Say "Thank You" Without Breaking the Bank
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It is commonly believed that patients will always choose the least expensive treatment, particularly in tough economic times. While it is true that patients may be cutting back on discretionary items, dental treatment does not have to be one of them. The key is to help patients understand why investing in their dental health makes sense. This can be pursued in a variety of ways, but one of the best is through education and a simple appeal to their own best interests and desires.
All you have to do is take a look at any women’s magazine to see that good health and good looks are important topics to women. Men’s magazines focus on similar topics; athletic appeal, healthy good looks, and the pursuit of the opposite sex. Promotion of good looks, good health, and a good looking smile is evident everywhere!
How can this interest in good health and good looks be translated into the acceptance of periodontal treatment by your patients? Consider the following:
There are various types of patient education tools. DVDs and brochures are excellent for reinforcing staff explanations of treatment recommendations, particularly where perio disease is concerned. Your staff needs to be ready with easy-to-understand explanations when patients ask questions. For example:
Q: How often do I need to have my teeth cleaned?
A: The old system of everyone having their teeth cleaned only twice a year has fallen out of favor. In fact, many believe that the idea actually came from the recommendation of a 1940 toothpaste advertisement! While some people may be able to maintain their dental health with semi-annual cleanings, many patients find that their mouths and teeth stay in better shape when they have their teeth cleaned more frequently. Most dentists and hygienists now set up a patient’s cleaning schedule based on their personal needs.
Q: You say I have periodontal disease and need to have root planing and scaling. What is periodontal disease? What is root planing?
A: Periodontal disease can be described as an inflammation and/or infection of the gums and bone which support the teeth. Left untreated, periodontal disease can result in an unhealthy condition and appearance of the mouth, in addition to having a possible bad influence on your general health. Root planing and scaling are healing treatments designed to remove the toxins and bacteria from the root surfaces of the teeth, allowing the body’s immune system to begin its’ process of rejuvenation. These procedures are a complete treatment in some stages of periodontal disease and as part of preparing the mouth for surgery in others. After you have received treatment, you will need to come back more frequently in order to maintain your periodontal health.
Q: Will my dental insurance pay for maintenance of my periodontal health?
A: The simple answer is “partly.” Many insurance plans pay for periodontal maintenance twice a year, even though most patients require appointments at least four times a year. Insurance plans limit the number of exams, cleanings, and periodontal maintenance appointments they will cover because these are the types of treatments that many people need to have frequently. Therefore, when a plan is “on the hook” for payment, limits go into effect.
Q: If my insurance plan only pays for periodontal maintenance twice a year, why should I have it done more often?
A: Your insurance plan can help you pay for the treatment you need, however, it was never designed to pay for everything. Most plans typically pay a minimum regardless of what you might need as an individual. It is a mistake to let benefits be your sole consideration when you make decisions about your mouth. People who have lost their teeth often say that they would pay any amount of money to get them back! Your teeth, smile, attractiveness, ability to chew and enjoy food, and general sense of well being are dependent on your dental health. It is worth the time and expense it may take to keep your teeth for a lifetime.
It is obvious that making sure patients get the treatment they need is a priority for dentists. When we work with patients to help them understand what they need, a mental evolution can occur where a patient’s “need” becomes his “want.” When patients want treatment they keep their appointments, and when they keep their appointments they help our bottom lines!
More answers to patient questions can be found in my brochure, “What is the Difference Between a Regular Cleaning, Root Planing, and Periodontal Maintenance?” available from McKenzie Management.
Carol Tekavec CDA RDH is the president of Stepping Stones to Success, and a practicing clinical hygienist. She is a consultant to the ADA Council on Dental Practice and was the insurance columnist for Dental Economics for 11 years. She is also the author of the Dental Insurance Coding Handbook and the creator of the “First Encounter™” Chart.
Dr. Nancy Haller
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I recently came across a survey in which employees and managers ranked their top 10 work motivators. This wasn’t a highly scientific study, but the findings were consistent with previous research I had read. What caught my attention was that the survey highlighted the reason for many of the team problems I hear about in my work with dentists. Here are the two lists:
|Employees top 10 work motivators||Managers top 10 work motivators|
|1. Appreciation of work well done||1. Good wages|
|2. Feeling of being "in on things"||2. Job security|
|3. Help on personal problems||3. Promotion and growth in company|
|4. Job security||4. Good working conditions|
|5. Good wages||5. Interesting work|
|6. Interesting work||6. Personal loyalty to employees|
|7. Promotion and growth in company||7. Tactful dicipline|
|8. Personal loyalty to employees||8. Appreciation of work well done|
|9. Good working conditions||9. Help on personal problems|
|10. Tactful discipline||10. Feeling of being "in on things"|
Seeing it in black-and-white may make you realize that the #1 thing that your staff needs is feedback on the things they are doing well. Yet what I hear over and over from many dentists is how their staff only wants “more money.” Not true! In this particular survey, money came in as #5. Other studies have shown it to rank as #3 or #4. Wages rarely show up as the most important factor for employee engagement. Research shows that once a fair level of pay is established, money ceases to be a significant motivator for long term performance.
Influencing your staff to higher levels of productivity is not about financial involvement. It is about relationship investment. In fact, employees often quit jobs not because of dissatisfaction with the company or work itself, but because of a poor relationship with their boss.
So, how would you rate the quality of your connections with your staff? This doesn’t mean you have to feel a close kinship with everyone in your office. It does mean you need to:
Be present. When you are at work, be mindful of the people who are there with you. Pay attention to your employees, as well as your patients. Before you even get out of your car at the office, pause and clear your head. Make a sincere commitment to focus on external exchanges.
Build “think time” into your schedule. Small 10-minute breaks can do wonders to keep you engaged and less distracted.
Convey belief in your employees’ potential. When you see each person as creative and dependable it builds trust and it allows them to venture forward with increased confidence.
As management guru Ken Blanchard said, “Catch people doing things right.”Verbalize it. Recognition is about feeling appreciated. It’s knowing that what you do is seen and noted, and preferably by the whole team as well as by the boss. Think about this in opposite terms - if your employees do something well but you don’t say anything, they feel it is ignored and they may not bother to do it so well next time because "no one cares."
Set up individual meetings with your employees. Identify what they do well (their strengths), what needs improving (be constructive) and what is expected of them in the future (something to aim at). Although this may seem obvious, how many people on your team really know these things, right now? Perhaps more importantly, for which of your team could you write these down now?
Give feedback when the event occurs. It should be honest, direct and kind at the same time. Start by highlighting something good. Then point out what you would like to be different, and offer a suggestion about how to improve it.
If you don’t find anything positive to say, offer recognition of the effort that has been put into the work.
Be specific. Drive-by praise without behavioral examples is ineffective. Strengthen “great job” with concrete details such as “thank you for taking quick action and filling the schedule when we had a cancellation this morning. It really made a difference in our daily production rate.”
Refrain from abbreviated communication that is unhelpful in solving problems. Describing Carol as “lazy” does not provide clear, tangible direction over which you have influence. “Carol is lazy” should be translated into “Carol needs to be more punctual with the weekly report.” In this way, you and Carol have a starting point and something that can be measured. No generalities; only specific, observable behavior.
Develop progress plans. Link employees’ performance to organizational goals. Review these at least quarterly. Reinforce your investment by spending time with your employees. Your follow-up will demonstrate that they are important to you, and that you value and appreciate them.
Developing positive connections with your staff requires time and effort. But by building good relationships and motivating peak performance from your team you will yield big dividends in the bottom line.
Create the right environment to sustain employee commitment. Contact Dr. Haller at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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