Is Yours a Culture of Acceptance?
Treatment Acceptance That Is
by Sally McKenzie CEO
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From the front door of your practice, to the operatory, to the team that you surround yourself with, whether you realize it or not, you have created a “culture.” Perhaps you feel your culture is warm and inviting because you’ve decorated the waiting area in appealing colors. Or maybe you’ve equipped your treatment rooms with state-of-the-art technology that you believe conveys a culture of modern dentistry. And possibly you’ve hired some of the nicest staff you could find, creating a culture of warmth and compassion. Most importantly, you know that the quality of your dentistry is truly superior, creating a culture of excellence. So why is the culture of acceptance – treatment acceptance, that is –lacking, and well below the 85% benchmark?
Many dentists have nice offices and are truly excellent clinicians. Many more use modern equipment from digital X-rays, to intraoral cameras, to laser handpieces, to computerized records, etc. Still more have nice people working for them, but the fact is patients expect those things. It takes far more than good dentistry and a gentle hygienist for patients to invest in your care.
Creating a culture of treatment acceptance starts with creating a culture of desire, which begins with education. If patients don’t know what you offer, how can they want it? Take Dr. Gregg, for example. He is a truly excellent dentist and is certified by the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry. He has a framed certificate at the front desk proving that he is, indeed, credentialed by AACD. Yet, day after day, after day, after day, patients come through his hygiene department for their six-month visit with Ann, his wonderful and ever gentle hygienist, only to be locked into the same old routine.
Ann talks about her kids, and the patients’ kids, and vacations, and the weather and the latest movies, but only once does she ask the patients about their teeth. “So are you having any problems?” Most of the time, the patient says “No.” Ann has excellent rapport with patients. She is in a perfect position to educate them. They trust her. They respect her, and while they may enjoy her soccer mom war stories, they’d appreciate learning a bit more about practice services as well.
Before the end of the visit, Dr. Gregg pops in, takes a perfunctory glance inside the oral cavity. Tells the patient “Good job, see you in six months,” and promptly scoots back to his chair.
Simply handing the patient a mirror, and asking them “if they could change anything about their smile what would they alter?, can open up numerous opportunities for the hygienist or the doctor to educate patients about advancements in periodontal care, implant dentistry, veneers, orthodontics, and even basic whitening options. When dismissing the patient, the hygienist provides them with a few practice brochures about the treatments she discussed.
Hygienists also have ample opportunity to reinforce the dentist’s treatment recommendations as well as learn more about why a patient may be hesitant to proceed with recommended care.
Other members of the staff also can play a key role in creating a culture of treatment acceptance. At your next staff meeting, consider steps you can take to create a culture of treatment acceptance, starting with patient education. For example, pull together those before and after photos you’ve been storing on your computer and put them in an album in the waiting room. Make it a point to open the album every morning, and place it on a table next to brochures about the services your practice offers.
Encourage patients to ask questions. Hang an 11 x 17 frame in every treatment room. Type a bulleted list of a few of your services in a large enough font that patients can see it when they are sitting in the chair. For example, “What would you like to know more about? Veneers, Implant Dentistry, Whitening Options, Orthodontics. Just Ask Me.”
Educate the team – business and clinical – on specific treatments, such as implants, so that they understand the value of care, are prepared to convey a positive attitude about the benefits of that treatment, and can explain to patients that the doctor has extensive training in delivering this type of treatment. Prepare a list of frequently asked questions and their answers. Give the information to each staff member so that everyone can answer basic treatment questions.
Next week, find out what a “buzz” can do for your practice.
Interested in speaking to Sally about your practice concerns? Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Interested in having Sally speak to your dental society or study club? Click Here.
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Find “Acres of Diamonds” In Your Practice
“Every kind of work has enormous opportunity lurking within it. The opportunities are there now, clamoring to be noticed. But they cannot speak or print signs for us to read. Our part of the bargain is to look at our work with “intelligent objectivity”. If we have the wisdom and patience to intelligently, effectively explore the work in which we’re now engaged, to explore ourselves, we would most likely find the riches we seek.”
From Acres of Diamonds by
In the Advanced Business Course, offered at McKenzie Management, we pay close attention to Recall or Continuing Care reports to gauge the health and growth of the practice. We look at the trends for new patients entering the practice and calculate the retention rate of patients who stay with the practice.
Working with a client, I will call Dr. Goodsell (not his/her name); part of our discovery caused her dismay. It was determined that she averaged about six new patients a month and had only four days of hygiene a week, yet had been in practice at that location for ten years. She showed a zero expense for advertising and stated that all of her patients came to her by word of mouth. She had been comparing notes with other dentists in the area and found them all to be busier and growing. She wondered if she should sell and buy somewhere else where opportunity may be better.
We printed an unscheduled treatment report for the last twelve months and found well over three hundred thousand dollars on the report. Patients had not scheduled for various reasons, but they had not been followed up on either. “Do you ask your good patients for referrals?” I asked. “No”, she replied. Sometimes patients think you are not taking new patients if they have been given the impression that you are “too busy”. If you are too busy to thank your patients for referrals they may get the feeling that they are not appreciated. Everyone wants to be appreciated. If patients are reluctant to schedule, it may be because your focus is not on the patient, but on what your neighbor is doing.
