What Happened to Your Referrals?

How to Increase Your Study Club / Association Membership and Get More Referrals!

Dentistry is in transition and the status quo is unsustainable.

The changing nature of dental patients and their providers, along with altering patterns of demographics are significantly impacting the ways we practice and our membership dynamics.

Proactively setting a new strategy will influence your referral potential.

To get clear picture of the industry challenges, let’s reveal several of the current dynamics that are occurring.

Aging population

As dental problems begin to escalate, many of our patients are retiring and losing their dental benefits.

  • Traditionalist and Baby Boomer (BB) patient pool is shrinking, which means less patients to refer
  • Less frequent appointments in these categories as well

Association/ Study Club Impact

As dentist retire, so do the leaders of the traditional associations and study clubs.

If we ignore the shifting landscape, the future of our study clubs will be unpredictable and unsustainable. A succession plan is imperative for membership growth.

Diversity and Needs

According to a study conducted by the Hispanic Dental Association together with Proctor and Gamble, the Hispanic population is the fastest growing in the US.

  • 45% lack dental coverage and are dependent on community dental clinics

Consider the value of Spanish-speaking dental professionals and Spanish marketing materials.

  • Invite the Hispanic dental professionals to participate in your membership by speaking their language in your marketing

The other major ethnic shift taking place is with Asian‐Americans. They are >6% of the US population, affluent, well educated, and tech savvy.

  • 40% geographically concentrated: San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York

To broaden diversity in your membership, focus your marketing on this demographic if you practice in the concentrated areas.

Gen Z are entering the dental professional workforce. They are more likely to forgo solo practices for joint, group, or corporate practices. These types of practices often keep referrals in-house and provide study club environments.

More women in the field who are restructuring traditional dental practice patterns, with many working part time. This will influence the availability to attend traditional SC events. Consider adjusting your standard event agenda:

  • Offer childcare during meetings
  • Breakfast or lunch meetings
  • Record live and virtual events
  • Varied event lengths

Dental Insurance

The variety of dental insurance plans and payments are shifting and slowly evolving.


Using highly selective networks

Demanding more evidence / data

Pressuring providers to reduce fees


Demanding increased accountability from providers

Memberships – plans vary per state and are becoming more popular


Out of Pocket fee for service

Dental Tourism

Patients are traveling abroad to receive dental treatment at a reduced cost.  The four countries leading the movement are:  Mexico, Costa Rica, Eastern Europe and Asia.

  • The younger the generation, the more likely they are to investigate this option

To keep your dentistry in-house and have a larger referral pool, emphasize the safety / infection control standards in the U.S. Highlight that convenient follow up is included in the fee post procedurally. And of course, advertise your high standard of care and professionalism.

Continual adaptation to the new dynamics of dentistry will keep your practice, study club and association cutting edge. New members will be enthusiastic and loyal. The referrals will grow from the relationships you are building and nurturing.

September is National Preparedness Month: Has Your Practice ‘Preparedness Kit’ Been Updated?

Parleys Canyon Fire, UT

Last month we were evacuated from our home, in Park City, UT, due to the Parleys Canyon Fire raging toward our mountain homes.  The smoke plume expanded quickly, directly behind our neighborhood.

In 2021, Utah has experienced one of the worst droughts in history.

The fire started at 1:30 PM on a Saturday. By 2:30 PM we were receiving possible evacuation text and email notices. At 4:30 PM we were told to evacuate, quickly!

We called friends that lived out of harm’s way to seek refuge, which they did with open arms. 

As we packed the essentials: cloths, computers, work files, passports, bikes, ski / snowboard equipment, and a few cherished photos, we planned the logistics of moving 3 vehicles. One being a 1967 Camaro fondly named “the mistress”.  Within an hour, we left our home, not knowing what we would return to.  Hoping for the best possible outcome.

As we exited the neighborhood, we laughed at the number of cars we saw with bikes and skis included in their evacuation essentials…living up to the true Park City life reputation!

