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  Sally McKenzie's
 Weekly Management e-Motivator
  6.18.04 Issue #119

New Patients “Rule” the Practice

Sally Mckenzie, CEO
McKenzie Management

       Making the new patient experience positive for both the patient and the practice typically boils down to solid, common sense. It’s a matter of looking at the experience from the patient’s perspective, following a few key rules, and focusing on providing the very best service. Patients want to believe they are not just another appointment on your schedule. Patients reciprocate with referrals and they are more open to accepting higher dollar treatment plans when they feel respected and valued.

If new patients aren’t returning, take a look at the obvious. Remember rules 1,2, and 3 that we reviewed last week: 1. Be prepared to handle the demand. Don’t make new patients wait more than two weeks for an appointment. 2. Reserve new patient slots during prime time and diversified times. How many? Generate from your computer the report that shows you how many of each procedure you did by ADA Code. Go back 12 months, add up the 00150’s (comprehensive exams) and divide by weeks worked to know how many slots to reserve. 3. Never underestimate the new patient’s expectations. And consider a few more basic tenets to keeping your new patients returning.

Rule #4 - Manage the new patient’s expectations through excellent phone communication. Make sure that the first point of contact a patient has with your office –the phone call- is not their last. Develop a script for the scheduling coordinator to use when handling a new patient phone call. Her voice should convey warmth, understanding, and a positive demeanor. She should come across as unhurried and helpful. If the receptionist answers the phone with a curt, hurried, or exasperated tone, the caller is immediately put off. If the receptionist is sincere and empathetic, the caller responds accordingly.

Rule #5 - Send every new patient a Welcome Packet the same day they call to schedule their first appointment. This includes a brief welcome letter from the doctor indicating his commitment to providing the best possible care for patients. The letter also emphasizes specific qualities about the practice that set it apart from others, such as, the extremely high infection control standards, dentistry for the entire family, painless dentistry techniques, cosmetic dentistry, a commitment to never making the patient wait more than 5-10 minutes, etc.

If the practice has a website, encourage the patient to learn more about the practice and the staff by visiting the site at their convenience. The Welcome Packet also should include a business card, a New Patient Information form, and a map to the practice with the office phone number on it.

Rule #6 - When the new patient arrives, they should feel like they are the most important person in your office. If the patient has not already submitted forms contained in the new patient packet via fax or email, politely explain to the patient precisely what needs to be completed on their paperwork. Direct them to a comfortable place to sit in the waiting area. When they have completed the new patient forms do not make them wait more than three to five minutes. If possible, the treatment coordinator, who introduces herself to the new patient, should escort them into a patient consult room where their paperwork can be reviewed to ensure everything has been completed and, most importantly, the coordinator can discus the excellent quality care available in the practice – again according to a well-developed and rehearsed script. Take the new patient on a brief tour of the office showing them the treatment rooms, hygiene rooms, state-of-the-art equipment, rigorous infection control procedures, etc. Pay attention to the questions they ask and the comments they make. These provide insight into the patient’s own oral health goals, objectives, and possible concerns.

The assistant then introduces herself to the patient and seats them in a treatment room, followed in immediately by the doctor. The doctor then asks the patient a series of questions beginning with, “What brings you to our office today, Mrs. Jones?” The objective is to learn what is motivating the patient to seek dental care, and determine the patient’s wants, needs, and expectations for their dental care. The focus is on what you can do for the patient not what you are going to do to the patient.

Whether the new patient sees the doctor or the hygienist first is a decision best left to the individual practice. However, a point to remember…if you have a ‘customer’ who wants to buy something from your practice and you have an untrained person on the phone telling them they can’t buy ‘it’ at your practice the way they want, you stand the chance of not securing that first patient appointment. Lesson learned? Give the customer what they ask for. Build trust and rapport and once that is accomplished you can manage the patient to your philosophy. The bottom line is that the patient should leave the appointment feeling very positive about the experience and the team and excited about the potential opportunities this new practice offers for them to achieve their dental wants and needs.

If you have any questions or comments, please email Sally McKenzie at

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Want to Manage Your Staff Better?
Manage Yourself First!

Dr. Nancy Haller
Executive Coach
McKenzie Management

From Dr. Haller:
I have received a number of emails, letter and calls from dentists who are experiencing stressful staff interactions. In some cases the employee’s behavior has been outrageous. However, in most situations, the dentist also has been contributing to the conflict or difficulty. Therefore, this week's article is focused on managing the doctor first.

Succeeding in the competitive world of dentistry requires creativity, imagination and, most important, mental toughness. Resiliency - the ability to ‘bounce back’ when circumstances are difficult - is the key factor to surviving in these enormously challenging times in which we live and work. Remember that you have no control over others, but you have full control over yourself. And by changing your own behavior, you increase the likelihood of changing your staff.

