Dental Practice Enhancement

 

ARE YOU MISSING THE BOAT WITH CUSTOMER SERVICE

As an Administrative Team Coach and Virtual Assistant I have the wonderful opportunity to work with offices around the country on a daily basis. I am often surprised at what I see, and even more surprised at what I don’t see! I think in most offices today we do an “okay” job with the customer service aspect of the dental practice; we greet the patient with a hurried smile, get them in the chair relatively on time, come close to their out-of-pocket portion and might even get them scheduled for their re-care appointment. Unfortunately, the patient sees this too. 

Over the years, tasks in the dental office have become somewhat overwhelming. We are trying to keep up with production & collection goals, busier schedules, new insurance codes and changes, maximizing our software system, insurance billing, working the re-care & overdue treatment systems, checking on out¬standing insurance claims, sending out patient statements, and the list goes on. Yes, we are busy, but let’s not lose sight of the patient! Amidst the day-to-day goings-on of the of¬fice, I think we often forget why we are there.

Years ago, going to my childhood dental office was kind of fun. As a child, I was reassured that it was an “okay place” to be in. The lady behind the desk welcomed me by name, with a smile, and briefly conversed with me and my mom about our last vacation. Well, if my Mom was laughing and conversing with this lady I only saw twice a year, it must not be a bad place. Over the years, this feeling has changed quite a bit. Instead of the dental office operations be¬ing about the patient (and people in general), it has turned into something entirely different.

A few years ago, I decided to visit a new dental office. A good friend of mine is the senior RDA, one of their hygienists is amazing, and the doctor has a great rep¬utation. I was ready for the change and excited about the new office. I made a new patient appointment; but when I received my reminder e-mail, the appoint¬ment was for a different day and hygienist than I had originally scheduled. I called the office to inquire and she said I must have written it down wrong. “Okay,” I said, “let’s reschedule”. I was re¬scheduled for the day & hygienist I wanted. When that day arrived, I was looking forward to my visit; I must admit, I was overdue.

I’m glad I arrived early; it seemed like I was required to fill out a mini-novel of paperwork. Mind you, I had asked for the paperwork to be mailed early, as I like to take my time to complete it thoroughly. The receptionist said she could mail it— but guess what? She forgot. I have never seen so many consent forms. If I hadn’t been in the dental field for 30 years, with an under¬standing of these potential maladies, they would have scared me to death! I gave the receptionist my paperwork and then looked at the Keurig machine...should I or shouldn’t I? Then I heard a voice - “oops, I forgot to have you sign this pad. You won’t be able to see your signature, but sign anyway.”

A few minutes later, a sweet young lady called me back. She wasn’t my scheduled hygienist, so I thought she might be the hygiene assistant. She gave me her name and said she would take my x-rays. “Wow,” I though, “a practice with assisted hygiene. How cool!” After the x-rays, she picked up a scaler... Turns out, the receptionist thought it would be best to put me on a new hygienist’s schedule, to build her patient base.

Really? What about me? I’m the patient, did you think about asking me what I wanted? At this point I just went with it, I didn’t want to make a scene and was actually quite curious as to how bad this was going to be. The hygienist did a good job; then the doctor came in, chatted for a bit and examined my teeth. His reputation preceded him, and other than the two res¬torations he diagnosed, I thought he was terrific.

At check-out time, the front office team member handed me a treatment plan that had been whited out because “the computer” didn’t calculate it cor¬rectly. Hmmm. I scheduled my appointment with the doctor. I am frustrated by this point, so I just want to leave - but then she asks me if I’d like to make my next cleaning appointment. I said no, and asked for my receipt, to which she replied, “No, I don’t know how to do that.” The team member who could assist her was—of course—on break.

In case you were wondering, this is not how a new patient should be handled. Some training definitely needs to be done in this front office, and we are working on that! Please don’t lose sight of your pa¬tient. Bring back conversations, connections; find out who they are, what they like to do for fun, and make yourself approachable. Let’s go back to “old school” where patients are people - not just a goal we need to hit or a dollar sign. Don’t be too busy for your patient!

