances is the most straightforward part of this process. All your team needs to do is resubmit the claim.
As for patients, get your front desk staff to text a reminder if they’ve already been given a billing statement.
If you reinforce the importance of collecting balances with a monthly report, it will increase the chances it gets done. Furthermore, provided you’re still using more traditional approaches, consider upgrading to direct deposit payments and electronic claims to speed up insurance collections.
Your practice now has a blueprint for saving on overhead without cutting into the quality of care you provide patients. Don’t get discouraged if the benefits don’t come fast and furious. This strategy is long-term, and you’ll learn as you go, tailoring solutions to your specific situation!