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March 23, 2015

Better to be Safe than Sorry

Filed under: Uncategorized — Mayer A. Levitt, DMD @ 2:38 am

I have often written  about the importance of assembling a quality staff. Surrounding yourself with a talented, caring and loyal team is the key to success in any business. Creating and keeping that team intact is probably our biggest challenge as dentists. We live in an increasingly mobile society. It is the rule rather than the exception today that there are two wage earners in the family. So a great staff member may have to leave town because her husband was offered a new position. Or someone is having a third child and finally needs to be able to spend more time at home. Just when you finally have the perfect group in place, something unfortunate or unforeseen always seems to happen and you are back in the labor market again.

I want to write today about the importance of doing background checks and carefully following up on references for potential new employees. Knowledge of human resources (HR) goes hand in hand with proper staff development. Over the years I have witnessed some very damaging and messy situations that undoubtedly could have been prevented with better due diligence.

At the initial interview, you need to disclose to the applicant that it is the policy of your office to do a background check. And it requires a signed form that is separate from the application for employment. Listed below  are four companies that I know of that provide background checks. The cost is about $20, and you need to furnish the applicant’s Social Security number and date of birth.

sentrylink.com

trudiligence.com

laborchex.com

adp.com

It is absolutely amazing what these reports provide. Actually pretty scary that all of this information about our lives is out there and so readily accessible. You will see credit history, past employment, professional licenses, criminal record, education, workers comp history, driving record and medical history. When someone comes up squeaky clean, you will now have the necessary peace of mind if you are truly considering this person for a job in your practice.

Be sure to read the applicant’s resume very carefully. Check for lapses in employment or short job durations. Moving around a lot in a relatively short time period is a major red flag. When you do speak to references, you should ask “if the situation arose, would you rehire this person back to work in your practice?”

The bottom line is that it is very expensive to stumble and realize that you have hired the wrong person. Training takes a big investment of time and effort. It is important to do everything you can to be successful the first time around.

 

March 9, 2015

I Continue to be Impressed – No Pun Intended!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Mayer A. Levitt, DMD @ 2:01 am

Screen shot 2015-02-19 at 8.02.30 PMThirty months ago, I wrote a post about a company called Six Month Smiles. At that time, I was very enthused after attending a two-day course for general dentists that provided hands on learning for short-term orthodontics. STO is defined as cosmetically focused orthodontic treatment performed in less than nine months with aesthetic brackets and wires.

Five of my clients at that time attended the seminar with me and all of them were thrilled. Since then, another 10 clients have attended the course, and three more are signed up to attend the course in the Boston area scheduled for this coming April. I continue to hear rave reviews about the information taught at the course and the online continuous support and mentoring that is provided by experienced instructors to all attendees.  I felt then–and continue to feel now–that Six Month Smiles is often a better, quicker, and always less expensive option to Invisalign. Having options and the ability to present choices to your patients greatly enhances case acceptance.

Six Month Smiles has grown dramatically since I attended my course in 2012. They actually started offering courses in 2011, and as of today, over 6000 dentists in the United States have been trained and have completed 80,000 cases. A terrific and new updated feature is that you will very soon be able to use an intra oral scanner to send digital scans instead of traditional impressions. The company has also made major strides in progressive advertising and enhanced social media presence to make the general public aware of their name and what they do. I was told that in the last 30 days, over 5 million potential patients viewed their advertising, 2.5 million potential patients viewed social media posts, and 30 thousand potential patients visited the patient education section of the Six Month Smiles website looking for a provider in their area.

So as I said in my original post, if you are a restorative dentist who loves to create beautiful smiles and has an ability to visualize cases, this ortho technology can and will be a fabulous addition to your armamentarium. You will quickly be able to move teeth into proper position so that bonding, veneers, and more traditional crown and bridge or implants can now be performed. Click here for more information – you will not regret it!

 

 

February 23, 2015

There is a Telephone – And There is Weave!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Mayer A. Levitt, DMD @ 7:52 am

Phone and Computer 3For a while now, I have been hearing great things about a company called Weave. I did some research, and I would like to share my findings with my readers.

Weave has been in business for six and a half years. For the first four years of its existence, Weave served as a recall solution for dental practices, contracting with the practice to schedule overdue patients for continuing care. Two and a half years ago, Weave totally reinvented itself into a patient communication platform that syncs with all major dental practice software to combine calling, texting, and e-mailing into one system. Their growth has been explosive with over 1000 dental offices signing on in the last 12 months.

