8.03.07 - Issue # 282 Forward This Newsletter To A Colleague
Technology Consideration
Associate Needed?
Art of Influencing

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Is Your New Technology Flawed?
by Sally McKenzie CEO
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There you are in the middle of the show room floor. The object of your dreams sits before you. Dazzling under the bright lights, you can see yourself taking control, firmly in the driver’s seat of your practice, zipping right along. Challenges, frustrations, lackluster production all left behind in the dust, as you and this coveted new toy ride off into the sunset and the practice of your dreams emerges before you.

Ahh yes, new equipment fever has taken hold and all semblance of reality is lost as you immerse yourself in the glossy literature of dentistry’s latest gadget or gizmo. You hang on every word as the salesperson explains in fine detail each major feature and subtle nuance. Glimmers of doubt or uncertainty are promptly squelched as you let yourself get lost in the possibilities – skyrocketing production, incredible treatment acceptance, more vacation time, less stress – this thing is the answer to it ALL. Hand over the credit card. You can’t wait to get this in the office and figure out how to use it. 

From digital X-rays and photography, to electronic charting, to laser handpieces and microscopes, to practice management software and clinical hardware, dental practice technology is constantly churning out the newer and the better. Companies line dental meeting exhibit halls with expertly designed technology displays and skillfully choreographed presentations so enticing that even the casual browser wishes they could purchase it all. The wares promise to fill essential practice needs, simplify procedures and operations, reduce stress, and increase productivity, and many of those promises could be fulfilled if it weren’t for one major flaw. Let me explain. 

Often dentists are so enamored by the specific features of a particular piece of equipment they don’t consider how well or even if that new item will work with their current platform. Or they invest in the major technology, but don’t buy one of the most important pieces to ensure that it runs correctly – the training. Consequently, that wonderful new hardware, software, or state-of-the-art tool delivers a miniscule 10% - 30% of what it’s capable of delivering.

When purchasing new technology follow a strategy for success, starting with careful research and planning. Think about your technology vision for the practice. How do you want to use technology? How do you want your patients to benefit from technology? Next conduct a technology inventory. Examine what you have in hardware, software, and networking capabilities. Then establish your priorities, which technology do you want to add or integrate first. How do you plan to pay for it? The cost of technology has come down considerably, but it remains a significant investment for virtually any practice. Don’t try to do it all at once.

Next, evaluate which companies you will consider for your technology needs. Do your homework. In many cases, you’re entering a long-term relationship with a company. You want to know how they handle questions, concerns, problems, staff/doctor training. How long have they been around and what’s their reputation. Talk to your colleagues. What are other dental teams saying about the technology and the company they purchased it from?

Determine how your practice will integrate the new equipment. What steps will you have to take to ensure the integration is smooth? How much staff/doctor training will be required to ensure success? Involve your staff. What are their concerns, insights, and perspectives on how best to implement it? It’s essential that staff understand the benefits of integrating the new technology and, if possible, have some ownership in the process.

Plan to incorporate it in stages and pledge to allocate necessary resources to train staff at every step in the process. If you start thinking that you’ll buy the equipment now and train the staff later, think again. If you can’t afford the gas, you can’t afford the car. In other words, if your budget isn’t big enough for training, you’re not ready to make the purchase.

Next week, determining the technology budget.

Interested in speaking to Sally about your practice concerns? Email her at sallymck@mckenziemgmt.com.

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Nancy Caudill
Senior Consultant
McKenzie Management
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Does Too Busy = Hiring an Associate?

A McKenzie Management Case Study

Dr. Jim Wilkins Case Study #63

“My schedule is out of control!  We are always working into lunch, patients are waiting and we work late.  I have to work out of three operatories and I am conducting exams in two hygiene rooms.  It makes me tired just thinking about it.  I need an associate!”

Dr. Wilkins’ practice facts:

  • 15 year old General Dentistry practice
  • His patients are scheduled 4 weeks into the future
  • 22 new patients per month
  • Orthodontics are performed

Dr. Wilkins, indicated that he is considering an associate or maybe even a partner, even though it was never his plan to work with another dentist.  He felt that sharing the workload would reduce his stress and allow for improved customer service to his patients.

“Dr. Wilkins, it’s important to know that you do have options.  You have numerous business systems that need to be repaired in order to get the practice working properly.  Let’s refurbish your systems first and then see where you are.’

Dr. Wilkins is assuming that seeing the symptom of being booked out far in advance in his schedule would automatically mean an associate. However, areas such as scheduling and utilization of an assistant, by state law, has to be taken into consideration.

Observations:

  • The Schedule – It was obvious that Dr. Wilkins was not performing quadrant dentistry.  Every patient was scheduled for 60 minutes regardless of the procedures that were scheduled.
  • Orthodontic Patients – These patients were haphazardly scheduled and interfering with general dentistry production.
  • No morning or monthly meetings – There was very little communication among the doctors and team members regarding the patients.  No one in the office had any idea about how well or how bad the practice was performing statistically.
  • Lack of daily production goals – Every day was like riding a roller coaster.  Some days they produced $1,200 and saw many patients. Other days they produced $5,000 with only a few patients.
  • New Patients – The practice averaged 22 new patients per month.  Keep in mind that “new patients” are those patients that are seen for a comprehensive exam and are also seen in hygiene and go into the recall system.

McKenzie Recommendations

The Schedule
When possible, perform quadrant dentistry for the patients.  Longer appointments are more productive than several short appointments.  It is also better customer service because it reduces the number of visits for the patients..

Patients should be overlapped on the schedule according to what the assistant can do without a doctor and captured doctor time. The doctor must not be scheduled in more than one treatment room at any given time.

