Patients “Rule” the Practice
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.
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.
#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.
#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,
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.
#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.
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.
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.
you have any questions or comments, please email Sally McKenzie
in having Sally speak to your dental society or study club?
to Manage Your Staff Better?
Manage Yourself First!
Dr. Nancy Haller
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
aware of your inner dialogue. Notice the content of thoughts
associated with your victories and defeats. Identify
common themes, and ask yourself:
this thinking in my best interest?
this thinking help me to feel the way I want to, or does it make
me worried and tense?
this thinking help me to perform better?
your thinking isn’t useful, change it.
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.
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
Learn to Concentrate.
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.
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’.
Be Committed to Success.
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
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!
in having Dr. Haller speak to your dental society or study club?
her at email@example.com
DOES YOUR OVERHEAD
Leader must not only set direction, but communicate that direction…he
must bring people on board, excite them about his vision and earn
Former NYC Mayor Rudolph Giuliani
Belle M. DuCharme
RDA, CDPMA, Director
The Center for
Dental Career Development
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
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.”
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.
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.
areas that should be addressed in an Office Policy Manual including
but not limited to the following:
Employee Recruitment (interviewing, testing and hiring)
Employee Orientation and Training
Employee Attendance (vacation, sick leave, jury duty, Military
leave, maternity leave, etc.)
Employee Compensation and Benefits
Employee Performance Measurements and Evaluations
Employee Team Meetings
Employee Standards for Patient Contact
Employee Job Descriptions
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.
M. DuCharme, RDA, CDPMA
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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.
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.
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.
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.
you Sally, for all your interesting tips.
Regional Sales Consultant
Virtual Image Guided Implant Surgery
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