6.15.07 - Issue # 275 Forward This Newsletter To A Colleague
Patient Expectations
Anticipate System Trends
Starting a Hygiene Dept.

Expectations are High, but How’s
Your Delivery?

by Sally McKenzie CEO
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So, you expect that advertising campaign you recently purchased to bring in the mother lode of new patients. It was a risk you were willing to take because the sales person told you that similar campaigns have been tremendously successful. That may well be true, but when it comes to marketing your practice, it doesn’t end with the cute little jingle, the slick postcard, and the special offer.

The next time you invest in a marketing campaign, think beyond what you hope to get out of it. Step back and consider what your patients are expecting from their decision to seek your services. You’ll be far more likely to benefit from that marketing investment long after the flurry of new patient calls settles down. 

Look first to build upon the patient’s basic expectations. Set aside units in your schedule for new patient appointments during the most popular times of the day. Evaluate your staff’s routine communication with patients. If necessary, train them to ensure that a friendly person is prepared and ready to answer the phone with a smile on their face and in their voice. Once the appointment is made, follow-up is key, send the patient a packet of information immediately.

Next consider the new patient’s wants and expectations, starting with reliability. New patients want a doctor and team they can count on. They want to have confidence in your entire team. They want to know you will be there for them not just for this special “one-time” dental deal, but at 6 p.m. some summer evening when little Ricky falls off his bike and lands face first on the pavement. 

Timeliness - They expect the office to run reasonably on time, and if doctor is significantly delayed, they want your staff to make some effort to reach them in advance.

Information - Patients expect to be able to ask questions and receive clear answers. They want to understand the options that are available to them and why you are recommending a particular course of treatment. Education and information are key in helping patients to feel that they are making informed decisions. Make use of educational materials and websites to make your case, and train your entire team to answer basic questions about dental procedures.

A caring attitude - They want to feel that the entire staff cares, not just the doctor. Pay attention to routine communications that can inadvertently send prospective patients down the street. For example, the new patient who calls to schedule an appointment and is greeted with the question, “Do you have insurance? No? Let me tell you our financial policy” immediately feels unwelcome and defensive. Educate them first on the excellence of the doctor and team. Get into the rules and regulations later.

A chance to be heard – Patients want you to stop what you are doing, look at them and listen to what they have to tell you. If you’re too busy focusing on what you have to say to them, you will miss valuable opportunities to learn more about their needs, their wants, and their expectations of you and your team.

Acknowledgement - Patients don’t want to be ignored when they walk into the reception room while the business team shares war stories from the night before. They want to be greeted with a smile and a sincere “Welcome to Dr. Keith’s practice, Mrs. Jones. We sincerely appreciate that you chose this office.”

Consistent quality - They expect the highest quality care that you and your team can deliver –the first time and every time they step into your practice.

Promises kept – Patients expect you to deliver what you promise. If your ad says that your office uses only the latest in state-of-the-art equipment and materials, they expect to see that from the moment they walk in the door. If you promise the most relaxing dental experience they can ask for, be prepared to deliver.

Step back and look at your practice from the patient’s standpoint. How would you want to be taken care of? How would you want to be greeted when you walk in the door? Do you deliver on what your advertising campaign promises? And finally, given the dental marketplace, why should new patients return to your practice after that special promotion has concluded?

Routinely look at your practice through your patients’ eyes and you’ll need far fewer special promotions to keep patients coming through your doors.

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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Belle DuCharme CDPMA
Instructor/Consultant
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Anticipation or Just Knowing What Comes Next

One of the key traits of top dental assistants is the ability to anticipate what the dentist will need next as they are working at the chair.  It is the ability to read a situation and be able to think of what the next few seconds or minutes will demand of materials or skills.  What instrument will be needed for the procedure and is the patient comfortable, will the cement set too soon etc.  Part of this ability is gained from training, the other comes from being focused and attentive to the moment.

This ability to anticipate is also a necessary trait of the Dental Business Administrator.  When scheduling a new patient, it is important to anticipate that this patient is coming in to get their “chief complaint” addressed.  Many offices set new patient protocols and tell the patient what they will receive at their first visit regardless of what the patient really wants.  This lack of attention is like handing the doctor an explorer when he wants a curette.  Anticipate that you will need to guide the patient into accepting the full exam, prophy or periodontal evaluation, necessary x-rays, and addressing the chief complaint. Start by explaining to the patient what they can expect to receive during the initial visit in your office and ask them if they have any concerns that they want addressed.  Make notes of these concerns and assure the patient that careful attention will be given to these areas.

Learning to read the situation and know what comes next is a skill that can be developed if one is awake to what is happening at every moment.  For instance, when a patient comes in early they are hoping to be seen early.  It is correct to acknowledge and thank the patient for arriving early but it is also correct to tell the patient as to whether or not you can see them sooner.  If the doctor is running late and the next patient is waiting in the reception area past his scheduled time it is obvious to expect that patient to inquire as to why he is being ignored.  Don’t wait for that to happen. Find the reason for the delay, apologize to the patient and let him know how long he will have to wait.  Offer a drink or use of a phone to call family or work about the delay.

If your 3:00 patient has not arrived by 3:05 you can anticipate that he may have forgotten the appointment or got distracted at work.  Call the patient to see if he is on his way and leave a message that you are concerned that he has not arrived.  This shows the patient that you are expecting him and the time is really reserved just for him.

