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A Dental Blogs Exclusive Interview with Dr. Paul Homoly

April 2nd, 2009 · 2 Comments

070430_paul_homoly_085Dr. Paul Homoly, CSP, is well known throughout the dental field for his motivating and practical in speaking, consulting, coaching, and writing. He is the only dentist to hold the title Certified Speaking Professional, and through his company, Homoly Communications Institute in Charlotte, NC, he provides many consultative products, as well as on-site and telephone coaching, workshops, and seminars. In this interview, DentalBlogs extracts some invaluable advice on case presentation and setting dental fees – topics that can help you succeed during the economic downturn!


DB: Dr. Homoly, tell our readers about your journey from chairside dentist to internationally known speaker.

PH: I had been speaking and consulting prior to my retirement from dentistry. I practiced from 1975to 1995. In 1993, I had problems with an eye disability I’d had since birth, and the convergence in dentistry caused my eye to cross again. In 1995, I was 45, and I was forced to retire from dentistry at the top of my game. At my 4400 sq. ft. office in beautiful North Carolina, I focused on implants and was a visiting faculty member at universities, as well as at Misch Institute. I had a successful and progressing career. Then the eye surgeon told me I needed a “Plan B” for life. I retired from dentistry in the clinical sense, but because dentistry was so much in my bones, I stayed in dentistry and focused on communication and leadership. I became as much as student of these topics as clinical topics. That was 16 years ago, and I’ve studied the aspects of leadership for many professions outside of dentistry, as well. My primary role is working with dentists, dental societies, dental labs, hygienists, and other dental professionals. I have also spent a significant amount of time is spent with financial planning and law professionals, concentrating on communication and leadership. My journey was one of necessity. I have written four books and have earned CSP, the highest designation in professional speaking. To any dentist, it pays to have an eye on the future. Many dentists have neck and back problems. As dentists, we have incredible skills; we’re hard workers, good students, and you’d be surprised at the success that could come your way.

DB: You provide a few products of particular interest during this current economic crisis. What is “Making it Easy for Patients to Say Yes?”

PH: The whole idea of products – they’re really tools. Here’s what I know to be true about helping people grow. I help people become more interesting and help them reach their goals. A highly competent dentist in Georgia whom I just got off the phone with has run into some areas in which his practice has stopped growing. I am helping him develop leadership skills by changing the way he thinks. I help people change their behaviors in case presentations, leadership, and communication. The reason for tools is to help people change the way they think. For instance, how does the computer change the way you do business? It’s transformed it. The high-speed handpiece has done this in dentistry. When I began in dentistry, we didn’t have it. It changed the way we think about tooth preparation. Dental implants changed the way we think about tooth replacement. Books, audios, videos change the way people think about dentistry. The way we use tools, not the education about the tools, changes our behavior. My “Making People Say Yes” product line, my book and audio program and the two-day workshop, help people change their behavior. I offer a dialogue tool that helps doctors rehearse what they’ll say to patients during case presentation, and they can listen to the audios again and again. I also offer one-day seminars… Webcasting is our newest offering. I have a complete, professional recording studio where we’ll create videos to help dentists make patients feel good about being in their practice.

DB: What tips can you provide the average general dentist in private practice to increase case acceptance?

PH: Case acceptance has to be viewed in a situational perspective. Those cases that are less than $3500 are handled dif that those greater than $3500. First, I have to ask you what type of case are we talking about. For patients whose case fee is over $3-5K, these are complex rehabilitation cases, time for treatment is long, the fee significant, and life interruption for patient is significant. For 95% of these complex rehab cases, the first time the patient hears the treatment plan, he will not be ready to move forward. When a dentist suggests to a patient a rehab case for $10K, that case will rarely be accepted when the patient first hears the suggestion. The key is that the dentist needs to be very patient during the interval from first presentation to when the patient becomes ready to do it – this is an incubation period. Oftentimes, patients need to get their house in order – save money, sell something, or wait until the kids finish college. Present your plan, but don’t apply sales pressure that will chase the patient away from your practice. It may be two or three years until the patient is ready. Keep that patient in the practice during this incubation period.

