6.22.12 Issue #537 info@mckenziemgmt.com 1-877-777-6151 Forward This Newsletter
 


Belle DuCharme, CDPMA
Instructor/Consultant
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Can You Afford to be Understaffed?
Belle DuCharme, CDPMA

Many offices are not hiring support staff in favor of the monetary savings, and are asking existing staff to work more efficiently without overtime. Worry over rising costs and declining revenue forces doctors to look at the obvious for financial relief.  “I am not hiring anyone to replace my second assistant or the financial coordinator. If I can just remain stable in my numbers I will survive.” 

The meaning of “stable” according to Webster is “steady, unchanging, constant, even and sure.” If it was so easy to remain “stable” few practices would be feeling the pinch of financial stress. In dentistry, being stable is a temporary state because practices are either moving upward with growth or stagnating and in decline. Decline can take some time to notice - it’s as simple as not replacing patients that have left the practice or not following up on inactive patients for months or years. Your numbers may be good if you are selling dentistry to your existing patient base, but you still need to build that core base of compliant patients by continued marketing both internally and externally.

Where are the new patients and where have the existing patients gone? Since everyone at some time will need a dentist, and that includes the edentulous, it stands to reason that they are still in your files waiting for your call or they are new to the area and looking for a dentist but cannot find you or you are not available when they call. If you have reduced staffing down to the bare essentials, what person will be available to answer the phone at lunch and make the daily required calls to the unscheduled?  Who has time to update the website and work on social media and external/internal marketing? Who has time to spend educating and presenting treatment plans to the patient without interruptions? One of the hardest things to measure is what is lost to the practice by being understaffed.

Reducing overhead by eliminating staff that are not performing to standard and are non-compliant to office policies is good. But reducing staff that are performing because the overhead is too high could result in serious production decline for the following reasons:

  1. The phone is unanswered because everyone is with patients; the caller does not leave a message and moves on to the next dentist on the list.
  2. The phone goes to voicemail which results in poor patient perception of availability.
  3. Follow-up doesn't happen, and patients fall through the cracks. Patients leaving without appointments to check their schedule are not called back.
  4. Patients are not given the time they need because staff members are needed elsewhere. For instance, the Business Coordinator is presenting the next appointment and discussing the need for an implant when the hygienist beeps for help with periodontal charting. She proceeds to hurry the patient out the door.
  5. The Business Coordinator is called away from the desk to tear down and set up the treatment room and sometimes to sterilize the instruments. Calls are going to voicemail and patients are entering the reception area to be greeted by no one.
  6. The dental assistant does not have time to chart so gives the Business Coordinator a list of procedures to make a treatment plan. The patient is asked to wait in the reception room as the Business Coordinator hurriedly throws it together and then takes the short explanation to speed the patient out the door.
  7. With the staff being utilized to the maximum, the incentive to get patients back for treatment declines.
  8. Essential tasks are postponed, such as scanning documents into patient's charts, thank-you letters to referral sources, arranging staff meetings, patient call backs, CE courses and Lunch & Learns, checking the practice email, tracking lab cases, taking diagnostic casts for treatment plans, asking patients for referrals and offering a beverage to a patient or visitor in the reception room.

Before downsizing staff, look to see if there are other ways to lower the overhead. If you must downsize, rewrite the job descriptions and define the areas of accountability to include added tasks. Make sure that business staff are properly trained in sterilization and OSHA standards before entering the clinical area.  Cross train dental assistants and hygienists to schedule appointments from the clinical area to ease traffic at the desk and to scan documents and track lab cases. Before downsizing, call McKenzie Management at 877-777-6151 for a conversation with one of our consulting professionals to see if other practice systems are contributing to falling numbers.

If you would like more information on McKenzie Management'sTraining Programs  to improve the performance of your team, email training@mckenziemgmt.com

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