Want Fewer Problems? Do This.
“It takes as much energy to wish as it does to plan” - Eleanor Roosevelt. Doctors and dental teams would do well to post those words where they can be reminded of that truism daily. We see dentists and their staff expending a lot of energy wishing. They wish they could curb appointment failures. They dream about treatment acceptance. They long for less drama and more collaboration. They yearn for fewer problems and issues in the practice.
Yet they scramble through their days. They huff and they puff in frustration. They go home exhausted and return the next day to battle through it all again, running and reacting to whatever comes their way. And what’s the return on this investment of aggravation? Weak profits, high overhead, employee turnover, costly patient attrition, and seemingly endless stress.
Wishing doesn’t yield much in the results column. Stop longing for things to be different and start planning to create the change you want to see, beginning with your attitude. The difference between those who are successful and those who are merely average often boils down to how they see themselves. Do you see yourself and your team as high-capacity players who consistently deliver excellence? Do you see your practice as the most successful or among the very best in your community? How do you talk to yourself and your team? Are you negative, condescending, and destructive? Or are you encouraging, positive, and helpful? I guarantee that how you see yourself and your team as well as how you talk to yourself and your employees directly affect your success.
There is a fundamental reality in the workplace: Happy employees produce. And doctors who enjoy coming to work are far more successful than those who’ve lost their passion. But what does all this talk about success and happiness have to do with expending energy on planning? Happy, successful people plan. They aren’t in a perpetual cycle of reacting to what is happening to them; rather they are creating their reality through the deliberate actions they take every day.
In the dental practice, the most effective, accomplished, and content teams meet regularly to plan their success. Yes, the humble meeting is a cornerstone in the happy, productive, and successful practice. But it’s not just a matter of gathering everyone in a room and talking. Effective meetings follow a plan, naturally.
There are two types of meetings that practices need to carve out a sliver of time for: the daily meeting and the monthly meeting. The daily meeting is brief and to the point; you’re not sitting around the break room table with coffee and donuts. This is a summary meeting that lasts 15-20 minutes and takes place before the first patient arrives. The objective of the daily meeting, which is led by a designated employee and not the doctor, is to discuss the day’s schedule as well as recap yesterday’s highlights and what’s on tap for tomorrow.
Specifically, you want to determine where emergencies should be placed. Additionally, clinical staff should review patient records before the meeting. If Mrs. Smith is coming in for her professional dental cleaning, and she has a cracked tooth that she has not scheduled for treatment, this is the opportunity to emphasize to her the importance of addressing dental needs before they become dental emergencies. Additionally, if Mrs. Smith has $1,000 in unused dental insurance benefits, it’s a good opportunity to remind her that if those benefits are not used, she will lose them, which brings me to my next point.
Finally, daily meetings provide an excellent opportunity for clinical assistants to consider where the doctor is most likely to get backed up, causing the schedule to run behind. Thus, they can determine in advance if additional assistance will be needed to prep for a particular procedure or if hygiene checks need to be adjusted to ensure smooth patient flow through the day.
A mere 15 minutes a day will go a long way in helping the team plan to succeed.Next week, addressing the “big picture.”
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
Scheduling Nightmares: The Canceling Patient
The Monday morning “huddle” business meeting reveals three possible problematic patients, and your blood pressure begins to rise. Dr. Worry says to the Business Coordinator, “Were these patients confirmed? They all have a history of cancellations so why are they on the same day? Please call them this morning to make sure they are coming.”
The Business Coordinator explains that all were reminded electronically, but only two have officially confirmed by email. The Business Coordinator picks up the phone and calls the unconfirmed patient, only to be told that he had a last minute meeting at work and cannot come. Now her blood pressure rises as she says to the patient, “Mr. Smith, I sent you an email reminder and you are supposed to confirm your appointment when you get it.” Mr. Smith replies, “I intended to come, but I never get notice for these meetings and this is priority.” The Business Coordinator reschedules his appointment, knowing full well this same scenario will most likely be repeated.
Most practices have patients who they cannot count on to keep regularly scheduled appointments. Some have very few and some have many. The practices that have few have a written protocol or system for management of this type of patient. The first contact a new patient has with your office is the time to explain how appointments are handled. This way the patient will understand what is expected of them and what the practice philosophy is in regards to keeping appointments.
