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What the Runner’s Law Really Means

Can I reward patients for referrals?
Can we have contests or give aways for patient’s who refer?
Can we Reward staff for referring or asking for referrals?

The answer is…
NONo- Yes thumbs
According to the Runner Law:

A health care provider shall not financially compensate in any manner a person, firm, or corporation for recommending or securing the health care provider’s employment by a patient, or as a reward for having made a recommendation resulting in the health care provider’s employment by a patient or health care provider.

The good news is that most patients will not refer people to you because you will reward them, they refer people to you because you went above and beyond their expectations. Like a bank account you need to make a deposit, service with a smile, to make a withdrawal, a referral.

Instead of looking for a reward system for the referral, focus on customer service and WOWing the patient.

Here’s a few easy things you can do to go above and beyond:

• Include a full size tube of toothpaste in goodie bag.
• Put a fun treat in the goodie bag when they’re leaving, like candy or gift card.
• Offer an extra goodie bag from your office to pass along to a friend.
• Have the doctor make personal care calls after hours to check in on patients.
• Serve refreshments in the reception area.
• Show the staff and office activities on digital frames or TVs that allow patients to connect with the team they are going to be interacting with.
• Create a Dental App to make it easy to connect with your office and refer.
• Have an after hours cell phone to take calls.
• Give them a sports drink bottle or mug with the office logo.
The biggest reasons patients do not refer is they are never asked. If the patient compliments you, or when they’re walking out, simply say, “We really appreciate you choosing us as your dental care provider, we know you have many choices. Here are a few of our cards to give to any of your friends or family you feel we can care for.” Invite them to post about the visit on social media or review you on websites like Yelp or Google. The best form of marketing is to simply ask.

Promotions and give aways will never have an impact if you do not have the right staff with the right stuff when it comes to customer service and care.

Remember, it costs you nothing to have a smiling, friendly, polite and attentive staff. But it will cost you everything if you do not.

You need to treat every patient like they are your only patient, or they will be.

Kelly Schwartz
Below is a copy of the Runners Law:

G.S 90-401. Referral fees and payment for certain solicitations for prohibited.
A health care provider shall not financially compensate in any manner a person, firm, or corporation for recommending or securing the health care provider’s employment by a patient, or as a reward for having made a recommendation resulting in the health care provider’s employment by a patient. No health care provider to another health care provider shall receive financial or other compensation from the health care provider receiving the payment solely primarily for the referral. This section shall not be constructed to prohibit a health care provider’s purchase of advertising which does not entail direct personal contact or telephone contact of a potential patient. (1991 (Reg. Sess., 1992). c.858,s. 1: 1993 (Reg. Sess., 1994), c. 689, s. 2.)

“Runner” means a person who, for a pecuniary benefit, procures or attempts to procure a client, patient or customer at the direction of, request of or in cooperation with a provider whose purpose is to seek to obtain benefits under a contract of insurance or assert a claim against an insured or an insurance carrier for providing services to the client, patient or customer. ‘Runner” shall not include a person who procures or attempts to procure clients, patients or customers for a provider through public media or a person who refers clients, patients or customers to a provider as otherwise authorized by law.
b. A person is guilty of a crime of the third degree if that person knowingly acts as a runner or uses, solicits, directs, hires or employs another to act as a runner.

Ramp Up for Year End

Its hard to believe that fall is upon us, kids are back to school and the start of another year is just around the corner. Here in Charlotte it still feels like summer with temperatures in the 90’s during the day and our pool is still warm and in use. (Sorry to tease my Northern clients that are about to get your butts kicked with the cold and snow… in October)

Schwartz Consulting Group Year End Ramp UpNow is the time to have your game plan in effect to boost your fall and early winter schedule.

A quick and effective way to do so is the un-used benefits letter. Many patients are not aware that if they do not use their insurance benefits they lose them.

Timing of the letter is important, if you send out the letter too late patients may get frustrated that they can’t get an appointment due to the busy rush of your year end schedule, holidays and vacations.

Send these letters out no later than mid October with a clear call to action for the patient to call NOW to schedule their appointment by the end of November or early December. Yes, you will have stragglers who will not listen and call December 29th wanting in before the end of the year, but this campaign will reduce that.

