How to Make Recall a Priority
Most dentists don’t give much thought to recall…and it’s killing their bottom line. The truth is, if you’re ignoring your recall system, you’re damaging your practice. This vital system represents the most effective way you can grow your practice revenues, and if you’re not investing in it, you’re costing yourself patients and hurting your production numbers – not exactly a recipe for a thriving dental practice.
You know it’s time to make a change if you want your practice to reach true success and profitability, but you don’t know how. Don’t worry. I can help. Follow these tips to reenergize your recall system and you’ll soon reap the benefits of increased production numbers and a healthier bottom line.
Hire a Patient Coordinator. Recall shouldn’t be something you ask your hygienist or office manager to do whenever they have time. I suggest you hire a Patient Coordinator and task this employee with revamping your recall system. If your practice is struggling, this might not seem possible – how could you possibly afford to hire someone new? But the good news is, it really isn’t as expensive as you think.
A good Patient Coordinator should be able to handle a patient base of 500 to 1,000 in about 15 hours a week at a reasonable hourly rate. And trust me, this investment is well worth the production boost you’ll get when you turn inactive patients into active patients.
Train your Patient Coordinator. Hiring someone and telling them to revamp your recall system isn’t enough. You have to train this new team member and provide the tools needed to excel in the new role. Develop a written script to be used when making daily phone calls, and make sure there is easy access to the most up-to-date patient information.
The Patient Coordinator should be held accountable for the recall system. Provide a clear job description that outlines your expectations and the role’s performance measurements. Be specific. Include how many past due patient phone calls should be made each day and how many appointments you expect to be scheduled each day.
The Patient Coordinator should also be comfortable working with your practice management software to send email and text message reminders. Many patients prefer to be contacted this way, and it is an important part of revitalizing your recall system.
Provide patient education. Uneducated patients don’t schedule recall visits. Why? They simply don’t see the value in dental care. That’s why your hygienist must take the time to educate patients during every visit. Train this person to use an intraoral camera and hand mirror to show patients what’s going on in their mouths. Provide patients with educational brochures about their condition, talk to them about the services your practice provides and have them watch educational videos.
It’s important to look at every patient interaction as an opportunity to educate. This will not only give patients the knowledge they need to make informed decisions about their oral health care, it will also help them form a connection with your practice – both factors that will encourage them to schedule and keep those recall appointments.
Communicate with the hygienist. Before you speak with patients chairside, you have to make sure you and your hygienist are on the same page. Touch base as soon as you enter the room, and ask the hygienist what was found. Don’t tell patients everything looks OK before checking in with your hygienist. This will make them think everything is fine even if it isn’t, and will negate any education the hygienist just completed.
Instead, talk with patients about the trouble spots the hygienist identified. Remind them how important it is to monitor those trouble spots, and make it clear you’d like to reevaluate them during their next recall visit. This will show patients you care, and helps them see just how important regular visits are to maintaining their oral health.
It’s time to start taking recall seriously. If you want your practice to meet its full potential, you have to stop ignoring this vital system. Invest in it, and you’ll finally begin achieving the success you’ve dreamed of since you first opened your practice doors.
For additional information on this topic and more, visit my blog: The Lighter Side
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What Are Those Little Blue Dots?
Last year I began noticing that my patients were presenting with tiny (less than 1mm) blue “dots” or “balls” in interproximal spaces or within the sulcus. These little blue dots appeared to be hard and when removed, retained their shape. When I questioned patients about this – did they chew a certain type of gum, were they eating a candy of some sort – they could not think of what might be the source of these dots. The dots were sometimes hard to remove and could sometimes become trapped, requiring the use of the ultrasonic to dislodge them. After some research I discovered that hygienists around the U.S. had been noticing the beads. Some patients had also been using social media to discuss the fact that “dark blue spots” had appeared suddenly underneath their gums. These could be seen when they smiled and were difficult or impossible for them to remove on their own.
After a while the answer became apparent. All of these patients were using various types of Crest toothpaste! It turns out that for quite some time Proctor and Gamble has been placing polyethylene (plastic) microbeads into their toothpastes as an enhancement to appearance. Polyethylene is a plastic found in containers and products of many types, like garbage bags and disposable bottles. Like all things plastic, the beads do not just disappear. They last and last.
Not only is polyethylene being included in toothpaste, but the beads are turning up in such things as face scrubs and beauty products manufactured by many others as well. While there have been no definitive studies performed to determine if the beads are causing dental problems, the fact is that the plastic can be left behind in the teeth and tissues after brushing and flossing. Not only that, but the beads are being washed into our streams, rivers and oceans, with consequences that are still unknown. A couple of short pieces have appeared on television concerning this issue, but for the most part this problem has gone relatively unnoticed by the general public.
After some complaints were registered, Crest announced in August of 2014 that although they know the “microbeads are completely safe”, they are phasing them out of their products anyway. All Crest products are going to be microbead free by early 2016.
