January 17, 2017
I don’t usually write updates on companies or vendors so soon after an initial recommendation. I wrote a post about Revenue Well in June 2016. Yet I continue to hear really wonderful feedback on their performance. They deliver their basic product extremely well. That product could be divided into three main areas.
• Appointment confirmation by telephone, text, email, or postcard.
• Reactivation of patients overdue for continuing care.
• Individualized email reminders for diagnosed but un-scheduled dental treatment. Because Revenue Well can read the treatment code in your dental practice management software, these emails can be specifically tailored for the procedure and can also be enhanced by links to videos that describe the treatment. Pretty impressive.
What I also hear about is their ongoing commitment to customer service and customer support. These are the intangibles that in a busy world you might not expect. I have to believe that this commitment is directly tied into their business model. Revenue Well – unlike the majority of their competitors – works on a month to month basis with no guaranteed one or two year contract. If they don’t perform at a high level, they can get fired!
Revenue Well is also very determined to be your marketing partner. They do a great job of creating content that is already in blog and social media format or could easily be converted. So you can incorporate this well-written material directly to your website and/or your Facebook Page in order to help maintain or improve organic search results on Google. Much of the content is seasonal or holiday related and thus can be used appropriately as I am suggesting for proms, graduations, Valentines, Christmas etc. This can all be geared towards engaging a doctor’s patient base in the right way at the right time.
Revenue Well maintains a talented customer support team with answers to questions and solutions to problems. They have accumulated a huge database of analytics so they can advise on what is working and what is not. Please call my friend Kelly Larson at 612-859-3684 to schedule a demo or to get answers to any questions you might have.
January 4, 2017
I was originally introduced to Six Month Smiles when I attended a two day course in May of 2012. I wrote a blog post about that experience where I compare the benefits of this approach to aligner therapy. Among those benefits would be the ability to fairly easily intrude and extrude and rotate teeth, deliver quicker results, offer a lesser cost option to the patient, and not be so dependent on patient compliance. I then wrote another post in March of 2015 with updates. As we head into 2017, I’d like to keep my readers current with another summary of some exciting new developments that will make Six Month Smiles even easier and more predictable than ever before.
Welcome to Confidex! This new program was launched a few months ago. When you elect this option, for a fee of $110 in addition to your normal lab fee, you will receive a monthly step-by-step written treatment plan guide created by an orthodontic specialist. The plan includes where, when, and how much inter-proximal reduction to perform, where to place the bite guards, and the estimated treatment time to finish the case. This is a terrific life line and a big comfort factor when you are considering starting a case that might be perceived to be more challenging .
Six Month Smiles is now as an option accepting digital impressions that ensure accurate, precise, and quantifiable bracket positioning. With Confidex, you also receive a three-dimensional simulation – similar to the Invisalign ClinCheck – that allows the patient and the dentist to see the case from start to finalization. Although not available now, I have heard that color photography with before and after simulation might be in the works – and that would be an awesome selling tool.
As dental insurance companies continue their efforts to control your fees and the way you deliver dentistry, adding in many cases non covered cosmetic short-term orthodontics to your armamentarium of services seems like a winning strategy. You can contact Umair Ahmed at 408-373-3310 with any questions and certainly visit the website.
December 19, 2016
There is an old saying that “if you continue to do what you have always done, you will continue to get what you have always got.” I use this maxim as a motivational tool to get clients to open their minds and accept new strategies and adopt new systems that will enable their dental practices to reach new levels of productivity and profitability. Unfortunately for the dentists of Massachusetts, doing what you have always done will no longer get you what you have received in the past – it will get you a lot less!
As of January 2017, Delta Dental of Massachusetts will be forcing in-network providers to accept the Delta PPO fee schedule and not be able to choose to only accept Delta Premier. Premier fees were usually a 10-15% discount from the published fees of a practice. Delta PPO fees are closer to a 25-30% write off from the published fees of the practice. And everyone predicts that this action is the harbinger of the eventual discontinuation of the Delta Premier fee schedule.
This new policy by Delta will have horrific and deleterious implications for patients, dentists, dental staff, and vendors who sell to dentists. Patient care will be compromised at every level. As a dentist in this environment, are you still going to consider adding expensive state-of-the-art technology? Will your hygiene visits need to be reduced to 35-40 minutes instead of one hour? How can you pay the lab $200 for a quality crown when you are only able to charge a significantly discounted fee? Is it time to buy stock in dental labs in China?
