If you’re like most dentists today, you’re feeling the bite of a fast-changing practice landscape. Greater competition, more demand for specialized services, staffing challenges, and the ongoing headaches of scheduling and patient no-shows are all in a day’s work.

So how can an independent practice like yours hold its own? One answer, according to Nick Spanakis, head of PNC Bank’s healthcare business banking, can be found in rethinking the business model. Often that means positioning your practice as a one-stop shop, offering a comprehensive range of treatments under one roof. It can also mean using financial management automation to get more dollars to the practice’s bottom line.

“We see one common driver among many of our dental clients. They are increasingly motivated to take advantage of new capabilities to improve patient experiences while lessening administrative duties. Think about the reputation you can drive by adding more specialized treatments under one roof. Likewise, consider the financial improvements you can achieve by auto-posting patient payments.”

As a result of these efforts, practices often benefit in terms of a more stable financial picture. At the same time, patients benefit, too. Convenience, time away from work/family, and overall relationship-oriented patient care go a long way at earning referrals. However, as Spanakis points out, this shift in strategy and capabilities takes thoughtful planning and the open-minded willingness to consider implementing change.

“Just like employing the latest technological advances to collect patient payments, adding ancillary services certainly helps a practice’s overall revenue outcomes. All too often we hear that practice managers are too busy to change how things are currently done; the staff is resistant to change what’s been working for the past 10 years; or the doctor doesn’t want to spend the money. Growing and ensuring the practice’s future does require overcoming these paradigms. Competitively, you have to invest in your business alongside your clinical prowess to best serve and remain relevant to your patients.”

Today’s Technology For Tomorrow’s Revenue

Innovations abound in both the clinical and operational realms. As Spanakis puts it, “Technology in the dental practice is advancing at a rapid clip, which means growing opportunities to increase patient loyalty and revenue at the same time.”

Advances in technology for the dental practice fall into two broad categories.

Scheduling and Patient Management. Ask any dentist about their major sources of pain, and patient no-shows are almost always at the top of the list. Appointment scheduling automation can free up staff hours once spent making reminder calls to patients. At the same time, technologies such as SMS text and e-mail reminders are dramatically reducing missed appointments while providing a nice follow up patient thank you—which safeguards revenue and can be a reminder the practice welcomes referrals.

An additional benefit? Text to Pay capabilities through SMS allows patients to pay when they want for services. PNC has learned that patients are very responsive to Text to Pay. The net outcome of this patient payment option is improved cash flow and a material reduction in staff time to an uncomfortable, labor-intensive task.

Clinical Advancements. Practically every month, new treatment technologies are emerging to help treat patients. As one example, lasers, while not new to clinical practice, are being used for new applications in areas such as restorative dentistry and endodontics. Digital x-rays allow instant viewing, clarity, and integration into practice management systems. Intraoral scanning aid diagnosis and create hyper-accurate digital models of the patient. And the in-house 3D printing of appliances, aligners, crowns, and more, dramatically cuts wait times while providing a potential new revenue stream. And those are just a few of the many ways new advances may affect patient care for the better.

But How To Finance Change?

It’s one thing to be excited by the potential of new technology. The costs of implementation are another factor entirely. PNC and its talented team of healthcare business bankers have more than thirty years of experience offering real-world financial advice to healthcare providers. That experience across tens of thousands of clients allows PNC to provide business insights that best guide clients as they evaluate and plan new technology investments. As Spanakis points out, a clear, thought-out path to increased revenue and profitability is essential.

“We tell our clients to make sure new technology fits within their plan for growth. It’s more than allocating space. It’s about the soft costs training their team members, integrating new systems into their overall spectrum of care, and having the determination to keep up with upgrades, supply chain options, and clinical advances. The last thing you want to do is buy a piece of equipment, use it up front and then not remain committed to it over time. We’ve seen this happen way too often—some great but unsustainable ideas that end up sitting covered up on a counter.”

Mike Olson, PNC Bank’s Healthcare Advisor, offers insight. “A dental practice is a business--one that faces unique challenges and circumstances. That’s why PNC has carefully developed strong expertise in the industry. We understand practice management operations, which allows us to provide real-world advice based on having serviced thousands of financial interactions over an extensive period of time. PNC’s experience matters to our clients’ long-term success.”

This organic approach to the economic well-being of healthcare practices provides a tangible benefit to clients: adding ancillary services, investing in new technology, and improving patient payment options are just one part of a practice’s overall financial operations. All too often doctors make decisions about financing, as an example, without a thoughtful analysis/plan.

“Suppliers, whether equipment manufacturers or software developers, can offer financing to be sure,” Olson continues. “And it’s tempting to take that easy path. But financing purely for equipment will not cover the total costs of this kind of upgrade. It won’t pay for the cost to the practice such as renovations to the physical space, diminished provider productivity, or the expenses associated with ongoing training. And it certainly won’t sustain the practice if its cash flow is interrupted during the implementation process.”

“That’s why it’s important to take into account the entirety of business objective and related impacts and expenses associated with the acquisition of technology. The costs of the equipment itself is often just the beginning. Strong financial guidance that considers the full range of money needs, not just one portion of it, is critical. Successful practices that are modernizing their clinical offerings are also modernizing their financial management processes. That might mean flexible terms, lines of credit, treasury management, and an entire range of other resources beyond just a loan.”

In short, clinical and business technologies are offering dental practices extraordinary new avenues for patient care which, in turn, leads to opportunities for growth and profitability. Take the time to plan. It’s critical to see the addition of new technologies as part of a deliberate, mapped-out process, one undertaken with a full knowledge of the practice’s overall objectives and careful consideration of its financial needs.

Adapting to technological change and innovation is a great competitive equalizer and catalyst for growth. Choosing the right bank to partner with works the same way. PNC’s healthcare business banking group is local and committed to providing the right financial tools for the long term success of its clients. To learn more about how PNC can provide the savvy to upgrade your practice, contact us today.