Get in the Driver’s Seat: Understanding Treatment Opportunities

Our thoughts create our reality and may hold us back. In some dental practices, we project the story that the patient can or cannot afford a particular treatment plan, or presume they want what the insurance plan will or will not accept. This often defines the care we recommend.

As healthcare professionals we have an obligation to first explain all of our findings in simple lay terms and listen to the patient’s goals.  Together, a course can be charted that will result in a happy patient with a healthy smile.

Each patient in your schedule falls into one of three categories:

The first category represents patients who have incomplete diagnosed dentistry. This is dental care you have recommended to the patient but remains unscheduled. This type of dentistry represents disease, decay or infection.

The second category represents patients who would benefit from an ideal approach to foundational dentistry. These are opportunities to present treatment. Depending on your practice philosophy and how you diagnose care in category one, the second category may represent anything from a bite splint to a smile makeover.

The third category represents patients who are healthy and have no immediate or foundational needs at this time.

This mindset may affect your approach as well as your team’s approach when speaking with the patients.  As in sports, the best way to change the approach is to practice the right form.  The following one of several great team meeting exercises, that will enable your team to shake off the mindset and start the positive approach to patient discussions is below:

1. Begin by counting the total number of people in the room.

2. Ask team members to stand who have immediate dental needs – category one.

3. Have them continue standing.

4. Ask team members to stand who represent treatment opportunities for ideal care – category two (At this point, you will most likely have about 60% of the team standing).

5. Assign one team member to count how many people are standing. Record the number.

6. Now have them sit and ask the healthy population to stand – category three. We recommend congratulating this group as they represent ideal health for the time being.

7. Now…do the math!

It hasn’t failed yet…the results are consistent! If we look at how this exercise translates into a ratio of treatment possibilities, 2/3 of patients coming into the office today have some type of care that can be presented. Our goal is to show the connection and reinforce the importance of presenting treatment possibilities. The opportunity now presents itself for the doctor and team to brainstorm about different approaches to get over the fear of presenting care.

When there is a disconnect in communicating the value of ideal care to patients. it can be overcome by alignment between the doctor and team, creating predictable systems to build confidence, and improve the communication skills of everyone involved.  To deliver ideal care, make developing a clear road map with patient care your first priority. At Smarter Practice Solutions, we enjoy putting a foundation in place to enhance communication and case presentation. Remember to PRESENT with INTENT so you increase your chance of success!

Authenticity & Integrity ~ The Client Experience

We have visited many dental practices throughout the years and can tell the difference between a transactional practice and a true practice culture that is relationship driven. The culture is inspiring when doctors and team members are engaged and energized around taking exceptional care of people. These practices focus on strategic growth systems to ensure the client experience remains the #1 priority!

Have you had a Zingermans experience? Most people local to Michigan, have experienced the true pleasure of dining at Zingerman’s. It doesn’t matter which location you choose, whether the bakery, deli, or their roadhouse restaurant…you will be back. We have seen people on airplanes who take Zingermans with them. So, the question is…what makes this experience so powerful? It is a given the food is incredible! But there is a certain culture, a feeling you get from being a customer at Zingermans. The people are genuine, real, authentic and strive to go beyond the limits of a typical dining experience. So what do they have that your practice could?

We think it is simple: Authenticity. Wikipedia defines this by referring to the truthfulness of origins, attributions, commitments, sincerity, devotion, and intentions. The practice culture IS your lasting impression and defines the feeling others have when in your practice. Spend a moment out of the patient war zone and ask yourself these questions:

  1. How do we answer the phone when patients call?
  2. How are patients greeted when they enter our practice?
  3. Do we spend morning meetings focused on how to help our patients?
  4. Do we get internal referrals from existing patients because they are raving fans?
  5. Does my team always follow through with what they promise patients?
  6. Is there genuine care and concern for the patient’s welfare?
  7. Does my practice facility and team represent a culture I believe in?
  8. How will we measure the value our patients have for our ongoing relationship?
  9. What will we do in 2012 to help our patients know how valuable they are to us?
  10. Are our systems in place so our patients know how important they are to us?

