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Growing the Practice

Building Trust with a New Patient

The 28th New Dentist Conference is in full swing right now in Kansas City, Missouri. A number of CE programs are taking place right now, including Take This Job and Love It! presented by Dr. Mark Hyman.

Earlier this year Dr. Hyman spoke with ADA New Dentist News about people skills new dentists can use in the practice. Here’s one suggestion that stood out for us:

Dr Mark Hyman

Dr. Mark Hyman

“Dentists don’t do themselves any favors by spending the first moments with a new patient asking about insurance coverage,” Dr. Hyman observes. Instead Dr. Hyman thanks the patient for choosing his practice, and asks about the patient’s goals for her smile, her teeth and her health. And, unless the patient is new to the community, he asks why she is no longer seeing her previous dentist.

“The answer might be, ‘He was always pushing me to get a crown.’ So I would reply, ‘do you think you need a crown?’ And I would follow with, ‘as I examine your mouth, if I find evidence of dental disease, do I have your permission to tell you?’ And that takes it out of the realm where I’m the expert here to diagnose and deliver bad news. My approach builds trust because it puts us on the same team working towards the same goals. Once you have truly heard the patient’s goals, the more quickly you can build trust.

You can find more of Dr. Hyman’s tips from ADA New Dentist News here.

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Dr. Hyman will be presenting Drill ‘Em, Fill “Em and Thrill ‘Em in one of the courses offered in the New Dentist Track of CE options at ADA 2014. New dentists (those who graduated from dental school in 2005 or later) receive a 20% discount off of the fee courses that focus on a mixture of business, ergonomic and clinical topics that have been curated by new dentists.

See the entire new dentist track and register for courses here.

Apply Now for the 2014 Executive Management Program

open mouthThe ADA and Northwestern University, Kellogg School of Management offers the ADA/Kellogg Executive Management Program exclusively for dentists and their teams.

This intensive business education program curriculum is designed to teach the core principles of an MBA program taught by the same professors in Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management MBA program.

The program meets over 3 sessions; September 19-22, October 24-27 and November 14-18, 2014.  This is not a practice management course.  Here’s the link for more details and the application. Don’t delay — application deadline July 1, 2014.

Tried it — Didn’t Like It

Dr LarryToday is a guest post from one of a pair of married dentists, Dr. Larry Dougherty and Dr. Ana Paula Ferraz-Dougherty.

Tried it — Didn’t Like It

by Dr. Larry Dougherty:

Owning a dental practice is rewarding. Understatement alert: it can also be stressful. This isn’t unique to dentistry; it’s just part of owning a small business. If only there was a perfect cookbook on how to handle every situation, it would be so easy.

There’s no cookbook — we learn as much as we can, we measure and analyze, and we try to course-correct after mistakes. What worked in year one might not continue to work in years two and three.

Here are a few things we used to do – maybe they will work for you, but they didn’t work for us:

  • Stay open late The evening slots were booked weeks in      advance, but the no-show rate was terrible compared to our normal hours.      And our after-hours patients were more interested in emergency/patch up      treatment, not in becoming regular patients to our practice. We also didn’t      enjoy being in the office so late and our productivity declined.
  • Maintain Multiple Vendors When our practice was small, it didn’t seem      like a bad idea to comparison shop between numerous suppliers of the same      products. As we grew, we didn’t have time for all of that. Worse, managing      inventory became confusing. 
  • Micro-manage the Office At first we didn’t have an office manager or a bookkeeper. I tried to do it all myself and realized I was in way over my head. Sure, I’m smart enough to get up to speed, but is that the best use of my time and skills? It made sense in the beginning to do it myself, but the busier we became, the more it made sense to hire professionals and maintain oversight.

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Dr. Larry Dougherty and Dr. Ana Paula Ferraz-Dougherty are the owners of Rolling Oaks Dental in San Antonio, TX.

