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4 Ways to Take Back Control of Your Schedule
By Sally McKenzie, CEO

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It’s fair to say your schedule is pretty chaotic. One day you’re running from patient to patient doing your best to keep up, and the next your team is sent into panic mode as they scramble to fill holes from cancellations and no-shows, leaving you with down time you’d rather spend seeing patients. Your mess of a schedule is causing you undue stress and frustration, and costing you more money than you care to think about.

This is no way to run a dental practice. As CEO, you need to find a way to take control of your schedule and get your practice back on the path to success and profitability. Don’t worry, you don’t have to do it alone. I’m here to help, and have put together four tips to help you manage your schedule, increase production and grow your bottom line.
 
1. Hire a Scheduling Coordinator. If you don’t already have one, consider adding a Scheduling Coordinator to your payroll. Empower this person to take control of your schedule. Provide a clear, detailed job description that lays out your expectations. Make the Scheduling Coordinator accountable for this system, and train him or her to schedule in a way that will keep you and all producers in your practice productive, not just busy.

If you task one team member with managing the schedule, give that person the tools and training necessary to succeed and provide clear communication about procedure times. You’ll soon notice your schedule is more streamlined and your days are far less stressful. Even better, you’ll also notice a spike in practice productivity and revenue.

2. Set daily production goals. If you’re going to tell the Scheduling Coordinator to schedule you to meet production goals, you have to actually set production goals. And this isn’t just a random number, or your best guess on how much money you want to bring in each day. It should be based on your personal and professional financial realities.

How do you determine this number? Start by sitting down with your team members to identify attainable goals, both as a practice and as individuals. Make sure every team member knows how their daily efforts effect the practice’s ability to meet these goals, and how important their contributions are to the practice’s success.

During this meeting, determine how much money you need to live your ideal lifestyle, and how many hours you’re willing to work each week to get there. Then factor in the financial obligations that come with owning a dental practice, and you’ll be left with the number that should dictate your schedule. Not only that, you’ll have clear goals to achieve, and the knowledge needed to turn your schedule into your roadmap to success.

3. Confirm all appointments. When a patient cancels or just doesn’t show up for an appointment, it wreaks havoc on your schedule. Your Scheduling Coordinator must race to find another patient to take the spot, and you’re left wondering how you’re going to meet that day’s production goals.

Confirming appointments two days in advance will help reduce the number of cancellations and no-shows in your practice, saving you from the stress and lost production these broken appointments cause. Make sure your Scheduling Coordinator is responsible for confirming appointments and finding out if patients prefer phone call, text message or email confirmations. And remember, it’s not enough to leave a voicemail or a message with a family member; the Scheduling Coordinator must actually talk to the patient to confirm. This will go a long way in curbing cancellations and no-shows in your practice, and the many headaches that go along with them.

4. Resist the urge to schedule dream days. I’m sure you’d love to fill out your own schedule if you could, blocking out time for those procedures you enjoy most and that bring in the most money. You may even be tempted to tell your Scheduling Coordinator to block out a certain number of crown and bridge appointments each day. But if that number isn’t based on practice data, all you’re doing is creating gaps in the schedule that your coordinator will have to scramble to fill – turning your dream day into a total nightmare.

If you’re going to block out sections of your schedule for certain procedures, you have to be realistic. Focus on what the practice can actually achieve, not what you’d like to achieve. I recommend calculating how many crown and bridge procedures you’ve completed in the last six months, then dividing that number by the number of days worked. This will tell you how many spots you can reserve for that procedure. While this number might not be exact, it will get you much closer to patient demand than just guessing.

If your schedule is a mess, it’s costing you money. Mismanaged schedules do nothing but cause undue stress and frustration; they certainly don’t help move your practice forward. Now is the time to take back control and realize the benefits that come when your schedule is streamlined and focused on meeting production goals. You’ll be less stressed, your practice will be more efficient and you’ll have a much healthier bottom line. 

