Kicking off 4th Quarter with Claire Dickinson – the power of the clinical dental team

Claire Dickinson, MS
Claire Dickinson, MS

Claire is an Executive Level Dental Coach, Operator and Consultant.  Her experience has been gleaned over a 25 year career spanning clinical, administrative and business functions on a dental team. 

Dayna Johnson  0:08 

We are super excited you have found Novonee on the Go, the premier Dentrix communities free podcast. I’m Dayna Johnson, the founder of Novonee and my goal is to give you about 15 minutes of juicy content to take back to your practice and help your team have a more productive and less stressful day. Enjoy. Welcome everyone to our fourth quarter kickoff. I am Dayna Johnson, you’re Dentrix expert. And my goal is to help dentists and dental teams understand their Dentrix software better. So you can create systems to improve the profitability of your practice, optimize your appointment book and have a more stress free day. I started Novonee to be able to help give all Dentrix users a platform to attend live one on one events with me and tap into best practices resources for optimizing your Dentrix software. If you want to become a Dentrix super user join our exclusive membership. Just click the Join Today button in the upper right corner of our website And you can be part of our exclusive membership. So we are kicking off fourth quarter. Oh my gosh. And so I’m just coming off of so as I’m recording this, it’s Tuesday morning. And I my voice might crack a little bit because I was last night I attended the Seahawks vs. Broncos season opener Monday Night Football. So I’m a big Seahawks fan, as you all know. So first quarter I’m I’m screaming for my Seahawks. And I had to realize that I had to record two podcasts today. So I had to save my voice. And I have my good friend Claire Dickinson, good friend and dental colleague with me today. And we are both from originally from Seattle. So I know Claire is also a Seahawks fan. And she was asking me this morning how the game was. Claire is an expert in helping dental teams and dentists create their ideal dental practice optimize their full potential with systems and processes. She is a driving force in the dental industry. I’m so excited to have her on our fourth quarter kickoff. So welcome, Claire.

Claire Dickinson  2:56 

Hi, Dayna. How are you? Yeah, what an exciting game.

Dayna Johnson  2:58 

Oh my gosh, it was crazy. It was crazy. So let’s, let’s get into this. What we’re going to kick off fourth quarter with is we’re going to be given the clinical team lots of love over the next three months to end and the next fourth quarter of this year. And, you know, we’re not going to be talking about tray setups and, suckin spit or seating crowns, we’re not going to be talking about clinical per se. In that sense. We’re going to be talking about how our dental assistants can really tap into their full potential, and help the practice be more profitable. So we’re gonna have lots of guests and lots of articles on how the dental assistants can really help the practice create some systems and processes, workflows that will help them really help the help the practice be more profitable.

Claire Dickinson  4:10 

That’s a great topic.

Dayna Johnson  4:14 

Yeah. And I know since you really dive in deep with the clinical team and the whole team, the team as a whole, you know, last quarter, we talked all about annual planning, where we’re looking at the practice goals we’re looking at, you know, how each team member can, can really, you know, participate in that not only production side, but also the expense side. And I really feel you know, because if you increase your production, increase your collections, reduce your expenses, you’re going to be a more profitable dental practice. And I always say to my teams, you No, we are in healthcare, but we also are a for profit business. And, and so and I think the dental team, the clinical team doesn’t always understand that and always realize it because they don’t they don’t participate it, you know, in in that sense, you know? And so what do you feel like we can include the clinical team? In not only looking at numbers, but what numbers should they be looking at what systems and processes can they help administer and manage, where they feel like they are participating in the profitability of the practice so that they can reap the rewards and the benefits of incentives and bonus programs and profit sharing? Share with us some of those, those things that that our dental assistants, hygienists can tap into when it comes to the expense side of the practice?

Claire Dickinson  6:03 

Sure. You know, going back to your comment about, you know, as healthcare providers, oftentimes there’s a disconnect between being a for profit, and being a healthcare provider, right? They seem counterintuitive to one another. However, I encourage my teams to adopt the idea that in order to be able to give the care that we want to as healthcare providers, we have to be for profit to have the best equipment, the best team members, the best environment to be able to take care of these patients. So that’s how I translate, you know, the, the conversation between profit and healthcare together?

