A good office manager is key to boost practice profitability

Your appointment schedule is full, hygiene is booked a month ahead, and patients have to wait weeks to see you even for minor treatments. Your staff is hustling to keep up with the pace, which often shrinks the lunch hour to a ten-minute break. For you, the busyness of the clinic is the barometer of your practice success. You work as hard as you can, and yet this “success” is not reflected in your bank account. Revenues remain stagnant while practice expenses are creeping up. Is there any remedy to reverse this trend?

As many dentists are starting to discover, the solution is to have a well-trained office manager on your team. Regrettably, there are many “office managers” employed in poorly run dental clinics today. Their job usually consists of running the day-to-day operation of the practice, dealing with routine staff issues, and performing bookkeeping tasks. In some practices, the office manager’s role has deteriorated to a glorified Girl Friday position.

Very few office managers are given any formal training in practice management. They also do not receive training in the critical areas of building their leadership skills in areas, such as managing the bottom line to ensure profitability and monitoring the overall health of the practice, while at the same time developing and maintaining a happy and motivated team.

Do you have a customized office manual with job descriptions that includes job-specific expectations, performance-based staff evaluations, and salary reviews? A critical part of the office manager’s job description is knowing how to manage staff. Realizing that solving conflict is a big part of the job, the office manager needs to deal effectively with all problems they will encounter on a daily basis.

Additionally, through team appreciation functions, team planning meetings or just a High Five for a job well done, the office manager’s role is crucial to show the staff they are not just a salary expense, but also the key to practice success. Without a motivated team, achieving success will be a difficult task.

In order to optimize the financial and overall health of your practice, your office manager’s job description needs to include:

  • reaching set goals for patient scheduling on a daily basis;
  • monitoring patient retention and treatment presentation and acceptance;
  • implementing verbal skills training for doctors and staff;
  • developing the practice through effective social media and marketing programs;
  • analyzing monthly profit and loss statements and comparison to budgeted revenues and expenses;
  • managing practice overhead, particularly staff costs and dental supplies; and
  • setting up efficient clinical and administrative systems.

Many dentists experience a consistent drop in revenues and realize they are unable to adapt to changes taking place in the dental industry. The major reasons for these occurrences are increased competition and the fact that patients are going to the dentist less frequently. As a result, some dentists are taking remedial steps to restructure their practices by reducing costs and increasing productivity. However, too many dentists are still on the sidelines trying to figure out the options. The solution is straightforward. You have to invest in your top people: the office manager, your spouse or a senior team member. This investment will ensure that they learn the business of dentistry and become effective leaders in your practice.