Smarter Practice Solutions is a unique consulting experience based on our core values of authenticity and integrity. Our relationships stand the test of time because our clients know we are “all in” and can be counted on for guidance and support to help lead their practices to the next level of success. We celebrate those relationships and look forward to helping you create your vision of ideal.

Gratitude…a given and a gift!

The leaves are falling and the season is changing. This time of year finds me reflecting on the past year and making plans for the next. I heard a wise man say, “Always remember where you came from”.  Not only has this helped me to put life in perspective when facing particular challenges but also has been inspirational as I pursue goals of excellence.

As I look back on my career in dentistry and how it has evolved over the years, I can’t help but feel a sense of gratitude. I anticipate personal and professional growth will continue to be a challenging pursuit. Instead of looking at what I have not accomplished, I am grateful knowing what has been accomplished through building solid relationships based on proven business practices. Setting goals and working together toward them brings its own synergy and sense of gratitude.

That thought brings me to considering the challenges that dentists and their teams face today.  Although our profession has both common and unique challenges one fundamental remains true.  The cornerstone to every successful service business lies in the strength of its relationships. You may appreciate your patients but do you show them? Are you willing to express it so they know how much you care about them? Getting past the “norm” in relationships requires reflection, commitment, thinking outside the box, communication skills and follow through.  It must be authentic and not just the “marketing plan.”

This week I am challenging you to sit down with your team and create ways your practice can express gratitude towards your patients. What would be the result if the doctor called after the initial visit and opened the door to a high level relationship? How can your patients be made to feel part of the family? Do you write down the date of a patient’s appointment with the specialist and call that evening to see how they are feeling? Do you celebrate patient-practice milestones with your patients? Do you use time at your morning meeting to discuss patient news and future celebrations?

At Smarter Practice Solutions, growth continues through trusted relationships and referrals. My goal is not to become the next big consulting company but to always deliver customized consulting services to doctors and teams that are relational and transforming. I am committed to my vision for Smarter Practice Solutions. I am equally committed to helping you achieve your vision of ideal. The end result for all is the gift of gratitude…and that is a given!

How to write an “End of Year” insurance letter – template included

At Smarter Practice Solutions, we believe patient and provider communication needs to be authentic, personable and professional. As the end of the year is fast approaching, it is important to communicate with patients regarding their unused benefits. To facilitate an effective end of the year letter, here is a template for you to use. Simply copy and paste this content into a word document, then merge the responsible party name instead of “Dear Patient”, include a business card and sign the letter to personalize it.

Dear Patient:

We hope this letter finds you well and enjoying a pleasant fall.

As the end of the year is quickly approaching, we want to remind you to utilize any unused insurance benefits before they expire. Many of you also participate in Flexible Spending Accounts or Health Savings Plans with your employer. In most cases, any benefits left in these accounts do not roll over each calendar year.

Depending on your individual needs, careful calendar planing will allow you to maximize your time and unused benefits. Our team can assist you in preparing for your dental care by discussing your treatment needs and reserving convenient appointments. Additionally, we offer many payment options with a monthly payment that fits into your budget.

Your health is important to us and we want to make sure you get the care you deserve. If you or a family member needs an appointment or has any questions, please call us today so we may discuss your needs. We look forward to seeing you at your next visit!

With best wishes for continued good health,

Dr. and Team


Closing the Case – Not the Door

At Smarter Practice Solutions, we believe patient-provider communication is especially important to improve case acceptance. The patient must understand their condition and place an emotional value on getting treatment. Trust in the provider is essential. Both the treatment and payment plans must be understood. When these matters are effectively communicated, the patient and the practice remains healthy.

