Dread Setting Goals? Try This
by Sally McKenzie CEO
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Goals. Every year about this time you think of them. You may even write them down. If you’re really ambitious, you pledge to look at them and act on them daily. Then other things start to pop up and before you know it, it’s been six-eight months and you find a piece of paper buried beneath a pile of things you meant to get to but never did. And there scribbled at the top is the word “Goals.” That nasty feeling of failure creeps in.
You’re in good company, doctor. For many dentists, the goal-making process becomes a monkey on your back, a recipe for more stress rather than a strategy for action. Why? Goals can be intimidating because if you don’t reach them you feel you’ve failed. Or there’s so much to get done, you feel totally overwhelmed. So you choose to simply go along doing what you’ve always done because, well, at least you know what you’ll get. But that doesn’t stop you from wanting and wishing and dreaming big. And therein lies the challenge.
How do you get results from wishing and wanting? How do you take a desire and make it a reality, without the burden of a huge list of “goals” or the risk of failure? Focus on one area at a time, and break the process down into manageable steps. Let’s say your desire is to increase production in your practice – a critical area for every office. How do you get it? By making even minor improvements in those areas that influence production, starting with treatment communication.
Have you introduced new services in your practice? In the coming year, educate patients about the many benefits of your current and expanded services. Have you asked your patients lately about their dental wants? Ms. Young may be newly single and very interested in exploring some cosmetic options in ‘08, but she may not even know that you can provide those – unless you educate her. Do patients need more dental care than you are diagnosing? In the New Year pledge to diagnose what the patient needs - what will benefit their total oral health. Resist the urge to diagnose only what you think they can afford.
Take a look at team follow-up. Is the treatment coordinator tracking patients who need treatment but are not scheduled or have cancelled? If a patient cancels an appointment and says they will call back to reschedule, give them a reasonable amount of time to do so. If they do not reschedule within a few days they should be contacted. Your concern is the patient’s welfare. Following through on treatment ensures excellent oral health and is in the patient’s best interest.
Review patient charts daily and follow-up with those that have not pursued recommended care. Remember, you are your own marketing staff. In the dental practice, marketing is education; it’s not high pressure sales. It’s your responsibility to educate patients on the necessity and value of dental care. If the team isn’t sure how to educate patients effectively, train them. Conduct mini-clinics during staff meetings to share key benefits of new/existing treatments the practice offers. Draft question/answer sheets on the most common questions patients ask about specific procedures so that everyone is prepared to answer the fundamental inquiries.
In addition to improving treatment education and follow-up, take these steps to increase production in the New Year.
- Establish daily production goals and schedule to meet those goals.
- Prescribe a treatment plan for patients that includes everything that needs to be done - appointments necessary, the cost of treatment, an estimated length of treatment time, and any treatment options.
- Designate a treatment coordinator who is responsible for presenting treatment plans to patients and is expected to secure at least 85% case acceptance.
- Implement an interceptive periodontal therapy program. Provide superior customer service that will encourage patients to refer friends and family.
- Each month run the year-to-date Practice Analysis Report and compare it to the same period last year.
And finally, keep wishing, hoping, and dreaming big. Goals don’t have to be intimidating or overwhelming. You can turn each of your wishes and desires into reality with the right direction and the right plan. Let McKenzie Management help you get there. Give me a call and we’ll make sure this is your best year yet.
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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Does Your Practice Need a “Makeover”?
Dr. Pat Charles – Case Study #310
Dr. Charles contacted McKenzie Management because of the same reasons that many of our clients contact us – low production, no systems, staffing issues, etc. As is usually the case, the doctor is unaware of “unseen” issues that also need to be resolved. So was the case with Dr. Charles. This article addresses those “other issues.”
- Dr. Charles had been located in this office space for the past 7 years. She bought an existing practice with 826 active patients. The stand-alone office is located close to a middle to upper income neighborhood.
- She installed new equipment in her two treatment rooms and left the existing equipment in the two hygiene rooms.
- The same furniture remained in the reception room.
- The sign outside was the same except her name replaced the previous doctor’s name.
This practice is 28 years old and it looked 28 years old! It was time to discuss the “cosmetics” of the practice. After addressing the appearance of the office with Dr. Charles, she said, “ I honestly don’t pay any attention to the office. I come in the back door; head right to my private office for the morning huddle, work all day and leave the same way I came in.”
Dentists work in a space as large as the patient can open their mouth. This is where they do their decorating and re-arranging. Many of them do not apply the same thought process to their office!
- The sign was outdated and dingy. It had a picture of a tooth on it! It was not lit, making it difficult to see at 4:30 when it starts to get dark in the winter evenings.
- There was sufficient parking behind the building on a high-traffic street. However, it was noted that the team members had the “choice” parking spots closest to the sidewalk.
- Upon arriving at the front door, the first observation was – spider webs! We all know that spiders are very active little critters and can create a beautiful web overnight but this one had been there for a while. The doormat was also old and worn.
- I opened the door and entered the reception area…a vinyl floor. OK – it was clean; however, every sound made an echo like being in a hospital.
- The chairs were all lined up against the wall, just like what you find in the ER waiting room at the hospital. The chairs had seen better days.
- Next are the magazines. A copy of Glamour Magazine from June of 2006!
- Any dental art? No way. There was a large print of Yosemite National Park on one wall beside the dusty, plastic weeping willow tree.
On a positive note the hygiene treatment rooms were well kept and the older equipment was clean and in working condition. Dr. Charles was planning to replace the chairs soon.
