No Pain, No Gain?

By Gary Severance, DDS and Jodie Adams, MBA

Obviously, the economic meltdown of 2008 has not been a lot of fun for any of us, but as we progress through a new year we can choose to just deal with it or consider ways to grow through the pain and then gain. Hopefully, many of us will choose to find ways to build stronger practices by looking inwardly and outwardly for ways to grow and prosper.

How can you strengthen your office team, increase patient loyalty, and ultimately create an enhanced working environment to meet and exceed your own personal and professional goals in 2009? Consider the opportunities that modern dentistry and specifically Henry Schein Dental offers. Although many clinicians may choose to do nothing to answer these questions, it will be those who chart a course forward who will distinguish their practice in their community and attract new patients, maintain staff motivation, and flourish in 2009.

Yes, we are in challenging times, but there are foundational truths in marketing and dentistry that can serve you well. Seek to offer excellent patient care and service and provide unchallenged dental expertise by becoming a market leader with investment in new technology.

Patient Care and Service–Although the economic challenges are trying for all of us, it is even more likely that the families you serve are facing even tougher financial decisions. Certainly, dental healthcare is considered a necessity by most, but you must be responsive to the fact that in 2009 patients will have higher expectations for the care and services they receive. In fact, if you think about it we have all become price sensitive. Therefore, it is more important than ever that you find ways to add value to your patients experience while they are in your care.

To play it safe many will choose to weather the tough economic times by reducing business hours to lower operations costs. But it will be the dentist who chooses to sow seeds with patients by providing a more convenient patient friendly operating schedule who will prosper. Your patients may have a difficult time leaving work during the day, or taking time again for a second seating appointment. The ancillary costs add up with multiple visits i.e.; babysitters, gas, parking. Make the effort to build your day around your patients schedule, consider the long-term value of each patient and the many times you hope they will return to your office for dental care. Patient loyalty is must have for success. In simple terms, overlooked common courtesies can only enhance the bottom line and probably increase your profitability. Enhance the relationship you have with your patients—existing and potential. Understand your patients concerns, challenges, and needs— listen to clues and offer solutions. If your patients are hesitating on treatment plans or smile designs—offer a staged plan over the year or years if possible—rather than an all or nothing option. Timing is everything and when it is right for them, economically, socially, and personally— you want to be the office and the dentist that is first on their list and in their mind. Now is also the time to offer your patients opportunities that distinguish your practice from the rest.

Invest in High Technology–Yes, it can be expensive to “upgrade” your office to the digital world either in X-rays, documentation, soft-tissue management or restorative procedures, but investing in better and more efficient equipment can save you money, motivate your team, and build your patient base. Smart capital spending requires not only a return on investment on just a dollars and cents approach—but also a common “sense” outlook as well. Consider how a new technology is going to affect your entire practice by enhancing your reputation in the community as a market leader. If your practice is ready for it, a chair side CAD/CAM system (E4D Dentist) can save on expenses because it will supplement some of the lab fabrication costs, motivate and utilize all of your team members with new skills and information, and save patients who cannot afford multiple appointments time and money. We are all busy and your patients need solutions that fit their schedules and economic situations. There are also benefits that cannot be quantified in a spreadsheet. How many new patients will the D4D technology bring to your practice? A recent survey concluded that once patients knew about Same-Day Dentistry, 15% of them would change dentists to get it—you can be on the receiving end or the giving end of that statistic and those patients. Again, timing is everything and when you and your practice is ready—go for it.

Integrate New Materials–Finally, while it often seems like there is a continuous flow of new products offering new, better or improved solutions—true product innovations arrive less frequently. But when they do appear—integrating them into your practice and your treatment modalities can provide you with unique and “first in line” advantages. In 2009, Ivoclar Vivadent will be introducing a new extension of their popular IPS e.max CAD materials—a new translucent (HT) series of blocks. This will provide those with the E4D Dentist System an opportunity to take tremendous advantage of a unique metal-free material that combines high strength and esthetics for Same-Day Dentistry.

The new IPS e.max CAD HT block will be especially versatile in areas where “thin is in” as well as for posterior more functional areas. This means that veneers can be milled taking full advantage of the precision and stability of the E4D mill— milling all ceramic restorations (veneers) to 0.3-0.4mm thin chairside. Keep an eye out for materials such as this that have been clinically verified and that can provide you with immediate treatment modalities never before offered.

There are tremendous challenges ahead—but there are also opportunities. Those who recognize the hurdles facing today’s dental patient and are the first to reach out to reduce obstacles for dental care or offer assistance will continue to lead modern dentistry and provide excellence in healthcare. Look for ways to improve every patient’s experience, invest in your practice with Henry Schein Dental and lead your team through 2009 with confidence.