Monday, November 23, 2015

Ann answers your questions - Recommendations on how to attract new patients to a new location?

Hi Ann-

I am planning to move my practice to a new building only .25 miles from my existing location.  This new building is more accessible and visible.  Any recommendations and thoughts on how to advertise to existing patients regarding the relocation?  Also, do you have any recommendations on how to attract new patients to the new location.  Anything in particular that you have found that works?


Claire Mielke, DDS, Pediatric Dentist
in Saint Paul, MN

Hello Claire,

Thanks for your questions about relocation of your practice. Congratulations on your new office.  Only a quarter mile from your current location, your patients should follow you easily.  I do have a few suggestions that will highlight your new location to current and potential patients.
  • Make certain that for two to three months before your move business staff members inform every patient/parent of the move whether talking by phone or in person.
  • Also notify current patients of the move, new address, office hours, etc., by posted mail, email, on your website, on Facebook, Twitter, etc.  The posted mail piece should be printed on heavy card stock with a matching envelope, much like a formal invitation would be.
  • Place a newspaper announcement with wording similar to the posted card.  The newspaper announcement may include your photograph.  This serves primarily as an ad to attract new patients without appearing to be an ad per se.
  • Spend enough money on new signage to make certain you have a winning display.  Your sign must be visible, not hidden by shrubbery, well lighted at night, perhaps with your logo in bright neon to attract attention.    
For scores of other marketing ideas, click the link on Practicon’s website for Free Resources for Your Practice to access my articles, forms, letters, and other information about marketing.  

Monday, November 16, 2015

Ann answers your questions - What is the best method of keeping a list of patients who could fill those "last minute" openings?

Ann, Thanks for the opportunity to ask you anything about my practice.

I often have a full hygiene schedule for 1 or 2 months. So patients sometimes are surprised that we don't have openings sooner. The truth is that after we make our reminder calls for the hygiene appointments 1 week in advance, we often have openings in the schedule.

My main question is. What is the best method of keeping some type of list of patients who could fill those "last minute" openings? What's the list called, what type of patients should go on it? My front office has always disliked my idea of such a list, because of poor results when we have tried this method.

And, what is a polite way to suggest to patients who change or cancel their 6 month recall appointments too often, that we'd prefer not to schedule them 6 months in advance and will send a postcard or call instead? 

I'm a 2 op practice that is very busy, I'm just trying to see how we might be able to squeeze a little more efficiency into our business without changing length of appointments or physical size of my practice.

Mark in Arvada, Colorado

Hi Mark in Arvado, CO

Thanks for your questions about scheduling. I agree with you that a list of patients willing to be called to come on short notice can be an effective scheduling tool. Many clients call this a “short call list.” Your business desk staff members should ask patients either on the phone or in person at the desk if they would like to be called on short notice if an opening in the schedule should occur. Such a list may be maintained on computer or manually, and it can best be used for hygiene appointments and 2 and 3 unit restorative appointments. Longer restorative appointments may be more difficult to schedule on short notice due to pending lab deliveries or patients’ busy schedules.
Another “trick” that works for many clients is to leave a few “holes” in the hygiene schedule 6 months out. Perhaps one appointment per day left unscheduled until shortly before the day will build flexibility into your hygiene schedule.

Your business staff may want to offer a “frequent changer/breaker” of hygiene appointments an explanation such as, “Mrs. Clark, we’re working to make things convenient for our very busy patients whose schedules make it difficult for them to keep appointments six months out. Let me send you a post card and an email reminder several weeks before you’re due for your next hygiene appointment. If I don’t hear from you to schedule within several days, I’ll give you a call.” These patients can then be scheduled in the “holes” left in the schedule 6 months ago.

You also asked about efficiency---efficient systems in the operatory are mandatory for full productivity. Though you expressed a desire to retain your two-chair operatory, my years of experience have convinced me that two chairs for treatment plus one or two hygiene chairs are minimal for full productivity.

A few examples of details that must be worked to increase efficiency:

A separate x-ray room is a boon, allowing x-rays to be taken while another patient is being seen.

Prescribe x-rays for the patient’s next appointment at this appointment. That way at each appointment a team member can get x-rays and have them ready for you to read as you enter an operatory.

A team member should transport patients rather than your doing so.

Allow a staff member to transcribe treatment notes from your dictation rather than your recording notes whether on a chart or by computer.

Hire sufficient dental assistants so one is with you at all times while another tears down, cleans, and sets up a unit for the next patient.

A few extra basic instruments at each unit prevent delay in case one is dropped during treatment.

On and on---pick at every detail of your clinical routine. Consider---one more dental assistant, extra instruments, digital x-rays, a fail-proof lab delivery system, a quick morning huddle to review the day’s patients, etc., add significantly to efficiency and therefore, to your production and income.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Ann answers your questions - Should we implement CAD/CAM?

What is your view on CAD/CAM dentistry? We are a very fast-paced & efficient office. We are excellent in our crown preps, impressions, & crown seats. So should we try to go the next step & implement Cerec or stick with what is working so well and so efficiently? Basically, what do you prefer for practices?