The first part of the year typically has a higher case acceptance rate due to many patients having insurance availability during the first Prophy of the year. For any patients that delayed having treatment before, consider including a intra oral camera photo of the tooth or teeth needing treatment with the un-used benefits letter to remind them of treatment still needed.

You should also consider a segmented marketing approach. Send the un-used benefits letter to those patients needing bigger procedures, like Crown and Bridge, first. Block extra time in your fall schedule to accomodate these appointments. A week later, send your letter to all your other patients needing work and begin filling in your schedule.

As a follow up to the letter, train your staff to make calls during their down time. Provide them with a script that is patient focused and emphasizes how booking now ensures that they are getting the most out of the dental insurance they have already paid for.

If you do not have an un-used benefits letter, or want to see if your letter hits the mark, just reply to this email and we will be happy to send you a free copy of our un-used benefits letter, or help you improve the letter you are currently using.

What Rocky Can Teach You About Cold Calling

Rocky Balboa said, “It’s not about how hard you get hit, it’s about how hard you get hit and can keep moving forward.”

Boy, does this ever apply to cold calling!

Cold calling turned out to be one of the best things we ever did for our business as dental consultants, but it was tough going in the beginning. In an effort to stay positive and not avoid getting slammed, our strategic plan was to never pass by a dental office without stopping in and introducing ourselves and our services. We would place bets with each other as to what office would slam us the hardest or would treat us the worst. There were many.

We would walk into an office and provide the front desk person with pertinent information about our company and how we could partner with them to make the office more successful. We would ask a few questions about what concerns the office had and were they already working with a consultant or coach?

We knew we only had two minutes of their time to make a quick, positive impression. We always wrapped up by asking for a introduction to the doctor, the grand prize of a successful cold call, or at least a chance to follow up. We often did get the 30 second introduction to the doctor and would set up a lunch or after work meeting. We knew from our numbers it took 30 to 40 cold calls to get 1 meeting. At that time 3 meetings meant we may get 1 client.

As you can imagine, most front office gatekeepers would roll their eyes and say, “Okay, I will see that the doctor gets this information.” We would walk out of the office chuckling and betting on how long it would take her to dump the brochure in the trash!
SCG Candy
The game kept us from getting discouraged, we were determined. If the front office gatekeeper was really mean or rude to us, we would run to a near by store and get a frozen ice cream bar or some chocolate, walk back in and say something like, “I understand how you may be having a bad day. We’ve been there, we hope this treat cheers you up! Have a nice day.” It at least gave us a reason to follow up and made that follow up much easier.

We continued this process day in and day out for weeks and months. We would go door to door for 20 miles one way, jump over one main street and do it again 20 miles back to towards the office.

One office really stands out as the slam of all slams.

Late in the day, after many “Thanks, but no thanks” offices we met Bertha. Before we were even able to introduce ourselves and let her know that we were new to the area, she had an attitude by assuming we were soliciting salespeople. Verbatim, she said, “If you are salespeople we don’t want to buy what you are selling. Could you not read the No Soliciting sign on the door?”

We replied, “Yes, ma’am, we are in sales, but we are new to the area and are also looking for a new dentist. But if this is how you treat salespeople, I guess we chose the wrong office to become patients at.”

The doctor overheard this exchange from the back and he came running up front, apologizing all the way. We had our moment to let him know we were looking for a dentist, but the door also opened to tell him about what we do. We became his patient and later on he became a client of ours.

It’s important to never let a sign or fear keep you from showing up. Sure, the possibility of getting a NO is there, but your initial NO could turn out to be a YES that leads to many other opportunities. The more NOs you get, the closer you are to the YES.

We still do the occasional day of cold calling to keep us on our toes, but most of our business these days comes from referrals or the many speaking engagements we do.

From time to time someone will come up to us and say, “We met you years ago and you brought me a ice cream bar.” That always gets a laugh from us.

Keep moving forward.

Dial It In! Phone Skills Make the Difference

Answering the phone may seem like a simple task, but it’s often the first impression of your business and can be the key to success or failure.SCG Dial It In phone

Training staff on basic phone skills is often overlooked because we assume everyone who knows our company name should be able to answer the phone. Why? Because we were taught at a young age how pick up and answer the phone. Or were we?

