7.20.07 - Issue # 280 Forward This Newsletter To A Colleague

Nancy Caudill
Senior Consultant
McKenzie Management
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Old Dogs Can Learn New Tricks!

A McKenzie Management Case Study

Dr. Susan Walker – Case Study #110

How many are “out there” reading this article that have been in the dental industry for more than 15 years…whether you are a dentist, hygienist or work in the business aspect of dentistry? In that period of time, think about the changes we’ve gone through.  Insurance, OSHA, HIPAA were major changes for us but then we have computers and digital x-rays and cad-cam and on and on. Change is often necessary to grow. Change can also be difficult without education and guidance.  But with those two factors in place…change is good.

This case study involves Dr. Walker’s office (name has been changed, of course, to protect the innocent) and is dedicated to all of us “old people” still working in the wonderful field of dentistry.

Dr. Walker’s practice facts:

  • 17-year old practice in the same location with the same hygienist and business coordinator.
  • The practice is slowly starting to plateau from a production/collection standpoint.
  • The number of new patients is declining steadily over the past 3 years.
  • The office has not gone “high tech” due to the fear factor of learning something new.


  • There was no internal marketing to encourage new patients into the practice.
  • The practice was located in a well-established area but the office décor was still from the 80’s.
  • June, the business coordinator, was excellent at what she did.  She knew all the patients and greeted them with a smile.  She knew how to make appointments and post payments in the computer.
  • Sherry, the hygienist, also knew all the patients by name and was comfortable sharing her weekend plans with them.
  • Kathy, the dental assistant, had worked with Dr. Walker for 2 years and was also a high-energy, friendly person who enjoyed what she did.
  • Debra worked only part time and was Dr. Walker’s niece.

As I shared the information that I was gathering through my analysis with Dr. Walker, it was very apparent that she was “comfortable” in her routine, as were June and Sherry.  They had all worked together for 17 years and enjoyed their working relationship.

However, something needed to happen to “jump start” this practice. 

Dr. Walker was under the assumption that her two long-time employees knew all they needed to know about working in a dental office.  After all, they had been doing the same thing for over 17 years.  What could they possibly need to know?

It was important for Dr. Walker to understand how necessary it was for her team members to continue to learn and grow as employees in the field just as she continues to learn new procedures and improved techniques to advance her performance.


  1. Bring in the software trainer and teach the staff how to more fully utilize their system, including chairside charting and treatment planning.
  2. Redecorate the office to something more current and incorporate some “dental art” on the walls.
  3. Start implementing the following:
    1. New Recall System
    2. Chart audit for additional income
    3. Offering CareCredit™ to their patients to decrease A/R and increase case acceptance
    4. Introduce educational programs chairside for patient education
    5. Improve the new patient experience by taking blood pressures, doing oral cancer screening and other “state of the art” evaluations to improve the patient’s perceived value of their appointment
    6. Implement internal marketing concepts and the doctor calling patients after lengthy appointments, etc.
    7. Morning meetings to better prepare for the day.
    8. Monthly meetings to review their performance for the month

In reality, this is only part of the list of recommendations that were presented to Dr. Walker for improvement.

When I returned to Dr. Walker’s office six months later, many of the 75 items that were on her “To Do List” were completed.  The staff was enthusiastic and proud of their daily and monthly achievements.  They discovered, along with the doctor, that they COULD learn new ways of doing things to be more efficient and productive.  Systems that used to work 15 years ago aren’t as effective today because of all the computer technology that is available now.

Marketing has become essential in order to grow their practice.  The entire team has developed marketing concepts that they are excited about and monitor the results for effectiveness.  The practice statistics have improved 20% and everyone is happy.

Yes,..change is hard.  The good news is that, with proper training and feeding, all of us “old dogs” can become “young pups” again.

If you would like more information on how McKenzie's Practice Enrichment Programs can help you IMPLEMENT proven strategies….. email info@mckenziemgmt.com.

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