For additional information on this topic and more, visit my blog: The Lighter Side

Interested in speaking to me about your practice concerns? Email sallymck@mckenziemgmt.com
Interested in having McKenzie Management Seminars speak to your dental society or study club? Click here.
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Jonathan Gale, Ph.D.
Leadership Coach
McKenzie Management
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Managing Change for Leaders
By Jonathan Gale, Ph.D.

There are a few certainties in life, and many uncertainties. One of the most certain things to know is that life is chronically uncertain. Change happens to us all, all the time, causing us to adapt, learn new skills, brace ourselves, or run for the hills. As a leader in the dental industry, your role is likely going to involve seeing the change coming, getting in front of it, and managing it so your practice stays afloat. This includes keeping the repercussions of change to your practice and your staff as minimal as possible.

Managing change refers to the process of moving from your current state to a desired state, whether this is to achieve a greater market share, a more streamlined practice, or improved patient satisfaction. To successfully manage change, it is necessary to utilize processes, tools and techniques to engage your people to help make the change happen.

Here is a 3-step guide to effectively managing change. As you read through it, think about what changes you have experienced, how you handled them, and how you might approach changes like these differently going forward.

Step 1: Lead the Change
Leading the change will place you in the driver’s seat, so you are maneuvering through change rather than being maneuvered by the change. Your practice will become a flexible and successful entity with you at the helm.

First, you need to translate the need for change into a ‘story’ that makes sense to your staff, portraying you as the leader and your practice as future-thinking and ahead of the curve. You need to include the threats and dangers associated with not changing, including the reasons for change, and emphasize your commitment to getting everyone to the desired goal together, as a team. In this ‘story’ you are setting the vision for the desired state and creating the necessary sense of urgency so your staff understands the need to change, and change now.

Next, you will need to identify “change ambassadors.” These are individuals in your practice who are positive and engaged, and who would be effective at role modeling optimism in the face of change, rather than fear, which is what most people will feel initially when confronted with change. These ambassadors are going to be your “ground troops” and will do the bulk of the heavy lifting when it comes to implementing new processes. Without these ambassadors, you will be in a very lengthy and difficult struggle to get things moving.

Also important in this step is to normalize the non-linear nature of the change process. It is important for everyone to understand that two steps forward and one step back is normal and expected. Further, oftentimes the target moves as we progress, so we must adjust on the fly and not be discouraged.

Step 2: Communicate Throughout the Change Process
First and foremost, communication must happen via several channels. It is not sufficient to only email or communicate with the office manager and hope he or she relays the message accurately to everyone else. As the leader, your job is to communicate and then follow-up to make sure the message has been heard by everyone. Then you can field questions and uncertainties, or recruit your change ambassadors to help in this regard, to prevent fear from spreading or rumor milling. It is also important to be cognizant of the different generations in the workplace and their preferred mode of giving and receiving communication.

One thing all people need when navigating change and moving into unfamiliar territory is encouragement. Make sure to communicate the small wins and let your people know how they’ve already made some important or measurable contributions. This will encourage them to keep moving in spite of fatigue or doubt.

Communicate timely and frequently. Creating buy-in doesn’t just happen at the onset of a change management process. Buy-in requires continual updates and open lines of communication to help keep trust and faith in your judgment alive and well. These elements will keep your team together through the process and arriving at the goal feeling very positive, despite the hard work that it took.

Step 3: Implement the Change
When rolling out a new process or technology, be mindful of the timing. For best results, aim for a time that you have identified as naturally less stressful or demanding than other times. If you are not sure, ask your staff about their experiences with the work flow.

Allow adequate time for the change to become the new norm. Prepare yourself and your staff for setbacks, frustrations, or unexpected nuances that require adjustments. If the expectation is that the journey through change will be long and rocky, you will see much less disappointment when inevitable obstacles appear. If you or your staff take on extra duties to try and force the change to work, you will see unnecessary burnout. Expect things to move slower than you might anticipate.

Finally, put a system in place to monitor the change to determine if your new state matches the intended goal state. If so, great! Revisit it in a few weeks to make sure the change is sustained and look to see if there are any new issues to address. If the goal state has not been achieved, loop back systematically to determine why and then resume the change effort from that point.