The first responders had amazing systems in place and they were executed flawlessly.  The symbols in the upper right photo are indicating no occupancy on first and second knock on our front door. 

As we drove around the neighborhood the following week we could see varying hieroglyphics on driveways indicating the occupancy status. 

Mother nature came through with a horrific thunderstorm that swept through the area after 3 days of battling the fire with 0% containment. Within 24 hours the fire was 40%, then 80% contained. The bonus was the double rainbow, ending in our neighborhood.

We feel very fortunate and are so grateful and appreciative of the heroic efforts of our community responders and neighbors.

September is National Preparedness Month and the 2021 theme is “Prepare to Protect.”

COVID-19 has had a similar crisis pattern on dentistry.

Practices were forced evacuate. Upon re-opening, we needed to evaluate and restructure our recovery plan in order to protect our practice and team.

When we experience traumatic events personally, it forces us to evaluate our reactions, protocols, communications, and systems.

This sparked my curiosity and I wanted to explore the steps you may have taken since your evacuation to structure your practice differently?

TEN ideas to pack into your Preparedness Kit as a future safety net for your practice.

  1. Have you upgraded your technology and trained all team members in more efficient / effective communication strategies?
  2. Do you use text messaging to engage with your patients and team members more frequently?
  3. If you lost team players, what are you doing differently to attract and retain new team members?
  4. Has your team revisited your annual goals and made adjustments?
  5. How are you expressing appreciation to your current team members?
  6. What did you execute really well during your shut down?
  7. What could you have done better?
  8. Are you working to create an emotionally safe environment?
  9. What have you done to attract and retain new and loyal patients?
  10. How do you and your team step away from dentistry and have a little FUN?

Preparation and planning are the pathways to practice success.

Disruption Offers Opportunities: Try Productive Reflection

As we crest the halfway point of an unusual year, it is important for us to reflect back on the first 6 months in order to move forward more productively in the second half.


Make a list of positive, neutral, and areas for improvement that occurred in your practice / team in the first half of the year. 

  • Continue implementing what worked well
  • Make decisions about neutral items
  • Develop an action plan for areas that need attention

During your monthly team meeting, include this productive reflection activity on your agenda.


  • Overachieve:  What did we excel in?
  • Neutral: Did some of our goals remain neutral?
  • Needs Improvement:  Where did we miss our target?
  • What action do we need to take?

I have given you several category ideas, you can add or delete, to customize for your practice.

To get you started, I’ll use the example of ‘ALL TEAM TRAINING’.

If you have not had any team training this year, meaning everyone attends together, check the ‘needs improvement’ category. 

Create an action plan using the What / Who / When format.

  • WHAT: Research and hire a coach to work with your team on an area you would like to strengthen.
  • WHO: Assign a task team to research and present the options at your next monthly meeting.
  • WHEN: Schedule a target date to complete the training.

How to Improve Treatment Case Acceptance

We are in the midst of a shift from product-centricity to people-centricity. Investments in your team and your customer is essential.

Dental practices pushing services rather than focusing on the wants of the patient will see their revenues dwindle over time.

We must have a strong culture in order to be patient-centric because it requires knowing the patient and catering to their wants.

If there is a service that they need but do not want, IT IS THE TEAMS JOB to influence the patients’ mindset from a need to a want.

  • First, we have to be able to prove the value of the need to the patient. WIIFT!  What’s In It For Them?
  • The secondary approach is explaining how the treatment will benefit their long-term oral health.
  • Lastly, demonstrate how accepting treatment now will lower their long-term costs

Generations will respond better to treatment recommendations if we close the generational gap and deliver the information to them in the communication style they expect.