Weave is a VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) telephone system dependent on a reasonably fast Internet connection. There are dozens of VoIP companies out there. I think that VoIP has many advantages over a land based telephone company such as AT&T or Verizon: unlimited lines, unlimited long distance, unlimited local calling, plus the ability to record multiple messages.

But Weave has them all beat because nobody else can do what they do. Weave leases you special telephones that have been pre-loaded with their software. These are high-tech phones that deliver crystal-clear communication. The Weave app is installed on your desktop computer. Now when a patient calls the practice, everything about the patient and the patient’s family will automatically pop up on your computer screen. Your staff will know if the patient on the other end of the line has a birthday coming up, when their next appointment is, if any of their family members are overdue, or if there is an unpaid balance on the account – all without putting the patient on hold. Information that was once inaccessible because it was buried within multiple pages of practice management software is now available on every call the moment the phone starts ringing.

Weave provides true two-way text messaging just as you send and receive texts with your cell phone. It is wonderfully timesaving and efficient to be able to click to dial, thus controlling your telephone from the desktop. Weave also allows call recording, call tracking, advanced voicemail, and coming soon–a mobile app for your cell phone.

The bottom line is that Weave software helps you make more meaningful connections with your patients. It works seamlessly with your practice management software, pulling relevant data and presenting it in a beautifully simple way. Instant prompts give you everything you need to know about your patients to make them feel important and appreciated. And that leads to better outcomes for your patients and your practice.

Weave does not require a contract. They truly want and expect to earn your business every month. They provide 24/7 email customer support along with very comprehensive and detailed staff training that is included in the monthly charge.

In gathering information for this post, I spoke with five or six people in the Weave organization –at all different levels – and each one was more passionate than the other about their technology, the growth of the company and its future. I truly feel that Weave has the potential to become the dominant player – similar to what Care Credit did with outsourced patient financing. I would encourage you to call and schedule a demo of this amazing technology. And I would love your feedback.

 

 

February 9, 2015

The Best Pastrami Sandwich in the World!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Mayer A. Levitt, DMD @ 3:27 am

Screen shot 2015-02-01 at 12.30.15 PMI recently read an article that totally captivated my attention. It was all about a world-class Midwestern delicatessen called Zingermans. Zingermans is a  local independently owned business in Ann Arbor, Michigan that was started in 1982. Zingermans was mentioned in a book written by Bo Burlingham who is editor at large for Inc. Magazine. Burlingham’s book is titled Small Giants: Companies That Choose to be Great Instead of Big. The book talks about successful companies that have rejected growth for growth’s sake in favor of adopting a passionate dedication to be the absolute best you can be.

In Zingerman’s case, they developed a four step formula for success: serve great food, provide great service, give back to the community, and create an environment where the employees love their work. That formula is closely aligned with the concept of servant leadership. Servant leadership suggests that you, the business owner, treat your employees like your customers, consistently say thank-you to employees and customers, help your staff to succeed, and provide an inspiring vision that is clearly articulated.

Zingerman’s published mission statement is “complete devotion to a great product and great service while taking good care of your employees, suppliers, and customers”. What a great model and inspiration for your dental practice!

As your dental practice gets bigger and busier, you simply can’t lose sight of your core principles and culture which was undoubtedly responsible for your initial success. I hope those principles would include:

•Treating each customer as if he or she is the only person in the world that matters.

• Taking an extra minute or two to give someone your total undivided attention and respect.

• Owning the problem. Admitting when you stumbled. Click on this link and this one as well and read two amazing blog posts written by Seth Godin that illustrate this point.

I hope that you will read this information carefully and share it with your staff. Then you should all sign on and agree to try to become the absolute best that you can be.

 

January 26, 2015

Stop With the Gloom and Doom

Filed under: Uncategorized — Mayer A. Levitt, DMD @ 12:33 am

I don’t know about you, but I am getting so sick and tired of everything I’m reading about the imminent demise of dentistry as we know it. Corporate dental practices will be expanding into your neighborhood and will be stealing all of your patients. Your overhead is increasing because of higher technology costs and the steady upward pressure on staff wages and benefits. Then add to that the newer costs associated with the compliance to government mandates. We all know that dental insurance plans are continuing to aggressively deny treatment while at the same time decreasing benefits to pay for treatment. And how about your future–the huge debt load of recent dental school graduates is making it challenging for them to buy a dental practice.

