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Helping You Succeed as a Dentist

Working with a marketing firm

After buying the practice where he had been an associate in a few years ago, Dr. Ash Vasanthan wanted to start from scratch when it came to rebuilding his brand.

“I had a client base and an active website, but I wanted to rebrand myself,” said Dr. Vasanthan, a periodontist who has been practicing for 5 years in Roseville, California.

Dr. Vasanthan  In January 2013, he started working with PBHS, the ADA Business Resources-endorsed website design and practice marketing firm.

Working with a graphic designer, one of his first decision was choosing colors, which led to the creation of his practice’s logo. Both colors and logo are used throughout his practice, from his website and stationary to letterheads and coffee mugs.

Meanwhile, PBHS also built Dr. Vasanthan’s website — which, for people searching for periodontists in his area, is now the top result online.

“Everything had to be very precise,” he said, when it came to working with PBHS. “Building my brand was a defining moment for me because I was a new business owner.”

Dr. Vasanthan spoke with ADA New Dentist News to share some suggestions and advice for making the most out of working a marketing firm.

Call around

“PBHS isn’t the only marketing firm around,” Dr. Vasanthan said. “But dentists need to do their research to find the best firm for their needs. I really wanted a company that would take me and say, ‘We can brand you, we can start from scratch.’

“I zeroed in on PBHS because I felt they would be able to provide me with what I was looking for. It’s also a good idea to just call around. I partly chose PBHS because their customer service was great. I never reached a machine.  Jay Levine, PBHS president, was always available and accessible to answer any questions despite being the very busy.”

When it came to building a website, which Dr. Vasanthan considers his top marketing tool, he compared the construction of a house.

“If you want a beautiful, sturdy house, you have to find the best builder in town for you,” he said. “I called a few places, visited several websites and asked friends for recommendations before I found the one.”

Consider your budget

“For new dentists starting a practice, you have to spend money on so many things on top of trying to repay student loans,” Dr. Vasanthan said. “For me, I didn’t go for PBHS’ top tier offerings. I went with somewhere in the middle. I would tell new dentists to really look at what you’re getting for what you’re paying. Sometimes, you don’t have to choose the most expensive package or service to be happy and to get the results you want.”

Get a website

Dr. Vasanthan said his main focus when he hired a marketing firm was to increase his Web presence.

“My website is my number one marketing tool. It’s my face on the Internet,” he said. “When starting a new practice, it’s important to have a website immediately. I would say it’s only second to having a phone number set up for the office. A potential patient can only reach you 8-5 on the phone. A website allows them to access you 24/7.”

Make things easier for patients

Just because a website or a successful marketing strategy help potential patients find you easier, it should also make things more convenient for them, Dr. Vasanthan said.

“The simplest thing a new dentist can do is to have a responsive Web design with a fill-able patient registration available online,” he said.

Dr. Vasanthan’s website allows potential patients to fill out and submit new patient registration forms when making an appointment. This way, the patient doesn’t have to fill it out at the office and it helps his practice track how many new patients are coming in due to his Web marketing.

Stay involved

When it came to the designing your brand, you have to be very involved, Dr. Vasanthan said. He worked exclusively with Alejandro Salazar, a PBHS graphic designer, who translated his vision into art and helped design his logo, business cards, letterheads, etc.  Dr. Vasanthan said he is extremely proud to hand out his business cards just because of the many times he gets complimented on the design and the quality.

“I put my logo on everything. I’m very proud to show it off. To me, being able to explicitly express what I wanted or looking for was very, very important,” Dr. Vasanthan said. “What you’re doing should reflect who you are.”

Have ideas for the ADA’s Center for Professional Success?

The Center for Professional Success is a members-only Web resource that provides practice management information, online education and support tools to help you manage your career.Center for Professional Success

They are currently seeking new members for their Center for Professional Success users group. You will help determine the direction of the Center’s content. What are your major practice concerns? What tools do you need to improve your practice?

If you are interested in learning more about the user group or becoming a member, email Sarah Hughes at hughess@ada.org. The deadline to apply is Dec. 19.

 

Log on to Success.ADA.org for valuable resources

The ADA Center for Professional Success, Success.ADA.org, is a unique web portal for dentists in every practice setting who want to succeed as dental practitioners.

Resources include frequently asked questions about dental codes; information on Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act compliance issues; financial calculators for loan and overhead analysis; in-person and online educational opportunities; and guidance for new dentists on how to understand employment agreements before they sign on the dotted line.