Baby Boomers

  • Need thorough explanations
  • Prefer conversations in person or by phone
  • Value an appealing smile and optimal dental health
  • Allow time to have a relaxed discussion
  • Schedule treatment and invite them to contact you with any other questions

Generation X

  • Respect authority, follow rules, and are often linear thinkers
  • High achievers, but not always creative thinkers
  • Recommend ideal treatment plan(s) with phased scheduling and payment options
  • Focus on good dental health for appearance and as part of total body care.  
  • Appreciate follow-up communication with text or email as their preferred engagement

Generation Y (Millennials)

  • Technology dependent
  • Want instant gratification, and are intolerant of waiting
  • “What is best for me?” attitude when it comes to dental care decisions
  • Be patient-attentive, without interruptions
  • Provide same day service and combine appointments

Gen Z (Age 5 – mid-20’s)

  • As digital natives they expect the use of advanced technology
  • Look to the future and are very money conscious
  • Want explanations and options that focus on prevention 
  • Goal is to avoid expenses in the future, that could be addressed now 

Sticky Notes Or Apps To Stay On Task?

“Sticking to a checklist itself can not only help you increase focus, but crossing off each task may have cognitive benefits as well’.

Whichever process we apply: sticky note, app, calendar, or one of my favorites, highlighting, we can successfully achieve task completion by applying a single task action.

According to The Brain-Healthy Reason You Should Make Checklists, a systematic approach to our day can improve our wellness. If we are unable to complete a task, it can impact the quality of our next activity.

How Can We Apply This to Our Daily Tasks in Dentistry?


Let’s break it down by dental practice departments.


Start the day by prioritizing and rating what needs to be completed.
We all know, the reception area has continual interruptions all day, every day.
In order to allow each person time to complete their priority tasks, rotate the admin team members to a “quiet zone” where disruptions are limited.
• Confirmation calls
• Insurance verification emails / calls
• Patient follow up from previous days’ procedures
• New patient scheduling
• Consultation / informational calls


The schedule dictates where the doctor spends time for the day.
It is critical to schedule procedure time matched with provider time accordingly.
Remember, each provider has different procedure completion times.
If your practice uses a scheduling template, be sure to adjust for each provider!

Wait times can impact office reviews, which in turn affects production and growth!
Watch my latest VLOG addressing the 20 minute rule.

In the Morning Stand-Up (aka Huddle), identify the available times that the doctor can address urgent issues and return calls / emails.
• Midmorning – Call referring doctors about patient treatment plans
• Before / After Lunch – Follow up with patients who need direct communication from the doctor
• End of day – Lab case review, study club collaboration


Everyday tasks can become overwhelming and time consuming.
Having a process in place to systematically approach the day will reduce stress and help you complete the goals.
• Patient follow up from previous days’ procedures
• Follow up email / text to patients regarding information you discussed
• Referral follow up / call / closure if indicated
• Instrument sharpening
• Operatory re-stock


Dental assisting requires multitasking and staying organized to keep the clinical cases, now-time treatment, and day running smoothly.
• Patient calls
• Lab work: impressions / models, whitening trays, lab Rx…
• Checking in / reviewing cases for delivery
• Ordering clinical supplies
• Operatory re-stock
• Sterilization monitoring

Throughout my 30-year career, I have been employed for every position in the office, except the doctor.
Which gives me an undeniable appreciation for every team member’s role and responsibilities.

Let’s commit to working smarter, not harder, by using a systemic approach to over achieve our practice goals.
Your brain will thank you!

Creative Marketing: 2021 Winter Dental Menu

How many of us ordered take-out and / or curb-side delivery in 2020?

We have, and it got me thinking about how the restaurants and service industry adapted to initiate / increase their revenue.

We can adopt the same strategy in our dental practices. 

Now more than ever before we need to let our existing and potential new patients know we are open for business, but there have been significant changes. 

Provide a seasonal menu or 2021 specials for the New Year. By using unique, current, and familiar marketing strategies like this, your practice becomes memorable. I challenge you to think outside the box and create a menu that is meaningful to you and your community.

Living in a tourist / ski town, I used the attractions in town to itemize the menu as an example.