Angie in Bixby, Oklahoma

Hello Angie,

Should you stick with what’s working well in your practice or adapt new techniques and materials, particularly CAD/CAM technology? Because of the many choices of new treatment modalities in restorative dentistry, I recommend you choose to make only those changes that meet your comfort level and quality choice. In other words, stick with what is now working well and efficiently as you consider making changes to new techniques and materials in the future. In the meantime, if you want to test the CAD/CAM waters, read every article and research paper available on the subject; attend several CE courses, hopefully with hands-on training; and/or bring an expert representative of CAD/CAM technology into your office for demonstration and training. If you approach such changes slowly, you can adapt new technology of your choice at your pace while bringing your staff up to speed on the new methodologies at the same time. I seldom favor change just for the sake of change or because colleagues are adapting new technologies in their offices.

Thank you,


Monday, November 2, 2015

Ann answers your questions - Secure Emails and Dental Practices

Ann Griffin,

Can you tell me about secure emails and how dental practices should be using them to follow HIPPA? Can you share any resources or literature that you would give me more information on this?
I get the impression that my geographic area is not aware that emailing patient information must be done through a secure email system. You can no longer send emails to patients the traditional way.

Thank you for your time,

Jenifer in Fairbanks, Alaska

Hi Jenifer in Fairbanks, AK,

Your question has to do with security concerning electronically processed patient data and communications of any kind.  You are absolutely correct---all electronically stored or transmitted patient data must be encrypted, sent from secure computers and mobile devices.  It is the dentist’s responsibility to be familiar with regulations and implement them in her/his office. 

All “covered” practices must comply with standards set under HIPAA and also standards set by the payment card industry to protect debit and credit card information.  “Covered” refers to all dental practices that store or transmit any patient data electronically, including filing third party claims. 

Under HIPAA regulations, the dentist/dental practice is responsible for conducting a “Risk Analysis” and establishing a “Security Management Process.”  The Risk Analysis includes evaluation of privacy protection when speaking with patients in the office, by telephone, email, or posted mail.  Additionally, the dentist must assess the guarantee of privacy when transmitting patient data to another health care entity or third party payer and when storing patient data on the office computer or mobile devices used by practice personnel.

Following are several sources of information on HIPAA requirements:

Use the link to find a brief, clear overview of aspects of HIPAA regulations and payment card companies’ regulations as well in several of my archived blogs for October 2014 on Practicon’s website:  How Recent Regulations Affect Electronic Storage of Patient Data and Use of Patients’ Credit/Debit Cards for Payment of Fees, Patient Information Stored on Mobile Devices, and Stolen Mobile Devices.

Thank you,


Monday, October 26, 2015


Verbal instructions to parents concerning their child’s homecare routine are good; a print version is even better.  Reprinted with permission of the pediatric dental office in which it is used, I share with you one of the best condensed versions of instructions for parents/care givers I’ve seen in over 30 years as a dental practice management consultant.  You are welcome to reproduce this handout, adding your practice name and contact information.

Tooth decay is the #1 chronic infectious disease among children in the United States and it is preventable.  Here are some quick tips to help your family stay cavity free.

Start early! 
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, the American Dental Association, and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend that children be seen by a dentist when their first tooth erupts or by their first birthday.  Early visits help establish a “dental home”---an environment   where oral health is delivered in a comprehensive, continuously accessible, and family-centered environment.

Primary or “baby” teeth are important!  Development of the jaw, proper chewing, clear speech, and overall appearance are just a few reasons to take care of your child’s primary teeth.

Lead by example!
Take care of your own teeth. Studies show that babies and small children can “catch” cavity-causing bacteria from their parents or care givers.

Baby Bottle Tooth Decay is caused by frequent exposure to liquids containing any form of sugar.  Do not let your child fall asleep with a bottle filled with anything other than water, or, if breast fed, nurse continually. We recommend discontinuing use of a bottle by age 1.  Make sure to clean your baby’s mouth and gums after each feeding with a clean, soft cloth and plain water.  Tenders Infant Pre-Toothbrushes are available from Practicon, Inc.

Make brushing fun!  
Children should spend 2-3 minutes after breakfast and before bed brushing their teeth.  Buy your child a cute, child-appealing toothbrush with soft bristles, get a captivating sand or liquid tooth timer to encourge 2-minute brushing  time, and try free apps like “Toothsavers Brushing Game” or “Brusheez---The Little Monsters Toothbrush Timer” to make the brushing routine more fun.

Help needed!  
Parents, your child needs help brushing until around age 7 or 8. Begin flossing your child’s teeth as soon as he/she has any teeth that touch.

Use a fluoride toothpaste!  
When your child is old enough to spit out the paste after brushing, usually age 2 and older, use a pea-size amount of paste. Buy toothpaste with the ADA seal on the packaging.

Limit snacking!  
Limit between-meal snacks to no more than 3 per day. Almost all foods and drinks other than water can cause cavities, particularly if teeth are not cleaned after eating.

Dental visits, (check-ups) scheduled every 6 months!  
Research has shown children with healthy teeth generally have better attendance at school, are more attentive in class, and participate more fully in school activities. By seeing your child every 6 months, we can help assure his/her oral health.

In case of a dental emergency, call our office immediately!  We will help you determine what steps need to be taken to make sure your child receives needed care.