The ultimate goal of the Center is to provide accurate answers to specific questions members have helping them balance their professional careers with their personal lives.

Pick up practice management skills from the comfort of your own office

The ADA Center for Professional Success recommended some ways for new dentists to pick up practice management skills from the comfort of their own office or home, and earn continuing education credits at the same time.

Center for Professional Success

  • Improve your own organization: Use the SMART goal process to learn to set organizational objectives to help improve the efficiency of your office. Evaluate your external and internal strengths and obstacles that factor in your goal attainment. Develop new habits and processes that will result in a smoother, more efficient work environment each and every day. It’s free for ADA members. To learn more, click here.
  • Interested in peer review? Peer review is a way to address the issues of quality oral health care for our patients in a self-regulating manner. It is a dispute resolution program that is based on our ethical obligations as dentists to provide our patients with the best care possible in each situation. This course outlines the administrative aspects, the differences among different systems and an overall look at how to best structure a system that is confidential, consistent and easily accessible. It is free for ADA members. To learn more, click here.
  • Other courses available: ADA CE online offers a number of courses for member dentists. Take time to browse through the selection, and find the perfect class to suit your needs. To learn more, click here.

ADA launches new dental student Web portal

The ADA launched this month a new Web portal designed to provide a one-stop shop for dental students seeking information, ranging from financial resources to finding a job.

ADA for Dental StudentsThe portal ADA for Dental Students can be found at ADA.org/student or can be accessed via the Member Center on ADA.org.

The portal provides dental students easy access to a variety of ADA resources and benefits, including information on dental careers and finding a job, financial planning and student loan debt, dental licensure and examinations, professional ethics, and more!

The portal will be regularly updated with new and noteworthy information and resources. For more information, contact the ADA Office of Student Affairs at studentaffairs@ada.org.

Maintaining a positive online reputation

Do you know what your patients are saying about you? Your online reputation depends on whether and/or how you react to what people say about your services.

Today, according to the ADA Center for Professional Success, many patients investigate your office prior to an initial appointment using Google, Yelp, and many other review and research sources. Make sure you are doing everything you can to maintain a positive online reputation.

PBHSADA Business Resources and Protective Business and Health Systems (PBHS) recently hosted a webinar on managing your online reputation. A recording of the seminar along with the question and answer section is now available for ADA members.

In this webinar Jay Levine, president of PBHS, offered tips and best practices to monitor your public reputation and take a proactive approach to addressing online reviews. To view the webinar, accessible to ADA members, click here.

This information is provided courtesy of PBHS, the only marketing company endorsed by ADA Business Resources. Learn more about PBHS, click here or by calling 855.932.4232.

 

ADA executive program in dental practice management

According to the ADA Center for Professional Success, new dentists can match their passion for dentistry with a mind for business with the ADA’s Executive Program in Dental Practice Management.

Launched in September, this Web-based program takes on the tough practice management challenges today’s dentists must master, such as reducing costs, enhancing marketing strategies and practicing amid increased regulation.

Center for Professional SuccessDental practice management experts and first-rate business lectures from the University of Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business — all carefully selected by the ADA for certificate fulfillment — merge to provide a comprehensive six-course certificate program in disciplines crucial to practice success. The first three to be available are:

• Legal and Ethical Issues in Dental Practice
• Negotiation and Conflict Management
• Understanding Leadership

And following soon will be:

• Business Strategy and Systems
• Dental Team Management
• Financial Management

Accessible by desktop, Internet-enabled mobile device, MP3 and MP4 formats, the state-of-the-art online classroom is available anytime and anywhere, with around-the-clock technical support. Participants will also be able to earn continuing education credits when appropriate from those classes which apply, but must take the entire sixty hour series to earn the certificate.

Whether you have your own practice or aspire to do so, it’s time to complement your clinical expertise with skills for the business side of dentistry. To register, click here.

Marketing the dental practice: Know the rules

Marketing your dental practice is key to attracting new patients but it’s also important to do so ethically and to follow the law.

“The key is to be informed,” said Dr. Kevin Sessa, chair of the ADA Council on Dental Practice. “When you know the rules, you are better equipped to avoid breaking them. As dentists and small business owners, we’re all looking for ways to attract new patients and to retain our existing ones. Marketing your practice is a great way to do that but it’s important to do so in a legal and ethical way.”