• Detail your office and patient protocols for safety and reassurance
• Videos are very effective in communicating with patients that your office has made changes for team and patient safety

• Is your smile Camera / ZOOM-ready?
• 50% off in-office whitening with a new patient exam and evaluation

• In layman’s terms, list the in-house services your office provides. These are a few my offices have used:
• Whitening, Cosmetic Restorative Solutions, Oral Health Evaluation / Maintenance, Oral / Overall Health Coaching, Replace Missing Teeth, Crowns, Veneers, Various Orthodontics Solutions for straighter teeth…Think simple and creative

• Appeal to the procedures that are driving dentistry: whiter teeth, straighter teeth, fresh breath
• Add this question onto your health history with three blank lines: “What would you like to change about your smile?” The answers above are 1,2, and 3.
• This is your golden opportunity to marry the patients wants with their needs!
• BOOM…production increased!


GREEN – Free Sonicare brush head when maintenance appointments scheduled in advance & attended regularly

BLUE – Take-home whitening touch up included with your maintenance visit

BLACK – Gift certificate to a restaurant, charity, or store of choice upon completion of prescribed treatment

2021 Copyright Lisa Copeland.  All rights reserved.

Time to Change the Tires

Winter weather is upon us in Park City, UT. 

One of the changes I make every year is putting snow tires on my car in November. This year, the snow came early and I was not prepared.

For dental practices, the end of the year gives us the opportunity to make necessary changes that will prepare us for Q4 success and beyond.

Having a plan to finish off the year strong will help practices continue to recover. Below are a few strategies to consider.


  1. Intentionally remind your patient data base to complete inactive treatment to fully utilize their benefits.
    • Keep it lighthearted and use your technology:  text, email, video
  2. Run a report indicating patients that still have remaining benefits to use.
    • Hint:  Many software programs have this feature.
  3. Thank your patients for remaining loyal and wish them well through the holiday season.
    • No strings attached.  Just a simple thank you.
  4. Add additional staff, days, or hours to accommodate the end of year “rush.”
    • Accommodate students on holiday break
    • Help patients maximize insurance benefits
    • Schedule the patients that were postponing due to COVID-19
  5. Thank your referring offices and vendors for the support they continue to demonstrate to your practice.
    • All team appreciation CEU
    • Charitable donation
    • Gift Basket
    • Pay for one month of their uniform cleaning service
  6. Celebrate your practice achievements and recognize / reward the team members for an incredible year under unprecedented circumstances.
    • Plan a fun, all team event
    • Bonus vs annual raise
    • Individual employee choice
  7. Schedule your annual strategic planning meeting with your team.
    • Time to make changes, BEFORE they are needed (think snow tires)

7 Ways to Influence Employee Experiences


Intentionally creating a “Team-Centric” culture and employee experience is the most important action you can take to ensure practice success in these stressful times.

The impact of a strong culture will trickle down into a positive patient experience. Which in turn, creates patient loyalty and retention.

There is no silver bullet to creating culture. ALL team members should be involved!



Be open, honest, and empathetic


Create opportunities for team members to lead by focusing on their super powers


Take the time to hire the right people who will invest in the practice


How you let someone go is remembered by the team


Structure a support system for all employees


Provide digital interface, easy-to-use, benefit package options for employees


Created, understood, and supported by all team members

As a dental practice leader, maintaining practice health is a delicate balancing act which requires the entire team to embrace: new guidelines, compassion, active listening, and empathy.

Copyright 2020 Lisa Copeland.  All rights reserved.

Being Authentic Builds Your Dental Practice

Dental Professionals Are:


According to Gallup Workplace, COVID-19 challenges are influencing your team dynamics. 

Employees are craving clear, honest, direct communication.  The reality is, many employees are disengaged and feeling anxious about their job or career.

Work is a stabilizer in good times, and more so in bad times. Focusing on the team’s wellbeing is essential for better team performance.

The Well Being Five are identified as:

Career         Enjoying your career and having motivation to reach goals

Social           Having supportive relationships

Financial     Stability to decrease stress

Community Feeling safe with a sense of pride

Physical       Health that allows you to complete daily tasks

As a leader, maintaining practice health is a delicate balancing act which requires the entire team to embrace: new guidelines, compassion, active listening, and empathy.