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DO YOU HAVE A SOLID FOUNDATION?

Whether you are starting a new practice, building a practice or taking your practice to a new level you need to have a solid foundation. Just like building a house, a relationship or a business you need to have a good foundation on which to build these things. Here you are in a dental practice, it’s been running ok for a while, nothing really exciting going on but you have this “feeling” that it could be better but don’t know quite how to get it there. So, let’s start with your foundation!

The first thing is to get into a good working relationship with your Doctor and in doing that you may need to have a meeting or two with him to make sure you are both on the same page and rowing in the right direction.  I say “him” because I work with a wonderful him! You need to find out what His goals are for the practice. This is where you find out that you may not be rowing in the same direction but that’s ok that is what these initial meetings are for. Often times we office managers have really high hopes and big dreams for our practices that don’t quite match up with his thoughts or dreams so here is where our foundation is built.

Once the two of you have the same clear vision it’s time to bring in other senior team members from the front office, hygiene and assisting departments. This is where we need to keep in mind that although we may want to be the best practice in town it is still “his” practice and more discussion may be needed at this time with the other team members and again that is ok, this is how our solid foundation is built.

Now, you may think that all of these meetings and discussions are quite time consuming and at times frustrating….well, they are! This is just like planning a major event in your life, it takes a goal, time, effort, a willingness to participate and of course the means to do it with. So now you have all of the key players with the same vision and goal it’s time to present it to the rest of the team.

Dr. is all pumped up he feels like he has a great group of leaders in his court, you are excited beyond belief and the other leaders are doing the happy dance! You are now at the staff meeting presenting this to the rest of the team and you just know that everyone else is going to love it! Well, as you know that is not always the case

Unfortunately you will always have your fair share of negative Nellies and Neal’s in the world but don’t let that discourage you.  You can handle the negativity by asking what there idea might be or asking them to oversee the new project. You have now built a great foundation so take this opportunity to share with team members how much they are worth and appreciated and also let them know that you want to see them grow along with the practice. It is our responsibility to make sure that everyone is given the opportunity to grow and learn within our practice. So now that you have your foundation…..

GO OUT AND BUILD!

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FEAR IS NOT YOUR FRIEND

 Have you ever been afraid to do something?  Have you ever been afraid to go somewhere? Have you ever been afraid to embrace something new and different that is out of your comfort zone?  Now, have you ever asked yourself WHY?  Over the years I have been afraid of many things, but it hasn’t been until the last 10 years or so that I began to question myself as to why I was afraid to do certain things or go to particular places.  As a child I was raised to be very cautious about everything but to me that translated into being fearful of many things.  I was fearful of animals, I was nervous about leaving my home town and I hated roller coasters just to name a few.  

 In the earlier days of my education, career, marriage and child rearing I was afraid to go, do and embrace new things in life and I missed out on a lot of opportunities. I have been in a new season now and in looking back I have realized that the fear that I have carried all of these years has hindered me in many areas of my life and it’s time for a “do over”!  Yes, there are certain things that I cannot change but there so many other things, people, places and experiences that I am excited and learning about.

No matter what age we are or season we are in we need to look at challenges that face us as an opportunity for growth and learning and not be afraid of it.  I remember when I was in High School and taking my driver’s education class I was afraid of all of the cars out on the road and the ones around me and thought, I could never drive in a big city like Los Angeles, Well….I live here now! There are things that come up in our lives all of the time that we shy away from or don’t address right away and the bottom line may be because we have a bit of fear about it.

 I’m sure your thinking right about now…..What does this have to do with dentistry?  Well, quite a bit actually!  Are there things in the office you know need to be done but just have not been able to get to yet? I know the feeling.  We recently upgraded our software system that had been in the works for many months. I was really nervous about it as I am the first one to admit that the computer is not my forte. I went to a class t to make sure I understood it and then called support to make sure we had all of the necessary hardware to run the new program. I then went to another class to refresh my memory and see if there was anything new and there was not. I then called our IT person to make sure again that we had all of our hardware ducks in a row! Needless to say because of my fear I wasted a lot of time and energy on something that was so simple and has now made my life so much easier.

