Benefits of Taking a Data-Driven Approach to Running Your Dental Practice

Analyzing your dental practice's data is one of the most powerful ways for you to identify opportunities to improve your practice. However, many dental practices understandably find themselves preoccupied with managing day-to-day tasks, leaving them with little time to look at the big picture, and think strategically about growing their practice.

In this article, we'll discuss why it's important for you to measure your practice's performance and make data-driven decisions based on your analysis.

Eliminate blind spots

Many dentists make decisions about their practice based on intuition -- but relying solely on intuition can lead you to overlook major opportunities for improvement. There's a well-known concept in psychology, known as illusory superiority, which describes our natural tendency to overestimate our own performance and capabilities relative to others. This suggests that if you're not analyzing your practice's data on a regular basis, you'll have a natural tendency to overestimate your dental practice's KPIs, and can develop major blind spots regarding your practice's performance. However, if you continuously collect, measure, and analyze your practice's data, you will be able to develop a much clearer picture of your practice's actual performance, and be able to identify opportunities for improvement.

Understand what's working and what isn't

Analytics don't just help you identify areas of improvement -- they also enable you to conduct experiments and determine if those tests are working or not.

For example, you may realize that you’re experiencing higher patient attrition rate than expected. To help improve this metric, you may want to focus on increasing your hygiene pre-appointment rate. One way to do this is by encouraging the hygienist and front desk staff to make a concerted effort to help pre-appoint each patient before they leave the office. However, the benefits to this initial approach may not yield immediate results -- it may take several iterations in your presentation before you notice a reduction in patient attrition. The only way to decide on the most effective approach is by trying different techniques, and then measuring your performance in order to identify which methods yielded the most desirable results.

Provide better care for patients

Comparing your practice's data to national statistics can help you identify areas where you may need to make adjustments to provide better care for your patients.

For example, according to a study conducted by the CDC, 47% of American adults have some form of periodontal disease. If you are only diagnosing 20% of your patients with perio disease, then you may be underdiagnosing this specific disease.

In this scenario, you may want to have a discussion with your staff to ensure that they are clinically well-calibrated, and to make sure that you have a standardized system in place for diagnosing periodontal disease. It could be the case that certain staff members disagree on the criteria for certain diagnoses, and that a conversation with the staff can help align everyone on these criteria.

This example illustrates just one of many ways that you could use data to determine if you need to make adjustments to your training and processes in order to provide better care for your patients. By analyzing your own metrics and benchmarking them against national averages, and against other successful practices' metrics, you will be able to provide the best possible care for your patients. However, in order to be able to benchmark against national averages or generally accepted healthy ranges, you must measure your own performance first. Your dental practice management software comes equipped with some reports, which can be helpful in measuring your performance. If you want more detailed metrics and dashboards, you’ll want to consider investing in dental business intelligence software, such as Dental Intelligence

Motivate your staff to succeed

Being able to set and achieve concrete goals is an important aspect of employee satisfaction. Collecting data about your practice can help you set specific, realistic goals that enable your staff to focus on improving certain metrics. Since everyone have different roles, each team member can set goals specific to their job. For example, hygienists can focus on pre-appointment rate as one metric, and the front desk staff can focus on improving collection rate, or reducing the rate of no-shows.

As you continue to measure performance over time, you can then make sure to recognize employees who have met or exceeded their goals, which improves employee satisfaction and motivates the team to perform.

For bigger impact, look beyond big-picture metrics

High-level data helps provide you a general sense of how your practice is performing -- but you shouldn't stop there. The more data you can collect about all aspects of your practice, the better. Having access to more granular data can help you avoid making the mistake of assuming that everything is running smoothly, just because your "big-picture" numbers look good. For example, even if high-level metrics like the number of new patients per month are trending in the right direction, you will also need to analyze your data at a more granular level in order to make sure that you’re maximizing your marketing ROI. For example, you may be investing heavily in first-time patient promotions, only to find that you’re losing money on them since these new patients have a high churn rate. In this case, you may want to end these promotions, and instead focus on your more successful marketing channels. Having access to more detailed data can help you identify more specific areas of improvement, and develop action items to address those needs.

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