A change of thinking
Despite an increasing awareness amongst practice owners and managers of the importance of KPIs (Key Performance Indicators), a significant number are still failing to measure practice performance. There can be many and varied reasons for this behaviour, but it does appear that a lack of understanding about how and where to access relevant performance data is chiefly responsible.
Dentistry is somewhat unique in business terms, and recent research undertaken by Software of Excellence has provided clear evidence that there are overwhelmingly large numbers of practice principals, around 80%, who admit to not knowing enough about their business performance. This figure becomes even more concerning when you consider that almost half of dentists claim they are not concerned about how their practice is performing.
We know from our research that just 35% of respondents are currently measuring KPIs, whilst only 12% are benchmarking their performance against other practices. Those that are doing so are far more inclined to seek out a third party to help them with the benchmarking process. In my view such external support can be a valuable asset when trying to understand and analyse performance data, often providing an objective view that challenges the beliefs of those within the practice as to what is possible.
Adopting Best Practice
In order to become more efficient and productive a business needs to identify and routinely measure its most important KPIs in order to build a clear picture of its performance and identify the biggest opportunities for growth. This method is not solely about making wholesale changes to the way a practice operates, it has been proven that even relatively minor alterations to existing processes can translate into substantial bottom line impact.
Even something as simple as a ‘daily huddle’, used as to focus attention around daily performance targets encourages ‘buy-in’ and has a tangible impact on business outcomes.
There is no real excuse for today’s dental businesses to avoid routinely measuring practice performance on a weekly or monthly basis. Generating reports is easy to achieve from a suitable practice management system and since the reports produced use only the data input into the system, they provide a reliable overview of KPIs such as chairtime ultisation, revenue, recall success and the like.
Taking this information and benchmarking practice performance to industry standards can help to identify where shortfalls in performance may be relative to similar types of practices in the local area and allow remedial action to be taken and performance targets to be set.
Aside from the monitoring of internal performance it is easy to overlook the importance of patient satisfaction and how this can benefit all practices. Our research showed that less than 40% of respondents carry out patient surveys on an annual basis and for a variety of reasons this figure needs to rise.
Logically, taking the time to listen to and understand what patients expect from your practice gives important feedback which will help you improve levels of care and service by putting patients’ priorities ahead of what dentists often perceive them to be. However listening to patients and encouraging feedback is also an important part of satisfying the “Is your practice responsive?” element of CQC compliance and along with the growing influence of patient testimonials in online reviews, is making the measuring and recording of patient feedback a fundamental part of practice success.
Combining an understanding of what your practice data is telling you, your patients’ feedback and focusing on those areas where performance can be increased or improved allows targets to be set and staff to be motivated around common objectives.
Don’t forget this most important point; great people like to be noticed. Chances are you already have a great team producing good results. By consistently and frequently focusing on the performance of a receptionist or associate you are inherently implying that what they do really matters to you. It gives you many opportunities to say “good job!”
Help is at hand
It is clear that performance monitoring is now a vital component of practice success, but it remains a relatively new concept for many practice owners and managers. For those unsure about taking the next step I would advise them to seek third party assistance to help implement monitoring and reporting procedures. Acknowledging the importance of practice data and its role in improving practice performance is an important first step in embedding these processes within routine practice management, and gives principals and managers a deeper insight into their business than they have ever had before.
‘Performance Management – a gateway to sustained practice growth’ is a Software of Excellence Whitepaper and is now available to download from softwareofexcellence.com/uk/whitepapers
Ben Flewett is Managing Director at Software of Excellence