Dental Teams: Make the Most of Your Doctor’s ‘Great’ Ideas
Take cover dental staff! The Greater New York Dental Meeting recently concluded and thousands of dentists have returned to their practices with a zillion great ideas that they want you to implement today. Sound familiar? Ah yes, many dental staff have been the “beneficiaries” of the vicarious training experience. The doctor attends a conference and returns positively beaming with excitement, enthusiasm, and stories. Stories of dentists living in rural communities of 500 people doing FIVE MILLION DOLLARS in production! Stories of dentists working three hours a day, two days a week, and blowing the competition away. Stories of dentists with perfect schedules, ideal collections, and computer systems that not only spit out completely understandable reports, they predict the future as well! Oh-My-GOSH!
Now lest you think that I am not supportive of dental conferences, just the opposite is true. It is extremely important to take advantage of training opportunities and become involved in your professional organization. Just look at your dentist. She/he came back renewed and refreshed. And, agree or disagree, she/he probably did return with a few very good ideas. The challenging part is trying to implement them.
That’s where training programs come into play. Various organizations provide conferences of their own as well as offer access to numerous resources. Similarly, companies such as McKenzie Management offer specialized training opportunities specifically for dental teams at all levels, from beginner to highly experienced. And for those who simply cannot get away, there are onsite training options that can be completed in as little as half a day.
In the meantime, make the most of your doctor’s post-conference enthusiasm. Let’s say the dentist comes back and tells you that given the current state of the economy she/he wants you to figure out exactly how many patients the practice is losing and develop a clearly defined patient retention program. Now, don’t panic. This is your opportunity, take advantage of it.
Sadly, it’s very common for business staff to be virtually oblivious to patient retention problems for months before they manifest into serious scheduling/revenue troubles. The pace of the practice lulls them into a false sense of security. “Well, our schedule is full and we seem pretty busy so I think we’re doing ok.” But what most staff aren't considering are the piles of inactive records taking up space, be it on the computer hard drive or in every closet, shelf, nook, and cranny.
Case in point, I received an email from an office manager, Cari, from North Carolina. Cari writes: “Could you please send me information about how to track patient attrition?” After applying the formula I gave her (more on that later), Cari contacted me again because she wasn't sure how to interpret her findings. She had discovered that patient retention in her practice was at 53%. It was a figure she thought sounded alarming, and she was right. The practice was losing double the number of patients it was replacing with new business.
Cari, like thousands of office managers across the country, is doing the best she can - but without professional training, she simply doesn't know what she doesn't know. I recommended Professional Office Manager Training for Cari, as well as a Professional Practice Consultation for the office. As Cari emphasized during our conversations, she felt fortunate to work for a wonderful dentist and with some great people, but “lack of accountability, follow through, and specific systems” seemed to be holding them back. “We do so many things right. I just know that with some proper training, new updated systems, etc. we can function with less chaos, and be more efficient in our business.” It didn’t take long for Cari to realize that nearly all the elements are present for this office to become a highly functioning team. However, the one essential element missing is training.
Now, how do you monitor patient retention? Follow the following formula by answering these questions:
If the number of inactive charts is enough to open a second practice or if you answered “No” to question two and/or “Yes” to question three, you have patient retention issues. So what can you do right now to stop the patient exodus? Certainly, there are many steps to take, but chief among them is shake-up the day-to-day doldrums. More on that next week.
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