I can envision dental practices now being forced to nickel and dime their patients by charging their insurance for emergency exams and emergency palliative treatment that used to be offered at no charge as a customer service courtesy. The Scheins and the Pattersons and the Bencos of the world were already under challenge from online dental supply stores. Their life just became even harder in this new world of low fee dentistry. And how can we as dentists think about offering even cost-of-living raises to our staff when practice revenue in 2017 will unquestionably be reduced?
The valuation in the sale of a dental practice is directly tied to annual revenue. I see the potential of big turmoil in the marketplace. Dentists will have to work longer before retirement. Dentists who might have been thinking transition might decide they need to stay and work longer. And perhaps some dentists may look at this recent Delta policy change as the final straw and just decide to get out of dentistry altogether.
I have always chosen to look at the glass half full rather than half empty, but I am struggling big time with maintaining optimism for my New England clients. It appears to me that Delta has finally stepped over the line. They are threatening to no longer directly reimburse out of network doctors. They will reimburse the patient directly forcing insured patients and families to pay for dental visits at the time of service and get reimbursed later. The only reason to do that is to punish out-of-network doctors and the patients who choose to see them.
There is no easy answer as to what to do. Staying in the network or leaving the network will be painful – at least in the short term. I think your decision will be based on many factors: your status in the community, how busy you are, your age, the number of years you want to continue practicing, your overall debt, your financial obligations, and your appetite for risk. When making your decision, for sure you will need to calculate the number of Delta patients in your practice as compared to the total number of patients along with a recognition of the dollars received from Delta as compared to total practice revenue.
And then one very important question: how do you want to practice dentistry going forward, and are you willing to be controlled by dental insurance? I welcome your feedback. I’m certain this will not be my only post on this topic.
December 5, 2016
Over the years I have often written about the benefits, both to your practice and to your patients, of offering outsourced financial arrangements as a viable payment option for dental treatment. The practice receives full payment at the start of treatment, and the finance company assumes all of the risk for collecting the borrowed amount. For this valuable service, the finance company is paid a “merchants fee” by the dental practice. That merchants fee essentially underwrites the loan allowing the practice to offer interest-free promotional packages to patients.
Most of the time these arrangements work out seamlessly. But in a significant number of cases – more than you might expect – a massive PR problem occurs when a patient owes an outstanding balance at the end of the promotional period. Why does this happen? Because some of the major well-known finance companies – instead of sending monthly statements for the agreed-upon payment that will fully amortize the loan – deceptively send monthly statements saying “minimum payment due”. The patient is then billed an egregious interest rate – often in the 25% annual interest range – on the TOTAL amount of the original loan and not just on the outstanding balance.
This is referred to as retroactive interest. As you have probably experienced, patients are really upset when this happens to them. They are angry and even blame your office for offering the plan. That, of course, is not helpful for your reputation.
You might want to check out Lending Club Patient Solutions. The plans they offer are transparent and feature easy to understand terms with monthly payments paced to pay off within the promotional period. And these plans have no retroactive interest. If a patient does not pay off their balance within the promotional period, interest will only accrue on the outstanding balance on the date the payment plan ends and NOT from the date of the initial purchase. Lending Club also prides themselves on offering exceptional customer service. They answer the phone promptly, and the person who answers will be the one to guide you through the entire process.
Another feature I like is that your practice can tell Lending Club which interest free promotional packages you will offer. That way – if the patient doesn’t make arrangements in your office, but instead prefers to call from home – they can only be offered plans you have agreed to.
You can call Lending Club Patient Solutions at 800-630-1663 for more details. I will be interested in your feedback.
November 21, 2016
Full disclosure – this blog has absolutely nothing to do with dentistry – but I hope you will read it anyway. My wife and I were recently in New York City for a quick two day whirlwind of business, theatre, and dinner with friends. The unquestioned highlight of our visit was a two hour guided tour of the 9/11 Museum at the lower tip of Manhattan. A year ago, on another trip, we had gone to see the new World Trade Center building and the memorial pools, but didn’t have the time to visit the Museum.