There is so much effort concentrated on bringing new patients into the practice that we often ignore the patients who are already there sitting in our reception room.
The hygiene department was not growing and the hygienist, who was very feeling in her temperament type, didn’t want to “pressure” patients into a more aggressive approach to their periodontal concerns. She was also concerned that insurance would pay for only two cleanings per year, so she had given up trying to promote interceptive periodontal therapy. We cannot lose sight of the fact that we are health care providers and have a responsibility to deliver the information, regardless of the reception.
In Earl Nightingale’s Acres of Diamonds, he tells the story of an African farmer who heard tales about the millions that could be made in mining for diamonds. The farmer could hardly wait to sell his farm and go mining for diamonds. He quickly sold his farm and spent the rest of his days in futile search for the valuable gems only to throw himself into the river and drown in a fit of despondency. Meanwhile, the man who bought his farm discovered a large uncut diamond in a stream on the property which turned out to be one of the largest diamonds ever found in the area and further prospecting revealed many more uncut diamonds in the stream. The moral is clear. If the farmer who owned the property free and clear had studied and learned about uncut diamonds and what they looked like and where one may find them, he would have found his wildest dreams right under his nose.
If the other guy’s pasture seems to be greener than yours perhaps it is getting better care. At McKenzie Management, we can help you find your Acres of Diamonds in your practice. Knowing how to measure the success of a practice and bring out the best is our specialty. Advanced Business Training can give you the tools to find the diamonds in your practice. We teach you how to establish systems for success and how to monitor those systems to promote success. Call us today and get prospecting.
For more information on McKenzie's Advanced Training for Dentists and Office Managers, email email@example.com, call `1-877-777-6151 or visit our web-site at http://www.mckenziemgmt.com/
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A McKenzie Management Case Study
Dr. Barry Bigalow - Case Study #401
The call for help came in. “My staff is out of control. They are managing me instead of me managing them!”
Dr. Bigalow has lost control of his ship and his staff has lowered him into the rowboat! After two days of observing the daily activities of the business office, talking candidly with Dr. Bigalow’s team during a nice lunch and two dinner meetings with the doctor, these were my findings regarding the doctor:
- Wants to be liked by everyone
- He wanted the staff to call him by his first name when not in front of patients
- He has frequent gatherings at his home for the employees and their families
- He didn’t feel comfortable expressing his concerns with his team for fear of disapproval from them – or confrontation
- He was open to his staff regarding his personal issues such as financial, upcoming personal vacations, new car purchases, etc.
- He wanted to be involved in the staff’s personal lives
- Felt uncomfortable calling him by his first name. It was fun at first but they came to look at him as a friend and not a boss.
- Didn’t feel it was necessary to be entertained by their employer on a weekend. They spend all week with him!
- They begged for feedback from him regarding their performance. They had asked for performance reviews. They wanted guidance and direction from him.
- “Please ask him not to share his personal life with us,” they said. “We really don’t want to know that he is two months behind in his rent or he is shopping for a new car. We have our own struggles to deal with.”
- Never-never-never invite your employees to call you by your first name. You lose credibility fast.
- Never-ever-never have gatherings outside the office at your home. It is important to separate your personal life from your work life.
- Always conduct semi-annual to annual performance reviews with each team member. If it is something that needs to be discussed individually sooner, do so at the end of the day behind closed doors. If it is something that affects the entire team, address it at your next monthly meeting or morning huddle…but ADDRESS IT!
- NEVER-NEVER-NEVER discuss personal issues with your team or your patients! They are looking to you for strength and support. You must be the “fearless leader” even if you are miserable inside. They follow your lead – if you are complaining, they will complain. When you are happy, they are happy. When you are at work, you are a performer and you are on stage until the last patient walks out the door.
- NEVER get involved in your employees’ personal issues. Listen with empathy yes, but not involved. It clouds your ability to make good decisions regarding your business..and it is a business and you are the business owner.
Dr. Bigalow understood that an effective manager does not have to be liked by everyone in the office. It IS imperative, however, that they RESPECT him. Along with respect comes appreciation for his ability to lead the troops into battle, if necessary.
They want to know that he will be there for them. This generates loyalty and a feeing of security so they can perform their jobs under his guidelines, without the daily pressures of helping him “pay his bills”.
They don’t want another “friend” – they have those. They want a leader that they can respect.
As a result of talking openly and sincerely with his team, sometimes even tearfully, Dr. Bigalow apologized for his lack of leadership. With their support and some outside assistance in how to be an effective leader from a coach, it was not too late.
Dr. Bigalow got out of his rowboat and back into his ship and led his team out to sea. Their performances improved and the office atmosphere was much more upbeat and positive. Dr. Bigalow felt better about himself as he was learning to be effective and was learning how to communicate with his team with worrying about repercussions.
It is NEVER to late to ask for a life jacket and learn how to regain the respect you deserve as an employer and business owner. Your practice will thrive, and your staff will be happy sailors!
If you would like more information on how McKenzie's Practice Enrichment Programs can help you IMPLEMENT proven strategies….. email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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