How to Create Control in your Periodontal Practice

 This is a project, a very worthwhile project, particularly when we do it for the right reasons. We do it for ethics, we do it to provide the best for the patients, we do it to provide the predictable diagnosis, treatment planning, treatment, and quality control that we were trained to provide.
The patients that you see when going direct to public as an expert in dentistry (notice I said dentistry, not periodontics (or oral surgery or prosthodontics) are a different breed of patient. Rather than seeing the patient who has been pre screened by the general dentist, you are for the most part seeing a patient who has opted out of the system. They are now ready to get back into the system because their need is so great. They are looking for the expert, just as the Clear Choice patients are looking for an expert. However, we all know that we on this list are the clear choice because of our training and because of the multiple predictable options that we can provide including, but not limited to, dental implants.
But many of these patients were burned in the past, by poor diagnosis, poor skills, pain in the dental chair, etc., so they are much more cautious the second time around than the first. They are not looking for a periodontist (or pros or OMFS), they are looking for solutions to their dental problems. They want to smile, They want to chew, They don’t want to hurt, and/or They don’t want their mouths to smell.
So the person answering your phone has to be trained specifically to let that caller know that you are the right doctor and know how to get a patient to schedule, not just answer questions. There are specific formulae to follow that anyone who is personable can be trained to do.  I put staff training as number 1, because expensive marketing dollars are wasted (ask me how I know) if the staff members, from phone to financial arrangements don’t know what to do and how to treat the patient, how to follow up the patient, how to close the patient, and how to make sure that patient knows that he or she chose the right place and right doctor for treatment.
So let’s take it stage by stage, the way that I would do it today, as I had some pitfalls that I don’t want you to repeat.
1. Appoint an office manager. That manager gets the infrastructure in place. You advise. She implements.  That way, your concentration is on patient care and on expanding your practice.  She is looking in while you are looking out.
2.  Staff training. We think our staffs are all great, and they are, but staffs are only as good as the training that they are given.  This isn’t dental training, although that is important. It is training on how to communicated as above. It includes that training and also putting organization in and increasing the level of responsibility that each staff member handles.  It requires an office manager that will implement that training and follow up when the inevitable happens, when staff members fall back to their old habits.
3. Start a marketing program. I did this myself for many years. Frankly, my time is more valuable and while I now monitor the marketing programs, I’ve been using professionals for the implementation.  Gilleard is my favorite for internet and for the magazine that we have.  I am now exploring adding a high level social media campaign to our mix.
4.  Add to your public relations. For us, it is our Charitable Giving Campaign, our book, The Ultimate Mouth Manual which many of you have, writing for local publications, guesting on radio and TV., teaching at a university.   You all know by now that I love public speaking. That may not be your bag, but there are some things that are your bag. You’ll benefit from having and creating the perception of “dental expert,” by implementing these strategies.
5. Create a strategic alliance only with the best restorative dentists (or in the case of the prosthodontist, the best periodontists and oral surgeons in your area). Define rolls. Strategize your thinking so that the patient doesn’t get lost in the shuffle of two offices, even though the treatment will be in two offices.  Figure it out from a patient’s standpoint, and minimize the confusions that occur when two offices are treating. For example, do one coordinated treatment plan rather than he/she  says to do this and I say to do this and leaving the patient in the middle to figure it out. One treatment plan given by one financial coordinator is best in my experience even though the patient will be treated in two offices.
6. Increase your diagnostic and treatment planning skills.  Periodontists, you should be able to treatment plan 95% of the cases that walk in the door from start to finish. That means that you need to know restorative treatment planning as well.  You present it. If you screw up a bit, that’s okay. Your restorative dentist will coach you on how you could have been better. You already really know how to treatment plan already.  But if we miss a surface for restorative, or a curve of Spee, we learn it, and we won’t miss it again.
7. Monitor, monitor, monitor. Make sure that your office manager, and you at the beginning are listening to those new patient calls. Recorded lines are easy to install. There is a reason that “This call may be monitored for training purposes.”
8. As you find the marketing strategies that are working, augment them. Discard the ones that don’t work, or refine the message, and try again.
9. Streamline your schedule. I see up to 25 new patients a week. You can’t do that on a one hour per examination schedule. You however can do that when your staff is trained to do everything that a staff member can do and you do what you are trained to do.  Jason Stoner is an expert at that.
10. After 1-9 are in, reevaluate. In my case, I wanted to practice with my son, a general dentist. Once I knew that I was in control of  1-9 above, it was easier for me to cut the referral cord. What I didn’t realize is the boon to the practice that I would find because so many patients want to have all their work done under one roof. But you don’t do, #10 unless 1-9 are totally in.
We can reverse this downward spiral. There are so many patients who need and want that. And I’ll tell you, I have never had so much fun in dentistry.