When Employees Leave, Opportunity Knocks
Jean Gallienne RDH BS
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What exactly is pre-selling dentistry? So many times I have heard hygienists make the comment that they do not feel it is their job to sell dentistry. Let’s take a look at the difference between pre-selling dentistry vs. selling dentistry.
Many hygienists, once it is placed in one of the above terms, will say, “Oh, yes, I do that all the time.”
For instance, when the hygienist picks up the mirror and probe or explorer to check around for suspicious areas he/she notes in their mind that #3 has a large old filling but it is stable, and looks at the tooth that is missing in the upper left quadrant, #14.
This patient has treatment pending for either an implant in the space where #14 is missing or option number two, a bridge. The doctor has gone over the options with him at a previous appointment. However, the patient has not accepted the current treatment and nothing else has been treatment planned.
Many hygienists will remind the patient of the need for the treatment that is pending, but there are also many hygienists that will proceed with the prophylaxis, not mentioning anything to the patient. The reasoning in their minds is that they do not sell dentistry or “it is the job of the dentist, I can’t diagnose treatment.”
It is true that hygienists are not legally allowed to diagnose treatment needed. However, the hygienist is allowed to educate their patient about what they see in the mouth when it comes to what may need to be done by the dentist.
For example the hygienist may say to the patient in the above scenario, “Mr. Jones, you have a very large old filling in the upper right, #3. It looks all right to me at this time. When it does need to be replaced, doctor will probably want to do a crown on that tooth, but we will have doctor take a look at it. I also noticed that you have treatment that needs to be done in the upper left area where this tooth is missing. What have you decided when it comes to your options?” Now, give the patient time to answer.
In this verbiage, we made sure that when the treatment pending is brought up to the patient it is in the form of an open-ended question. We do not want to ask, “Have you decided what you want to do in the upper left area?” This only leads to a yes, no answer. When the patient is given an open-ended question it will lead to more conversation in a natural occurring way, enabling us to do our job without a nagging approach when it comes to the patient’s perceptions.
In this scenario, it has also set the patient up to hear from the doctor that they need a crown, while if the patient does not need a crown it will not be embarrassing to the hygienist when the doctor simply states, “I do not feel that tooth #3 needs a crown at this time but we will check it at your next professional hygiene appointment.”
Many things happened in this two minute conversation, because the hygienist tends to have the patient rapport, it is nice for the patient to hear from the hygienist that he may need something done before the doctor ever walks into the room. Also, the more often a patient hears that there may be something wrong the more trust that is developed.
Now, if the patient did not need to have it done at this time. What next? The hygienist should make a note to, have doctor check #3 at the next professional hygiene appointment, it may need a crown in the patient’s record. This will also be the hand written note that will be placed on the patient’s invitation style recall card. Thus, creating a need to return other than to just get their teeth cleaned. Now, the patient has something that may be failing on them at any time.
When the patient is due to come back in six months, the personal note that was written on the invitation style recall card sent to the patient is also available for the Scheduling Coordinator when she talks with the patient. Having this note available allows the Scheduling Coordinators to remind the patient that not only is he having a professional hygiene appointment, but doctor will also be checking the upper right as there is a large old filling that may need to be replaced.
When the patient comes back in six months, the hygienist will inform the doctor at the morning meeting that the patient needs to have #3 checked for a possible crown. When the patient is in the hygiene chair, he will be told, “I am going to have doctor come in and examine the tooth on the upper right which is tooth #3. We are monitoring that large filling you currently have as it will need a crown when it does need to be replaced.”
Using the actual tooth number along with the location in the patient’s mouth allows them to make a mental note so when it needs to be done he will think, oh yes, #3 I remember that being mentioned in the past.
If the patient now needs the crown on tooth #3, he is more likely to accept treatment. Sometimes the patient may not need the crown for a year or two. So, it is being checked at every recall.
Not only is pre-selling and selling dentistry important to the doctor and the entire team but it is equally important to the patient. The patient should be educated and know exactly what is currently going on in their mouth and what the future may bring based on the current condition of their mouth.Forward this article to a friend.
According to Robyn Thomason, a Risk Management Analyst for The Dentist Insurance Company, “Buying a practice may be a dentist’s most important financial and professional commitment.” She goes on to explain that the start-up dentist must be informed enough on several issues in order to make an intelligent decision when purchasing a practice. With the enormity of the details on issues such as: the sellers motivation and involvement in the practice, pre and post sale, the patient records and the accounts receivables, the existing clinical standards of the office and the legal compliance, contractual agreements or existing malpractice claims etc., it is necessary to have the counsel of an experienced attorney preferably one with experience in dental practice sales.
Just as important as the legal counsel of an experienced attorney is the advice, recommendations and training received in the Practice Start-up Program offered at McKenzie Management. Achieving a smooth and seamless purchase and transition is every dentist’s goal. Understanding the business of dentistry including recruiting and hiring the best team, establishing an effective recall system, setting up the hygiene department, understanding financial and billing policies, understanding dental insurance and how to make it work to your advantage and the list goes on. These systems are the everyday challenges the dentist will face and will need the best advice from experts.
Experience and years of listening to dentists has taught me that the biggest challenge in the average practice is staffing. When purchasing an existing practice there will be an existing team. The buyer does not have to go with the status quo. Review of the Office Policy Manual or Employee Handbook (if one exists) will describe the conditions of employment and current benefits that the employees are entitled to. If there is not a policy, then one should be written to take affect after the purchase. Advice on setting up the Office Policy or Employee Handbook is part of the Start-up Program at McKenzie Management. The buying dentist can decide what the office hours will be along with duties, wages and benefits. Once in the practice, the new dentist can meet with the staff and explain the changes. Employees will be asked to read and sign the Employee Handbook. Take into consideration the following when evaluating the existing team:
It is vitally important that the existing Business Administrator (Office Manager, Receptionist) fully support the transitioning dentist. If this key person cannot transfer allegiance to the buying dentist, then it may be advisable to replace her with someone who will communicate enthusiasm and confidence. The new dentist may have a different approach to diagnosing dental disease, which the existing Business Administrator may not fully understand because she is comparing it to her former employer. She may attach a judgment to this, which will be picked up by the patient.
Advising the start-up dentist through the challenges of hiring the best team and providing a proven system of success is an important part of the Dentist Start-up Program. On-going training for Business Administrators is just as important for the success of your practice as the training of the clinical staff. Your Business Administrator is vital to the sale of services and products and she must understand the benefits to the patients. Most dentists are not aware of the barrage of questions the front office team will get about procedures and products. If the questions cannot be answered to the patient’s satisfaction, the patient will not be able to make an informed decision and often leaves the office without scheduling an appointment or not buying the product that was recommended to them.
It is vitally important that the Start-up Dentist is informed on all business issues that will affect the success of his/her practice. Get informed; join us today for the Dentist Start-up Program or the Advanced Business Course at McKenzie Management.
For more information on McKenzie's Start-Up Program and Advanced Training Programs for Dentists, Office Managers and Front Office, email firstname.lastname@example.org, call 1-877-777-6151 or visit our web-site at www.mckenziemgmt.com.
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