In case acceptance for minimal dental care, those treatment plans under $3K, the key is to clearly understand what the patient is and is not interested in. Patients who need routine care often have chief complaints. Too often, the dental office will require these patients to go through the whole process of X-rays and case planning. I recommend dentists help the patient with the simple problem first, then get into the full case. Earn the right to influence the patient. This makes case acceptance much more predictable.

DB: Another issue of timely significance is fee setting. What is The Right Fee Solution™?

PH: This is a tool that helps the dentist establish the correct fee for rehabilitative cases. It was co-developed by Ken Mathys, CPA (920-347-2929) and me. When a dentist does a $10K, complex case with many units of crown and bridge, the dentist will usually set his fee based on the unit fee. Ten units at $1K units equals $10K. That’s where the problem starts. The case requires consultation, diagnostics, consult with labs, physicians, and planning. There is also a lot more experience required on the dentist’s part and a higher probability of repeating a procedure at no charge. There are long-term changes that add unknown elements to the case. Rarely does a dentist complete a case as he has planned it. Oftentimes there are minor changes that significantly increase the time on the case. “The Right Fee Solution” is a fee philosophy that helps dentist factor in additional costs and risks. The fee for those 10 units will be commensurate with time and cost involved. I find most of my clients are more profitable, dollar per hour net profit, when they are doing quadrant dentistry or less. Even though the patient fee might be more, the net fee per hour is lower with full complex case done at once. You must protect profitability.

DB: Do you believe that patient financing and/or phased treatment plans boost case acceptance?

PH: I love them! CareCredit leads the pack as far as helping dentists offer patients affordable treatment plans. Thirty years ago, if a dentist did a $10K case, he could fix the whole mouth. Now, with advent of dental implants, regenerative procedures, interceptive orthodontics, and cosmetics, in some cases, complex rehab may be $10K per quadrant. The level of fees has increased dramatically. To practice a high standard of care for severely compromised patients, there needs to be financing in place. Otherwise, you’ll put your patients on the spot. Financing is smart dentistry. It allows people to get in to a treatment plan in step by step to arrest problems and fix their mouths. Some patients need to get all the work done at once. These big cases can be all or nothing. In these situations, financing is important. Consider, where would auto and housing industry be without financing?

DB: In the past few months, there has been a shift in dentistry from cosmetics to bread-and-butter general dental care. How should dentists approach this change in regards to their marketing?

PH: Number one, I have always been a fan of TNT. Many of my clients have worked with you. Great job. In regards to dentists changing their tune about cosmetics, I have a few thoughts. Number one, cosmetic dentistry is part of the broader landscape of general dentistry. In the last decade and a half or more, there has been a huge resurgence in cosmetics. Many cosmetic journals, the AACD, and courses on laminates are available. Frankly, the surge created and illusion as to how much weight should be placed on cosmetics. However, the practical nature of general dentistry dictates a broad approach to patient care. This should not be governed by marketing efforts. The best business practice is diagnosing patients’ needs, dealing with concerns, then cosmetics fill the needs when appropriate. Branding is important, but more so is the communication process.

Dentists get confused about branding their practice as cosmetic practice, but if you aren’t a good communicator, no amount of branding will make up for a poor patient experience. Think – who should I focus on, not what should I do. Who is the existing patient base? You don’t have to spend ten cents to find these patients. A strategy for evening out bumps in the economy would be to focus on current patients and improve those relationships. The mental shift is difficult to make. It’s easy to add a new competency based on technology, you can take courses, etc. However, the competencies that they need to look at now are communication and relationships to sustain patient who are in the practice during downturn in economy. I would say, good for those who are changing back to a general dentistry focus. Changing a web banner or Yellow Pages ad won’t amount to much unless you change how you deal with relationship building to maintain your current patients.

