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
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
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.”
reuters.com, Sept. 15, 2022. Accessed Nov. 3, 2022.
2. Bachman, D. “United States Economic Forecast.” deloitte.com, Sept. 15, 2022.
Accessed Nov. 3, 2022.
3. Gaidge aggregated USA data.
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.