- Create a logo for the practice. Contact ADA Intelligent Dental Marketing for assistance in developing this all-important marketing tool. Update the sign out front to include the new logo and light it for viewing at night.
- Replace the doormat when necessary (1x a year). Be sure that the spider webs are removed in the mornings prior to the patients’ arrivals. Any glass areas should be free of fingerprints.
- Consider replacing the vinyl flooring with a sound-absorbing carpet. At best, place a large decorative area rug over the vinyl floor.
- Replace the outdated metal and fabric chairs with a comfortable sofa and armed chairs. Be sure to have armed chairs that are easy to get out of. Arrange the room like a living room in her home. Add sofa tables and lamps. Throw away the plastic tree and use live plants instead.
- Dr. Charles is a dentist, her “room” should be promoting dentistry– not Yosemite National Park. A nicely framed professional poster of someone (or a family) with a beautiful smile illustrates what she does and sets the tone for the patient’s visit. Set up a DVD monitor and play information about cosmetic dentistry so patients can see what is available from the practice.
- She was working on a new logo to incorporate into the signage for the building. This logo would also be used on all correspondence and brochures, including her website.
- Unless the business team members are called to assist clinically, they should be dressed in business attire. It is important to have this discussion when placing a new employee in the business area. Guidelines need to be established on what is and isn’t acceptable in the business area. Dr. Charles’ Financial Coordinator is presenting thousands of dollars worth of dental treatment and she should be dressed appropriately to exude knowledge and professionalism.
Six months later, there was a different atmosphere. She had placed a refreshment center in the reception area for coffee and tea, as well as granola bars and a small dorm-sized refrigerator for cold water and juice. The old metal chairs were moved to the staff lounge and comfortable and attractive seating was placed in the reception area, along with a very nice area rug.
Dr. Charles was so surprised at the number of patients that commented on how they enjoyed the new décor. Her investment was small compared to the return in improved attitudes of her dental team and the pleasure of the patients.
Patients expect to have a clean, friendly, comfortable and visually appealing environment. The DO judge the type of dentistry you will deliver based on such criteria. Be consciously aware of your environment. Take a walk on the patient’s side.
If you would like more information on how McKenzie's Practice Enrichment Programs can help you IMPLEMENT proven strategies….. email email@example.com.
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Tis’ the season to be jolly!
Bringing peace to front office power struggles
With practice growth, the need of a new employee to accomplish tasks that have become burdensome to the existing Business Coordinator is suddenly apparent. Introducing a new employee to the practice requires a well-defined plan. Let’s assume that you have an office policy and a front office procedural manual. If you do not have these items in place it is guaranteed to be a difficult transition and training period.
With the hiring of a new employee, comes the development of a job description. More trouble looms ahead as your existing Business Coordinator is given the responsibility of deciding, now with two employees in the front office, who is going to do what. Naturally the new employee will be blessed with tasks that the Business Coordinator does not like to do or doesn’t do at all. A job description that promotes accountability states the duties, responsibilities, qualifications and training required and specified areas of accountability such as collecting 45% of each day’s production at the time of service. These job tasks can be arranged in daily, weekly and monthly categories. This job description is gone over during the interview process to determine current skill level and areas of training necessary to get the new hire up to speed as soon as possible.
Dr. Smallville (not real name) was happy when his practice was seeing continuously over 22 patients a day, the phone ringing and new patients increased to 30 a month. With this growth, it was time to hire another business employee. The interview went well and she came highly qualified with great references. He decided that she (Jamie) would be the Office Manager and his existing Business Coordinator (Kelley) would be in charge of scheduling and all other front office duties because she knew the patients and the other members of the team liked her. There was an existing job description for Kelley but it had not been updated since her hiring date and he failed to produce one for Jamie. The following is what happened, taken from an actual case file of McKenzie Management.
I was so optimistic when I hired Jamie to be my Office Manager. My goal was to give her the administrative tasks such as recruiting, screening and training new staff members, payroll and other HR matters that I wanted off my plate so that I could spend more time chair side. Here is the issue. My existing front office person, Kelley, is engaged in a power struggle with my new Office Manager and has been trying to undermine her authority by coming to me for every little thing. I have asked her to go to Jamie but she says, “she is used to coming to me and Jamie has not been here long enough to know what she is doing.” I need both of these women and they are both strong. I am tired of the power struggle. How can I bring peace again to my practice?
Meet with Kelley for a performance review and update her job description. It appears that there is confusion over areas of responsibility and accountability and this must be defined. Explain to Kelley that she is a valued member of the front office team and you want her cooperation. If this is difficult for you, leadership coaching is a service available through McKenzie Management. Inform Kelley that she needs to communicate all of the daily office issues to Jamie. The practice is growing and therefore change is a necessary component. The next step would be to write a well-defined job description for Jamie and go over it with her so that she is aware of the limits to her authority.
Explain to Jamie that Kelley will be reporting to her for all issues having to do with the business office. Have her sign and give her a copy. You are the CEO and this is your business. Another suggestion would be to purchase McKenzie Managements’ book, How Personality Types Affect Practice Success. Have Jamie and Kelley take the test. They will discover things about themselves that will help them build a better relationship. You describe them as being strong and engaged in a power struggle. Our studies show that this behavior is oftentimes personality driven and once aware of this, behavior can be modified. I hope this helps to bring “peace to your practice’’.
Why not improve your performance in 2008. Attend McKenzie Management’s Front Office or Office Manager Training. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 877.777.6151
Interested in having Belle speak to your dental society or study club? Click Here.
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