Burnout Have You Checked Out?
Burnout is an interesting experience. We see it typically in offices in which the doctor has been practicing for 15-20 years. There can be several contributing factors, but in many cases, the doctors are tired. They have been waging an uphill battle for far too long, typically moving from one crisis situation to the next - staff turnover, low treatment acceptance, lack of new patients. In the past, they could muddle through. They were busy enough that even if things weren’t perfect, the practice was doing pretty well - until a few years ago, when circumstances quickly went from good enough to barely getting by.
Problems in practice systems pile on. Overwhelmed and under-enthused, the doctors try burying their heads in the dentistry. The only catch: the demand for treatment is down. Serious system troubles mean that typical practice feeders such as new patient promotions, hygiene visits, and treatment acceptance are in severe trouble. While these situations often require professional practice management intervention, there are steps doctors can take to refocus the team and reenergize the practice.
First take responsibility. Lack of leadership from the doctor breeds apathy among the team. Practices that are not cared for go into autopilot. Those that remain on autopilot struggle, and in some cases even fail.
Next, take a close look at key treatment generators. If you are engaging in new patient promotions, make sure that your business team is trained to represent the doctor and the office effectively on the phone. If they are not, you are wasting a fortune on marketing that is being derailed at the frontline. Truth be told, most front office staff view the telephone as a source of frustration and interruption. Oftentimes that irritation comes through loud and clear to the caller. Consequently, it’s costing dental practices a fortune in lost patients and lost production.
Consider the following patient facts:
Do you know how your team members come across on the telephone? If not, find out. McKenzie Management can have a professional mystery patient call your office for the purpose of evaluating phone etiquette, hold times, customer service, etc. You receive a report and recording that enables you to hear exactly what transpires on the phone between your patients and your staff.
Next, examine hygiene production. The hygienist should be producing three times her/his salary. If that’s not happening, it’s most likely that patients are cancelling or not showing for their appointments. It is critical that all hygiene appointments be confirmed via phone, text message, and/or email - whichever communication method is preferred and most effective with the individual patient.
Ensure that the patients understand the true value of the “routine” hygiene visits. Enhance patient perception of the hygiene appointment by explaining the impact of oral health on systemic health, periodontal health, and oral cancer. This increases the patient’s perceived value of routine care. If a periodontal co-examination is performed and the hygienist talks about the results and educates the patient - even healthy patients - they will have far greater appreciation and understanding when you must recommend that they be seen in four months rather than six.
In addition, rather than sending patients away with nothing more than a yellow credit card receipt, include a hygiene appointment summary. This might provide a list of all of the procedures performed such as periodontal exam, oral cancer exam, a brief review of the hygiene evaluation, home care instructions, a reminder as to specific areas the patient should pay special attention to between now and their next visit, the doctor’s recommendation for follow-up treatment, and a list of free products given to the patient along with their estimated value.
Finally, evaluate doctor and team attitudes toward treatment acceptance. Do you or members of your team undermine practice production by assuming that patients will not consider ideal treatment options? Do you suggest that treatment isn’t urgent, so the patient perceives they can put it off indefinitely? Do staff imply to patients that fees for dentistry are too high? Are you truly comfortable presenting treatment plans, or would this be better delegated to a trained treatment coordinator?
If practice problems and burnout have you feeling overwhelmed and under-enthused, seek help. In the meantime, start examining your production feeders and begin reclaiming your practice.
Want more of me? Click here to visit my blog, The Lighter Side, for more Dental Practice Management info.
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