Interview with Wendy Briggs
(Team Training Institute)
EDB: Wendy, what are the biggest trends or movements challenging independent dentists and their businesses?
TTI: We see a few major changes that are causing stress to dentists around the country. The infiltration of insurance at a higher level, in all areas of the country is significant. It used to be that only certain geographical areas were affected by PPO, and managed care plans. This is changing rapidly. Many practices are having to adapt and are finding it difficult to know where to start.
We also see a consolidation of practices by corporate entities that are causing some serious changes in the marketplace. Affiliated practices are becoming more common, and that changes the feel of many practices. The need for a World Class patient experience and patient processes are becoming more critical as our world communicates through social media.
The level of competition is changing traditional dental models very rapidly as well. Both competition within professional circles (as in some markets there is saturation of hygiene providers) and competition for patients. The need for expanding one’s clinical skill set to provide more expanded treatment in house is also an important trend that we are seeing.
EDB: Do you consider dentistry to still be a very rewarding and profitable profession?
TTI: Yes! I don’t there is a better career out there. What an amazing blessing it is to be a dentist, a hygienist or dental team member in today’s world. The technology we have today is just incredible. We are really able to serve our patients at a higher level than ever before, and I think that is just awesome.
The profitability part is a bit trickier than it used to be, but I have found that if you serve your patients at the highest possible level, the productivity will naturally follow that. To maintain high levels of profitability, there needs to be some solid systems in place. Systems that ensure efficiency, a high level of patient communication and case acceptance and systems that ensure the practice is functioning at a high level and is profitable.
EDB: Is there one piece of advice that you would give to a young associate dentist who plans on owning their own practice one day?
TTI: I would say that too many dentists focus on acquiring more New Patients. “If I had more new patients, I would be earning more. If I had more new patients, I wouldn’t be having this problem”. Many dentists truly believe that more new patients is what they need. In our experience, many dentists really don’t need more new patients. They need to be more effective with the patients they already have. There really are only 4-5 steps that you need to put your income into the top 1% of all Dentists. When you do this, your financial future is more certain and your patients will always know that you are providing high-quality dental care for their long-term health. They are:
- Optimize Production
- Create Systems
- Build a Management Team
- “Tiger Proof” yourself
- Replace your Personal Production income
These are the steps that we have used to take practices from the brink of bankruptcy to over $1M in revenue; to take a $1M practice to $5M. Once you learn the basic strategies behind optimizing production, creating systems for efficiency in all aspects of the practice, building team leaders and team members and utilizing doctor time in the most effective way possible practice growth occurs. Sometimes it’s incredibly rapid growth! I have learned that you can’t solve an operations problem with more new patients, in fact many times it makes things worse! If a young dentist were to learn this early on, it could have a powerful impact on their future.
EDB: How do you see the Fee for Service business model in 2015 and beyond? What direction would you take if you were opening a practice from scratch today – Insurance model? No insurance/FFS model? Hybrid model? DMO/Medicaid model?
TTI: I know this might seem difficult to believe, but the most successful practices we work with accept insurance. In fact, the MOST successful accept ALL insurance plans – PPO, all of them. The key to succeeding with this model is to have great systems in place. We help practices know what to do differently to succeed while accepting insurance.
Some consultants would have you believe that moving towards Fee for Service and away from insurance is the future of dentistry. Although it sure would be nice to believe that, we just aren’t seeing it. There are a few select practices in a few select areas that are able to thrive in a FFS model, and if that is you. keep doing what you are doing! I see very charismatic dentists in non-competitive markets able to succeed here, but this is rare.
Many dentists who were able to do well with this model in the past are finding it much more difficult today. In many areas, dental insurance and even PPO infiltration is high…and we are fairly certain that isn’t going to change. The key is to be able to adapt, and provide dentistry at a high level in EVERY model. That is what we teach.
As for what model of practices we would utilize ourselves, in the last 12 months I have consulted 9 startup practices and have set them up as a hybrid model.
These practices accept nearly all insurance plans as well as Fee for Service patients. In this model these practices are at a positive cash flow in an average of 7 months’ time.
EDB: Wendy, how will the role of the hygienist change in the future?
TTI: Hygiene is changing rapidly right now! We used to be defined as the ones who kept teeth clean so they could be restored. Now, we bring so much more to the table, it is both exciting and overwhelming at the same time. I have defined 3 roles that a hygienist must utilize to maximize their impact in a practice.