Decide as a team the direction the practice is going post COVID-19.

  • Schedule a semi-annual team meeting to evaluate, discuss, and plan the remainder of the year
  • Meetings should follow a specific, timed agenda with each team member participating
  • Utilize engaging strategies such as: polling, breakout rooms, surveys, interactive handouts, and Q&A,
  • Every team member has leadership skills, coach them to shine in their area of expertise


Invest in your team and level up your listening and communication skills.

  • Has your team every worked with a communications coach? 
  • Do you have stand-up (huddles) meetings daily?
  • Are you engaging the team in weekly, monthly and annual meetings?
  • Have you updated your mission statement AND does everyone support it?


Staying connected and confronting the business of dentistry with our teams is essential.

  • Daily touch points with each team member is a communication must in our new routines
  • The younger employee, the more check-ins needed
  • Provide continual updates on the status of the business
  • Practice empathy, openly, with all employees







Right now, as our dental offices begin to re-open, constant changes are inevitable. Having a positive mindset and looking at change enthusiastically will help us adapt and move forward.

  1. New process or procedure implemented backfiring?
    • RESET with a new strategy.
  2. 90-minute hygiene appointment went really well and you had 15 minutes of time open? 
    • RESET to 75-minutes.
  3. Patient entry / exit through the same door creating overlap? 
    • RESET and have entry through the front door and exit out the back door. Assuming you have dual entries.
  4. Want to eliminate your complimentary beverage area?
    • RESET by changing it into a sanitization station.
  5. Transitioning from emergency treatment only to propriety patients?
    • RESET to schedule elderly, immunocompromised for the first appointment of the day to reduce their risks.
  6. Concerned about low PPE inventory?
    • RESET by considering teledentistry with no exam at hygiene therapy appointments.
    • RESET by staggering / extending hours in shifts with the same team members working together to minimize exposure.
  7. Rescheduling patients that were displaced during shut-down?
    • RESET and schedule patients using a category system:
  • GOLD = Reliable patients who are: timely, pay invoices, rarely cancel, combine restorative and hygiene therapy
  • SILVER = Solid patients with occasional schedule changes
  • BRONZE = Cancel or no show more frequently, slow making payment









There’s a new sheriff in town…named COVID-19!
Throughout history…Disruption has lead to creativity. Start thinking outside the box of how to interact, communicate, lead in person and virtually to set ourselves up for second half success.

First and foremost, our teams need to feel safe and supported when returning to the practice. The main goal is to control the aerosols created in dentistry. Keep in mind, every state and every office has varying guidelines. 

I have done the resource footwork for you!
Click HERE for access to an extensive resource guide I have created that provides current (as of 5-18-20) information and links to sites for the latest interim guidelines.
I will continue to update this document as we transition through COVID-19.

HINT:  Make www.OSAP.org your first stop.
A website for rapid and timely updates collaborated from multiple resources.


Think about the COVID-19 crisis as an opportunity to implement new processes that will improve our office efficiency and productivity.
A blank canvas that we can paint anything we want!

Reflect on what we have done in the past, and what needs to change moving forward. This is a list I developed for my Dental Crisis Communications CE to get you thinking about changes ahead.


We are staying home in beautiful Park City, UT.
As many of you know, we moved here a year ago.  
My husband and I both work from home so nothing unusual for us on the work front, however, neither of us has traveled for several months.  I have to say, I really miss it.

Just as we have a blank slate to plan and start new processes in our dental practices, we have done the same with home improvement projects.
Here’s what we have accomplished in just a few months:

  • ·Painted house trim
  • Designed and partially planted back yard garden
  • Hanging flowers, hummingbird feeder, and wind chimes

Normally these tasks would have taken the entire summer to complete.
But since we had time, a plan, and a list, we were able to make progress much faster.

As you collaborate with your dental team,make a list, strategically plan, focus on people’s strengths, and execute with efficiency. 
Your practice will not only survive, you will thrive in the future.

Good Luck, I am routing for you!