The ADA has several resources that can help new and veteran dentists understand not only the basics of marketing and advertising but how to promote their practices within the law. One such publication, “Advertising Basics for Dentists and Dental Associations: A Guide to Federal and State Rules and Standards,” is an overview of federal and advertising-related laws and regulations.

It’s also a primer that includes links to useful electronic resources; discusses state advertising regulations; and also has a section on codes of ethics in dentistry.

Members can read the online publication hereEthical marketing. The publication emphasizes that while dentists can advertise their practice, they shouldn’t solicit patients in any form of communication that’s false or misleading. Dentists can find additional legal and ethical resources on ADA.org.

“Truthful, nondeceptive advertising of a dentist’s qualifications, services or facilities can help patients make informed choices about practitioners and services,” according to the publication. “On the other hand, advertising that is false or misleading harms patients by making it more difficult and costly for them to make informed choices.”

Knowing the basics of advertising laws also helps dentists know when to seek legal advice. Those with more questions or who need clarification can contact the ADA Division of Legal Affairs at legaldivision@ada.org.

The ADA also offers “Internal Marketing: The Key to Dental Practice Success,” through its ADA Catalog. Chapters discuss cultivating referrals, developing practice newsletters and websites and utilizing social networking profitably and responsibly.

The 122-page book (P080) costs $49.95 for members and 74.95 for nonmembers; the e-book (P080D) is $39.95 for members and $59.95 for nonmembers; and the print and e-book bundle is $59.95 for members and $84.95 for nonmembers. All can be purchased on ADACatalog.org.

Stay tuned for The ADA Practical Guide to Internet Marketing, coming in January.

 

A benefit of ADA membership — ADA Members Insurance Plans

Your most important asset is not your house or your car, it’s your income! Protect it by taking advantage of one of your valuable ADA member benefits – exclusive access to affordable ADA-sponsored disability insurance from ADA Members Insurance Plans.

Did you know that more than 100,000 ADA member dentists, dental student members and their families are insured by ADA Members Insurance Plans?

For more information, call an Insurance Plan Specialist at 866.607.5330 or visit insurance.ada.org.

Be prepared before seeking a practice loan

The thought of seeking a practice loan for a new dentist might be intimidating. But being prepared with good information can prove to be key to an easier—that is, successful—experience.

Allison Farey, president of Wells Fargo Practice Finance, named good credit as the No. 1 criterion that a new dentist should meet before seeking a practice loan. Ms. Farey said that a FICO credit score “north of 700” is a good place to start.  While that means being in good standing with student loan payments, for instance, it doesn’t mean that heavy student loans themselves will be an issue.

Wells Fargo“That does not matter whatsoever when we’re analyzing the doctor for a practice loan,” Ms. Farey said.  “We do not factor in the debt load on the student loans because we know they have them, and we consider that good debt. But what does matter is if they buy really fancy cars or large houses with big mortgages on them. That will have a big impact.”

There are a few distinctions between buying an existing practice and establishing a startup that should be noted. But from Wells Fargo’s perspective, one approach does not trump the other.

“We don’t judge them as one is better than the other,” Ms. Farey said. “What we look at first and foremost is the character of the borrower or dentist. We do that through their credit. If it’s a startup, we’re looking at your business plan.”

But as a preliminary step, Wells Fargo will help the applicant get the plan in good shape prior to their application, Ms. Farey said.

“We’re really looking to help set up a business plan with them and give them the tools to do that,” she said of new dentists. “We refer them certainly to the ADA to also pull tools down for them to reference in building a business plan, etc. We have some practice management consultants on staff that may have a conversation with the doctor, to make sure they’re ready to go.

“For the existing practice, we’re looking at the historical cash flow of the practice. We’re looking to make sure that the debts can be covered by the historical revenues that come off of that practice.  So that’s a completely different way that we would underwrite a purchase versus a startup.”

Another major preparation step for a new dentist planning to seek a practice loan is to get all preliminary, self-assessment out of the way before applying for a loan, Ms. Farey said. “They need to be prepared by knowing where they want to be, not ‘I think I might want to do this or I think I might want to do that,’” Ms. Farey said.

But Wells Fargo can even help with those early steps, she said. New dentists may consult with her division to get help focusing their intentions, such as where they will practice.  “They certainly can call,” she said. “We talk to doctors way back to when they’re students.”

To learn more about Wells Fargo Practice Finance’s programs for new dentists, visit wellsfargo.com/dentists or call 1.888.937.2321.