Here’s How They Did It — Real Talk from Dentists in Private Practice

Dr. Chris Salierno

Dr. Chris Salierno

Operations, human resources, finances, marketing — there is so much that goes into being an owner. If you missed the new dentist panel discussion about the nitty-gritty of private practice ownership, you can stream it at ADA.org/ADA365, the online extension of ADA13. Access to ADA365 is free to ADA members; non-members can sign up for $50.

Both dentists who bought into an existing practice and dentists who started practices from scratch were represented on the panel, moderated by Dr. Chris Salierno. The group tackled topics ranging from patient recall to search engine optimization, addressing all those non-clinical skills that aren’t a part of school, but are critical to your success. Stream the entire program at ADA.org/ADA365.

Real Talk from New Dentists in Private Practice

Dr. Jill McMahon

Dr. Jill McMahon

The panel discussion Real Talk from New Dentists in Private Practice just concluded. The wide-ranging conversation covered topics from improving efficiency to marketing the practice.

According to the most recent ADA Survey of Dental Practice just over 88% of dentists are owners, either as solo practitioners or partners. For almost every dentist, ownership becomes a consideration at some point in his or her career.

Earlier this year ADA New Dentist News spoke with several new dentists who were new to practice ownership to get their suggestions on how to approach ownership. Dr. Jill McMahon, who graduated from dental school in 2007, is not just the first dentist in her family, she’s also the first small business owner.

“At first it was scary, thinking about all the new responsibilities, and of course the new financial obligations that go with ownership,” Dr. McMahon remembers. “What helped a lot was connecting with other dentists who were in my situation and realizing that if they could do it, I could do it too!”

If you are attending the 2013 ADA Annual Session, you have lots of opportunities to connect with other new dentists. But if you aren’t at the meeting, what’s on your action plan to make sure you can get that real talk from other new dentists exploring their private practice options? Share your suggestions in the comments. And if you don’t have any networking events on your calendar, may we suggest the 2014 New Dentist Conference July 17-19 in Kansas City, Missouri.

Ethical Dental Marketing

Young girl using tabletNo matter whether you are an employee, an owner or practicing in another setting, the way you market yourself as a dentist must be ethical, as well as effective. Consult the ADA Advertising Basics for Dentists and Dental Associations: A Guide to Federal and State Rules and Standards for information on common questions dentists have when preparing marketing materials.

Find information on assessing an advertisement for problems, substantiating claims made in advertisements and navigating the ethical considerations of newer marketing tactics such as deal-of-the-day social couponing sites.

Truthful advertising can be a solid foundation for building a trusted dentist-patient relationship. Be sure to consult your local and state dental associations and your own legal counsel for advice.

Developing Your Dental Practice Brand

open mouthA brand identifies a good or services as distinctive from others—think of the original use of branding as a way for ranchers to identify cattle from various owners. Having a distinctive brand is especially important when many similar businesses compete in a single marketplace. For instance, a restaurant’s branding helps you to decide whether it is the perfect location for a romantic dinner, a great setting for a group celebration, or an easy option for an early supper with young children. The restaurant’s brand singles it out in a crowded marketplace, much as the cattle brand separates one steer from the herd.

The brand of a particular dental practice will be informed by the owner dentist’s philosophy of dentistry. Having a target makes it easier for your brand to take aim, shifting your focus from a “one size fits all” approach. Here are three tips adapted from ADA New Dentist News:

Good Graphic Design is a Good Start It’s true—everything from the practice website to the reminder postcards benefits from having a consistent graphic identity. This means fonts, colors and images must all work together harmoniously, and that is a job for a professional, not an ambitious amateur. Just remember that they are the expert designers, and you are the expert dentist!

Every Encounter Makes a Difference But a brand is more than distinctive visuals. The way the team answers the phone, greets patients when they arrive and schedules follow-up appointments are all touch points that communicate your brand.

The Dentist is the Most Important Part of the Brand A logo or slogan is not what makes a practice successful. Your patients and your team will look to see if your actions are in alignment with your brand. Activities such as attending community events, shopping and dining locally, joining the Chamber of Commerce, and connecting on a person-to-person basis offer proof that you fully support the ideals of your brand.