Research indicates that there are some common characteristics of optimal experience – that state when you feel strong, concentrated, motivated. Many of the studies on peak performance have been done with athletes. It’s easy to manage ourselves with the ‘the thrill of victory’. But how do you handle the ‘agony of defeat’? Indeed, the toughest course is the six inches between your ears. Here then are the mental fundamentals of sports and business.

1. Set Goals.

“If you don’t know where you’re going, you might wind up someplace else.” This famous quote, attributed to former New York Yankees catcher Yogi Berra, underscores the importance of goal setting, perhaps the most powerful technique for enhancing performance. Goals direct your attention and help you to prioritize. They also mobilize effort, increase persistence and promote learning. The most effective goals are progressive.

Think about a staircase, with the top stair representing your long-range objective, and the bottom step being your immediate goal. The stairs in the middle represent a series of inter-related goals. Each step builds on the previous one, and allows you the opportunity to feel successful and on target. Goals should be paired with strategies to achieve them (i.e. how are you going to get there). They should be realistic in terms of difficulty and time requirements. Write your goals down and evaluate them routinely.

2. Nurture Self-Confidence.

Think about what you want to happen, rather than getting caught up in how bad things are going, or worrying about the worst possible scenario. Successful people believe that their efforts will ultimately yield success. They strive for excellence, not perfection.

Become aware of your inner dialogue. Notice the content of thoughts associated with your victories and defeats. Identify common themes, and ask yourself:

  • Is this thinking in my best interest?
  • Does this thinking help me to feel the way I want to, or does it make me worried and tense?
  • Does this thinking help me to perform better?

If your thinking isn’t useful, change it.

3. Control Emotions.

During the evolution of humankind, the stress response was an essential protective mechanism to survive in a hostile world. But in the absence of real life-and-death dangers, adrenaline can be disorganizing and it can escalate office conflicts.

Be aware of your emotional state, and adjust it as needed to reach the optimal arousal level for peak performance. A valuable strategy to increase your self-awareness is to keep a journal. Write in it daily. Note what stressors you encountered and how you responded to each one. Assess your physiological and behavioral reactions. Determine whether your arousal level was too high, or too low. Identify what you can do to cope more effectively.

4. Learn to Concentrate.

Concentration is a purity of mind, a state when you are paying attention to the task at hand. Being concentrated means you are not distracted by irrelevant internal or external events. Concentration requires being totally in the present.

One of the best ways to do this is to breathe. Inhale slowly through your nose and from your diaphragm while you count to four or five. Then hold the breath for another count. Gradually exhale by mouth, doubling the count, while mentally saying a word like ‘relax’ or ‘calm’.

5. Be Committed to Success.

In business, just as in sports and life, it’s the follow-through that makes the difference. “Trying” is merely an excuse to fail. Eliminate ‘maybe’ and ‘some day’ from your vocabulary. As the Nike slogan went, “just do it”!

When you commit yourself to positive change, remember that it will feel awkward for a while because you’re changing habits. There is no magic, no easy way to gain the mental edge. It takes practice, practice, practice. Success in sports and in business comes with discipline, dedication, and diligence. Outstanding achievements are the direct result of enthusiasm for your goals, confidence in yourself, and commitment to your personal best. And remember to enjoy the game!

Nancy Haller, Ph.D.

Interested in having Dr. Haller speak to your dental society or study club?
Email her at


Dental Practice Start-UP

“A Leader must not only set direction, but communicate that direction…he must bring people on board, excite them about his vision and earn their support.”
Former NYC Mayor Rudolph Giuliani

Belle M. DuCharme
RDA, CDPMA, Director
The Center for
Dental Career Development

         At The Center for Dental Career Development, our mission is to educate doctors and their business staff to create a productive, harmonious and profitable practice environment. Education has always been the center of the relationship between doctor and patient. The doctor must provide information about dental disease and instruction about removal and prevention of disease. For the most part, dental offices are “small” businesses with a “family” atmosphere. As family members we strive to help our patients understand the need to have excellent oral health and what they can do to

correct the pattern of oral disease. Before anything else, we are health care providers with the patient at the center of our daily work. The doctor approaches clinical dentistry with zeal and awesome skill only to be stopped by the “business of dentistry.”

A young dentist, preparing to open his new practice, came in for our Practice Start-up Program. We were going over the systems that operate the business office and he said to me, “ I just don’t want the same things that are happening with staff at the office I presently work in to happen in my new office. People “pass the buck” and it doesn’t seem to stop anywhere until it gets to the dentist. There is chaos and everyone has their own agenda with many things not getting done to satisfaction.” I asked him, “Did you ever take a look at the staff hiring and training policies in the office?” “There is no written office policy addressing those issues that I am aware of, besides I did not want to get involved in his office affairs.” If there aren’t any written office policies or definite areas of accountability then each staff member will create their own.

As a dentist employer you will need to have an OFFICE POLICY MANUAL that spells out employees responsibilities and rights. Policies must be nondiscriminatory and meet your particular states guidelines for anti-harassment laws. In addition to policies about nondiscrimination and anti-harassment, there must be policies for electronic communication, HIPAA, and OSHA. The policy needs to be written clearly so that each employee understands their area of responsibility to the laws of compliance. Information about the above stated policies is available through the ADA.

