Six Factors for Success
Every dental practice faces difficulties. But those practices that overcome the challenges versus those that succumb to them are influenced significantly by six critical factors.
#1 - Sales
#2 - Risk Management
#3 - Staff
#4 - Patients
Just consider the numbers: “Jane” is the designated patient coordinator in “Dr. Cole’s” practice. She makes $18/hour. She is responsible for reviewing the list of past due patients and for making six phone calls per day to those not scheduled for their recall visits. Each call takes about 10 minutes, so she must dedicate one hour of her day. On average, 35% of the six calls result in 1.75 appointments. The typical appointment is a prophy, four bitewings, and an exam billed at $230. Multiply that by 1.75 appointments; that hour on the phone yields $402.50 in practice production. And that is for recall alone, not the doctor’s diagnosed but unscheduled treatment that is sitting idle in too many patient records as well. But that’s another story.
#5 - Financing
#6 - Vision
Once you accept your critical role as the “boss,” a few character traits must be either already present or cultivated, starting with vision. It is a word that is overused and has been trivialized over time, but the truth remains that the ability to articulate where you see the future of the practice is critical. Otherwise, why should your team care? They are merely going through the motions daily rather than working toward clear and specific objectives.
For more information on this topic and more, visit my blog: The Lighter Side
Interested in speaking to me about your practice concerns? Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Perceptions Are Everything: Manage Yours Wisely
President Obama took heavy criticism for playing golf last month during his vacation after denouncing the militant who executed American journalist James Foley. In an interview on Meet the Press, he acknowledged that his timing could have been better. “I should have anticipated the optics”, he said and then added, “Part of the job is managing the theater of it”. What you may not appreciate is that this incident offers a big lesson not only to politicians but to every leader. The bottom line is that what matters is not so much what you do, but what people think you have done. Perception is reality.
The perceptions that your team and your patients have of you are often more important than who you are. How you are seen and what you actually do are not always the same. This means that you ought to manage your image and reputation as well as your actual work because perceptions are lasting. This isn’t marketing spin but hard science.
Within seconds of meeting someone, we make an impression on that person. Once people form an impression of us they stop actively gathering new information. You see, humans assimilate new information that is consistent with their initial perception. Think about this in terms of meeting a new patient. What image are you projecting and is it consistent with how you want to be seen? Are you building the professional ‘brand’ you want to build?
Patients form opinions about you from the moment they enter your office. Even on a subconscious level they are evaluating you when they talk with the employee at the Front Desk. They make assumptions about you based on the furnishings in the waiting area. And without a doubt, your patients are assessing your value to them based on how you interact with them. The things you may consider small are actually quite big. What someone else sees as THEIR reality may not be yours. However, it would be a mistake to ignore or dismiss their reality completely.
Of course, the perception that people have of you varies and depends on the situation, the setting in which you are operating, and your relationship with those who are observing you. But if you are in a leadership role, expectations increase substantially. We hold leaders up to higher standards.
It's hard work to remain conscious of others’ perceptions. We judge ourselves by our intentions, but fail to realize that our intentions are clothed in temperament, personality and attitudes. When I'm pressured for time, I'm more direct and impatient. I tend to forget about the importance of asking vs. telling. Once my husband stood at military attention and saluted me with a ‘Yes ma’am’. My intention was to get everything done before our dinner guests arrived but my impact was that of a drill sergeant.
And yes, I often see "leaders" who think they are doing a better job than the team thinks. All of this demonstrates the fundamental flaw in communications: People hear and see whatever is important to them. To be an effective leader means you must first know yourself and then consider your audience. What do you know about how others see you? How could you find out? Ask for feedback.
Unfortunately, direct, honest feedback is in short supply in many organizations. Most employees are reluctant to give feedback to their boss, especially if it’s not positive. For this reason, one of the best ways to ‘measure’ perceptions is to do a “360”. As the term implies, it means going full circle. Also known as multi-rater feedback, 360 surveys are collected electronically and with confidentiality. For feedback raters to be candid, they must have anonymity. The survey questions in a 360 cover a broad range of leadership behaviors. The person receiving feedback also fills out a self-rating survey that includes the same questions that others receive. In this way ‘self’ perceptions are compared with ‘other’ perceptions. The aggregate summary report is usually interpreted with a facilitator who is trained in the tool. The outcome is information about whether intentions are matching impact. That is, do others see you as you see yourself? Do others see you the way you want to be seen?
