Providing patients with quality dentistry is first and foremost for any successful dental practice, but after that, the list gets long and varied. It includes office management, marketing, billing, employee motivation, team management, hiring, in addition to communication, leadership, business planning, systems software, and bookkeeping. And after that, the list continues. In the end, you can’t do it all. Success often means knowing when to ask for help and knowing who to ask. Hiring a dental practice management consultant provides you with the know-how to successfully manage your practice, especially when your expertise does not cover the items on your to-do list. But, should you hire one?
Dental practice management consultants offer business expertise and experience to move your practice towards growth and success. They focus not only on your dental practice’s big picture but on how the different business functions fit together. They then offer detailed business solutions to improve the pieces that need improvement and expand the pieces that work best. This is not to say they are magic wizards. They don’t wave a wand, and poof, your practice is successful. Hiring a consultant is a business decision that costs money. Is it worth the investment? How do you know? How do you figure it out?
Understanding the basics of the what, why, when, and who of dental consultants gives you the knowledge to make this decision.
It’s important to know:
- WHAT is a dental practice consultant and what do they have to offer?
- WHY is hiring one beneficial to your practice and is the investment useful?
- WHEN is the best time to hire one and how do you know it’s right?
- WHO best fits your office needs and how do you know who to hire?
Let’s take a closer look and answer these basic questions.
What is a dental practice consultant?
Before answering this question, ask yourself these other questions first for all the moving parts of your dental business:
- What part of my practice do I love?
- What part of running my practice is most challenging?
- What part of my practice is most frustrating when it doesn’t function as I want?
A dental practice management consultant can point out what is working and help you do more of it, but also point out what is not working and help you devise ways to do it differently. Most importantly, a management consultant can help you analyze what you are doing and help you see what you don’t know. They help you discover what works and what doesn’t and why. Then, with advice, training, and expertise, develop strategies to make all the pieces of your dental practice work together towards success.
General areas of dental practice management a consultant looks at:
- Standard Operating Procedures – Codify or develop your line-by-line processes.
- Office management – Learn basic business management skills.
- Human resources – Build skills in hiring and retaining a great staff.
- Patient interaction – End-to-end patient service solutions.
- Staff training – Your team is the master key to your success.
- Equipment purchases – Finance and integrate innovative medical technologies.
- Finances and billing – End-to-end processes that increase revenue flow.
- Marketing and advertising – Another key to growing your practice.
Why is it beneficial to hire a dental practice consultant?
A consultant has an expert eye for business. They see what needs improvement and also know what steps need to be done to make those improvements.
A consultant offers strong organizational skills building and training in best management practices for you and your staff. In addition, they analyze your marketing efforts and financial matters within your practice and propose solutions for improvement.
Specifics of dental practice management that a consultant can help with fall within four main systems that work together to create success. This includes business and marketing systems along with patient and employee management systems.
Improving these systems creates:
- A better dental practice management business model
- An enhanced office work environment
- Greater patient satisfaction
- Stronger marketing return on investment
Some specific examples in each area of dental practice management:
- Develop a business plan
- Set long and short-term business goals
- Compliance with local and federal regulations
- Financing programs
- Establish, develop, and expand your brand
- Marketing and advertising strategies
- Develop and carry out promotions
- Dentist review management
Patient Management Systems
- Scheduling procedures
- Charting and record-keeping
- Patient experience
- Reduced no-shows
- Processes for patients with no insurance
- Appointment cancellations
Employee Management systems
- Hiring and evaluation processes
- Define employee roles
- Enrich office culture with leadership training
- Improve internal communication
- Office staff training
A dental practice management consultant analyzes these systems and pinpoints where the weak links are, then provides expert advice on how to make those links stronger.
When is the right time to hire a dental practice consultant?
Practice management consultants help with long-term planning by creating a partnership with you and your business. They offer perspectives that you do not have because you are in the middle of the game. They offer experience and working solutions to plan, improve, and grow your practice, but you need to be ready to take what they offer and integrate it into your dental business management.
Growth and success is not a linear pathway. Sometimes there are speed bumps in the road that cause your practice to slow down. Sometimes there are roadblocks that halt your progress. Sometimes it’s difficult to know if you need to go over, under, or around those roadblocks. A dental practice management consultant has the experience to soften speed bumps and remove roadblocks.
A few of these speedbumps and roadblocks can happen:
- When first starting a practice
- When looking to expand a practice
- When wanting to purchase additional practices
- When transitioning to new software or tool
- When looking to improve operations
Building a partnership with a dental management consultant when you need their expertise and advice the most is a good strategy for making the road towards success smoother.
In the end, you, as the dental business manager of your practice, decide when the right time is to use a dental practice management consultant and integrate their recommended improvements and solutions.
How do you decide who is the right consultant for your practice?
Again, as the dental practice manager of your business, it is up to you to decide what type of expertise you need to get the help you need. Figuring out where your practice needs improvement and understanding what you are good at and what you are not so good at. Knowing where you need to improve goes a long way in finding the right person to help you do it.
A dental practice management consultant is a partner, not a boss. You want to find someone who you can work with and who fits your style. Someone who has the specific skills and experience that you don’t have, but also that they can train, encourage, enhance, and help you develop those skills and gain your own experience.
Remember, a consultant is not a wizard. No magic wand can replace finding someone you can work with to build a long-term partnership. You did not go into your dental practice for short-term gain. You invested in building a successful practice over the long haul. The right dental practice management consultant for you is someone who understands your long-term goals and can work with you to achieve them.
Putting It All Together:
What does improvement look like?
Now that you understand the What, Why, When, and Who of dental management consulting, you also have a better understanding of whether or not hiring a consultant is the right thing for your dental practice.
Whether you are looking to improve your office management or leadership skills, or maybe your marketing is not working the way you imagined, or perhaps you are ready to implement new systems software or create a business plan or streamline patient communication or billing procedures, running your dental business has many moving parts. Expecting that you will have all the necessary skills for success is a difficult call to answer.
A dental practice management consultant who offers the right expertise and experience for your dental office will work with you to fit all the functional pieces together. With the proper analysis and detailed solutions, you and your dental practice will improve in the areas necessary to move in the direction of growth and success. Your partnership with your consultant will help you over time to know what works, what doesn’t, and how to know the difference. It will be an investment worth making.