When creating goals for your dental practice you need to consider all the variables and obstacles that could keep you from achieving your desired results. Goals are not some arbitrary thing, there is a method to setting proper goals which we talked about in a previous blog: SMART goals for dentistry. Taking those principles, we can dive into the "A" of the acronym which is "attainable" and make sure your goals can actually be achieved. Everyone wants to end the year with growth but if you don't consider the obstacles, you'll end the year wondering what happened. Evaluating your performance will help pinpoint the issues but wouldn't it be nice to end the year well?
Here are 5 variables that are important to consider when creating your dental practice goals for the year:
You need to consider your provider's schedules when setting goals. What vacation time do they typically need? What specific vacations do they have coming up for the year? How many sick days do you typically have each year? Do you have enough providers working for you to achieve your goals? Do you need another hygienist? You can't hit your goals if the amount of available time doesn't allow it.
Do you have a good scheduler? Are you over or under-booked? If you keep track of your analytics you'll be able to see the difference in available time vs appointed time for your providers. This will help you discover how efficient your provider scheduling is. Do you use an automated recall system and patient communication systems? This is the easiest way to fill your calendar and track the revenue lost due to walkouts and broken appointments.
2. Past Trends
Find the biggest areas for growth by looking at your trends and use that to create goals and strategies for the coming year. Knowing what happened last year or better yet the last 3 years will give you incredible insight for the coming year. Which months seem to always be slow? Which months do you feel like you're drowning and can't keep up with the scheduled appointments? This information can not only help you project this year's revenue, but also help you strategize your marketing efforts for the slower months so they don't continue to be slow year after year.
3. Procedure Categories
This plays into trends as well but it is important enough to call out as it's own variable. It's important to look at which procedures are the most profitable for your dental practice as well as which ones make up the most volume, a.k.a. take up the most time. Is there a new procedure your patients have been requesting? Consider the feedback of your patients as well as trends in the dental industry. This will help you figure out if you have the right procedure mix for your clientele or if you need to make a change that will increase new patient revenue.
4. Hours of Operation
You need to create a schedule that works for the patients coming in. Are you a pediatric dentist but are only open during school hours? Do you know when school days start and end in your area? Do you know what days they have off during the year? You should! You need to have extra providers available during the most convenient days and times for your patients.
5. Number of Providers
Finally, have you looked at growing your practice by adding another provider to the mix? If you've found that your practice is bursting at the seems 9 months out of the year, it could be a good time to consider adding another hygienist. The industry best practice is having 2 hygienists per dentist in the office. If you aren't at that capacity you are missing out on easy revenue and efficiency in your practice.
Another thing to consider is adding a dental assistant or better training your existing dental assistants in the 4-handed approach to dentistry. If you don't know what that is, stay tuned, because we will dive into it a lot more in late January. In short, 4-handed dentistry means you have a dentist and an assistant working together (4 hands) so seamlessly that the dentist doesn't even have to look up from the work he is doing on the patient because the assistant knows the procedures so well and anticipates what the dentist needs before they even ask! Talk about efficiency!
There is so much to consider when creating goals for your dental practice. These 5 should give you a great start and allow you to set and achieve SMART goals for your practice. Know where you've been to know where you're going. It's that simple.