Anticipating the successful growth of your dental practice is monitoring the production and collection figures every month.  How many new patients do you see a month?  If you have been seeing 25 to 30 new patients a month for a year and now the figures are dropping to 20 or less, you must anticipate that this trend is a warning that there are system failures that need to be addressed immediately.  Several thousand dollars in unscheduled treatment could mean that treatment presentations need an overhaul or that patient wants are not being addressed.
 
Have you stopped having team meetings?  You can anticipate lower job morale, duplication of some tasks and other tasks not being completed, and chaos and job turnover.  Anticipate that your team needs a forum to communicate about their work and a chance to connect to other members of the team.

A call from an Office Manager who had recently attended McKenzie Advanced Training for Office Managers, confirmed the positive results of understanding how great a skill it is to be able to read the practice pulse on a daily basis and to know what to do to change the course of daily events.

“First you have to know what the business systems are and how to measure if they are successful or not.  Before the training, I did not know how the production figures contribute to the payment of the total overhead.  Just showing up and doing your job is not enough to make a truly successful and enjoyable office.  You have to know what you are trying to accomplish and be able to gauge your activities to get there.”

Anticipate a brighter future as a Dental Administrator/Office Manager, call today for McKenzie’s Advanced Training Course.

For more information on McKenzie's Advanced Training Programs for Dentists, Office Managers and Front Office, email training@mckenziemgmt.com, call 1-877-777-6151 or visit our web-site at www.mckenziemgmt.com.

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Jean Gallienne RDH BS
Hygiene Consultant
McKenzie Management
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The New Hygiene Department

It is not uncommon for new dentists to clean teeth in their practice when they are first starting. It is also not uncommon when those same dentists find their schedule getting so full with restorative work that they decide to hire a hygienist. When done correctly, this may be a very profitable venture, not only when looking at the doctor’s production, but also the hygiene production.

Starting a hygiene department is much more than hiring a hygienist. There are many different items that need to be considered such as, job description for the hygienist, forms that will be utilized, and office protocol to be determined.

Job descriptions help when the doctor is looking at doing performance reviews or evaluating who should or should not get raises. They also help when hiring new hygienists by allowing them to understand the expectations of the job description they are interviewing for and their willingness to accept the responsibilities before taking the position. This will hopefully prevent your practice from hiring people that are not willing to do the job needed, in order to be a part of your team, thus helping to cut down on the amount of turnover.

What forms are recommended when looking at starting a hygiene department? A daily hygiene monitor is recommended in order for the hygiene department to be accountable for monitoring their production and reporting it at staff meetings. A recall treatment form is recommended for the hygienists to share in the responsibility of reinforcing treatment the doctor has diagnosed on recall patients. Both of these forms help with employee evaluations as they help in creating accountability. We all know that the patient should sign an informed consent, particularly when any treatment is recommended.

There are many protocols that need to be determined when establishing a hygiene department.

Who is going to see the patient first?
What is going to be done at the initial visit?
What if the patient needs to have more extensive treatment other than the prophylaxis they are scheduled for?
What will the hygienist and doctor say to the patient?
Who will determine what the periodontal treatment plan will consist of?
How much time is needed by the hygienist in order to provide quality of care?
What will be done at each hygiene appointment?
How often does the doctor want x-rays?
Who will take the x-rays?
What x-rays does the doctor want?
How often will the doctor do a periodic exam?
Will the periodic exam be done in the hygiene area or will the patient be moved?
How often should the hygienist probe?
Is she/he expected to probe every patient?
What is to be done at a periodontal maintenance appointment?
What will be completed at a prophylaxis?
What should the daily hygiene production goal be in order to be a profitable department? 
Who will work recall?
What forms will be used to show accountability when working recall?
What recall notices will be sent to the patients?
Will appointments be made in advance?
How will the recall system be designed?
Will the recall system be supplemented with an outside company like Elexity?

Some of the answers to the above questions may vary depending on state laws.
These are just a few of the many protocols that will need to be determined for the hygiene department. Naturally every patient’s treatment will be determined based on his or her individual needs. However, there needs to be a starting point for the hygiene department in order for it to provide quality of care while maximizing its production.

What will the answer be when the patients start asking, “Why isn’t the doctor doing my cleaning any more?”  This may not be asked very often, but for those patients who do ask, verbiages will need to be created in order to have continuity throughout the office. The staff may answer, “The doctor has hired a hygienist and Sarah will take excellent care of you. She will now be providing all of your professional dental hygiene needs for you. Sarah’s degree in dental hygiene concentrates specifically in this area.”  Possibly the doctor would prefer the staff to say, “Sarah is an excellent dental hygienist and she will now be taking care of all of your professional dental hygiene needs. She has been highly educated when it comes to dental hygiene.” Every doctor has his or her own preference when it comes to answering questions patients may ask, and verbiages should be talked about and gone over at staff meetings.

Taking time to plan and organize the hygiene department at the start of your practice may pay off even more than you think.  Waiting until the practice is busy tends to lead to a hygiene department that is reactive instead of proactive and productive.

Interested in knowing more about how to improve your hygiene department? Email hygiene@mckenziemgmt.com.

Interested in having Jean speak to your dental society or study club Click Here.

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