 Another great example is the patient reminder system. I came back from an AADOM conference 2 years ago and was so excited about the reminder systems that I saw. I was so happy to discover how much time we could save in the front office by not having to make all those phone calls to remind patients of their appointments. I did some research on a few different companies and found one that fit our needs. I made my grand presentation to the Dr. and he said he would think about it. I didn’t understand why he didn’t want to sign on the dotted line immediately! Has he gone mad? Doesn’t he realize what a great product this is and how much time this will save? No he did not because he was afraid. He was nervous that patients wouldn’t like it so I took a poll for about 3 months and all were in favor. Yay I thought, nope, he then wanted me to do research on other companies which I had already done but he wanted new data. I gave him the results again and it was still in my favor to go with this particular product and he agreed but wanted more time to think about it. After researching, doing polls and having lots of time to think about it we finally got a new patient reminder system put into place about 3 months ago. We now have a much more streamlined front office and have more time to spend with our patients. All of this was based solely on fear.

 Another fine example is the morning huddle. When I first started with this practice I recommended to the Dr. that we start having morning huddles and explained why. He thought that was a great idea and wanted to start immediately. He got some negativity from the back office even after explaining in detail how we would all benefit from this very short and precise meeting. Of course the grumbles continued and there was not a lot of compliance in the beginning so we again detailed out how important this is to get the day started off on the right track. We are all now on time, very productive and have a complete understanding the day from the very beginning.

 I have given these few examples to show how powerful fear can be in our lives without even knowing what it is that may be slowing us down. What is the next project you would like to do to enhance your practice?  Where is the next Continuing Education Seminar you would like to attend? What is the next practice goal you would like to set? Let’s take our practices to the next level by starting something now!  Don’t let fear stand in your way because it is not your friend.

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HOW PREPARED ARE WE?

With all of the hustle and bustle of everyday life do we really take the time to prepare for the tasks at hand? Are you someone who flies by the seat of your pants or do you put some thought and time into what lies ahead? Are you anticipating the next item on your agenda or are you just crossing your fingers and hoping everything will go smoothly? These are just a few questions we need to ask ourselves if we want a productive and successful outcome for the responsibilities that lie ahead. 

I am the type of person that likes to be prepared and even be ahead of the game if I can!  As the office manager of a dental practice in Southern California I pride myself in being ready for the day at hand. The preparation sometimes starts days or even weeks ahead of time.  Let’s use the morning huddle for example.

Our patients should be our number one priority. They have sought us out in some manner and are putting their trust in us that we will treat them with the utmost respect and take care of their dental needs. I am fortunate to work with a team of very well rounded professionals that take great care of our patients’ needs. The cycle starts at the front office when a patient calls for an appointment. Are you prepared for that patient?   Whether they are in discomfort or are in need of a continuing care appointment, we need to be ready to handle any of their question or concern. Have you ever called a doctor’s office and were immediately put on hold?  How about the person who answers the phone loudly chewing gum? These folks clearly were not prepared for me!  Make sure that your team members answer the phones fully prepared to be a key part in the success of the patient’s visit. The more confidently your team can answer these questions the more prepared the patient will be to meet your doctor. It’s the beginning of a great relationship!

Now, let’s go through the protocol for the morning huddle.  It’s amazing to me how many stories I hear from other offices on how unproductive their meetings are. Someone is usually  late, another is  finishing  breakfast or yet another   forgets to turn off their cell phone. All of these are unnecessary distractions that must be handled immediately by the team leader. The huddle should typically only last 15-20 minutes IF everyone is prepared.  The team should arrive early enough to get their personal needs taken care of,  their rooms opened up and charts looked at to make sure they are prepared and ready to start the meeting.

I have found that giving each team member a copy of the daily schedule for them to review and write notes on is most effective. The huddle is held away from the front office in an operatory or doctor’s office with the schedule up on the monitor for everyone to see and follow along. By this time the front office, hygienist and assistants should have already gone through their patients for the day.