Here is their statement from Tumblr “Frequently Asked Questions About Microbeads.”
What are Microbeads?
Is it (sic) Safe?
My Note: According to an FDA spokesman, Jeff Ventura, on the Today Health and Wellness website, Sept. 18, 2014; “By definition, food additives are for an intended use in food. Toothpaste is regulated as a drug product and is not considered food. Polyethylene is approved for use in several indirect or food contact applications, but not for direct addition to food.”
As affirmed by the American Dental Association, clinically relevant dental health studies do not indicate that the ADA Seal should be removed from toothpastes that contain polyethylene microbeads. Products with the ADA Seal have been independently evaluated for safety and effectiveness by the ADA Council on Scientific Affairs.
Why are Microbeads in the toothpaste in the first place?
My Note: Several states have already issued deadlines for microbeads in products.
Are Microbeads in All Crest Toothpastes?
Why are you removing microbeads from toothpaste?
For more information concerning polyethylene and beauty products, check out the Google information under “microbeads” and “polyethylene”. The ADA has also included a statement concerning microbeads on their website. In the meantime, you can keep an eye out for the little blue dots. Your patients are depending on you.
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.
Leading Different Generations in Your Practice
As the leader of your practice, it is important to keep in mind that not everyone who works with you thinks the same way, approaches work the same way, or cares about work-life balance the same way as you do. Our society is seeing a dramatic shift in who we see in the workplace, with Baby Boomers beginning to retire and primarily Millennials (their offspring) filling job positions. To be an effective leader, it is important to not apply a “one-size-fits-all” strategy in dealing with your people. Rather, you owe it to yourself, your staff, and your patients to understand some important generational differences.
Let us briefly review the primary working generations, and then we will discuss some recommended leadership strategies.
1. The Silents (born 1925-1946) are considered among the most loyal workers. They are highly dedicated and the most risk averse. Their values were shaped by the Great Depression, World War II, and the postwar boom years. Silents possess a strong commitment to teamwork and collaboration and have high regard for developing interpersonal communications skills. Silents now consist of the most affluent elderly population in U.S. history due to their willingness to conserve and save after recovering from the financial impact of the postwar era.
2. The Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964) are the first generation to actively declare a higher priority for work over personal life. They generally distrust authority and large systems. Their values were shaped primarily by a rise in civil rights activism, Vietnam and inflation. Because of the fall of the dot.com marketplace, retirement savings of Baby Boomers were decimated and many now find themselves having to work longer than they had planned.
3. The Generation Xers (born 1965-1980) are often considered the “slacker” generation. They naturally question authority figures and are responsible for creating the work/life balance concept. Born in a time of declining population growth, this generation of workers possesses strong technical skills and is more independent than the prior generations. Because Gen Xers place a lower priority on work, many company leaders from the Baby Boomer generation assume these workers are not as dedicated; however, Gen Xers are willing to develop their skill sets and take on challenges, and they are perceived as very adaptive to job instability in the post-downsizing environment.
4. The Generation Yers, or Millennials (born after 1980), are the first global-centric generation, having come of age during the rapid growth of the Internet and an increase in global terrorism. They are among the most resilient in navigating change while deepening their appreciation for diversity and inclusion. The Millennials are also the most educated generation of workers today. Additionally, they represent the most team-centric generation since the Silents, as they have grown up at a time where parents programmed much of their lives with sports, music, and recreational activities to keep them occupied while their Boomer parents focused on work. At times, they can appear more demanding than previous generations.
As these four generations are all found in the workplace today, leaders cannot maintain old assumptions, such as: high pay, basic medical benefits, and a 401(k) will secure the top talent. As more Silents retire, Baby Boomers seek “postretirement careers,” Gen Xers demand challenging but balanced work assignments, and Millennials expect high perks in exchange for loyalty and technological savvy, you, as the leader, must find creative ways to recruit and retain talent. Following are three primary thoughts on which you can focus:
1. Reenergize your compensation and benefits. As more people retire later in life, many will want more time off as opposed to increased compensation. Younger people may value more flexibility, like assignments that foster new skill sets they can apply later in their careers. Older workers may want research assignments and paid sabbaticals during which they can engage in learning programs.
2. Expand your communication strategies. By making the same message available in multiple formats (thus increasing the number of times you communicate a message), you’ll ensure that you reach all workers. Silents and Baby Boomers may appreciate verbal communication about changes in policy or procedures, while Generation Xers and Millennials may prefer the use of email or instant messages.
3. Make mentoring a constant. As your more established and experienced workers head toward retirement, develop strategies to ensure knowledge transfer to keep your organizational memory alive. Determine younger employees’ goals and developmental needs, and then pair them with older, more experienced employees to create cross-generational dialogue. Consider various mentoring models, such as one-on-one sessions and group feedback opportunities. Remember, a leader’s primary responsibility is to ensure everyone in the organization understands that ‘working together’ is not negotiable.
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 email@example.com
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