Dental equipment

A recap of key topics discussed at the Academy of dental CPAs (ADCPA) biannual meeting

Since its inception in 2001, the Academy of Dental CPAs (ADCPA) has expanded to 26 CPA firms with clients in all 50 states but the organization’s goal, and the goal of its members, remains the same: to provide dental clients with industry-focused consulting, accounting and tax services.

On a biannual basis, the ADCPA meets over the course of several days to discuss relevant topics that are occurring within the industry. As one of the founding members, Baker Tilly attended the most recent conference where various topics were presented by some of the leaders in the dental industry. The theme was: practice management issues facing dentists today in our fast-paced technologically advancing society and speakers included a practicing dentist, marketing specialist, human resource consultant and others. Below are the highlights from a few of the speakers.

Leading your practice

As a practice owner, you are the leader of the business.  As the leader, your number one goal is to get results which is achieved by surrounding yourself with a strong team. When you’re not physically in the office, the office environment should not change and the team you’ve assembled should continue to focus on meeting the practice goals. As a leader, you must learn what motivates each of your team members to maximize their full potential.

Often times, people won’t remember what you said but they will remember how you made them feel. This typically doesn’t cost anything and is true of both patients and employees.  Take time to listen to your patients (and employees) and understand their stories. This will help you be a better provider and a better leader.

Clinicians should be influencers, not sellers.  There are three main reasons patients decline care: fear, money and trust. Consider how you discuss treatment plans with your patients — are you trying to educate and influence them to have a procedure completed or are you trying to sell them on having a procedure completed? For example, if you are trying to influence them by educating them on the health benefits, it will be received more positively than if you are trying to “sell” them on the cost of a procedure.

Human resources

Human resources (HR) is often times an overlooked area of a practice. However, your people are the most important asset in a practice and spending the appropriate amount of resources on HR matters is very important.

One of the most important items to address is the periodic performance reviews. The formality and frequency of the reviews may vary from quarterly to every other year but each meeting should be documented. The frequency of the meetings is not as important as the content. Meetings should include providing feedback on past performance as well as goals (both individual and practice-wide) for the upcoming period. These meetings should be held in addition to any compensation discussions.

Every practice should have an employee handbook that guides employees on various policy matters. It helps to point employees to the handbook when they have questions about policies and procedures rather than just answering the question. It changes employee mindsets so they start with the employee handbook and understand the importance of this document instead of coming to the practice owner with the question.  Each employee should acknowledge receipt and their review of the handbook when they start employment or when there are any significant updates to the handbook.

Each position within the practice should have a job description.  The job description conveys the appropriate behaviors, responsibilities and expectations of each role. It should also include core values of the practice. Job descriptions should be updated prior to going to the market to fill a position so expectations are clear with all potential candidates.

In addition to the employee handbook and job descriptions, there are a number of other forms and policies that should be revisited with an HR consultant occasionally to ensure compliance with the laws and regulations within your state.

Marketing your dental practice

Marketing expenditures, whether time or money, work to grow and support your brand and reputation. The objectives of marketing are to retain patients, increase case acceptance and obtain new clients.

Before spending any time or money on marketing, you should know what a new patient is worth (net collections) and where they were sourced.  This should be tracked in your practice management software based on each referral source (website, word of mouth, online search, print ads, etc.).  Once you’ve determined what the average new patient is worth for each marketing medium, work to determine how your marketing resources, both time and money, should be allocated. Which categories of marketing are producing the best patients?  An analogy of the airline industry was made comparing first-class flyers to patients who need a high-level of clinical care vs. passengers who fly once a year to those that only need cleanings. How do you target the marketing mediums that lead to first-class patients?

It can be difficult to measure the impact of marketing expenditures but as a practice owner, you must stress the importance of determining how patients discovered you with your staff. There are many ways to do this but pick one standard practice and consistently apply it whether it’s at the front desk or chairside. This will drive future marketing decisions and help you allocate resources (time and money) to the appropriate platforms. One way to evaluate the marketing efforts is to evaluate your rate of return (ROR).  For each $1 spent on marketing, what are you collecting?

Other marketing takeaways:

  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO) matters – you must be a first page result!
  • Word of mouth is the most effective and least expensive marketing medium. Do you encourage your existing patients to refer others?
  • Who is your target market?  Should you be focusing your marketing towards women if you are looking to add families as new patients?
  • Invest in professional photography if you plan to use it in print or online marketing collateral.
  • Videos are king and can be a great media to share stories of patient treatment cases, patient testimonials, and free / community dental events.
  • Have a monthly raffle drawing
  • The speed of your website makes a difference – people will not wait around for a slow loading page.

Other key topics to review from the ADCPA conference sponsors

  • Have you reviewed your credit card fees and evaluated your merchant services provider recently?
  • Are you nearing the end of your lease (less than one year remaining) or considering building a new facility?  Have you considered getting expert representation to help you negotiate your real estate needs?
  • Have you reviewed your policies and compliance with HIPAA recently? Have you updated your team regarding HIPAA?
  • Have you evaluated your retirement funding strategies, including cash-balance defined benefit plans?

Our membership with the ADCPA allows us to stay abreast of all issues facing the dental industry — many of which are not related to tax and accounting. This deep industry specialization allows us to better understand the needs and challenges of your practice and help put you on the path to professional and individual success.

Learn more about our dental specialization.

For more information on this topic, or to learn how Baker Tilly dental specialists can help, contact our team.


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