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  • February 19, 2019

Turn your calendar to December, and realize 2018 is over

It’s an ideal time to take stock of those ideas, goals and projects you had in mind for this year and see if you can sneak in one or two more before 2019 arrives.

If you have been toying with a year-end equipment purchase, time is running out. The 2017 tax overhaul gives a big incentive to equipment or technology upgrades, allowing businesses to deduct the full price of qualifying equipment during the year, up to $500,000, with some some depreciation options, as long as equipment financing the year before came to less than $2 million.

But don’t jump into a purchase before taking careful stock first.  Robert Gregg II, a dentist in Southern California, advised asking some hard questions first:

       • Why do you want the technology?

        • Will it affect the way you treat patients?

        • Will your patients benefit? If so, how?

        • Will it add a new revenue stream?

        • Will it pay for itself?

“Answering these questions helps to cut though the marketing hype,” Dr. Gregg said in his Dental Economics article. “It also helps you determine if a certain technology or equipment purchase will bring an actual benefit to your practice. Regardless of the equipment cost or promised savings, understanding the value the technology brings to your practice, patients, and bottom line will help you prioritize your investments.”

Another worthwhile year-end project is an assessment of your new-patient count for 2018.

Frank Semo, a business solutions district manager for Henry Schein, has some straight-forward ways to calculate each patient’s worth to a practice.

According to Semo, a full-time dentist should be recruiting 25 to 30 new patients a month,  based on an attrition rate of 12 percent to 14 percent.

“If your practice isn’t meeting this goal or you aren’t retaining these patients, you should analyze your go-to marketing strategy as well as your internal systems for reappointment, case acceptance, and overall patient experience,” Semo said. “These factors are just as—if not more—important than all of your external marketing efforts combined.”

By taking your 2018 collections total and dividing that number by the total number of patients who visited your practice last year, you can calculate the value of the average active patient, Semo said. Use that number to help calculate a target marketing budget for the new year.

It’s not too early to think about a budget for 2019. Starting with some basic business planning and performance analysis will help put the building blocks in place for a successful year ahead.


The views expressed in this column are those of the writer and not necessarily the opinions of the Chicago Dental Society.

CDS presents Front Desk, a column addressing issues facing dentists and staff members experience in the office.

Front Desk is prepared by Stephanie Sisk, a freelance journalist.

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