DB: You also offer leadership products, personal coaching, and on-site consulting for dentists. What are some key factors that make a dentist a solid leader?

PH: Leadership is the next frontier for dentistry. Dentistry has really solved some problems that were formerly unsolvable. For instance, totally edentulous patients have a predictable solution. Cosmetically and orthodontically compromised patients do as well. Dentistry has seen magnificent developments. We have had tremendous developments in understanding diseases and periodontal issues. We now have highest standard of care, however many practices are stalled in technological advances. The next step for a dentist who is competent and working at a high standard of care will be in leadership. Leadership involves making it easy for people around you to succeed, and making these people feel great about the process. Bring out the best in people. Problem solving, vision, money and time management are essential leadership skills. A recent ADA survey tells us that people are interested in leadership and management. These are the tools that will get dentists to the next level.

DB: For dentists searching for ways to stay afloat right now, what advice can you offer?

PH: Things aren’t different now than they ever were. If a practice has a leadership and competency problem, those bones hurt the most. Economic downturns reveal weaknesses in practice. I work with large group dental practices in which 30 to 40% of the patients are on state aid. I work with a broad palate of practices – from the highest end to some groups who deal with low-income patients who have poor access to care. For these people, the economy has been bad forever. All practices need to embrace people, not just technology. None of the new technology will solve scared patients or those with limited resources. The only and best approach is relationship building so that the patient has the sense of dentist’s advocacy. A meaningful conversation is the way to do this.

DB: Tell me about your upcoming events, publications, and new projects for 2009.

breakthrough-book-homolyPH: My new book Just Because You’re an Expert Doesn’t Make You Interesting is for highly educated professionals. These people have important content for clients/patients to understand, but the client doesn’t understand the language the expert uses. The problem is, the conversation must be interesting. My book is about making experts interesting. I’m seven chapters in, and it’s been very fun for me. I have video conferencing, online learning, and CDs available on this topic. I will also announce to the profession my new online learning made possible because of my investment in a full, professional television studio. This will be live, quality programming. This aspect of my work is exciting. The content of what I have for leadership development and case acceptance is mature. I have 15 to 20 years’ experience and have brought thousands of practitioners through the process. The results are amazing. Problem is, traveling to workshops can be resisted by dentists for various reasons. I will focus on creating an easier distribution system. An AGD survey found that over 60% of dentists are open to online training. I made a huge investment in state-of-the-art communication, and I’m excited about spreading the word world wide!

The program I have taught for 20 years – “Speak Like a Leader” – has helped many of the speakers on national lecture circuit. It has been a wonderful experience for these leaders. They become more interesting and influential.

About Dr. Homoly
Dr. Paul Homoly, CSP, is a world-class leader in dental education and is known for his innovative and practical approach to dentistry.

Paul’s focus is coaching high performance dental teams and advancing communication in dentistry worldwide. His unique process helps dentists master their practice and creates greater freedom and prosperity in their lives.

Paul is author of the best-selling books Dentists: An Endangered Species, Isn’t it Wonderful When Patients Say “Yes,” Making It Easy for Patients to Say “Yes,” and Break Through.

Paul is affiliated with The Misch Implant Institute and a member of The North Carolina Dental Society. He is licensed to practice dentistry in the great state of North Carolina.

Paul holds the highest earned designation in professional speaking – Certified Speaking Professional (CSP) – from the National Speakers Association; fewer than ten percent of professional speakers are distinguished at the CSP level. He is the first and only dentist to earn this designation.

Visit Homoly Communications Institute online to learn more about Dr. Homoly’s products and services.

Tags: DentalBlogs Exclusive Interview

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Susan Estep // Apr 8, 2009 at 11:55 am

    Thanks, Dr. Homily! Printed for team to review.

  • 2 Susan Estep // Apr 8, 2009 at 11:55 am

    Thanks, Dr. Homily! Printed for team to review.

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