When customers call, they’re calling for a reason. Some are calling to get basic information, some are calling for directions, some are making an appointment. Regardless of the reason, your staff should give every caller the VIP treatment. The desire to do business with your company can be lost in just 30 seconds from poor phone skills.

Here are a few basics of phone etiquette that everyone should be trained on:

• If a customer is in front of you, don’t answer the phone. Let it go to another staff member.

• Be friendly! A smile does change the way your voice sounds over the phone and engages the caller.

• Don’t leave callers on perpetual hold. Check back with them every two minutes to let them know they have not been forgotten.

• When taking a message ask for the correct spelling of their name, the best number to contact them and time, and email address.

• Make sure that your recorded outgoing message has important information about your business such as hours, website and when they can expect a return phone call from a staff member.

It’s an expensive mistake to make a caller feel like they’re an inconvenience to your office. Answering the phone well is a vital part of your businesses success. Dial in your staff’s phone skills today!

Schwartz Consulting Group on Motivating Your Team

Today I want to talk a little bit about having some fun and motivating your staff to increase productivity and profitability.

Offices typically fall into three categories. There are offices that know they’re winning, offices that know they’re losing, and offices that don’t know the score. In my professional opinion the worst-case scenario is not knowing the score.

If you’re losing you can at least develop a game plan to get ahead. If you’re winning you can stay on that track and keep trying to improve. But, if you don’t know the score you will be lost and heading in the wrong direction.

We’re going to talk about dental practice management, scheduling and how introducing a fun grab bag can motivate your staff to set production goals and strive to reach them, so that each day you team knows which direction they’re headed.

Schwartz Consulting Group tips. Contact us today http://www.kellyschwartz.com

Schwartz Consulting Group on The Importance of a Great Sign

Landmark signs in Hollywood Hills, Las Vegas, Key West, and Walt Disney are designed, to capture attention and leave a lasting impression. A key part of dental practice management is understanding the need for  a great powerful or bold sign. The reason is that there are a lot of signs out there, most are easily and quickly forgotten. Signs forgotten are a waste of money but every now and then you’ll see a sign that grabs your attention. That’s the ticket customers are looking for.

See what we can do to increase your business flow.

Schwartz Consulting Group tips. Contact us today http://www.kellyschwartz.com

Dental Practice Management – What Makes You Different?

A key part of dental practice management is standing out from the crowd. Learn what to do today to increase your profits tomorrow.

Do I Need More Patients?

In the last two months of evaluating practices, I have confirmed there is a recurring perception many dentists have…
“We need more new patients.”

Although this may be true, time after time it’s more about the retention of existing patients that makes the doctor feel there are Patient Retention for Dental Officesvoids in the schedule and they can’t make goal’s.

Here are three things you need to know before investing heavily on a new patient marketing campaign.

1. How many active patients do you really have? I define active as a patient with two or more visits in the past 18 months, and one of those visits is at least a prophy.

2. How many total (different) patients do I have? These are patients that have been seen at least twice in the past two years?

3. How full is my Hygiene Department? Determine this by asking:

• When can a new patient get in for a cleaning?

• Without any cancellations or no-shows, are we booked 2, 3 or 4 weeks out with less than 2 hygiene openings?

Let’s focus on your Hygiene Department. You should be able to accommodate a new patient within 8 working days with a first or last appointment of the day. These are the most desired times by what I call, the Working Patient. The working patient have day jobs that restrict them to specific schedules. They typically have money to spend, insurance, and are highly motivated to get in. If you can’t get them on the schedule quickly, you run the risk of losing them for good.

These aren’t the only times you see new patients, but they’re the most requested ones. I recommend blocking some of these times on your schedule just for this purpose. You can always release these blocks if they’re not filled within 2 to 3 days.

Do you have enough Hygiene appointments available to maximize your potential? A Hygienist working 8 hours a day, 16 days per month, has 768 one-hour appointments open. As a rule, you should have 1 full time Hygienist for every 1,000 patients. This gives you a 20% overage to fill in cancellation and no-shows. (2000 patient = 2 full time hygienists)

Something what is easily overlooked is the impact of the patients that only come in annually for their cleanings. 500 patients missing 1 cleaning per year, at $150.00 per visit is a $75,000 yearly loss to your Hygiene Department, not to mention the additional work that may have been found during exams.