The list goes on and on. My philosophy, however, has always been that it is wasted energy and totally unproductive to ever worry about what you can’t control. And in this instance, you shouldn’t either. The above list of problems is to some extent all true, and won’t be going away anytime soon. Here are my thoughts, suggestions, and solutions.

1. There will always be a place in every community for a well-managed, clinically excellent general practice, delivering exquisite customer service. This practice should include itinerant specialists to provide the opportunity for in-house referrals thereby offering easy one-stop shopping to your patients and increased revenue. I guarantee that such a practice will provide levels of care that cannot be approached or duplicated by corporate dentistry. A good proportion of dentists working in corporate dental settings have minimum experience, under developed diagnostic skills, and limited communication skills. Not where I would want to be treated.

2. You don’t want to be–and physically can’t be–all things to all people. Pick your niche–whether that be Ritz-Carlton or Motel Six. Just be terrific at what you do and you will continue to separate yourself from your competition. But whatever model you pursue, you absolutely need room to expand. In my experience, the greatest impediment to the growth and success of a practice is the lack of a proper facility.

3. New technology is expensive, but the return on investment, and the marketing WOW that it creates, will ultimately work in your favor.

4. Dentists must realize that staff costs, which are the biggest expense in any practice, have to be controlled. I am a strong believer in paying a fair and representative hourly wage and supplementing that wage with bonuses and incentives that are tied to increased practice revenue. I strongly believe that the dentists’ share of health insurance benefits must be capped. I just finished a very interesting book on controlling health care coststhat is a must read for every small business owner.

5. We fight with dental insurance companies every day. The message must be sent to your patients that dental insurance is merely a stipend. If you continue to belong to the “one crown every year” club, and let insurance companies dictate your treatment, then you indeed will be suffering and going in the wrong direction. If you can learn to effectively present comprehensive and elective dentistry, then welcome the fact that insurance is useful for getting patients in your door.

6. Nobody to buy your practice? I simply don’t find this to be true. I believe that we are still very much in a sellers market with more doctors looking to buy than looking to sell. Yes–recent graduates often have high debt loads. But I have helped countless young dentists with two or three years of associate experience and with education debt of 250K or more, obtain 100% bank financing on just their signature provided the collections of the practice they are buying supports the practice valuation.

In 2014, I worked as a consultant with 36 separate dental practices. Some were new relationships, but mostly were existing relationships. 25 of the 36 practices increased revenue and profitability in 2014 compared to 2013. Seven practices stayed constant, and four were slightly lower. I quote these numbers not to brag, but merely as proof of what I see on a daily basis. The sky is not falling!

If you work hard, pay attention to details, and continuously deliver a quality product and strive for always improving ways to maintain excellence, your future is bright. Nobody ever said this was easy. Every business has its own set of challenges. Dentistry is no different. So please stop listening to the gloom and doom predictions. These people are only trying to sell you something you probably don’t need to buy!

 

January 14, 2015

Another Compliance Issue to Consider

Filed under: Uncategorized — Mayer A. Levitt, DMD @ 9:52 pm

Screen shot 2015-01-14 at 10.23.45 AMThe beat goes on and the costs keep going up for dental providers. Costs in terms of time as well as money. OSHA training and recertification needs to happen every 18 months at an approximate cost of $900. HIPAA Compliance programs average $2500 to initiate and complete and around $1500-$2000 annually to stay current. And now, there is another cumbersome requirement that needs your attention.

By June 1, 2015, dentists who treat Medicare beneficiaries (any patient 65 or older) need to be enrolled with Medicare so that these patients can be reimbursed for their prescriptions that you write for them with Part D drug plans. You can’t just ignore this requirement. The law says you must make a choice and either opt in or opt out. And whatever choice you make is binding for two years.

There are two kinds of enrollment. Most of you should enroll strictly for the purpose of prescribing and referring. If, however, you treat obstructive sleep apnea and want Medicare to cover the cost of oral appliances, then you should consider enrolling as a billing provider for Medicare Part B.