“We make every attempt to honor your scheduled time and the time is reserved for you. It is very important to give us a 2-day notice so that we may accommodate another patient.” Having all staff trained in what to say to patients that are canceling creates uniformity and discourages staff favoritism. Patients will often ask to speak to a more lenient staff member when canceling unless everyone is saying the same thing. Cancellations and appointment failures can be kept at a minimum if patients understand what is acceptable and what is not and that it is not easy to cancel. Scripting and role playing cancellation scenarios are excellent ways to teach staff not only what to say, but how to say it with confidence.
The following are some scripts that will help you communicate to your patients the importance of keeping scheduled appointments.
Cancel last minute or same day:
Or: Mr. Brown, the time is reserved just for you and I don’t have enough time now to find someone to take your place. Is there any way you can keep your appointment today?
Or for repeated cancellations or no shows:
If you have an opening the next day that you cannot fill, say to that patient: Mr. Brown, could you do me a favor and take the 10:00am that I have open tomorrow? Or, look to see if there is a family member due that could take the patient’s place. If the patient continues to be non-compliant and doesn’t work with you on a better solution, you need to decide whether you wish to keep this patient in the practice.For professional business training, scripting and role playing, sign up today for McKenzie Management training customized to your needs. You can come to us or we can come to you. Details can be found HERE.
Is Your Facility Tired?
When was the last time you walked in the front door of your facility to see what your patients see? 2014 is going to be here before you know it. Now is the time to establish new goals, which may also include establishing a new look for your practice.
“Branding” means making a statement about who you are – it’s your practice name and logo, and the message they convey. Take a look at your logo. Does it distinguish your practice from others? Does it convey to the public that it’s “your” dental practice? Along with your logo and the name of your practice, there are other fundamentals that will be used consistently as part of your practice image, including colors and fonts. Your brand should convey a credible and professional image. It’s worth it in the long run to get the advice of an expert.
The artwork that is on your wall. Have those prints been hanging there for 20 years? Do you have nicely framed images of people with beautiful smiles? Does the artwork get patients to think “dentistry” or golf courses, horses or flowers? Consider incorporating the wall hangings with your new logo design and color. Do you have a professionally framed sign that invites patients to refer their family and friends? Believe it or not, you have patients who don’t even know you are accepting new patients! “Why is that?” you ask. Because no one in your office, including yourself, encourages your patients to refer the people they know. It is so simple to say, “Mrs. Jones, we enjoy having you in our practice. I am sure your family and friends are as nice as you are. We would love to have them here if they are looking for a new dentist.”
Do you have the same furniture in your reception area that you had 20 year ago? I bet it looks tired! Consider re-upholstering, again incorporating the fabric with the new logo. Everyone can appreciate complimentary Wi-Fi in the reception area. How about a small desk and chair to allow someone to work on their laptop while they wait for family? What about clutter - if you asked 100 patients if your practice appears “cluttered” what would they say? Unfortunately, clutter equates to uncleanliness. Walk around the office and take note of all the “stuff” that is sitting around on countertops. Is it necessary? Can it be relocated into drawers or cabinets? It’s also much easier to wipe down countertops that are free of clutter.
Patient bathroom - do you offer disposable toothbrushes with toothpaste, mouthwash and floss? Notice what is on the walls. How long has that print of a sailboat been hanging there? Check out the wallpaper that is in the bathroom. How long has that been there? Imagine what a fresh coat of paint would do or a more current-looking wall covering. Do you have a place for women to place their purse? Do all the walls in the office need to be repainted? Do you need to replace the old, worn-out commercial carpet with a different look, such as the new wood-look floor coverings?
Here are the real questions: Will this increase revenue? Will more new patients come as a result of updating your look? Will your employees be re-energized? How about you - would you feel good about changing the look of your facility and bringing it into the 21st century? My answer is this: You don’t know until you do it. And it sure can’t hurt!
At your next monthly team meeting, bring this concept up with your staff. Get feedback from them. Notice the enthusiasm in hearing there is a real possibility that the office they come to work in every day, some for the last many years, is going to have a new, fresh look! Just seeing the smiles on their faces is worth the investment, let alone all the positive comments you will receive from your patients.Maybe you have no idea how to even start. Ask around and hire an interior decorator. Your dental supply house may have design services that will be helpful. Step outside your comfort zone and into your facility from the eyes of your patients (and especially your new patients). Have a new look for 2014. You will be glad you did!
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