So, how do you head off any retention problems?

By building a strong recall program and holding your staff accountable. First, assign a Recall Manager responsible for the results. Implement the blocks in your Hygiene schedule to accommodate your desired new patient flow: 30 blocks = 30 new patients.SCG Patient Retention Establish a set combination of calls, cards, emails and messages as touch points with patients. Set goals and measure the efforts of the team.

A Doctor working 16 days per month with 2000 patients should have 2 full time Hygienists working 16 days each. This will support 1536 appointments, and allow for new patients and overflow to keep your Hygiene Department productive.

If your numbers aren’t adding up to maximize your Hygiene Department, you may need to launch a marketing campaign to attract new patients. If you have 500 or more over due patients, you may look to hire an associate.

If you’re not sure if you are maximizing the hygiene potential in your practice, or what steps to take next, we can help. Give us a call or send us an email.

You Have the GEAR, but Do you Have the GAME?

Give Your Dental Office Business Plan GAME

This season Payton Manning won his 5th NFL MVP award. But that prestigious award didn’t mean anything when the Denver Broncos took the field on February 2nd. It took only one play to see it was going to be a tough day at the office for the Broncos. From where I sat, and I’m a Broncos fan, both teams had the GEAR, but the Seahawks brought the GAME.

Most patients walk into your office and see all the things that makes a practice look successful: the reception area has comfortable furniture, the staff are all in matching uniforms, there are diplomas, awards, and certifications hanging on the walls. There are enough computers, intra-oral cameras, digital x-ray machines, and other technology to make the average person think they are in a Star Trek movie. That’s the GEAR.

But what does it really take to bring the GAME? What can you do to give your Dental Office Business Plan more than just GEAR?

It starts with the three A’s:

Attitude:  A mental state involving beliefs, feelings, values and disposition to act in a certain way. Attitude is contagious, one person can affect everyone around them in either a positive or negative way. Attitude is also a choice, we can make a decision to have a positive attitude, regardless of the circumstances that surround us.

Ability: Possession of the qualities required to do something or get something done. This is not the same thing as talent. Ability is something that is increased with knowledge, practice and repetition. Investing in developing your own abilities, and those of your team, elevates the whole organization.

Approach: as a verb – Ideas or actions intended to deal with a problem or situation. I prefer to think of approach as a game plan. You can influence the outcomes of situations before they even start by having a strategy in place from the beginning and planning for different things that may happen along the way.

The Seahawks came into the SuperBowl with the attitude that they were going to win, they did not care that they were the underdogs. They didn’t stop honing their abilities after they made it to the big game, they prepared and practiced even more. Their approach was to overwhelm the Broncos with aggressive defense and force turnovers. And boy, did it work.

You can apply these same fundamentals to your practice. Challenge yourself and ask, “How good am I at these? How good are WE at these?” Once you have an assessment of where you are, you can begin to make improvements.

“Are you going to just let it happen or are you going to make it happen?”

Business Systems for the dental office are critical to wining the championship

Certain systems are designed to improve your offense:

Recall,Delayed Treatment , Reducing Cancellations and No Shows.

Other systems are to improve your defense:

Goal Setting, Accountability,  Scheduling, and the Art of Financial Arrangements.

If you’ve got the GEAR, but need some help bringing the GAME, I can help.

Call us at 800-785-3004 or visit our Web Site -www.kellyschwartz.com

Thinking About Cloud Based Dental Software?

Dental Software

I have been getting more and more questions about the Cloud and what is it all about? So I asked a Bradley Wilson with Iris solutions to tell us about it. Here is what he had to say:

What is the Cloud and what does it mean for you? As almost everyone has seen and heard, the cloud has become the new buzzword in the Information Technology (IT) field. Some people think the cloud is a new technology, however, it has been around for some time. Have you ever had a Yahoo or Hotmail account? Do you realize this is a cloud based service? The cloud is not a new philosophy, just a new expression for some existing and old technology.

