August 23, 2013
“Are You a Doctorpreneur?"
While doctors and dentists help their patients with some aspect of their health, entrepreneurs run businesses, trying to maximize the long-term profitability of that business.
Whether you own a practice, work at someone else’s practice, or work at a hospital, you need to remember that every healthcare office is a small business that needs to be managed as a business. Nothing that happens within your office should happen by accident. If any aspect of the practice isn’t the absolute best that it can be, you should have a plan in place to address and improve that part of the practice.
One recommendation we routinely make to our practice owner clients is to implement a Simple Incentive Bonus System. For short, we call this SIBS.
For a bonus system to work, it needs to be:
- Easy to understand.
- Attainable, but not automatic.
- Something that the staff members feel they can impact
As an example, SIBS works well with dentists. Most dental practices are staffed by a relatively small team that must work well together for the practice to routinely hit its goals.
- Front desk person – Fills the doctors’ and hygienists’ schedules and collects money from patients and insurance companies
- Hygienists – Validate treatment planning presented to patients. and can also provide additional services which add top line revenue and profits
- Assistants – Help improve patient flow efficiency
Implementing SIBS is pretty easy. Simply figure out your annual goal, divide that figure by twelve, and that’s the monthly goal. (Obviously this will only work if your practice doesn’t have seasonal fluctuations.)
Any month that you hit the goal, give each team member a $100 bonus. Hit 110% of the goal, and increase the bonus to $200 or $250.
Don’t worry about sharing the practice’s financial information with the staff. If the goal is based on monthly collections, make sure to remind your staff that even though the monthly collection goal seems high, the practice overhead is high as well. Remember, there are staff expenses, occupancy costs, lab fees, dental supplies, debt payments, equipment to buy and maintain, insurance, computer hardware and software, and all sorts of other costs, and then the practice still needs to pay your salary.
You should also periodically adjust the threshold used to calculate the monthly bonus. A good time to adjust the goal is around the time you hand out raises
Here is an example of SIBS. Let’s say that you set your annual collections goal at $900k, so the monthly goal is $75k. You have a meeting, and explain to your staff that any month the practice collects $75k, each team member gets a $100 bonus. And if the practice collects 110% of that goal, or $82.5k, everyone gets $250.
You then remind the staff that while the monthly collections seems high, you have a ton of expenses to pay each month, and after paying your salary, there is not a lot of money left over. After a few times of telling them this, they will start saying it back to you whenever you bring up the monthly collection goal.
Here are a few suggestions to make SIBS even more effective:
- Don’t lump the bonus check in with the regular payroll that gets directly deposited into each staff member's bank account.
- Instead, issue a printed check from this bonus, and personally hand this check to each employee. (This will also allow your employee to cash this check and use the money for something special such as going out to dinner and to a movie or shopping for something they've been waiting to buy.)
- At that time, thank each team member for their hard work in helping the practice achieve the monthly goal.
Just think how powerful a statement you are making to your staff if you hand them a check for their bonus payment, and personally thank them for helping the practice reach its goal.
As a reminder, you then do need to call this manual check into your payroll service since the income belongs on each employees’ W-2.
Like everything else these days, there are a few pitfall of SIBS. For starters, this bonus plan can lose it’s luster over time. So, keep it fresh by changing the focus of the bonus over time. Maybe switch from monthly collections to new patients brought in to re-care efficiency, and then go back to collections. However, no matter what practice variable you use, always make sure to align the goals set within SIBS to the long-term goals of your practice.
You also need to be careful that your staff doesn’t game the system. I saw this at one client where the front desk person stopped depositing checks once the maximum goal was met, and held those checks to deposit the following month. Make sure to tell your staff the bonus will end immediately if anyone tries to beat the system by pulling a stunt like this.
Win-Win With SIBS
We’ve had a lot of practice owner clients implement SIBS, and they often see an immediate increase in collections Plus, the staff at these practices end up making a little extra money too, which keeps them focused on reaching the stated goal each month. Hopefully you’ll realize similar results.