Top 10 Time Wasters - Part 2
Dentists, as small business owners, sing the same chorus again and again: “There are just not enough hours in the day to get everything done.” Certainly, you only have so much time in the workday, and as the chief production officer, it’s critical that patient time be your priority. Most doctors realize this; nonetheless, it doesn’t stop them from getting bogged down in distractions. In last week’s article, I touched on the first five of 10 time wasters in many dental offices. Below are five more:
Repetition, Repetition, Repetition: Several times a day you and your staff are repeating the same things to patients. Make use of “frequently asked questions” (FAQ) sheets. These can be incorporated into your patient education protocols. For example, if you are now offering implants, pay attention to questions that patients are asking about the procedure and put them in a question/answer format. Print a few of these and make them available in the reception area, treatment rooms, as well as the practice website.
Meeting Free-For-All: Staff meetings, in addition to the morning huddle, can be huge time wasters if they are run poorly. It’s imperative that doctor and staff set aside two hours a month for the business meeting, and they must have a clear plan for success. Staff meetings must be directed by a clearly defined agenda. Assign each staff member the responsibility of reporting on their particular system at the meeting. This ensures that everyone, not just the doctor, has responsibility for communicating what is happening with specific practice systems.
For example, the Scheduling Coordinator reports on:
Opportunity Lost: Don’t let treatment slip away. Mrs. Jones is scheduled for a 40-minute procedure with the doctor but calls at 9am to cancel her 10 o’clock appointment due to illness. Two hygienists are treating patients down the hall; both patients have unscheduled treatment diagnosed. Seize the opportunity to fill the doctor’s schedule by offering to “just take care of that procedure today,” so that the patient doesn’t have to schedule another appointment for treatment. As soon as the patient cancels, the scheduling coordinator alerts the dental team to the cancellation and subsequent treatment opportunity, and the clinical staff can determine how to proceed.
The Latest Great Idea: The doctor attends a major dental meeting and returns positively beaming with excitement and unbridled enthusiasm. The doctor wants to implement everything s/he has learned immediately. My advice: STOP! Before you waste valuable time in an attempt to implement the latest and greatest new management or treatment strategy in your practice, do your homework. Carefully consider how the change will affect the patients, the schedule, the team, and the practice profits. Seriously consider if the changes can and should be made without the guidance of competent outside professionals. After all, you want to ensure that those “great ideas” are properly implemented and don’t result in more time-wasting frustration.
Stress: Stress is a huge time waster, and it is largely the result of multiple practice inefficiencies. Dentists and teams can significantly reduce stress if they choose to change the things they can. Take these steps:
1. List the stressors starting with those issues that are most intense. Develop a plan of action to address the sources of stress through a procedure or system.
As the cliché goes, Time is Money. That couldn’t be truer than in today’s dental practice. Pay attention to how time and money are wasted in your practice. Seek help. System inefficiencies can be changed and improved - dramatically in many cases. I guarantee it will not only save you valuable time and reduce your stress, but it will significantly improve your practice profits.
For more information on this topic, visit my blog: The Lighter Side.
Interested in speaking to me about your practice concerns? Email firstname.lastname@example.org
What Does a Great Team Do?
Much is said about the positive effect of an organized, “humming-away” dental team with regards to office success. But what does such a team really do? How do they work together to make the office a great place to work, as well as a great place for patients to receive the treatment they need?
Each Team Member Looks for Ways to Help
For example: The hygienist has an unexpected hole in her schedule. Even though confirmed, the patient has failed his appointment. What should she do? While I personally welcome any chance to sharpen instruments (and typically make time to do so every week), first the hygienist should see if anyone needs help. If there is another hygienist in the practice, she can see if she could get the next patient on the schedule started, clean the other hygienist’s instruments, or set up the next appointment her current patient needs. She can check with the assistants to see if she can expose x-rays, clean up a room, anesthetize a patient for the dentist, or prepare an operatory for the next patient in the schedule. If the assistants are caught up she can go to the front desk and volunteer to confirm patients, call on the recall list, apply labels to recall postcards, or answer the phone. What she should not do is hide in the lounge, read a magazine, or duck other team members. Helping others is a good way to encourage them to help you when you need it.