I have extensive experience coaching doctors and teams in becoming effective communicators to enhance the patient experience. Recently, I had a personal opportunity to see this process from the patient side where poor communication and lack of understanding caused an irreparable breach of trust. I share this story with the hope that you may use it to reflect on your patients’ experience.

A close family member is currently making a large investment in his dental health. The general practitioner was referred to him by a trusted member of the dental community. Several specialists are also involved. A few months ago, my family member went in for his comprehensive visit. This exam consisted of a medical and dental review, a tooth by tooth examination of existing conditions, a set of full mouth radiographs, complete periodontal charting, diagnostic photos, impressions, etc. The doctor needed three weeks to review the case and the patient was told the dentist would discuss his condition at the consultation appointment. Impressive! The next three weeks were filled with uncertainty. Would he need surgery? Would he lose teeth? Pain? And how would this fit into his budget? The day came and he was surprised and disappointed that the doctor was unprepared with a treatment plan! The patient was told the dentist was unable to reach the specialists and asked for a return consultation appointment. He agreed and scheduled another consultation. He returned to the office a few weeks later and once again left without an understanding of the treatment plan.

The initial visit was thorough but the overall patient experience has placed doubt that the dentist is capable of performing the work. Although he was highly recommended and may be well qualified, the lack of communication and organization has removed this doctor from the provider list.

Smarter Practice Solutions believes communication regarding dental conditions and patient options is of the utmost importance. The patient needs to understand their dental situation to make an informed decision. Your case acceptance and patient retention can suffer from the lack of a streamlined approach to presenting treatment. Improved relationships and higher gains will be seen with the right systems and protocols in place. Smarter Practice Solutions is committed to helping practices overcome these communication and organizational challenges by providing onsite coaching to dentists and team members. Improving this aspect of your practice will ensure you “close the case” instead of the door.



The PractX Factor

As the owner of Smarter Practice Solutions, one of the key elements my business focuses on is attitude. I was taught at a young age to work hard and have fun doing it. Being my “best” self was encouraged and I was told my resume would reflect my achievements. As I reflect on my personal ingredients to success, I believe there are 3 key attributes: determination, unwavering commitment, and the RIGHT attitude.

I am often intrigued by the life stories of the many people I have encountered over the years. I have noticed 2 categories that separate their work lives. For some, work is a passion. They have that fire in their bellies to make a difference in the world. For others, work is simply a means to a paycheck. You can tell when you meet someone who has the “X” factor, as Simon Cowell calls it.

Recently, I had the pleasure of helping a client in the process of  hiring a new administrator for her practice. We interviewed many experienced candidates, but none caused us to be exceptionally enthusiastic. Each had their own qualified background; however we were not uncovering the unique qualities that the role in this practice demanded. Then we came across a candidate who had no dental experience but had a strong desire to be successful. What set her apart from others was her willingness to learn, her determination and her attitude of welcoming the challenge of a new role.

This candidate joined our team in April 2011. During the past six months she has helped take this practice to new heights. She attends continuing education events regularly. She even took part in an office makeover and painted the lab! Schedule utilization has significantly increased. This boost in productivity has resulted in enhanced financial stability for the practice. She is smart, willing, and efficient. Above all, she has a “whatever it takes” attitude that contributes to practice success on a daily basis.

This story exemplifies how a particular team member contributes to the overall vision of a successful practice. Spend a moment and ask yourself, “Do the people that surround my practice embrace our vision of ideal and excellence?” If you aren’t sure, Smarter Practice Solutions can help you determine the qualities your team should possess in order to best represent your practice. After all, your team is your largest investment. Get the PractX factor!



“Smarter Practice Solutions gives you a clear path that when followed leads you to all the success youʼve ever dreamed of. We enjoy our time with you because you guide us with intelligence, passion and laughter. For what would attainment be without joy in the journey?”

– Dental Hygienist, Clarkston, Michigan

Read More Testimonials