Marketing the Dental Practice — Community Involvement

Dr Alexa Vitek

Dr Alexa Vitek

Getting involved in your community can be a great way to give back, as well as raise awareness of your practice and bring patients to your door. But with so many deserving causes and different opportunities, it can be a challenge to direct your energy to where it will be most effective.

In March 2013 ADA New Dentist News spoke with a number of new dentists about how they used community involvement as a practice builder. Dr. Alexa Vitek, who built a general dentistry practice from scratch in DeWitt, Michigan, talked about the importance of getting people who could be potential patients into the practice. Here’s what she said:

“I had great success donating custom whitening trays for a silent auction fundraiser,” she recalls, “it literally put new people in my chair.”

Dr. Vitek also organizes events for the merchants in the shopping center where her practice is located, including a holiday prize drawing. “Prize winners come to my practice to pick up their prizes, presenting another opportunity for someone to see firsthand how friendly and welcoming our practice is.”

What about you—have you used community involvement as a way to build interest in your dental practice? Leave your suggestions and experiences in the comments.

Using Conversation to Guide Patients

Conversation with a patientToday is another full day of CE at the 27th New Dentist Conference and one of the speakers is Dr. Paul Homoly who is presenting a course on guiding patients towards good dental health decisions.

Earlier this year ADA New Dentist News spoke with Dr. Homoly about his approach for using conversation to gain case acceptance. Here are his suggestions for getting the conversation started as they appeared in ADA New Dentist News:

“When you first meet with a new patient, you want to have a conversation that is as comfortable as possible,” explains Dr. Homoly, “and for the patient, reclining back under a bright light isn’t very comfortable.”

If you have a conference space or a private office, that may be a more relaxed conversational setting. If you are pressed for space, go ahead and have the conversation in the operatory, but hold off on the bib and bright light and adjust the chair so the patient can see you eye-to-eye without being distracted by a jumble of handpiece hoses.

Instead of jumping in with your philosophy of care or a run-down of the appointment’s activities (“First we’re going to take some radiographs”), start with a focus on the patient’s needs. Dr. Homoly suggests, “Welcome to XYZ Dental, I’m Dr. Paul. How can I help you today?”

What have you learned about presenting treatment plans to patients—is this something you learned while in dental school, or that you learned in practice? Leave your answers in the comments.

Social Media, Leadership & You

The ADA Practical Guide to Social Media PlanningRita Zamora just concluded the CE course Social Media, Leadership & You at the 27th New Dentist Conference. Earlier this year ADA New Dentist News spoke with Zamora about using social media in your dental practice. Here are three tips she gave ADA New Dentist News for upgrading your professional presence online:

Show, Don’t Say your Practice Values If marketing is an opportunity for you to say what your values are, then social media is the place to show those values. If one of your values is family-friendliness, then your social media presence should demonstrate your comfort with kids and awareness of the challenges parents face.

Social Media is Social Don’t be the bore at the party who talks about work the whole time. If you are fortunate enough to have a dog, a cat or a baby, you have some of the most popular ingredients for popular social media. If sharing those topics doesn’t work for you, you can post about training for a marathon, hand-tying your own flies for an upcoming fishing trip, or volunteering at a food bank. Like any conversation, it’s worth making the effort to navigate the space between “too impersonal” and “too much information.”

Not Dry, Not Drowning, Just Drip If you never update your social media, your online presence can grow dry and uninteresting. But posting too frequently can drown users in a sea of low-quality content. It’s best to drip out high-quality posts over time and reinforce a message of quality, not quantity.

Interested in learning more about using social media in a way that makes sense for your practice? Pick up The ADA Practical Guide to Social Media Planning. Learn how to use social media in a way that will engage potential and existing patients; make your practice more visible in a growing sea of online information and protect and further your professional reputation online.

How about you—do you have a plan for using social media to support your professional goals? Let us know in the comments. And don’t forget to follow the conference at #NDC2013.