dental practice team meeting

Everyone wants to improve their practice, and there is no shortage of ways to do it. Simon Sinek states, “Start with Why.” Gary Keller advises to find your “One Thing.”

However, in their book “The 4 Disciplines of Execution,” Sean Covey, Chris McChesney and Jim Huling recommend setting WIGs (Wildly Important Goal). Achieving WIGs is very applicable to the dental office. WIGs help a practice owner avoid looking in the wrong direction for success. But which direction is the wrong direction?

Like most of you, I tracked production, collection, accounts receivable, and – as an oral surgeon – the number of implants placed. I looked at my numbers every month, quarter and year. So, what could be wrong? Nothing, and everything.

The book explains these numbers are “lagging measures.” They’re fine to track if you want to understand past results, but when it comes to improving future results, they provide no help at all. According to “The 4 Disciplines of Execution,” we need “leading measures” – numbers that are “predictive and influenceable” to affect real change. Leading measures are “high-leverage actions you take to get the lag measures to move.”

It was then that I realized I’d only been looking at lagging measures, the equivalent to “driving my car by looking only in the rearview mirror.” As a Spear Masters Program beta test alumnus and current member, I have certainly improved my numbers through external means with my professional relationship director (PRD) and three Spear Study Clubs. But what could I do internally at my practice to get the lagging measures (i.e., the number of implants placed) to increase?

To come up with an answer, I looked at processes leading to patients getting implant(s) placed. Whether you’re a surgical specialist or general practitioner looking to increase implant numbers, the first part of the process is the same. In my practice, the majority of implant patients come with a referral stating, “Please extract ____ and prepare (or discuss) future implant placement.”

After the extraction visit, I typically see the patient 3-4 months later for a formal implant consult using a CBCT and a CEREC digital scan to fabricate a surgical guide. My conversion rate after the implant consult is about 85%, which is good, but now the question becomes, “How do I get more implant consults?”

Obviously, to get more consults there needs to be more consult slots in the schedule. I worked 225 days last year. If I dedicated four consult slots every day, it would put me at 900 consults per year. At an 85% conversion rate, even if they were all single implants, I should have a minimum of 765 implants. That would be an increase of nearly 25% from last year, which was our goal for this coming year. Tracking how to fill these slots is a leading measure.

I now have the capacity for implants, but how do I get more patients to fill those added consult slots? My team and I try to speak to every extraction patient about implants, but it’s not consistent, systematized or trackable. Our second leading measure is to have every extraction patient watch at least one Spear Patient Education video while they’re in the treatment room, or I offer to email or text them the video to watch at home. We currently only show Patient Education videos at the implant consult visit, but those patients are already interested. Showing these videos earlier in the patient experience educates and motivates more patients to make (and keep) an implant consult appointment before they leave the office.

So, there are two leading measures. The next step is getting the whole team to buy in. Luckily, my team is motivated, having helped me nearly triple my implant numbers in the last four years, but I tied in some bonuses to apply maximum leverage. Now, every Friday as a team, we look at leading measures for the past and for the coming week to keep our accountability active and current. We also look at lagging measures (implants placed) on a monthly basis.

These days my team is facing the right direction by looking at leading measures. I’m confident this will be a breakout year for my implant practice. Hopefully, you and your team can improve your practice too by looking toward the future as well.

Douglas Smail, D.D.S., is a contributor to Spear Digest.


Commenter's Profile Image Gary D.
July 8th, 2019
Exceptional example of identifying the forward monitors you can plan. I am always mystified by the number of successful GPs who do not plan for new patients, they take whatever they get and look in the rear-view mirror to see how they did. Planning for anything lets you do what you did - refine the experience to provide greater outcome success. Thanks Doug!