By Jill Nesbitt, MBA
Dashboards are all the rage in dentistry today. Competition is growing and it seems that a new software company pops up every month offering the latest & greatest dashboard. So, do you need a third party software dashboard for your practice? What benefits do you receive?
As an MBA, I love numbers. And, since I did well in school, I always looked forward to getting my report cards (yep, total nerd). Anyway, I believe that every practice should check out their own report card (aka dashboard) at the end of every month to see their performance and make decisions based on actual data. A successful dashboard looks at more than just money. Yes, I want to know production and collection, but I also need to see how many new patients joined the practice. We definitely should be tracking our aging and insurance claims outstanding, but a dentist owner should also be monitoring recall success and the volume of credit balances due.
The question for each dental practice isn’t should you look at a dashboard of your performance every month (you should), but do you want to hire it out or do it yourself?
Hire It Out
Everyone knows that there are dozens of companies offering services for people who simply don’t want to do certain tasks. You can hire a landscaping service, housecleaner, dog walker, you name it. The same holds true for dental practices. You can outsource business tasks as well. You can hire a cleaning service, marketing agency, etc and depending on your situation, these may be very good choices for you. Dental dashboards fall into the same category.
In general, these third party software applications will tie into your dental software and your accounting software to pull your practice data into their program. Then, they massage this data so it looks beautiful – showing up in graphs and tables, often with color and smiley faces (okay, maybe not smiley faces, but you get the idea). One of the strongest benefits of using a third party dashboard is that the data are easy to see and understand. For dentists who often feel less-than-confident in their business / statistical measurement skills, making their practice data easy to understand will make it easier for the dentist to look at their numbers and make decisions.
Do It Yourself
Many intelligent front desk team members work around the reports in their dental software because they simply don’t know how to run them properly. Sticky notes in planners and folders full of printed treatment plans are sure signs that you’re not using reports. Even if these approaches seem to work for you, I guarantee patients are falling between the cracks.
The more you learn how to run the reports in your dental software, the easier it is to set up a system that is both comprehensive and easy to track. This also gives you a great opportunity to create your own dashboard. This may sound more challenging than it really is. You simply run the reports in your dental software that reflect the parts of your practice you want to monitor, then keep track of this information in Excel. Or, for a multi-location group, in Google Drive.
Dentrix is well known for being a business-friendly dental software meaning that you can run the reports you need (and with their totally custom interface inside Patient Letters, you can run any type of report you can think of!) and then create the dashboard that best fits your practice. If you are targeting implant placement in your group and you want to keep an eye on how many D6010’s were charged out each month, this is a report you can create and save in Dentrix easily. Then, you just track the results in your dashboard to monitor your performance against goal. This is just one example of how you can customize a dashboard to your style of practice.
Only You Know Your Real Numbers
You may have heard the phrase “Garbage in, garbage out” – this perfectly applies to dental software reports. It won’t matter how beautiful or homemade your dashboard is if you’re not tracking accurate information. One area I highly suggest you evaluate is your adjustments. Please read why adjustments matter and how you can make them correct in your practice.
For multiple location group practice, another number on your dashboard that can be misleading is the number of new patients. If you simply count the total number of new patients into each office in your group and then add up the total, you may be double counting. You need to run detailed reports to make sure that these patients are not coming from one office to another! In one group I worked with, they had about 40 new patients each month in one location, which looked pretty solid, until a more detailed report revealed that 25 of these patients were coming from another location inside the group practice! Think of the difference in management (and marketing!) decisions if you measured 40 new patients or only 15 new patients.
You definitely need a dental dashboard. No doubt. However, you can decide if you want to hire it out or do it yourself. In either case, the key is making sure you have accurate numbers so you are making decisions based on correct data.
Using a dashboard is just one way to run a successful dental practice. If you’re interested in new ideas on running a dental practice, please subscribe to my weekly blog. One of the biggest challenges to managing a dental practice is managing dental insurance. With dental insurance handled, then dental marketing for new patients becomes a primary focus. In today’s day of online reviews, handling patient complaints well is essential. As your practice grows, hiring dental staff becomes more important. With 18+ years of dental practice management experience, I’m open to your questions to help you run a successful dental office.
This post was written by Jill Nesbitt
Jill Nesbitt, MBA is a group practice dental consultant. She offers an online dental staff training program to allow dentists to hire staff with no dental experience necessary and grow them into fully-trained dental office managers. In her free blog, www.dentalpracticecoaching.com, she offers practice management resources incorporating Dentrix step-by-step instructions.