2.5.10 Issue #413 Forward This Newsletter To A Colleague

Increase Your Value to the Practice, Keep Your Job
by Sally McKenzie CEO
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Dental team, I know you don’t really like to be reminded of this, but let’s face it, you are expensive to keep around. There are wages, insurance, taxes, sick days, personal problems, interpersonal issues, etc. Few employees realize how much it really costs the dentist to keep them on the payroll. They see the patients coming in and the schedule full and the fees being paid but give little thought to the real cost of running this “mini-hospital.” They have little or no comprehension of expenses associated with renting or owning the office space, keeping the lights on, the cost of maintaining equipment and supplies, continuing education, lab costs, and the list goes on.

During lean economic times, dentists - like any other employer - must look at reducing employee expenses and doing more with less. There is no better time than now for dental employees to seriously consider what they can do to ensure that the dentists ongoing financial investment in them is worth it.  

Let’s start with the obvious. Competence is not enough. Just being able to perform your specific job duties well might ensure that you’ll get your next pay check, but the one after that may be in question. The doctor needs a strong team in his/her corner and each of you needs to know exactly how your responsibilities fit in with the practice’s overall goals and objectives as well as what you can do to ensure that those goals and objectives are met.

First, the business team. Pay attention! What’s happening in your practice? Are more patients cancelling, not showing, or not scheduling appointments? Are new patient numbers down? Take the initiative to propose solutions and strategies to address potential problem areas such as those above. Perhaps your practice does not confirm appointments. Offer to do the research and present a plan to implement appointment confirmations at the next staff meeting.

If your office does confirm but you are still experiencing high cancellation and no-show numbers, it may be time to reevaluate the approach. Patients that may have responded well to postcards in the past might now respond better to email and/or text messages, or it may be time for a more personalized strategy with some patients. It’s time to revisit the best practices for communicating effectively with today’s patients. 

Follow through. Are new patient numbers down because your new patient systems are weak? If the business employees don’t have clearly defined scripts in place to make the prospective patient feel valued and welcome, they are far more likely to come up with an excuse to not show or cancel. If the material the patient requests is never received, they will feel that your attention to detail is weak. If the patient doesn’t get the impression that their investment in your practice will be appreciated, they’re less inclined to keep the appointment.

Hygienists: Reinforce the doctor’s treatment plan at every opportunity. Emphasize the impact of oral health on overall health. And, if you are not already, you simply must follow the rule of 33. This means that the hygiene department is expected to produce 33% of the total office production, not including doctor's exams. Each hygienist provides 33% of their production in periodontal procedures such as 4910, 4342, and 4381. Additionally, your compensation should be no more than 33% of your production. If you receive a guaranteed salary, you must produce three times your wages. 

Dental Assistants: Help your doctor to improve efficiency and thereby improve production. Surprisingly, significantly improving chairside efficiency often requires just one simple change. If you find that the doctor is routinely stopping a procedure to adjust the light, is asking you for specific instruments, or you are repeatedly craning to better see the procedure, then you are likely not positioned correctly. You must be one head higher than the dentist and there should be a hydraulic lift on the chair so you can see into the mouth and properly anticipate the dentist’s needs.

Next, encourage your doctor to delegate every procedure, patient interaction, and staff matter legally allowable in your state. For example, most states allow dental assistants to remove a temporary crown, clean the tooth and try the permanent crown. Suggest that the team develop a plan of action that would train and prepare team members to perform allowed procedures, discuss post-op instructions, deliver treatment plans, and other duties.

Weathering the current economy will require a team effort. But if staff takes the initiative to pursue solutions, not only will the practice survive, it has the potential to thrive. And, the best part, you are far more likely to keep your job.

Interested in speaking to Sally about your practice concerns? Email her at sallymck@mckenziemgmt.com. Interested in having Sally speak to your dental society or study club? Click here.

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