Daily production goals must be established for the doctor and the hygienists based on the practice overhead.  By scheduling to a specific goal each day, it reduces the roller coaster effect and allows for productive days every day.

New Patients must be scheduled within one week for good customer service.
Those practices that schedule the new patient for what they are requesting have a higher rate of new patient retention than those offices that schedule the patient for something different than what they requested.

The Orthodontic patients should be scheduled together for time efficiency. Evaluate the amount of time that is taken per week for ortho and then condense this time into blocks of 1/2 day segments at diversified times and days.  This eliminates the continual interruptions during the day.

The hygienists need to notify Dr. Wilkins as soon as they have taken x-rays or completed their visual assessment so he can perform his exam anytime while the patient is in the hygiene room.  (Please check your state law.) Waiting until the end of the hygiene appointment is not good time management.

Extend his morning schedule until 1:00 to allow for more production prior to breaking for lunch.  In many cases, the daily goal can be met prior to lunch.  This allows the afternoon to be scheduled with non-productive appointments. However, customer service is the priority should the patient not be able to come in the morning.

Inter-Office Communication
In order for the day to run smoothly, it is imperative that Dr. Wilkins meet with the team in the morning prior to the start of the day. This 15-minute meeting allows everyone to review the schedule and discuss any “traffic jams” they foresee.  Patient concerns are discussed as well as looking at the production for the previous day and today to see if the doctor and hygienists reached their daily goals.  A morning meeting also gets everyone started off “on the same page” and focused on the day.

Two hour monthly meetings gives everyone the opportunity to understand the “mechanics” of the practice.  Practice statistics are discussed, such as production, collections, adjustments, outstanding insurance claims, accounts receivables, lab and dental supply expenses and the overall practice overhead for the month.  Team members want to be informed of how the practice is doing.

The Associate
The practice cannot support two dentists with 22 new patients per month.  Dr. Wilkins would need to be willing to “give up” some of his production to the associate in order to keep him/her busy.  Yes….the associate would be busy initially, helping to “catch up” those patients that are being scheduled four weeks out.  But, once the catch up is completed the reality of not enough new business sets in.
           
Conclusions:
After six months of implementing the various changes in Dr. Wilkins’ systems, it was obvious that he would have made a mistake by incorporating an associate into his practice.  As soon as his Schedule Coordinator started scheduling to a daily goal and learning how to schedule for Doctor/Assistant time, he took back control of his practice again…and his life.

If you would like more information on how McKenzie's Practice Enrichment Programs can help you IMPLEMENT proven strategies….. email info@mckenziemgmt.com.
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Dr. Nancy Haller
Dentist Coach
McKenzie Management
coach@ mckenziemgmt.com
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Use the Carrot not the Stick: The Art of Influencing Effectively

The Sun and the Wind made a bet. They challenged each other to see who could get the man to take off his coat faster. The Wind went first and blew fiercely, expecting to strip the man of his garment. However, the harder the Wind blew, the more the man clung to his overcoat. Ultimately the Wind gave up. The Sun smiled, and then warmed the air temperature so high that the man quickly removed the coat himself.

The moral of this little parable is that people don't resist change, they resist being changed. As a dental leader, you will be significantly more successful when you understand change and how to influence it in others.

Leadership is about influencing others…to think differently or to behave differently. It is the ability to consistently gain support for your views and opinions, and to achieve goals through the work of others.

There is no ‘right’ way to influence because leadership is contextual. For example, if there’s a fire in the office, ordering people to the nearest exit is quite effective not to mention necessary for survival. But taking a ‘Wind’ approach just doesn’t work in non-emergency situations. The days of the Do-As-I-Say boss are gone; even the military puts its top ranks through leadership training now. "Command and control" is no longer a way to influence people. If you lead that way, you’ll pay -- literally. You’ll have staff turnover and patient departures because nobody likes that style.

If you’re going to succeed in influencing change, find the carrot and put away the stick. People are motivated for their reasons, not yours. And your ability to understand what drives the people on your team is a key factor in productivity and profitability. If you want an employee to change, you have to help her/him decide the change is in their best interest. Just as the Sun convinced the man to remove his overcoat, you need to influence, not force change.

Influence starts by connecting with your employees. Learn about the person/people you want to influence. Try to understand their perspectives and beliefs. By knowing their concerns, fears and assumptions, you increase your ability to gain cooperation. This also enables you to counter any resistance by pointing out how it will help them. The real benefit in truly understanding their perspective, however, is that you make employees feel valued…and gain loyalty.

Even if you disagree with an employee’s view, acknowledge their perspective. You don’t need to point out the flaws in their thinking even if you can find 10 reasons why they’re wrong. Part of the reason people resist change is that they don’t feel validated or acknowledged.

Once you know more about their issues and you acknowledge their perspective, then – and only then – help them see a different point of view. Talk to them about the differences in your perspectives. Reduce their fears. Build a clearer picture of the future after the change, explaining the parts of it that will be of greatest interest and benefit to them

Be aware of natural temperaments. Some people are more open and move more quickly to a new approach or system. Others are more cautious. Not everyone will move at the same rate.

Persevere with patience. Give people some time. Let them reflect on what you have asked of them. Give them time to adjust to a new perspective in their mind. By allowing some time to pass you also help them to 'save face' as they start to agree with a change that they had previously resisted.

Successfully influencing others is an invaluable skill you can learn to do more effectively. I assure you that the more adept you are at appealing to the needs of others, the sooner you’ll negotiate your way from confrontation to cooperation.

Stop being the Wind. Start acting like the Sun and help your team to warm up to the idea of change. It’s in your best interest to show them how it’s in their best interest.

To strengthen your ability to influence your team, contact Dr. Haller at coach@mckenziemgmt.com

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