Dayna Johnson  6:43 

Yeah, that’s a good point. Yeah.

Claire Dickinson  6:45 

And so, going back to, you know, how can the clinical teams affect, you know, how profitable we are, we talk about things like so, now, we’re in the fourth quarter of the year. And we can look back on the first second, third quarter and see, how did how did we do as a dental practice? What areas in our processes like, what, what new equipment do we need? Do we have a chair that needs to be recovered? Do we have to have more X ray sensors? What training do we need to do that can improve our processes, so then when we go into the next year, we have a greater opportunity to be more efficient, safe. And with the idea that we can, you know, produce more, so then we can get the care that we want to? The other things, too, is, you know, talking with the clinical teams about what our team dynamics, what are our needs? Like? Do we need a sterilization tack do we need another assistant or another hygienist and this all goes into sharing with our team members? You know, this is our this is what we can produce it this capacity. So if we add more team members, can we produce more? What would that look like? And then the other thing that we like to talk about is like supply costs? Where are we at in our target for the year of meeting our percentage of supply costs? So that’s sharing with our team members off the P & L? You know, if we’re a general practice, we’re five to 6% of our collection collections? Are we in a good, good range for our supply costs? Or did we do we over order? Or did we under order which then affected our production? Because then we couldn’t, we didn’t have the supplies that we needed. So we can dive super deep with the clinical team about what’s working, what’s not working? team dynamics, efficiency, and flow of the office, it all goes back to that production conversation.

Dayna Johnson  8:44 

Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. I agree with you, 100%, there’s so many things that our clinical team can participate in, that they really don’t realize that they can make a huge difference in the profitability of the practice. I love how you tied it in to patient care, because it’s, it is all about, I mean, we are in the health care business. And if we do want to provide, you know, optimum health care to our patients, it is important that we have, you know, we’re working with really good equipment, we have great materials, and you know, maybe we do give them some of those, you know, kind of comfort, comfort, that comfort level of dentistry where you know, maybe we do have some nice things for our patients because that will help them refer or that will help them just feel more comfortable with having, you know, oral health care done is making our patients feel more comfortable. And when our patients feel more comfortable, then they will refer and they’ll have more treatment done and they’ll our patient retention will go up. So yeah, if we take our patients with good equipment and good supplies and all of that, then we’re two more getting better health care, I just love to tie it into better health care, we have to be profitable in order to afford those, those accommodations for our patients.

Claire Dickinson  10:15 

Absolutely we do it, you know, the hygienist, the assistants, the doctors, they know better in their, in their relative area, what’s working and not working? You know, it’s, we can, I can easily as an office manager say, well, your supply costs are too high. So you need to find a cheaper solution for X, Y or Z. But at the end of the day, I’m not the one working with these materials. I’m not the one delivering the care. So it really does take the clinical team to say, yeah, that doesn’t work, or yes, that will work or, you know, these are the challenges that we’re facing with, you know, again, equipment, supplies, outdated chairs, or X ray equipment, or even software like it all, they have to participate in this conversation, because they’re the ones that are actually using it in a way that it makes it their producible, their producible clinical team members where, you know, their input is hugely important.

Dayna Johnson  11:18 

Yeah, yeah. So let’s go back to what you just said, I’m, I really liked the point you made about how, you know, maybe the operations director or the or the office manager is saying we need to, we need to bring our cost down for this for these materials. But our hygienists or assistants are saying, but but these work really well like, like, we get really amazing results with these materials, then is there a somewhere else where we might be able to reduce expenses on something else to kind of counter that that extra expense for something that might be a little bit more expensive, but we, our patients love it, and it works really well. But maybe we can. So it’s I think it’s really good that our teams, the admin administrators are having conversations with the clinical team about expenses and those material costs, because we don’t want to just pull the rug out from under our hygienists, if they’re using a material that that is giving exceptional patient care, you know, maybe there’s another place where we can reduce the cost somewhere else.

