Is your practice growing?

Counting your active patientsActive patients: the lifeblood of a dental practice. If your active patient volume is growing, you have decisions to make: is it time to hire another hygienist? Are my secretaries keeping up with the phone calls coming in? Do I need to add an EFDA? On the other hand, if your active patient volume is shrinking, you have different decisions to face: is it time to cut back on staff hours? What additional marketing programs can we begin? What topics do I need to review with my staff so we’re well taking care of our existing patients in order to retain them?

The key to all these decisions is to know if your active patients are growing or decreasing – and by how much. Here’s how to calculate active patients. First, you need to define ‘active patients’. I define an active patient as one with a last visit date within the last 2 years. It can be any type of visit, but it must occur within the last 2 calendar years.

The specific instructions for Dentrix are:

  • Go to the Office Manager
  • Select Letters – then choose any report to edit
  • In the Patient Report View: checkmark patient, make sure all billing types and all providers are selected, then select last visit date for 01/01/10 – 12/31/11
  • In the data fields: checkmark first/last name, birthdate and zip code
  • Click Ok and Create/Merge and run the data file only
  • Once it’s complete – copy & paste into Excel
  • Once you’re in Excel – just scroll to the bottom of the list to find your active patient number

To understand your practice, it’s helpful to document some facts about your patient base and identify how they change over time. Today, you can identify your active patient volume as of January 1, 2012 – document this and then run the same report next January. Now you can start to evaluate if your practice is growing or decreasing. Since you also included data on birthdate, you can identify the ages of your patients – how many are children? Teens? Adults? Seniors? You can do the same by zip code – do a sort in Excel to find the zip code with the most patients this year. Find out the top 5 zip codes where you are already gaining the most patients.

With this information, you can start to make intelligent decisions about your practice. When you know that only 5% of your practice is children, you can target your marketing message to adults. When you know that 30% of your patients come from one zip code, you can target market to that city in particular.

In a time when most dental practices have active patient bases that are shrinking, knowing your real numbers helps you to make better business decisions. Now is the right time to run these reports to create a measurable picture of your patient base. With an accurate understanding of your patients, you can determine the staff size and mix that best fit your practice and you can know which type of marketing programs might work the best for your practice.

For more ideas to improve the business-side of your dental practice:

AUTHOR: Jill Nesbitt
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