If you need assistance with this process, remember, help is not far, and you are not alone. Good luck!

Dr. Gale provides coaching and training to enhance leadership skills, interpersonal communications and team building. If you would like to learn more, contact him at jgalephd@mckenziemgmt.com

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Carol Tekavec, RDH
Hygiene Consultant
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Patients Want Implants, and Your Hygienist Can Help
By Carol Tekavec RDH

Dentists might think their hygienists are instrumental in quickly identifying necessary restorative and periodontal treatment, but may not realize hygienists are also in a unique position to help patients receive implants. A hygienist with sufficient time to go over possible “needs and wants” with a recall patient will turn up many desires that may have gone unfulfilled.

For example, “Joe” is a denture or partial patient who has been thinking about implants for several years, but never mentioned it because he thinks he’s had his removable replacements for too long. He may be confused by television ads or radio spots. He may think he could never afford them. He might think getting implants would be extremely painful. He may even perceive that the dentist or staff are too busy to discuss all of his questions and worries. After all, everyone seems to be moving so quickly! In other words, your patients may want something that could change their lives for the better, but have been afraid to ask.

Last week I treated a patient who had been successfully wearing a maxillary denture and mandibular partial for about fifteen years. She comes in faithfully every six months for an adult prophy on her remaining mandibular teeth. She has a stable periodontal condition and good home care. Her maxillary ridge is substantial and she reports being able to speak, eat, and smile without problems. The maxillary denture fits well without any “stick-um”. The mandibular partial is snug and nice looking when in place.

So, this patient is happy with her removable replacements…right? Wrong! After cleaning both of her removables in the ultrasonic bath, I gave them back to her and casually asked, “Do you feel that you are getting along well with your denture and partial?” 

Her response was, “Not really. I wish so much that I had never lost my teeth. I hate taking my dentures in and out all the time! But I don’t think I could get implants at my age. I don’t really even know how implants work.” 

I immediately stopped what I was planning to do for the remainder of her appointment (going over home care, giving her a new brush, floss, etc.) and brought out models and a handout concerning implants. This patient is actually in excellent condition to successfully have implants and an overdenture plus implant supported mandibular replacements. She is 60 years old, in good health, and has sufficient bone.

Her questions included: How do implants “work”? Does getting an implant hurt? Will I still have to take my denture in and out? How do I keep an implant clean? Can I use the same denture and partial that I am wearing now? How many implants will I need? Will I still need to have my teeth cleaned every six months? What will the cost be? How long will it take to get the implants? Can I get implants in one day?

The answers to these questions are not simple yes or no responses. They require attention to her individual situation and concerns, and a little time. After speaking with her for about ten minutes and alerting my dentist about the patient’s interest in implants, he came in and continued the conversation. 

He determined that she was an excellent candidate for a maxillary overdenture and mandibular implant and tooth-supported partial. He explained how many implants might be needed, and reinforced what I had already told her about the possible time required, her recall schedule and how she would keep her implants clean at home. He supported my comments about the need to come in annually to have the fixed replacements over the implants taken off and cleaned, and all implants checked by the dentist. He allayed many of her fears about discomfort during and after the procedure.

Later we were able to schedule the patient for an ICAT radiograph and subsequent conference with the Patient Coordinator concerning fees and appointments. My patient was very happy to know she could get started right away.

Often we think of the hygiene appointment as time spent with the “cleaning lady”. While the prophy portion of the appointment is obviously very important, the conversation portion is important as well. Time crunching hygiene appointments and the perception that hygiene production is only what occurs today can be counterproductive. Without sufficient time spent exploring treatment options, this implant patient would likely have gone home again, without the information she needed. With time spent addressing her questions and a relaxed atmosphere to discuss possible plans, this patient will receive treatment that will change her life for the better, and it will be great for office production! With a possible six maxillary implants, a new maxillary overdenture, two mandibular implants and two fixed 3-unit bridges, this case will likely top $20,000.

Your patients may want treatment that you have not considered previously. Your hygienist can help them look into their options, and make the office more productive.

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 hygiene@mckenziemgmt.com.

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