The cloud can be explained as a service that is hosted via the internet where you do not need shared resources, software and other hardware to utilize this service. All that would be required is a computer along with an internet connection. Cloud based dental software services are great for g-mail, file sharing such as dropbox and some hosted based applications.

Cloud based dental software services have some very distinct advantages and just like anything else have some disadvantages. Your advantages are easy to account for:
• Low cost of hardware – You will not require expensive back office equipment to run your databases and applications. All of your file sharing that was going to be stored on a server in your office will be stored online. Your upfront costs are very low. Typically, hosted services in the cloud are setup so all you need is an internet connection and a computer.
• Maximum uptime/availability – Any decent cloud based provider will have multiple customers that require use of this service. This provider would guarantee a certain level of uptime or availability of their service by having it available to you at peak times of your business. They will have redundancies (power, telecommunications, hardware and security) in place to avoid a single system failure at their site thereby maximizing this uptime or availability.
• Maintenance – Maintenance will be performed during the cloud provider’s off peak times such as the middle of the night or on weekends, minimizing your downtime during a work week. Maintenance such as enhancements and fixes to the application would be performed without client intervention and would allow for quick and easy software patches to correct an error. The disadvantages of a cloud based system:
• Ownership of data – You do not own your data. If you use a cloud based application called XYZ CRM and you decide to move to another vendor ABC CRM, you in some cases will have no guarantee as to what data XYZ will give you. Your data is essentially stored on their system and they will retain ownership of the information. The cloud based provider will tell you that you can retrieve your data but it may not be in a usable format or the format that you may prefer. As with all conversions of data from one software package to another, it is a very high probability that you will never get a one to one translation for your data if you were to move from a cloud based application whether it is to another cloud based provider or to host your own information.
• Accessibility\speed – In the preceding paragraphs, I wrote about how maximum uptime can be achieved with a cloud base system. However, this does not guarantee accessibility to the application or data. Many cloud based applications transfer small amounts of data down to your individual system. For applications that require more data such as imaging, calculations, or reporting a cloud based system will be slower. Should you need to transmit a set of digital images from a camera or a radiograph the access to this data will be much slower. A typical network on a customer site can work at 100MB to 1.0GB. This means that you can access your data on your network at one hundred million bits per second up to one billion. The fastest cable provider in our area can deliver from five million to thirty million bits per second. As you can see, having a system on premise will always be much faster than something in the cloud. When looking at a cloud based application it is best to determine how much speed is required and what you will be transmitting before making a final decision.
• Cost – Many would say that cost should be considered an advantage but I would say the opposite. In the determination of a cloud based system, you should determine how long it would take justify the monthly cost of the application versus what it would cost to get the system put in house. If you brought your application in house you would need hardware to run all the databases and applications, a software purchase to install on the hardware, and the cost of a qualified IT professional to set this up. However, as this cost may be high up front, it does have a low monthly overhead. The break-even point to where you would have paid off your on premise system versus the cloud based system is typically 18-24 months. When you surpass the break-even point, this is when you start to spend more for a cloud based system than on a premise application.
• Contracts – Typically, a fee for service cloud based provider will lock you into a contract for their services. These providers know what their break-even point is and how to maximize their contract with you to make the deal profitable for them. These contracts may be longer than you want and have excessive cancellation fees.
• Downtime – I mentioned an advantage of a cloud based dental software application was uptime but how would downtime hurt you? In a traditional premise based application, if your system goes down you call your local IT support and dispatch them to correct this. Depending upon who you use for local IT support you should get same day response. If your cloud based provider has an internet or power outage you will have to wait on them. For instance, what if your provider is based in Silicon Valley and they have an earthquake that cuts power to their facility. How long are you willing to be without your data while you wait for the local California power company to restore power to your provider? You will not have any control over downtime and it may or may not be excessive. Does your provider reimburse you for lost revenues? I would say they will not.

Overall, the pros and cons aside, it should depend on your application’s features and benefits to determine if you need cloud based dental software. Specific applications have been proven to be successful such as e-mail or file sharing. Application hosting has been around a very long time but may not provide you with the service you expect to differentiate your business from your competitors. Work with your peers and local IT support to gain insight on what would and would not work to help you determine the right path.

Good luck! For more information or questions, please give me a call.