Starting with the hygiene schedule, each patient is highlighted and the hygienist notes outstanding treatment, watches and recent specialist visits. Personal facts such as birthdays, vacations that they may have taken or patients they may have referred also should be discussed so the other team members can respond to the patient as well. The doctor’s schedule is discussed in a similar manner adding a little more detail as to types of materials and additional set ups that may be needed. The front office should be clear as to what needs to be collected from each patient and if the collecting needs to be done before the procedure is started.  At this time and other questions or comments regarding the day should be discussed for a seamless and productive day.

This is just one example of being prepared but as you can see it takes a great deal of thought, research and preparation to be ready for just one day. The most successful practices I have seen and worked with start their day just like this. Being prepared and doing the necessary groundwork can save a whole lot of time and may even help to ease you into something far greater. So whatever lies ahead……be prepared!

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IS IT BUSINESS AS USUAL?

The answer to that question is no!  I have spent the last 30 years in the field of dentistry enjoying the moments, friends and of course challenges. I started my career as a Registered Dental Assistant and continued on to become an Office Manager. I have learned so much from so many that I felt the need and responsibility to share what I was blessed with to others and that is how it all began.

I now enjoy speaking with dental offices, in seminars and at conferences on how to have a team and goal oriented practice that meets the expectations of the patient and is profitable as well.  There are many pieces to this puzzle but when put together in their proper places you will have amazing opportunities. With a firm business foundation, real team players and a dash of creativity you can do anything!

Life doesn’t have to be just business as usual and it’s never too late to start living your dreams. Not only do I get to meet new people everyday and help them to reach their goals and prosper, I love spending more time with my husband, family and friends. We are only given one shot at life here on earth and are not promised anything so if you have wants, desires and dreams………

Let’s Get Going!!!!!

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SOCIAL MEDIA

Social media is an interesting topic.  I entered the world of social media via My Space about 10 years ago. It was a fun thing to do with my family and friends and seeing all of the creativity one put into designing their page.  After a couple years of that Facebook, Branched Out, LinkedIn and a few others were brought to my attention. I was a bit over whelmed to say the least in the beginning but as time passed and I got it figured out it didn’t seem quite so bad after all! 

Now fast forward into today and I can’t imagine living without my laptop, smartphone and all social media has to offer. I have been in the dental field for quite some time and some years ago communicating with our patients was done through the mail and telephone. That’s it.  Now we have e-mailing, texting, blogging and social media sites.  We now have so many ways of reaching our own patients as well as potential new patients.

Last year we decided as a team to put up a Facebook page. Some didn’t understand what it was all about and what the purpose was. However, Dr. and I knew that there was something to this and wanted to reach out to our patients as well as those we have not met yet. We have created a page that depicts who we are and by that I mean we post mostly pictures of Dr. off on different adventures, patients that come in as well as the staff having fun! Our Dr. loves to laugh and have fun while we work so our page may seem a bit different than most but that’s who we are and how we want to be seen.

We are also on Yelp, this is where we can really be seen by the public. This one small avenue has helped us increase our new patient flow by about 10%. When looking for a new Dr.’s office, restaurant or particular type of store we generally look at the comments right? This says a lot in your practice, we have some really nice comments posted which allowed us to be at the top of the page. When we see a new patient that came from viewing us on Yelp we kindly ask them to post their experience with us and in return we have constant comments that make for nice reading for the potential new patient.

I am also on LinkedIn and follow several dental groups. This is a great way to keep up with the industries constant growth and be ready for what may be new and exciting for our practice. I am able to follow many of dentistry’s top leaders and gain knowledge and insight that I may not have been able to otherwise access.

These are just a few of the exciting social media streams that can be utilized. I am always open and looking for new directions that will help grow and profit our practice. Not only have we made new contacts and friends, It’s FREE!  We now have so many more opportunities than ever before to help build our practices. Begin today by implementing some form of social media into your practice and see where it takes you!

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