Claire Dickinson  12:31 

Right, exactly. And maybe the cost up front is insignificant to the return on the back end. Maybe it’s a conversation that doesn’t even need to be had. Right. But we wouldn’t do that unless we involve the whole team in the conversation.

Dayna Johnson  12:44 

Exactly, exactly. So when we’re looking at specific types of systems for our, you know, giving our assistants a good system for tracking these types of expenses, and supply costs lab is another big one. Where our dental assistants can really participate in holding our labs accountable for expenses as well. Do you have any good tips for our assistants in tracking those expenses? And, you know, kind of working that into their daily, weekly, monthly workflow?

Claire Dickinson  13:27 

Yeah, I actually prefer to have my assistants do all the account management for our lab invoices or lab costs. So whether you do you know, in house crowns, or you, you know, you send them out to an outside lab. You know, we were pretty fixed on what our pricing is, however, making sure that the cases that are coming in, the invoices match everything’s reconciled, reconciled and accounted for, and then reporting to the doctor and the office manager at the end of the month that, you know, that things were, as they were stated in the bills that we’re paying are, are accurate. So I, when I set up offices, I teach my assistants to do that. I also like to teach the hygienist to do that with their supply costs. Okay? So they watch their invoices, they make sure that the items that they order is what they received, they make sure that the pricing is as what we expected it to be. And I encourage them to also find cheaper alternatives to the same materials if they’re, you know, if they don’t want to change the materials that they’re using. There’s also there are other systems out there or other suppliers out there that can offer better deals for us. And so I get them involved too. And the reason why is because if they understand what this what the materials cost, or let’s say what the lab, the lab costs are, they have a greater understanding of that’s why we have to be very detailed and not make errors because it does cost money. Right?

Dayna Johnson  15:05 

Yeah, exactly. I encourage them to involve them in those conversations and make them part of the process. Yeah, Agreed.

Agreed. I feel like that, that sometimes, you know, dental assistants are just ordering, without really without a care in mind. And it’s really important that we create, even if they work with a, just one supplier, you know, I know that Henry Schein will work with the practice, like this is my budget, and keep me within this budget, you know, so I know that they can work with a specific supplier, just by telling the supplier This is my budget, and I need you to keep me within my budget. And that can also be a more simplified way to do it. Yeah. And, and but I also think that they come and sometimes forget about the lab. And you know, in my own practice, I would always make sure that my dental assistants read through the invoice because we would get this list of lab cases. To get our whole list of lab cases that we did, whether it was crown and bridge or implant parts or retainers or, you know, brackets for ortho, you know, I would have my assistants look over that invoice every single month to make sure and I know that our lab wasn’t double charging us maybe there was a remake that you needed to compensate us for. And it was important that someone reviewed those invoices and made sure that they were accurate. Yeah, exactly. Yeah. So do you have some? So do you have some kind of industry standards as far as what different categories are that our assistants and hygienist can keep control of like? Like, like dental materials? Industry standard should be this range? implant? materials or parts should be this range lab should be this range. Do you have any recommendations for our listeners on kind of what you see as industry standards?

Claire Dickinson  17:38 

Um, I do and I don’t, because it’s uniquely different to every practice. I mean, there’s a rain. So like, for instance, perio, you’ll notice that our implant costs are incredibly high, like we have a high implant costs, we do separate them out from dental supplies, but then if you look at our dental supplies, percentage were like, maybe 3%. Whereas if you go to GP, you know, you’re, you’re gonna look at like five or 6%. And then yeah, yeah, and then you’re gonna have a higher lab, though, that’s going to be a certain percentage. And it really also has to do with what type of practice it is, is it a cosmetic practice versus, um, you know, what we would, you know, they do a lot of, you know, crowns and, and let’s say fillings, etc, but they’re not going to have high lab costs due to aesthetics. So they, they all range a little bit and it’s really what I recommend is, you know, aligning the dental office with a really good, certified financial planner. I mean, if they, if they’re a CPA with a CFP, that’s great. A CPA will tell you what they you know what the ranges are, but a CFP will dive deeper into cake, what is it that you need to produce versus collect, and then we base our percentages off of that based on the uniqueness of your practice. So, you know, when I have worked with just the CPA, it’s great. And I’ve also found it to be better to work with a CFP that’s unique to your practice that understands it.