The 9/11 Museum has been constructed within the actual footprint of the North and South towers that were destroyed. This is hallowed ground. At one point, you are seven stories below street level on the bed rock of Manhattan. It is very overwhelming to visit this museum. Bring a handkerchief. The minute by minute account of what happened on that Tuesday morning 15 years ago is dramatically portrayed with video, photography, and the real size artifacts of twisted steel and damaged fire engines. Almost 3000 innocent people lost their lives, and their families were forever impacted.
I can not help but think that as we celebrate Thanksgiving and enter this Holiday season, we should remember the resilience that the citizens of New York and our nation as a whole displayed in dealing with this unspeakable horror. Perhaps that will help us now and give us courage and optimism as we try to understand and cope with the current economic and political issues that are seemingly dividing our country.
November 7, 2016
Dental Purchasing Group (DPG) is a dental specific group purchasing organization that was started almost 4 years ago. I originally wrote about this company early in 2016. I was impressed with it then, and even more impressed today.
The company has added 300 doctors and over 100 new offices in the past year.
Seth Josephs, the co-founder and CEO, told me that he estimates that based on its negotiated pricing from vendors within the network, DPG member offices will save $1,000,000 in calendar year 2016.
Ten new unique vendors have been added this year including Lighthouse 360 (patient communication software), Prexion (one of the major players in 3-D scanners), and Alpha NetSolutions (a well respected regional IT company).
Prior to this year, DPG members would receive a hard copy vendor book. A big upgrade has been the creation of a new website that makes it easy for members to access valuable information. This is especially helpful now that so many new vendors are being added. New offices can also sign up online and seamlessly have access to all member benefits.
DPG continues to offer the first 12 months free, and then $99 annually for each subsequent year. I asked Seth why more offices haven’t joined. “We all have learned the hard way that if something sounds too good to be true, then it probably isn’t true. Unfortunately we are having a difficult time overcoming this ingrained attitude.”
I encourage all of you who read my blog posts to check this company out. There are no hidden fees. Do the math – if you already buy from these vendors anyway, by being a DPG member, you get an additional substantial discount. And if you discover a new vendor that you want to buy from, you get the DPG member discount. You can call Seth Josephs directly at 978-609-4281 or visit the website.
October 25, 2016
My wife and I had a wonderful experience a few weeks ago when we had the opportunity to attend the regional conference of EO (Entrepreneurs Organization). My older son co-chaired the event that was held in downtown Boston. The overall theme of the conference was how to build resilience. One of the headline speakers was the amazing Warren Rustand. He lectured to us on his strategies for building strong and resilient families.
The audience was packed with busy successful business owners. Rustand was preaching to the choir. His main message: when you are working so hard to build a thriving business, it is so easy to forget your main role in life, which is to be a great parent to your children. You are a parent every day, and it is a huge responsibility and your biggest obligation. But it is so tough to fulfill this role because your bandwidth is stretched and your plate is full.
I couldn’t help but think of how many of my clients fit this profile. Eight to ten years of college and postgraduate studies before you earn dollar one. Pressure to perform. Pressure to grow. Pressure to get ahead . Pressure to be the best. Pressure to keep up with the challenges of a busy practice. In that environment, how can you possibly focus and think about family and parental responsibilities? Here are two ideas for your consideration.
• Don’t prioritize your schedule – instead schedule your priorities. Block out the two hours required on a Tuesday morning at 10 AM to attend your daughter’s – or yes, your granddaughter’s – piano recital. You know about it, so just make sure you go. How about that high school football game at 4 PM on a Friday for your son or grandson? It is so important for you to be there to support and cheer him on. If you must, start earlier or work later or come in on your day off to recover the lost production.
• If it is worth doing, just do it! These children and grandchildren grow up so quickly! You miss a lot in the blink of an eye. You have to somehow create the balance in your own life to be able to be truly present in theirs.
Schedule your priorities – don’t prioritize your schedule!
Please take the time to watch this wonderful three minute video by Prince Ea. It is so relevant and so well done. It says it all!!
October 11, 2016
I have been writing blog posts since 2010 advocating for the many advantages of case presentation using a tablet like an iPad. Loading photos onto the iPad is now seamless and almost instantaneous. And there are apps that you can download to a tablet that show beautifully designed drawings or graphics that illustrate dental problems and solutions to those problems. Sitting with your patient looking at photos on a computer screen compared to looking at photos on a tablet that can be manipulated – well it just isn’t even close! The level of intimacy and the clarity of the images is so far superior when you use a tablet.