The 3 Key Roles of the Modern Day Hygienist are:
Preventive Therapist: As the “preventive therapist” the hygienist becomes the source of information regarding the menu of preventive services. When we use the full menu of preventative services (regardless of age and insurance) we are in fact providing a much higher level of patient care, and a level of care that our patients want and need.
Periodontal Therapist: It’s not just about saving teeth anymore, it’s now about saving lives. Patients are at much greater risk of other serious medical disorders if we don’t address their periodontal health – and this starts while in the hygiene chair.
Patient Treatment Advocate: We are the ones patients look to when considering treatment options. The doctor leaves the room, and they turn to us. They often ask things like, “What do you think, do I really need to do this?” This is why, I define ‘Patient Treatment Advocate’ as a key role. This key role is responsible for helping our patients accept restorative dentistry. When we focus in on our role, and teach valuable skills in this area, we see case acceptance sky rocket.
EDB: Wendy, what are your top three tips for hygienists to increase efficiency and profitability?
TTI: I would say the easiest role to start with is Preventive Services. We often will teach hygienists how to become more effective with a few Preventive menu items on day one. A few examples of goals we might help them accomplish:
- Achieve 80% Acceptance on Adult Fluoride Varnish. We teach a simple 3 step process that makes 80% acceptance possible. Many patients of today are high risk for decay. Once we have a Caries Risk Assessment completed, this conversation becomes more powerful! When we have a risk assessment conversation with patients it’s like putting prevention on steroids. Most patients don’t SEE a need for the preventative services, and it’s our job to SHOW them the need.
- Focus in on Same Day bonded procedures. Helping patients accept sealants, or bonded Desensitizing/protective services helps protect the patient and increases production. Just 4 services a day means an increase of more than $35,000 per year.
- Achieve 30% acceptance on advanced Oral Cancer screenings. I just read a story about a 15 year old boy that was diagnosed with Oral cancer. Traditional risk factors aren’t enough in todays world. HPV and other risks are real, and we should utilize technology to our patients advantage. We have specific systems and verbal skills that help hygienists to actually utilize these resources.
These 3 examples are just 3 of many different strategies I could have chosen, which is exciting!
EDB: Please tell me why The Team Training Institute can help dentists grow their practice and uncover their true potential?
TTI: We have a unique approach when helping dentists grow. We are practicing professionals who have actually done it ourselves. That is powerful. Many times dentists are doing a lot of things that are taking time or mental energy away from treating patients; they are dealing with staff issues, dealing with marketing issues, dealing with the follow up on all their systems (that may or may not be very effective systems at that) doing all the staff training, doing all the hiring, doing the firing, doing the accounting and the book keeping.
There are dentists who do all of those things and I can tell you they are not the most productive dentists in the world…the most productive dentists in the world are the ones who don’t do any of that. They focus all their time, all their mental energy making goals, treating patients, that’s it. Everything else gets delegated to somebody else because everything else can. We help them create systems to maximize their own potential, and the potential that exists in hygiene as well.
The strategies we teach are really real-world solutions that are actually working in dentistry today. We don’t teach theory, or things that should work. We are teaching dentists what to do differently to get the results they are looking for.
EDB: Is TTI working with small groups? Can you shed some light on the challenges a small dental group may have as they go from two to three or five offices?
TTI: That is a really great question, and truthfully one that is difficult to answer in a few short paragraphs! We actually have a 2 day course designed around helping dentists and small groups expand successfully to multiple locations. It really takes every minute of that time too, to teach our 16 step process. A few quick suggestions though, are that there needs to be a solid management team in place. This is incredibly challenging, because the management team need to have the time, energy and skills for overseeing multiple locations. Doing this at a high level when they are not actually IN the location is a critical issue.
Another common challenge is aggregating all the information and statistics to a central place. Having accurate data and having the ability to provide timely, meaningful reporting is another challenge.
Gaining alignment between multiple dentists and hygienists on clinical care issues is also a considerable challenge.
We have helped dentists move fairly quickly from 1 location to 3, or from 10 locations to 15 with the 16 step process we teach. We help small dentists, and sometimes quite large organizations create systems for growth whether in one location, or 50. This really is one of our unique abilities; we handle multiple locations at a very high level because of our expertise in this area.
We offer complimentary consultations over the phone. Simply call us at 877-732-2124. Email email@example.com We also have an exciting event coming up in April of 2015 where you can see us in action: www.championsofdentistry.com