Dayna Johnson  19:15 

So tell us what a CFP is, if you don’t know.

Claire Dickinson  19:20 

Yeah, it’s a certified financial planner in ones that are focused just on dental are the best. Okay. Yeah, I agree. Yeah. And so what they typically do is they’ll work with the doctor independently as like for their private planning, but they’ll also plan for the practice as well. And then it’ll help and then in either they’ll have a CPA, they’ll either be a CPA as well or they’ll have a CPA in their firm or they’ll work another CPA and then then they can formulate these plans that tell you okay, for your area, for your the uniqueness of your practice. These are the percentages that we See as being healthy, and then you know, it’s not set in stone, we analyze it over time to see if Okay, are we meeting those benchmarks? If not, why should we readjust, etc.

Dayna Johnson  20:11 

I agree with you. 100% Yeah, um, I, you know, if anybody out there needs some recommendations for a CFP or a dental, you know, accountant, we definitely Claire, I can both gives recommendations, I refer out to Kate Willeford with them. And she works exclusively with dental providers all across the country. She does have I mean, they’ve been offering, you know, services for you know, they’ve been in business, 43 years offering dental accounting, retirement planning, tax advisory, financial planning, I mean, all of it. So Kate Willeford is the one person that I refer to in the dental industry. So she is amazing. And I’m sure that, you know, Claire, and I can probably also give you some great recommendations of some local CFPs and dental consultant, I think it’s really good that you work with a specific dental CPA and CFP, because that can really, really drill it down. They’re very knowledgeable about the dental industry.

Claire Dickinson  21:22 

Absolutely. Kate Willeford is great. There’s, um, I have a handful of others, I do have two that I work with, specifically, that I that I’ve done well, for clients I’ve had, how many financial out of Texas, and then the Bedrock CPA group, which is in Washington, just north of Seattle, Washington, and their dental specific and they’re focused, and even though they’re two separate firms, they do work together as well. So it’s, it’s a very nice symbiotic relationship that they have.

Dayna Johnson  21:55 

I agree, I agree. So let’s just kind of wrap it up. What could be if they if we had like, three action plans that are that we’re going to really drill down into over the next couple of months, I can think of what mine would be I mean, my I’m really going to start drilling down into, you know, how our clinical team can help protect our practices license, like how can we make sure that our our clinical documentation is up to par? And then we’re also going to help our clinical teams to learn how to build into their workflow, managing these expenses. And Claire, what action plans can you give to our clinical team that they can really drill down into in the next couple of months?

Claire Dickinson  22:48 

I think it’s a great idea for the clinical team to really analyze their workflow, analyze their space, and analyze their staffing or team dynamic needs that they have. So coming into the next year, we can future pace and plan and implement those things into our practice.

Dayna Johnson  23:07 

Absolutely, absolutely. So we’re going to be drilling down into those topics in the next couple of months. If you want to re listen to mine and Claire’s interview about annual planning that dropped back in July, so you can always look back on our past topics and see if there’s something that you want to get a refresher on or maybe you didn’t hear our last conversation. So we are going to wrap up this kickoff of fourth quarter Claire, I really appreciate you being on with us today and spending time and helping us kick off fourth quarter.

Claire Dickinson  23:44 

Yes, of course. Thank you for inviting me.

Dayna Johnson  23:49 

All right, everyone, if this topic resonated with you, and you know other doctors, other dental teens that would benefit from from our podcast, please share it, rate it, review it wherever you get your podcasts wherever you listen to podcasts. This really helps get the word out about the Novonee family of resources. And I look forward to watching your journey of becoming a Dentrix super user. So make sure to follow us Facebook, Instagram, and I hope you have an awesome rest of your day.

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