08.25.06 - Issue # 233 Forward This Newsletter To A Colleague

Turn "Helpers" Into Producers
by Sally McKenzie CEO
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Helpers, doctors and teams are convinced that they simply could not get by without those seemingly magical staff members who are the miraculous answer to the perpetual cycle of too much to do and too little time to do it. I can hear the pleas, “Doctor, we can’t keep up. We’re working into lunch. We’re running late again. We need a helper.” Teams become convinced that the helper is the only answer to the perceived need for more staff. If only the impact on the budget were perception and not reality. 

Before you hire a “helper” make sure you’ll get more than clean instruments and well organized patient records for that investment. You want a producer. For example, if the new hire is a patient coordinator who will increase practice revenues by making sure appointments are kept, that shiny new face in the office can enhance practice production – a definite plus.

Or if the individual is a hygienist who will enable the practice to meet the demands of a growing hygiene schedule – provided it’s not riddled with no-shows and cancellations, the investment is a wise one and the negative financial impact should only last for about 60 days. Beyond that, production should increase, and the wage percentage of gross income should return to the normal range of 19%-22%.

In addition, create a “producer mentality” among the team. If tasks aren’t getting done and practice goals are not being met, is it possible you have certain staff who are locked into the “it’s not my job mentality”? Each employee should understand the bigger picture.  What is the practice in business to do? What is the mission? What are the practice goals?  What is each employee’s objective? When everyone clearly understands the mission and goals of the practice and that they are expected to do what is necessary to achieve those goals, they are more likely to step in when it’s crunch time.

For example, if the doctor is away at continuing education, Jenny, the assistant, may have time to pick up the phone, follow the appropriate treatment presentation script and book unscheduled treatment – helping the practice meet monthly production goals.

To reinforce the “producer mentality” encourage employees to develop producer-focused job descriptions, incorporating into the description exactly how the role fits into or contributes to the success of the entire practice. Provide an example description, such as the one below. Although the dentist has the final say in each employee’s responsibilities, input from the team members is particularly beneficial in encouraging ownership and a producer mentality.

  1. Define the job. Scheduling Coordinator. Greets patients when they enter the office. Updates patient information such as address, phone number, insurance. Provides new patient registration information. First in line to answer all incoming calls. Schedules appointments and handles daily patient records.
  2. Spell out specifically what skills are necessary for the position. Articulate, well organized, good listener, ability to manage multiple tasks and handle regular interruptions. Is comfortable politely directing patients to specific times in the schedule. Ability to work with computer systems and dental software. Enjoys working with and helping others.
  3. Outline the specific duties and responsibilities of the job. Schedules to meet doctor’s daily production goals. Notifies the clinical staff of patient arrival. Tracks unscheduled treatment for doctor. Reports regularly to doctor and team on the status of the schedule. Prepares patient records for doctor. Handles correspondence for the practice. Tracks all conversations with patients on the computer. Runs specific production reports from the computer. Reports on production as compared to the goal at daily and monthly meetings. Orders office supplies. Works with other members of the team to meet practice goals and fulfill the overall practice mission.

Job descriptions are essential tools in clarifying employee expectations, emphasizing individual accountability, reinforcing the “producer mentality,” and encouraging teamwork and collaboration when necessary.

So before you succumb to the cries of woe from your staff and rush to hire another person, look closely at maximizing those already on the payroll. And if you must hire a “helper” make sure you invest in one who will produce.

Interested in speaking to Sally about your practice concerns? Email her at sallymck@mckenziemgmt.com.

Interested in having Sally speak to your dental society or study club? Click Here.

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