By Jill Shue

When we first start working with a dental team, we ask about their reporting and tracking habits. Everyone generally says they pull aging reports consistently – typically both insurance and patient aging are run at least monthly. It’s easy to remember to track what’s owed to you but what about the other key trends to know for your practice to truly gauge your practice’s performance? Monitoring your practice’s trends keeps you actively engaged in your practice’s success and growth.

Growth and Retention – Tracking new patients acquired each month and having a strategy to retain your patients ensures steady growth for your practice. A question I recommend asking every patient who is welcomed into your practice is: “How did you hear about us?” or “Whom may we thank for referring you?”. Do not solely rely on your new patient registration forms to collect vital data for your practice. Obtain the information then input this into your software so that you can track not only the number of new patients but also the referral source each month. This data helps you evaluate your marketing strategies and ensures you are receiving maximum ROI for your marketing dollars.

Just as important in knowing your new patient numbers, is to track your lost patients. If a patient leaves your practice, know the reason and track this reason. Many practice management softwares are not efficient in tracking this data so it’s important to develop a tracking method within your software. For example, creating an internal office code to help track patients who have left for reasons such as location, insurance changes, financial, etc.

Awareness of the changes in your patient base is the first step toward growth and controlling patient attrition.

Production, Adjustments, and Collection Trends – Knowing the production, adjustment, and collection totals and percentages is crucial in tracking your practice’s trends and assists you in staying on top of any negative trends and to measure the results of decisions made within the practice. Break down your production by the provider and by doctor/hygiene to gauge the health of your restorative and hygiene departments. Knowing these numbers helps you set goals for your team and the practice to trend for achievable growth.

In addition to tracking these numbers, we recommend reviewing your software settings to ensure your system is set up for success and that your software is tracking the appropriate data at the necessary level of detail for you and your team. Just as too vague of descriptions may be detrimental, too specific of adjustments and payment types may result in an overabundance of data that is difficult to track and manage. For example, we once worked with a client who had 47 adjustment types and 34 payment types. When we sat down with the owner, he was unable to verify what each of those types meant and admitted he felt they were out of control and overwhelming. Define your payment and adjustment types, keep them direct, require detailed notes and initials to explain occurrences, and limit who can edit/delete payments and adjustments. These simple setting adjustments can provide you with more control and accuracy in tracking your account activities while ultimately reducing your risks for embezzlement.

Patient Values – Knowing the value a patient brings into the practice is an excellent key indicator for not only tracking the health of your patients but the potential growth a patient brings into the practice. Calculate the patient values in terms of per visit and annual basis. Knowing your annual and per visit trends, helps you track your unscheduled treatment and areas for improvement in your scheduling behaviors. A higher annual value indicates the patients are returning for more than their two per year hygiene visits – whether that be for restorative or elective treatment.

In addition to the production value a patient brings, tracking your reappointment percentage is beneficial. The goal is to reappoint every patient – no one should leave without an appointment. If patients are leaving without an appointment, this may indicate active patients are not returning and it’s easy for patients to “fall through the cracks”. This also helps reduce the reactive mindset of needing to contact past due patients to fill the schedule and helps to meet goals in a realistic and less stressful manner.

Take control of your practice by knowing your numbers, tracking consistently, and involving your team in the metrics. Once you have the pulse on your practice, you can begin setting goals to achieve optimum success for your practice.