Of course, anytime you are dealing with the Federal government, they don’t make things easy. The application process for something so essentially simple turns out to be extremely confusing, illogical, and cumbersome.You could try to do this yourself, but I think you’ll be opening a bottomless can of worms. Instead, I would suggest calling David Wester. He is the Director of Medicare Enrollment at StatDDS.  His direct line is 800-693-9076. StatDDS will simplify the process by gathering all of the pertinent information about your practice, fill out all of the paperwork, file all relevant material with insurance carriers, and keep up with the status of the application. The company charges a one time fee of $697.

I am strongly advising my clients to opt in. Patients over age 65 are an important demographic. Their dental needs are often extensive, they do lots more elective procedures, and they are usually more financially secure. I would not want any one of these people leaving my practice – and telling their friends – because they couldn’t get their Medicare prescriptions filled. No question that this new requirement by the government is another irritant and a big nuisance. But don’t be penny wise and pound foolish and try to enroll on your own. Take care of this today.

 

December 30, 2014

The Year is Changing – Will You?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Mayer A. Levitt, DMD @ 9:32 pm

Screen Shot 2014-12-29 at 8.50.42 PMAnother year is about to wind down. 2014 is a few days away from being history. Hopefully it was a good one for you and your dental practice. If it wasn’t, what do you plan to do about it? This is the time of year for making resolutions–promising ourselves that we will in fact have the strength, the willpower, and perhaps the courage to make positive changes.

My job as a coach and advisor to dentists is to strategize with them about their practice and support and facilitate the changes we have  identified. These changes are critical and necessary to help them fulfill resolutions made with the greatest of intent. Two years ago, I offered comments on this very topic. One year ago,  I began a 10 part series of posts where I identified the reasons–in my experience–that separated eminently successful dentists from the majority of their peers. All of those posts are archived on the Blog Page of my website.

So here we are again. A fresh start awaits you. But as I have said so often and truly believe, “Hope and prayer is not a strategy”.  One of my most influential mentors and motivators is Seth Godin. Earlier this month, he penned the most prophetic statement: “If you hesitate to map out your future, to make a big plan or to set a goal, you’ve just gone ahead and mapped your future anyway.” That is flat out brilliant!

Change is hard and change is rarely easy to accomplish. John Wooden, the legendary basketball coach of UCLA, whose teams amazingly won 10 NCAA championships between 1964 and 1975, realized the difficulty of change. When asked the reason for his success, he said it was his ability to get his players to do what they didn’t want to do in order to get the results they wanted.

I would imagine that all of you desire to improve. So my message today is not a sermon or a lecture, but rather a gentle reminder and a challenge to actually make that plan to reach the potential you deserve and of which you are capable. Every one of us can identify three or four areas where we can improve. Take the time–it may take hours or it may take days–but force yourself to sit down and write down your goals. That often is the most difficult part – identifying the goals. But once the goals have been articulated, figuring out how to reach them  becomes infinitely easier.

Good luck! I wish all of my loyal readers a healthy and happy and prosperous New Year.

 

December 15, 2014

Instant Gratification

Filed under: Uncategorized — Mayer A. Levitt, DMD @ 9:24 am

Those of you who read my blog posts know that I am a big fan of using the iPad as an extremely effective tool for presenting dentistry to your patients. A few weeks ago, I suggested downloading the DDS GP app to your iPad in order to take advantage of the beautifully designed drawings and graphics that illustrate dental problems and the solutions to those problems.

Another great enhancement for your iPad is Shuttersnitch. Shuttersnitch is an app (the cost is a mere $19.99) that receives and displays pictures wirelessly on an iPad moments after they are shot. Instead of taking digital photos and then plugging the memory card into a laptop in order to upload the photos, there now is a much simpler and less cumbersome way to accomplish the task.

As long as you are using a digital SLR wi-fi enabled camera to take your photos, Shuttersnitch is the perfect partner for the wireless image transfer system in your camera. It takes in the photos and almost instantly displays them on the iPad’s 9.7 inch screen. Shuttersnitch has specific support of wireless SD memory cards from Eye-Fi, but can also accept pictures from any camera transmitter that is capable of an FTP transfer. Shuttersnitch provides a detailed set up guide, and I am told that you don’t have to be a computer whiz to figure this all out.

I firmly believe that high tech equals high reward. Once you take the time to get comfortable with the mechanics, your case acceptance should skyrocket.