Other areas that should be addressed in an Office Policy Manual including but not limited to the following:

  1. Employee Recruitment (interviewing, testing and hiring)
  2. Employee Management
  3. Employee Orientation and Training
  4. Employee Attendance (vacation, sick leave, jury duty, Military leave, maternity leave, etc.)
  5. Employee Compensation and Benefits
  6. Employee Performance Measurements and Evaluations
  7. Employee Team Meetings
  8. Employee Standards for Patient Contact
  9. Employee Job Descriptions
  10. Employee Disciplinary Procedures

A written Office Policy Manual can be added to or updated whenever an issue arises necessitating a change. The important thing is to have one. It is not intended to be a “contract” of employment. It is a system rulebook that will prevent chaos and unaccountability in your team. Here at The Center, it is my mission to guide you to create that harmonious and productive work environment of your dreams.
Keep Smiling!

Belle M. DuCharme, RDA, CDPMA

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Sally's Mail Bag

A wonderful message I received regarding last week’s article from a friend and fellow dental colleague that I wanted to share.


I always enjoy reading your tips each week. It may surprise you to know that some of us in the education/sales venue are interested in what you have to say. Even though my vocation is not in an office or in dealing with patients, one point you made this week interested me in particular. That was that the patient or prospective patient does not care if you are having a bad day. You are so right about this. It applies to my profession too, and we are always teaching this to our new people.

The mark of a true professional, whether in a practice like you are describing, or someone like me who calls on practices to educate and provide them with the latest technology, is in never telegraphing to our patients (or customers) that we are having a bad day. It is instant death in either case.

I always do a "centering moment" before I walk into an office where I take a moment to clearly focus on what I am there to do, and check and make sure that my attitude is one which automatically makes people feel comfortable and like me. If I am successful at both things, I walk away with something from the appointment, and I always try to make a friend while I am doing it. So, maybe the answer is to put aside the fact that you are the "big bad boss of the practice" for a minute and put yourself in the patient's place. 9 times out of 10, that is the way the doctor would want you to handle it and would handle it him or herself, and if the doctor doesn't do it and allows any staff member to convey any message that can be interpreted as, "I don't have time for you, or I am too busy to be bothered with your problem", then that doctor has not earned your business. Pleasing your customer is not always easy, but there is always a reward if for no other reason than just because "it's the right thing to do". If you can feel good about how you treated your customer or patient when you or they walk away, then you did it right, and they will likely return to you.

This applies to everyone you meet, patients, sales people, or anyone who walks into your office. If you are a representative of the practice, (and you are if they give you a paycheck), then your attitude will be seen as the attitude of the practice. If you display a professional attitude with a positive slant, that will be the perception that the person you meet walks away with. If you set up roadblocks and are difficult to deal with then that is what the person you are dealing with will say about you to his or her friends and family. Never forget you are a practice representative. Your attitude is assumed to be the attitude of the doctor or doctors you work for and that you are simply doing what you are instructed to do.

Thank you Sally, for all your interesting tips.

Jim Uhrig
Regional Sales Consultant
AlloVision USA
Virtual Image Guided Implant Surgery

Office Managers
Financial Coordinators
Scheduling Coordinators
Treatment Coordinators
Hygiene Coordinators

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La Jolla, CA 92037

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Want to Know More About McKenzie Management?

This issue is sponsored
in part by:
The Center for Dental Career Development
San Diego Workshop Series
Summer Schedule
 Date Seminar Instructor(s)  
 July 9
 9:00 - 4:00
How to Become an EXCEPTIONAL Front Office Dental Employee Belle DuCharme, RDA, CDPMA  
 August 6
 9:00 - 4:00
10 Vital Skills to Master Management of Your Dental Practice Belle DuCharme, RDA, CDPMA  
 August 27
 9:00 - 4:00
How to Become an EXCEPTIONAL Front Office Dental Employee Belle DuCharme, RDA, CDPMA  

The Center for Dental Career Development has been approved under the Academy of General Dentistry, Program Approval for Continuing Education (PACE). Starting 10/19/03 through 10/18/07 members of the Academy of General Dentistry can receive AGD credits for all seminars and workshops sponsored by the Center for Dental Career Development.

Please visit to view a list of upcoming seminars and workshops.

To Register 877-900-5775 or
McKenzie Management Upcoming Events
Date Location Sponsor Speaker
June 25-26 Atlanta, GA Endo Magic Root Camp Sally McKenzie
July 8-11 Anaheim, CA Academy of General Dentistry Sally McKenzie & Exhibiting
July 16 Medford, OR S. Oregon Dental Society Sally McKenzie
Aug 7 San Diego, CA Dental Manufacturers Association Sally McKenzie
Sep 10 -12 San Francisco, CA California Dental Association Exhibiting

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