Step up to Better Communication with your Team
As Stephen Covey said, all things are created twice, first in our minds and then in reality. You may think that being present in the dental office and serving thirty patients a day is communicating to the team. But think about it for a moment – what exactly is said on a typical day other than, “Why did John Brown cancel, today? Was he confirmed?” or “Where are my loupes?” or “Where was the topical placed on Mrs. Smith?”
Certainly you must communicate about what is going on at the moment, but in reality you are more like the production supervisor than the leader of your team.
When was the last time your team met to discuss your practice vision and goals? Having an action plan directly defining each team member’s primary objective to contribute to the success of the practice is imperative. Everyone needs measurable goals from you, the doctor to the assistants and to the Scheduling Coordinator, Financial Coordinator and other auxiliaries. Do you have a measurable goal for preventing cancellations? If you still think cancellations are the problem of the front office staff, you haven’t been connected to the reality of patient perceptions. Patients need to understand the impact that cancellations have on the practice team. It is not a minor inconvenience; it can derail the entire morning.
During diagnosis of the recommended course of treatment, state the time commitment that will be necessary for getting good results from the treatment. The assistant is responsible for communicating the benefits and answering questions about care when the patient is in the treatment room. The Scheduling Coordinator will again reinforce the necessity and benefits of the services.
“Mrs. Jones, if you would confirm, your appointment card should say your next appointment is June 3rd at 3:00pm. You should expect to be here two hours for your treatment. This time, of course, is reserved just for you. If for some unexpected reason you are unable to keep this appointment, would you be so kind to let me know two days in advance so I will have ample time to offer this to another patient? Thank you.
Having a morning meeting prior to the days’ schedule unfolding is the best time to get the team together for successful communication. Leaders are not born, they are created with due diligence to what is needed to move the team forward. On the schedule, look to see who is scheduled, the treatment plans that day and what financial arrangements have been made with each patient. A financial arrangement should be in the records of every patient that day – whether for hygiene, restorative or surgery. Look at the cancellations from the day before. If the patient did reschedule, discuss what was said or done to help keep the next appointment.
Studies show that a majority of appointments are canceled at the last minute due to lack of financial arrangements on file for the patient. Patients need help with understanding the options they have for payment. If an appointment is made without a financial plan, you cannot count on that as a confirmed appointment. Have payment options ready for patients, such as getting information on payment plans ahead of time through CareCredit’s website. Don’t assume when a patient walks out the door without discussing payment that they will pay at the time of service. On the day of the appointment, if they are not sure what will be expected of them, they may feel it is easier to just cancel the appointment.
As a leader, communicate to your team that there will be no separation of the back office from the front when it comes to making sure patients understand what will happen at their appointment, what their responsibility is in keeping their appointments, and that they have a fiduciary duty to pay for their services within the policies of the practice.
Want help setting up staff and patient communication systems in your practice? Contact McKenzie Management today for customized business training.
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