Practice Distractions Waste Time and Money
We are still months out from the presidential elections, but I have to ask the question: when exactly are the campaigns going to start focusing on the issues? A multitude of extraneous topics continue to fill the news hours and Internet sites. How many Cadillacs does this candidate have, birth control pills or not, at this writing the so-called political strategists are debating the “Mommy Wars.” Really? Weren’t those already fought years ago? And just how exactly does any of this address the problems and move the country forward? Most are silly distractions rather than the real issues - in my opinion. Not to push any political buttons here, but it is interesting how all of this election year nonsense reminds me of the dentist office.
Rather than focusing on the real issues, the real problems, and the things that can really make a difference for the practice, there's the drama. There's the lack of attention to priorities. There's the inability to focus on the goals and establish a plan to reach those goals.
Perhaps you too should view 2012 as your own election year. In your campaign, you elect the leader/coach your practice needs. You elect to establish/adopt systems that derail the drama and contain the conflict that spawns it. You elect to establish the goals and you embrace and set forth a plan in which you and your employees focus your efforts on achieving those goals. You and your team elect a coach to examine the systems and establish a plan and a strategy to ensure that each is a winner for the prosperity of the practice. Now let's consider your election platform, starting with leadership, because no one gets elected to anything without this skill.
What is your vision for your practice? If you don't have one, it's time to give careful thought to the direction you want your business to go in the next 2-5 years. Then share this with your team. Together with your coach you will develop the strategies and strengthen the systems that will enable you to realize your vision. For example, let's say your vision is to grow the practice by 20% during the next 12 months. You need a staff that is ready, willing, and able to embrace that vision. But embracing the idea doesn't make it reality. You and your team need to have a plan of action to achieve it. Your coach will look at each system in your practice that affects new patient numbers from training the business team, to marketing, scheduling, and treatment financing.
Next, how’s your communication? You don’t have to be “the great communicator” Ronald Reagan, but you cannot bury your head in the dentistry and hope that everyone else just does what they are supposed to do. You must express clearly what it is you expect of your team. Do not assume that they know what you want. If you do, I guarantee you will be disappointed. It is said that some two-thirds of employees do not know their employers’ goals or business philosophy. Open the lines of communication with your team. Encourage ongoing discussion, feedback, and problem solving from everyone.
Deal with the elephants - and the donkeys - in the middle of the room. In other words, allow the coach to help you discuss the uncomfortable topics. Why are new patient numbers down? How can the practice improve treatment acceptance? Who are the real players on your team and whom are you merely tolerating? What systems are not delivering the results they should and why? What/who needs to be changed, adjusted, and improved? Remember that being the leader doesn't require you to have all the answers - but it does require that you take action and get help. Ask me - I can deliver the BEST in coaches!
Next week: and you thought the political campaigns were nasty.
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Asking Your Patients for Referrals
Your patients often think you are busy enough and are not looking for new patients. This perception can be caused by appointments not being available when the patient wants to be seen, or a busy front office area when the patient is checking in or out for their appointment. If you have ever been asked “Are you accepting new patients?” it should be a warning that you may be sending the wrong message.
It is up to you to ask for referrals and thank your patients for their continued support. Sending follow-up thank you letters is good etiquette, but often not enough to encourage patients to refer friends and family members. The following are some scripts to consider when asking for referrals.
During the morning huddle, pick a couple of patients to ask about family members who have not yet become patients or are patients and are overdue for recall appointments or have unscheduled treatment.
Ask at the beginning of their appointment: “Hi, Mrs. Brown (or first name if okay), it is good to see you today. We were wondering why we have not seen Jon for his routine professional exam and cleaning?”
If the response is that he has been busy, ask: “Would it be okay if we contacted him to schedule an appointment?” Response is positive. “Do you have a phone number or email address where we may contact him?”
In the case of the family member who is not yet a patient: “Mrs. Brown, we have enjoyed having you as our patient and would welcome your husband (and/or children) to our practice. If you would like we can schedule an appointment for them while you are here.”
When you have completed a course of treatment and the patient is happy with the result, this is the time to ask for referrals. During the morning huddle, identify patients that fit this category or patients that in the past have had dentistry that has made a difference in their health and appearance. The “Kodak” moment is when the work has been seated and the patient is raving about how good it looks. This is a great time to obtain a written testimonial and a photo from the patient (make sure to have them sign a release showing the intent to use the photo and testimonial for marketing purposes).
Along with this exchange, you would tell the patient the following: “John, we are delighted that you are happy with the outcome of your dental work. We would love to treat your family and friends and invite them to our practice. We would be happy to contact them if you think that would be okay.”
