My Practice Management Story
By Aqib Mudassar
On many occasions I talk about the importance of PRACTICE MANAGEMENT, however the message always hits my associates harder than the outsiders. I finally realized why it was so; my associates always know the inner story! That’s what makes them understand what practice management really is and the wonders it does for one’s practice. Today I decide to share the inner story with everyone, the story of me being introduced to the concept of practice management and the way it changed my life completely.
I got my license to practice in California in 2003. Since I was broke at the time, I took the easiest option available, working for Western Dental, a big franchise in the region. As the office was always packed with patients, it was mostly chaotic and there were no systems in place. The patients had to wait a couple of hours before they could be seen by the dentist. It was a fish market situation. I started my own private practice on 12th of March 2004 and on the very first day, I saw 12 patients. I was able to collect $30k that month and saved a good $12k. I had worked 3 days a week as opposed to 6 at western dental. All was good, but I wanted to work more and make more. After all I was product of a system that didn’t believe in any sort of service and more numbers meant everything. I signed up for the state funded dental insurance, which meant a lot more patients but for comparatively cheaper treatment rates. Within 3 months I started seeing 100 new patients a month via the insurance. I have made many mistakes in my life, but this by far is the biggest professional regret I have.
I had two classes of patients coming in now, the privately paying high class and the hundreds of insurance paid patients. I was making good money but I was dead at the end of the day. I walked in at 9 and was supposed to leave at 6 but had to stay past 7 almost every day. The insurance paid patients started to take the toll on my private patients. As I had to see 40 to 50 patients daily, my waiting time kept increasing and I ended up losing my private patients. The staff too had gotten over-worked and felt under paid and unappreciated. I myself had no time left for friends and family and started developing back issues. Within three years of this monotonous lifestyle and absolute lack of any professional satisfaction, I had become completely exhausted and wanted to quit dentistry altogether.
However, as a person I’m not a quitter and always try to fix things. I happened to attend a local seminar of Dick Barnes just for the sake of credits and that turned out to be a life changing experience.
He made me see the real beauty of dentistry. I realized that dentistry could be fun, fulfilling and motivating. I realized that quality and service were the keys to a prosperous future and not quantity. He gave me a new life line, as the next day I woke up all charged and energized with aim of bringing positive changes into my practice. I started looking into practice management and decided to work with a practice management company to bring systems and structure into my practice. At the time, I didn’t have the courage to invest so much into practice management and hence I hired a cheap one. It started to make a difference and made me realize I could still do better. I started looking into other practice management companies and kept doing my research. I learned more and more things on my way and kept implementing them in my practice. For example, I learned the concept of CREATING VALUE which motivated me to learn cosmetic dentistry. I spent 4 years travelling to different places and took four comprehensive cosmetic training programs. I only did my first ever cosmetic case when I was confident that I was better than everyone around. The first crown I delivered after being trained well enough was for 1200 dollars, 200 more than a local dentist practicing around. It felt good. Before being aware of the value of standard of care I always thought I would never charge more than a local around, because who would pay an Asian Muslim so much. I was wrong. Having the systems in place and being certain about the quality of work I was providing, I was now in a position of deserving whatever rates I desired.
My true breakthrough came when I met Gary Kadi. He had a practice management company that helped dentist take their practices to the next level. His methodology was amazing and very effective. He had a complete system which was fool proof and showed amazing results. When I first met him in 2007 I was very impressed, but he seemed too expensive to afford. I read his book and attended three of his seminars which helped a lot with productivity and reducing stress. Finally, I decided to take the leap and invest in his services. He charged $54k per annum but it was the best investment, I ever made. They started with a complete analysis of my practice. They helped us reset our thinking; gave us tools and systems including morning huddle, job descriptions, patient education systems, financial policies, re-care systems, etc.
From seeing 40-45 patients a day, I was down to 10-12, for the same amount of money. From not being able to even have lunch, I started playing tennis 4 days a week. From being stressed all the time, I started to watch shows in between my patients. My life was now more settled and satisfying. My staff was happy and so was my family. From being a control freak who wanted to know everything in the office and tell everyone everything, I became a leader who would just set goals, give a purpose and mission. I trusted and empowered the team to take charge of everything. Even till today I only drill and fill and set goals. Everyone in team takes care of the rest and they own their responsibilities.
Gary also made me realize the importance of TRIPLE WIN. It states that the win of the patient, followed by the win of the team is the true win of the dentist. Whenever I attended any practice management seminars I always wondered why dentists who had practiced for so long still hadn’t found the key to success. But now I know the reason, they’d always been focused on chasing their own dreams and making an ideal practice out of it. When we make our patients the true focus, and make their win ours, that is only when we can really excel as a health care professional.
To end it, I will simply quote an example outside of dentistry to put things in perspective. In 60s to early 80s we ruled the world in hockey, but then other nations brought more than just skill to the game. They invested in body development, systems, productivity analysis, game plans and goal setting for future. Despite being inferior in skill they got way ahead of us simply because we refused to evolve with time.
Practice management provides us a huge opportunity to grow to new highs. The idea is to make it work for the patients before us and then the reward is phenomenal for everyone. By implementing proven methods of patient education to increase case acceptance, making the team accountable, providing best customer service, creating a happy working environment where everyone feels appreciated and valued, improving the quality of work, we can grow by at least 50%.
I came to Pakistan in 2015 and implemented the exact same ways here in Lahore. The results have been tremendous. From a case acceptance rate of 55% in California, I got to an acceptance rate of 78% in Pakistan, and that is because people in our country still crave good customer service when it comes to doctors. It comes down to the power of good customer service, quality work, and the right way of educating your patients; all of them being gifts of Practice Management. When we know exactly the kind of practice we want, there needs to be proper planning done well in advance. The type of clientage, location, the team, everything needs to be well defined in order to set goals for the practice you’re trying to build. This goal then needs to be kept in mind during all phases of execution.
Dentistry as a field in Pakistan is yet to be explored diversely, which will not only make our clients experience international standards of care but will also change the way we are looked at as a community. I’m here to share whatever I have learned in the US and to help you see the true potential that your practice has in this country. There are so many opportunities in this country that are screaming for your attention. It’s never too late to start over. Together we can change how dentistry is perceived and practiced in Pakistan and really elevate our status as a dental community in the society.