Signs of a “Sick” Practice - Part 2
Last week, I shared with you the story of my friend whose experience with her long-time dentist is prompting her to seek a new doctor. The reason: She doesn’t think he wants to do dentistry. Let me recap her situation: She is frustrated because the office is open only three days a week. The office manager insists on six-month scheduling for patients. Yet it is clear that the practice has a serious problem with cancellation and no-shows. The manager is inflexible and, frankly, rude to patients that must reschedule or cancel at the last minute.
The doctor, who is in his 60s, is extremely conservative in his treatment planning. His three-day-a-week schedule is riddled with openings. Yet, my friend had to practically beg him to address the cosmetic issues she had lived with for years and was finally prepared to invest in. He recommended six anterior crowns for the patient and floated the possibility of whitening as well as adult ortho. My friend was excited about the potential. But clearly, this would be a significant investment, and she wanted more information. The assistant promised her that the office would call to schedule a treatment consultation visit in which the doctor would thoroughly explain his recommendations.
The patient waited for FIVE weeks, yet heard nothing from the practice. Finally, she picked up the phone and called them. The manager explained that the doctor still had her file on his desk, but would recommend she come in to get a current set of X-rays. The office manager told her that the office could see her within the next day or two for the X-rays. No treatment plan. No consultation with the doctor about his recommendations, just X-rays. My friend was stunned, to say the least.
After five weeks, she may well have begun treatment - but there her record sat, on the doctor’s desk. Obviously, she was interested in pursuing the recommended plan. But now she is sincerely concerned that this practice simply does not value her or her business. She’s looking at a sizeable investment, one that the car dealer down the road would be thrilled to have and would likely treat her far better than she’s been treated by this practice. So I wasn’t surprised when she asked me a very pointed question, “Sally, do dental practices make so much money that they really don’t need patients like me to invest $12,000-$14,000 in dental care?”
We get calls daily from practices just like this. The doctors and staff are totally baffled as to why they are not producing more. They can’t see the forest for the trees. This is the perfect example of how a “sick practice” cannot diagnose its own problems, let alone address them.
As I noted last week, this practice suffers from numerous issues. This doctor is likely uncomfortable with treatment presentation. We know that he is extremely conservative in his diagnoses and treatment recommendations. My friend may perceive that he doesn’t “want” to do the dentistry, and he may well lack the confidence in his skills. Therefore, he sabotages the treatment plan, or in this case, does everything he can to simply avoid it. Compound that with inconvenient hours, and an office manager who insists on doing things “her way” - which is a clear indication that she has likely never received professional training. She has probably taught herself everything she thinks she needs to know, and thus created her only little fiefdom.
Customer service does not exist in this practice. There are clearly no systems in which the office is following up with patients regarding treatment plans. There is no established treatment plan presentation system. In this case, the doctor informally chatted with the patient about possibilities. In turn, the patient was ready to make a sizable investment in treatment. All she wanted was more information. Yet she found it virtually impossible to get the details she needed to proceed. Is it any wonder, this patient perceives that either the doctor doesn’t want to do the dentistry or the practice doesn’t need patients like her.
My advice to her: Find a new dentist. My advice to practices that simply cannot understand why they are struggling: Seek outside help to identify the weaknesses in the operations that are keeping the practice from achieving its full potential.
For more information on this topic, visit my blog: The Lighter Side.
Interested in speaking to me about your practice concerns? Email firstname.lastname@example.org
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