If the patient says that they would rather refer them, respond with: “Thank you very much, we are looking forward to seeing them in the near future.”
If you use a service that contacts overdue patients online, you can consider designing a promo offer blast that will go to all the patients within the category you decide upon. Letting your community know that you are there to serve and are always welcoming new patients is imperative to the practice growth.
To send the message that you are always welcoming patients, follow-up with patients of record who are considered inactive because they have not been in for their recommended hygiene visit. Patients generally welcome reminder calls from healthcare providers and respond by scheduling at the time of the call or by making a note and calling back later to appoint. Patients lose track of time and are often surprised to hear that they are overdue for their professional hygiene appointment. Practices that use online services to remind patients find that the response to a telephone call is often more successful in setting the actual appointment.
In order to be positive and upbeat when making outbound calls to unscheduled patients, it is recommended that each person working in the business office make only 5 calls a day from recall and unscheduled treatment plan lists. Be prepared before calling by checking the chart notes for information in regards to the patient and check to make sure the patient is not already scheduled.
For more training on how to build your practice, sign up today for Front Office Training offered at McKenzie Management.
Empower Your Assistants and Business Team to Support Treatment Recommendations!
How can your team assist in promoting treatment in your practice? Many dentists feel like they are carrying the entire responsibility when it comes to promoting the practice and promoting recommended treatment. The process begins with education.
1. Ask each one of your team members (clinical and business) to explain on a “3rd grade level” why an implant would be recommended to a patient with a missing tooth.
2. Ask them to explain why a patient needs scaling and root planing and the benefits to the patient.
3. Ask them to express why a crown would be a better option for the patient opposed to a 5-surface filling.
Each of your employees should be able to answer these questions following your guidelines and they should all be answered the same. If this is not occurring, start by training your team on how to explain the most common treatment recommendations that you make in your practice.
Think about this - your Schedule Coordinator should be calling patients with unscheduled treatment. It is important for her/him to review the clinical notes and explain to the patient why the treatment was recommended and the consequences should the patient postpone or decline the treatment. Can your Schedule Coordinator do this? If not, they need to be educated about the various types of treatment you perform.
Mrs. Jones is dismissed to the Schedule Coordinator to make her next appointment for a bridge to replace a missing tooth. She asks Julie, the Schedule Coordinator, why a bridge would be better than a partial. Can your Julie answer this question?
Your assistant, Susan, is asked by Mr. Brown why he needs the crown that you have recommended and can a filling do just as well. Can your Susan answer this question?
What if the patient asks a question that the team member can’t answer? After all, they may not know everything about the treatment recommendations. You should have a protocol in place so all the team members can respond. Your business team member responds with: “Mrs. Jones, that is a very good question and one that I do not have an answer for. May I ask the doctor’s assistant to give you a call to address your question? What is the best telephone number for her/him to call you on?”
If the question is pertinent to the patient scheduling their next appointment, an answer may be needed immediately. “Mrs. Jones, that is a very good question and one that I do not have an answer for. May I ask the doctor’s assistant to speak with you about this?”
Tools for Illustration
First, let’s assume that your assistant has been educated by you and knows the scripting for this question. In addition, she also knows that Mrs. Jones has never had a crown before AND that crowns cost $1300. She also knows that it is her job to help Mrs. Jones to understand not only why she needs the crown, but also the “value and benefit” of a crown.
This is when “show and tell” is important. A nice typodont (GO HERE) that clearly illustrates how a crown is fabricated, how strong porcelain is or whatever material you are recommending, how the crown is custom-made to fit just this tooth and look just like the original tooth but without the old silver filling and the large cavity, how long it will last, etc. Mrs. Jones must be able to look at this typodont and “feel” the investment that she wants to make is a good decision. Patients buy what they “want” and not always what they “need” - unless they are in pain, and even then, often they purchase what they can perceivably afford.
Allow Mrs. Jones to hold the crown in her hand. Become familiar with it. The goal is for Mrs. Jones to say “yes” to the Schedule Coordinator, feel good about her decision, and keep her appointment!
Granted, some patients don't want to know - they just want to know how much it costs, how long it will last, how long will I be here and will it hurt! This is also true for intraoral photos - some patients prefer NOT to see their dental problem.
The Doctor's Role
“Mrs. Jones, this large cavity needs to be taken care of as soon as possible so you don’t develop an infection and need a root canal. Julie will be more than happy to answer all your questions about the treatment and I will look forward to seeing you in the next couple of weeks. How does that sound?”
Now - go educate your team so they can help you promote your treatment recommendations!
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