It’s Goal Season! by Suzanne Wilson

It’s Goal Season! 

Score in 2023 by using data-driven growth strategies

by Suzanne Wilson

At this time of year, practice owners ought to be thinking about their goals for 2023 and determining the most effective strategies and tactics to reach them.

Set strategies with your team

The task of goal setting is best achieved in a focused collaborative leadership group where ideas, dreams, plans, facts and challenges facing the business can be shared openly and safely. Practices should embrace the idea of a lightly structured, focused strategy session with time allotments and key team members who represent each major area of the practice: doctor/leader, front desk, treatment coordinator, insurance/financials and clinical assistant lead. The more information and perspectives you can reasonably gain access to, the better prepared you will be to identify the greatest opportunities that can drive the successes you seek in your business.

Let data drive your decisions. Begin by determining where you are and where you imagine you want to be by the end of next year. A perfect place to start is by reviewing historical performance across the major business-driving key performance indicators. This begins with your new patient funnel in your new patient calls, exams, starts, and the production in dollars and net collections. However, it should not stop there when it comes to goal planning.

Each practice faces some similar and some unique challenges based on market, systems and staffing. First, take the time to dive into your practice performance data to understand your successes. This gives you the visibility and clarity on where to maintain existing protocols and how to keep doing what you’ve been doing well, perhaps with a few efficiency improvements. It also may give you the road map to accelerating growth by identifying which growth levers need fine-tuning and how to ensure you double down on what’s yielding a return.

Next, look for your low-performing areas. This will vary widely, but it’s essential to dig up what’s dragging your practice down. For example, have you examined your no-show rate as compared to the last few years? A trend we’ve observed is that both no-shows and appointments are increasing while new-patient calls and starts are decreasing. All four of these metrics should be related, and in this case we have a growth problem and an efficiency problem. This, along with some other hidden gems, such as your observation pool starts, could be areas where your practice will benefit from taking time to create an actionable plan with specific tasks and ongoing measurement against the goal.

Seek market insights

As you examine where you want to go with your business, you must have eyes wide open and feet firmly on the ground. In other words, know what’s happening in the market around you and with your competitors. Further, “head in the clouds” goals rarely get achieved, because they may be exciting but are too far beyond reason to rally a team toward achievement. Teams need aspiration encompassed in reality to keep the motivation going.

Analyze trends for a broader perspective. Across the U.S., we have seen significant slowing in growth over the past three quarters.1 This has created a lot of worry and unrest across many industries. In 2021 we experienced the joy of growth that we felt we were due in some ways after a tumultuous 2020. This year, the stock market and media has regularly pounced on the newsworthy nuggets while the Federal Reserve has been making moves to normalize. Economists have debated if we are truly in a recession, although the country has achieved the definition of recession with two consecutive declining quarters (and now possibly a third).2

The reason for the debate is largely because of the anomalies in the market we’ve experienced the past 2½ years. It’s valid to broaden our perspective to level our perceptions about the conditions we’re facing. This brings us back to data, and level-setting the emotional ups and downs, by looking at facts.

When we measure the U.S. aggregate of orthodontic practice performance back to 2019, we have achieved an average 8% growth in gross production, 5% growth in exams and 4% growth in the average contract fee.3 Within the Gaidge platform, practices have access to up to five years of historical data across more than 80 metrics where they can compare their own as well as regional and national performances. The broader view helps show that while we are stomaching a lot of declines when we compare 2022 to 2021, we need to uncover a more informed perspective by looking deeper and broader to prioritize goals, spending and resources for our practices.

Review and compare the data

Performance review against our well-thought-out plans is the only way to know if we are on course or if correction is required. Data analysis and performance measurement can feel like daunting tasks but the insights are essential in revealing whether our actions are yielding results or not.

Does your practice lag behind when it comes to understanding your data? It’s time to reassess how practice data can empower you to make informed decisions and give you the ability to connect the dots so you can clearly see the full picture of your practice’s potential, as well as potential pitfalls. Robust data analysis and dataled decisions are not simply trends.

Improve productivity with data insights. Common sense tells us—and studies show—that practices that adopt data-driven decision-making enjoy a higher level of output and productivity. For more than a decade, access to data has been at our fingertips. It’s not the access to data that’s the problem; it’s the ability to gain insights and react quickly. By drastically reducing the amount of time you spend looking at data and figuring out what to do, you can use your expertise to act quickly and take advantage of opportunities or reverse setbacks as soon as they appear. And the best way to accelerate data analysis is through visualization.

Visualizations make information more meaningful and digestible. The best data-analysis tools leverage automation and provide intuitive visual representations of a practice’s performance. By seeing your practice performance data through graphs and charts, you waste less time trying to figure out which data to look at— let alone understand what the data is telling you—and more time responding to the important findings. Furthermore, visuals can steer you away from bad assumptions or incorrect “gut feelings” about your data. This not only helps you understand the facts about where you are, it helps you see leading and lagging indicators, that when acted upon, provide a competitive advantage.

1. Shalal, A. “IMF Sees Further Global Economic Slowdown in Third Quarter.”, Sept. 15, 2022. Accessed Nov. 3, 2022.
2. Bachman, D. “United States Economic Forecast.”, Sept. 15, 2022. Accessed Nov. 3, 2022.
3. Gaidge aggregated USA data.

Author Bio
Author Suzanne Wilson, MBA, has spent the past 23 years in the oral health care industry developing expertise in operations, product development, corporate strategy and marketing while working for global medical device and technology firms. She joined Gaidge in 2018 as its chief marketing officer and became its chief operating officer in January 2022.
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