In a nutshell, perception management is the ability to create an impression through conscious activities. This is not manipulation but an essential skill for influencing others. If you are going to lead people, you must know the effect that stress has on you and how this looks to others. Remember that building self-awareness requires courage, commitment, and support. Increase your awareness and be more attentive to your audience. Learn to interpret other people’s verbal and nonverbal signals. And let me know if I can help.
In my next article: How to correct negative perceptions.
Dr. Haller provides training for leadership effectiveness, interpersonal communication, conflict management, and team building. If you would like to learn more contact her at email@example.com
Interested in having Dr. Haller speak to your dental society or study club? Click here
Increasing Profitability with Adequate Hygiene Appointment Times
Profitability in a dental office is the result of performing necessary treatment on an adequate number of patients in the most efficient manner to cover expenses and provide for the dentist’s income. For this to be accomplished, several issues need to be addressed:
1. A sufficient number of new patients must be finding their way to the office and their treatment needs must be identified and performed
New patients can come by way of traditional advertising, targeted mail campaigns, internet sources, an engaging website, community activity, or patient-of-record referrals. An ongoing focus towards obtaining new patients is important, but in order to qualify as successful new patient generation, new patients have to be satisfied enough to decide to come back.
Once a new patient has arrived, success is often initiated in the hygiene department. While some offices appoint new patients with the dentist first, many route them through the hygienist’s chair. This is partly due to patient requests for an “exam and cleaning” and partly due to standard office policies. Therefore, the hygienist is often the first clinical person with whom the patient becomes acquainted. How this first visit is handled can greatly affect the patient’s view of the practice and how receptive s/he is to future treatment recommendations. It is important that the patient does not feel rushed, and that there is sufficient time available to discover the patient’s primary concerns. This is typically the key to treatment acceptance!
Time is also needed for the hygienist to begin developing a relationship; the first step in establishing trust. Required medical and dental history data collection, as well as radiographs, photos, perio assessment, full mouth charting, oral cancer screening and hard tissue assessment with the dentist, must also be accomplished. This is in addition to the patient’s “cleaning.” What happens if the patient actually needs four quadrants of scaling and root planing? Is there time to begin this, complete this, and explain this? What if the patient has numerous questions or is nervous or afraid? There can be many facets to the first patient visit, and all are important. So, should the new patient appointment be scheduled for 40 minutes? 50 minutes? One hour? 1.5 hours?
The answer is that the appointment time must be long enough to adequately handle an important introduction to the practice. No one is a more ardent patient referral source than a happy new patient. They want to let everyone know how smart they were to come to your office. Conversely, an unsatisfied new patient will also spread the word. A new patient can usually take 1.5 hours in the hygiene schedule, with the dentist coming in for the exam at some point during that time.
A private conversation between the dentist and hygienist just prior to the dentist meeting the patient allows for the hygienist to give an assessment of the patient’s dental and perio condition, as well as reveal what the patient has said regarding primary concerns. Any important personal facts can also be shared. This sets the stage for a unified approach to the patient’s treatment, which bolsters a friendly and professional impression. This can increase treatment acceptance and therefore increase office profitability. Does this mean that your office should schedule more than an hour with the hygienist for a new patient? No. It means that each office needs to consider what they want to accomplish and realistically allow for the time to do it.
Office profitability also relies heavily on patients of record. It is not enough to simply encourage new patients and treat them well. Your recall patients are essential! A practice cannot grow if recall patients are leaving, regardless of new patient generation. So, what is happening during the hygiene recall appointment to encourage your patients to keep coming back? Updates of medical history, necessary radiographs, perio assessment, photos and identification of possible problems, the prophy and the dentist’s exam are the basics. Can a 40 minute appointment provide the time needed?
If data collection and radiographs take 15-20 minutes, that leaves 20 minutes for the prophy, exam, explanations, and preparing the room for the next patient. What happens if the dentist does not come for the exam in a timely manner? What happens if significant changes have occurred with the patient’s medical condition and documentation takes extra time? What happens if the patient has a broken restoration and the hygienist needs to explain the possible need for a crown? What happens if the patient signals they may be ready to have that implant the dentist has been recommending and wants to talk it over? Given sufficient time, patients will understand and agree to further treatment during a recall appointment. If the hygienist only has time to rush through the basics, necessary treatment will be missed - or if identified, may not be scheduled. Identification and encouragement of treatment in recall patients is a significant source of office profitability.
Adequate hygiene appointment times can increase office profits, and along with the business assistant’s efforts to ensure that treatment accomplished is also paid for, can form the backbone for a successful practice.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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