Preparing Your Practice for Survival and a Lot More

I had the opportunity to speak with two periodontists today.  The perspectives were much the same. They were in practice for at least 20 years. Referral numbers were dropping.  Income was dropping.  They couldn’t afford to invest in new technology. They were “hanging on.” Both said that they weren’t ready to cut the ties to the general dentist quite yet.  And you know what?  They are right.

Why would you ever want to cut off a source of referrals, a source of revenue to your practice. I wouldn’t.  Would you?  Yet the practices are going downhill. Where will they be next year, and the year after that?  Many of you reading this are asking yourselves the very same question.

And unfortunately, the answer is not just external marketing.  The answer is establishing practice fundamentals.  Those of us who have been around for a while didn’t really have to concentrate on business fundamentals.  The general dentist refers. We treat. Then we share the referral for maintenance or we refer the patient back. Simple!  It doesn’t require business fundamentals except to know what to charge, be nice, and do good treatment. Maybe send some cookies every few months.

We have had it easy. We didn’t have to do anything but pass out some referral cards and away we went.  Tell me, younger and older periodontists, is it that easy now?  No, it isn’t.  That was the past. It may still be happening for us to a greater or lesser degree, but the referrals and the income are dropping for many.  You know all of the reasons.

But the answer is not external marketing, at least not at first.  And yes, I know that there are some out there who do external marketing and have done just fine.   But for the majority of us, we need to get our internal house in order before the external marketing will have an effect.  Remember, we are talking about strategic planning.  That strategic planning has to do with the entire practice, not just the marketing part of it.  Every group practice gets its internal structure in order to do well. Every corporate entity has a structure that it introduces to each practice.  And the interdependency of structure and function cannot be denied.

The better corporate practices depend upon the individual practitioner to make the best decisions for the patient. The poorer corporate practices have “programs” that they introduce to give patients the desired treatments that those corporations find to be helpful. You know those tactics, subgingival powder, “root planing” no matter what the depth. There’s more as procedures replace diagnosis and treatment planning.  But I digress.

The integrity of the periodontal practice has everything to do with the integrity of the diagnosis and treatment planning that the doctor espouses. It can result in little treatment if that’s all that is necessary or a lot of treatment if warranted. But yes, it involves full treatment planning. And it involves the ability to communicate that treatment plan to the patient.

But there’s more, lots more, that is necessary for the periodontal practice to survive. No, it’s not cute ads, although external marketing will be a must. It’s not the latest tools, although those are nice.  In the next segment, I’ll start to elaborate on the tools that we need for survival, in fact tools that will ensure our survival.