The Microsoft Surface Book is an impressive tool that takes case presentation and treatment planning to a new level. It is a device which merges the power and performance of a laptop with the flexibility and mobility of a tablet. The screen detaches from the keyboard at the touch of a button and easily clicks back into place. The tablet (screen) is large at 13.5 inches and provides amazingly crystal-clear images and sharp color contrast. It obviously is a significantly larger screen for display to your patient then a conventional tablet. It also has a stylus that allows you to draw directly onto the tablet.
I see the principal use for this device to assist the treatment coordinator when he or she is making financial arrangements and closing the case after the doctor has presented treatment options. The coordinator can sit with the patient and refer to and review the treatment options using the tablet. Then with one click, the tablet can be re-attached to the keyboard and that laptop can support all of the practice management systems and can print out financial and insurance documentation.
Take a look and decide for yourself. It is a bit pricey – but used correctly it will be well worth the cost.
September 26, 2016
This is my annual “don’t jump off the bridge” message to dentists. September is traditionally the slowest month of the year for production and collection. And September is the final month of the third quarter (July through September) which is the slowest quarter of the calendar year. But every year, dentist forget this – panic – and deduce that their practice must be succumbing to the competition. The knee-jerk response is to lower fees and charge less.
Don’t fall into that trap. Please realize and understand that there will always be someone who can sell what you sell for less money and deliver it quicker than you can. The eminent business guru Seth Godin recently posted that “once you decide to become a cheap commodity, all the choices you made to be a non- commodity fall victim to your pursuit of cheap.”
The solution is not to try to compete on price but to compete on quality. Your competition is not from the dental office across the street. It is from college tuitions and vacations and automobiles.
Exceptional quality clinical dentistry in conjunction with a consistent commitment to exquisite customer service at every level will have people in your town raving about how well they were treated, how their time was respected, how they were given choices of treatment, and how they felt like a person and not a number.
Practices with “busyness” problems are often unwittingly their own worst enemy. Business hours Monday through Thursday – 8 to 4 – shows no understanding of the need to be available. And why would you not answer the phone over the lunch hour? How about not allowing someone to leave a message?
The good news is that you are still standing. Now that September is almost history, get back to basics and concentrate on making it easy for people to do business with you. When people know how much you truly care about them, good things will happen. And as I’ve said many times regarding customer service – it is not hard to be good when everyone else is so bad!
September 12, 2016
My last two blog posts have discussed wealth accumulation strategies guaranteed to provide the necessary funds for a comfortable retirement. Qualified pension plans and whole life insurance are relatively easy to implement provided you can find the discipline and the available cash to contribute. Owning your own real estate is a horse of a different color, and requires much more of an entrepreneurial spirit and creativity. But the returns can be outstanding.
Instead of paying rent to the landlord, be your own landlord! It is easy to set up a separate entity to own the real estate. The rent payment is made with pretax dollars and of course is a 100% tax-deductible business expense of the practice. And you can – within reason – pay an above market rate to reduce your debt sooner.
I would advise this for any dentist planning to practice for another 15 years or more. Over 15 years – let’s say your current rent is 5K/month. That equals 60K/year which equals a staggering 900K over 15 years!! And we know it will be more than that because rents customarily increase by 1-2% every year. All that money is gone. Disappeared. You have absolutely nothing to show for it. Unfortunately, it is all part of the cost of doing business. If instead, you owned your space and retired the mortgage over that 15 years with your rent payments, you now have a debt free property that in the worst-case scenario has maintained its original valuation.
Here is another collateral benefit for you to consider. Studies have shown – and I have seen this happen with many of my clients over the years – that if you move your office even 4 or 5 miles but stay within the same town, every existing patient remains with the practice and new patient flow increases by 35 to 40% in the first year! And amazingly enough, it continues at that increased level for the next five years! I’m not sure why this happens, but it does. By buying an existing condo space or professional office or actually building a new structure, you also have the potential and the opportunity to design a better layout with room for growth. And money currently is so cheap – at historic low rates – that I see mortgage costs not exceeding – or minimally exceeding – your current rent costs. I honestly don’t believe there has ever been an easier time for dentists to borrow money.
So take a hard look at your current occupancy arrangement and explore your options. Saving for retirement by making contributions to pension plans or a whole life policy requires finding additional dollars. Saving for retirement by owning your own property simply means keeping the dollars you are currently paying to someone else!