 

December 1, 2014

A Must for Every Dental Practice

Filed under: Uncategorized — Mayer A. Levitt, DMD @ 8:20 pm

Screen shot 2014-11-26 at 4.24.10 PMI have long been an advocate of the iPad as the principal and most effective way for a dentist to present dental treatment to a patient. The intimacy of sitting right next to your patient, the phenomenal vibrancy of the photos or images,  the ability to manipulate these images – allowing the patient to touch the screen – these are all great advantages compared to showing X-rays or drawing squiggly lines on bracket table covers.  Or what I really hate is having a patient sit alone in a room watching  a video with voice over.

That is why I am so excited about DDS GP. It is an app that you can download to your iPad. It was invented by Dr. Robert Marcus, a practicing California general dentist. DDS GP is presented as a series of beautifully designed drawings or graphics that illustrate dental problems and the solutions to those problems. The library of drawings is very complete,  literally everything you could ever imagine.

The dentist sits with the patient and has a personal conversation – your words at your pace. Just below the main demonstration area of each screen is a bar with a round handle called the slider. Moving the slider portrays the increasing severity of a condition or the treatment steps to resolve the problem. I especially like the presentations for a fractured tooth and for cracked tooth syndrome. The app also does a great job illustrating periodontal disease and root canal treatment.

I don’t think the graphics and drawings are especially effective for presenting cosmetic dentistry. For that, you absolutely want to have the before and after photos of your nice cases downloaded into the iPad. You can also easily import the digital photographs of your patient’s smile. The DDS GP app allows you to add these photos. Coordinating all of this information  into one tablet will, in my opinion, definitely lead to greater case acceptance.

A very cool feature is the ability to incorporate the drawings you showed to the patient into a custom designed treatment plan that can be handed or e-mailed to a patient.

The technology is very intuitive and easy to learn. You can even draw with your finger right over the graphics if you feel that it will help illustrate a point you are trying to make. I have been told that the app is continuously being improved and updated and that the customer service support is good.

The cost for the app is a one time fee of $400.  There are no subscriptions or annual fees. You can find out more at the company website.

November 17, 2014

Change Your Luck

Filed under: Uncategorized — Mayer A. Levitt, DMD @ 11:15 am

Screen shot 2014-11-16 at 6.34.44 PMHopefully you have been fortunate over the years to surround yourself with trusted advisors or mentors who have been influential in your growth and development–both personally and professionally. Often the advice they give comes in the form of words or phrases that stick in your head and resonate. One of my favorites is “the harder I work the luckier I seem to get.” I so totally believe that!

Consider the doctor who attracts 40 new patients a month. Did these patients just fall out of the sky? I don’t believe so. That doctor has spent money and time to develop a great website. He also employs an energetic and social media savvy staff member who has been given the opportunity to spend one hour a day maintaining an active Facebook Page, publishing posts and engaging and responding to followers. That is work–not luck!

Consider the doctor who started two large veneer cases this month. Does that happen by chance? I don’t think so. That doctor has spent countless hours on continuing education courses with the best of the best. That doctor spends the time and money to fly to Scottsdale a few times every year to improve clinical skills hanging out with the likes of Dr. Frank Spears. That takes effort and dedication and commitment and work.

Consider the doctor who actually loves going to work every day because she has made the effort to surround herself with a fabulous staff. She has built and maintained a great team of talented customer service oriented people. She has created a wonderful atmosphere where staff truly want to work, and patients love to visit and refer others.  Can this all happen because she is lucky? This is the result of a lot of hard work.

It is my opinion, after interacting with 600+ practices over the past 19 years, that probably 85% of dentists significantly under-achieve their true potential. They don’t do this intentionally. They may often feel successful on some fronts. But they simply are just not aware of the upside.

On a personal level and as a way of illustrating my point, I want to tell you that for years I have been consistently going to the gym and putting in the time. This past January, I decided to hire a trainer. I have lost 14 pounds and am in the best shape of my life. I now realize that what I thought was a workout at the gym was the equivalent to a walk in the park!

So the sooner you stop waiting to hit the lottery with your dental practice, the better off you will be. Lady luck is unlikely to pay you a visit. There is no substitute for setting goals and then working really hard – harder than you ever thought possible – in order to achieve them. Then – and only then – will you feel lucky.

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