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It’s the Economy…

By Greg Auerbach, MBA

As the primary election season continues the hot topic continues to be the current state of our economy. What does it all mean to your office? Initially, the answer may seem simple – households feel as though they have less money to spend and the budget for dental visits shrinks. While it is true that the amount of discretionary income is down in many families, this does not mean that your practice has to suffer. Here are a few thoughts to consider.

The Sky is Not Falling
We know that the economy is cyclical; we enjoy the good times and bear the bad times. We never seem to see the bad times when we are in the good part of the cycle and, find it very hard to see the good times coming from the bad. The bottom line is that the other is always just around the corner, its just going to take some internal strengthening in the mean time.

Do Not Change Your Practice Profile
You have worked to establish the personality of your practice and it is what you thrive on when business is good and what will keep you centered when business is slow. If you begin to allow patients or procedures into your office that do not fit your vision and values, not only will you be less enthusiastic about going to the office every day, ultimately making you less productive, but you may find it difficult to get back to your ideal practice when the economy gets better. Instead, work harder to find more ways to edify your practice’s personality. Aggressively market to your current, long-standing, best patients and do not be afraid to ask for referrals. The more times your best patients can bring in another just like themselves, the better your practice will be when the economy strengthens.

Do Not Look to Reduced Fee Insurance
Just because you take on the plan today, does not mean patients will be in the door tomorrow – there is always a delay. You can reasonably expect that it will take a few months before any steady stream finds its way to you. Sure, for now, your fee-for-service patient flow may be down but did you realize that even at the slightest discount, say, twenty percent, you are reducing your income by nearly eighty percent? Sure, these patients will make your office busier, but reduced fee insurance essentially steals chair time from your full-fee patients.

Do Not Overlook Your Internal Resources
Beyond the referral source that sits in your chair everyday, do not forget the charts that reside on your shelves or in storage. If your hygienist, staff or you have downtime or holes in the schedule, cull through those charts for work that needs to be done, probably looked over because of your previously busy schedule. Contact those patients, talk about the importance of completing that work and tell them you can see them almost immediately.

Do Not Become the Bank
There are several companies out there that will be happy to be the bank for you. Yes you pay a modest amount on each transaction, but you are also paid up front and do not have to worry about writing off a bad debt. Unpaid receivables are a net loss to you – much greater than the loss of a couple of percent on the transaction.

Again, the country will survive the downturn as will your practice. Take time now to make your practice stronger and you will better endure the valleys and truly enjoy the peaks.

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