4.20.07 - Issue # 267 Forward This Newsletter To A Colleague

Creating a Welcome Change
by Sally McKenzie CEO
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To change is difficult. Not to change is fatal. Ed Allen

In a small practice a simple change can make the difference between keeping a patient and losing them, between scheduling someone for treatment and letting them drift away. But change, as we know, is difficult. People fear change because they are uncertain how it will affect them. Employees often resist change because they are concerned that they will lose power or control or they feel their job security will be threatened.

Supervisors, who are often uncertain how to implement change, will simply thrust change upon the staff, giving them little or no input, training, or advance preparation. One day the employee is going along just fine, fulfilling their duties as they believe they should be and the next day they have to completely change how they do something.

For example, Dr. Jordon decided he wanted his employee, Nichole, to begin  following-up with patients to remind them of their appointments 48-hours in advance. In addition, he wanted Nichole to contact patients with unscheduled treatment in their records. Nichole was instantly resistant to the idea and told Dr. Jordon that patients would feel they were being “hounded” by the practice.

In reality, most patients appreciate reminders and welcome a call from a practice that is genuinely concerned about their wellbeing. After all, patients are dealing with dozens of demands, responsibilities, and stresses. They are so overextended between employment issues, children’s activities, volunteer responsibilities, economic concerns, and so on that when it comes to a commitment that the patient may not feel is absolutely necessary, such as a dental appointment, it’s likely to be relegated to the “I’ll get to it eventually” category. Therefore, a follow-up phone call from the practice reinforces the importance of keeping or scheduling the appointment.

But…back to Nichole. What is probably going on in Dr. Jordon’s practice has little to do with her concern about how patients will feel. Rather, this is about Nichole’s fear of change. She is very comfortable with her current duties. What’s more, she has absolutely no idea how to encourage patients to keep or schedule their appointments.

Dr. Jordon is right to want to have the practice follow-up with patients, but if Nichole is going to be responsible for carrying out this duty, she needs the tools to do so effectively. In this case, scripts.  

Scripts ensure that when it comes to day-to-day patient communication everyone is saying the same thing. For example, when Nichole calls patients to remind them of their appointments, she has a general template of what she’s going to cover with the patient. In addition, she’ll personalize the call by noting a particular area of concern. She’ll reinforce the need for the treatment, based on the patient information in the chart. This personal attention impresses upon the patient both the importance of the appointment and the fact that Dr. Jordon’s practice is truly attentive. Finally, she can use this follow-up call as an opportunity to remind patients about any pre-medication needs and offer to call the necessary prescriptions into their pharmacies.

In addition to helping Nichole succeed in carrying out her new duties, scripts can benefit virtually every member of the team. When it comes to collections, a script enables even those most reticent to effectively request payment from patients. They enable the entire team to effectively communicate with past due patients, to reach out to those with unscheduled treatment, and to expertly handle those who have failed appointments. Scripts enable the clinical team to boost treatment acceptance because they understand how and when to effectively educate patients on recommended procedures.

The bottom line: Everyone knows what to say, how to say it, and when to say it because they are prepared. They aren’t in a situation in which they have to think on their feet. Rather the communication is natural and comfortable because they have practiced thoroughly and are confident in virtually every patient communication scenario. 

While asking employees to change how they handle certain procedures or daily interactions with patients is likely to be greeted with resistance, providing them the tools to succeed will go a long way in making the change process exciting and positive rather than frightening and negative.

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

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