No Task is “Beneath” You
Another example: A young mother had to bring her two-year old to her appointment today. One of the assistants has the patient in the chair and the little child is sitting in the treatment room with some toys. He is antsy and is beginning to walk around the room in a disruptive way. The other assistant was getting ready to order supplies, but can see that the situation is getting a little out of hand for her team member. She goes into the treatment room and engages the little boy with conversation and distraction, and with the permission of his mom, eventually takes him out of the operatory and into the children’s area. She plays there with him until her next patient arrives, and then one of the front desk staff takes a turn. It doesn’t matter that it is not our task to be “babysitters” for patients - sometimes it just happens. Helping the mom helps us all. She obtains the treatment she needs, the little boy is entertained, the office is not disrupted, and the mom will probably refer other family members to us.
If You See Something that Needs Doing - DO IT
Being a member of a dental team means more than just providing great dentistry. It means providing a positive atmosphere for both staff and patients. Being part of an effective dental team is very rewarding. We can take pride in the treatment we provide, while also getting great pleasure in working well together. It’s great to be part of a great team!
Carol Tekavec RDH is the Director of Hygiene for McKenzie Management. Carol can improve your hygiene department in just one day of training “in your office.” Interested in knowing more about how to improve your hygiene department? Email email@example.com.
Great Vision Needs Sight
I received a call from a doctor last week. He said, “I want to be a better leader.” When I spoke with Dr. Clark (name has been changed), I learned that he started his practice from scratch 15 years ago. Production and collections have increased every year. Two years ago he bought a building where he is currently situated. He described the location and the facility as “great.” He treats children, adolescents and adults. In addition to comprehensive restorative work and general dentistry, he provides many unique and specialized services. His interest in learning is evident. He takes numerous classes to expand his clinical skills. He also frequently attends courses in business systems, practice management and marketing. And he teaches.
Dr. Clark has an entrepreneurial mindset. He is ambitious, curious and creative with a willingness to take risks. He has continued to grow and update systems, and he would like to do more but he has “poor staff involvement.” He confessed that most of his staff don’t even know about the processes he has put in place. According to Dr. Clark, he shares his expectations with employees, once, and they “do okay for a while.”
It is clear to me that Dr. Clark has great vision - the ability to see where things could be. His intellectual talent leads him to seek challenges that keep him mentally stimulated. He probably could jump out of an airplane with all the materials needed to build a parachute on the way down. However, he has lost sight of the need to bring people along with him. His managerial skills are being called to action and it will necessitate modifications in his behavior if he is to take his practice to the level he wants.
My experience with many dental leaders is that while they love the clinical aspects of running a practice, they find employee management a burden. Oftentimes they give directives to staff members and expect them to get it…and they are frustrated when they don’t. This is compounded when dentists are introverted. They forget to communicate their expectations and are surprised (and maddened) when things don’t go according to their vision.
Most dental employees want predictability and stability. And they need to feel that they matter to you and that you appreciate them, not only for the work they do but for who they are. This is a basic human phenomenon - until a person feels respected as an individual s/he won’t be a collective, even though it is in our nature to be a part of something bigger than ourselves.
The bottom line is that you need to enhance your relationships with each employee, and focus on doing that every single day. That is the essence of leadership. One of my favorite quotes applies here - “People won’t remember what you said or what you did but they will remember how you made them feel.”
But communicating clear work expectations is not enough to optimize performance. It falls prey to an authoritarian mandate - do this, don't do that. Managing performance means changing the focus of your leadership so it is a daily activity. Managing employees is not an administrative exercise but an essential process for accomplishing the work through others. This is as important as patient care, marketing and networking!
Devoting more attention to improving relationships via bi-directional (two-way) communication is the first step. Once you know this information you can begin to help each employee to move toward their goal(s).
As a dental leader with true managerial responsibilities, your job is to shift away from performance goals and outcomes and look at employee needs. What can you do to help them experience meaningfulness? To feel safe? To be able to fully engage themselves? Yes, this is a paradoxical shift from conventional management, but a necessary one in today’s work world that is less about menial labor and more about using cognitive skills to manage complex information.
As the dental leader, you shape the identity of the practice and set the pace for how relationships develop. It is up to you to communicate the importance of unity in the office and to help employees feel valued. This is especially true during tough times. By keeping staff informed, you communicate that they are a valuable part of the team and important to patients. In return, most employees will go the extra mile for you over and over again.
Remember - your employees really are “volunteers” who have chosen to work with you. Pay them back - focus on building positive work relationships that will make your practice a more rewarding and productive place for everyone. Vision is great, but it is blind without sight.
Dr. Haller provides training for leadership effectiveness, interpersonal communication, conflict management, and team building. If you would like to learn more contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Interested in having Dr. Haller speak to your dental society or study club? Click here.
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