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1.27.06 Issue #203  
The New Patients You Never Knew

Sally McKenzie, CEO
The McKenzie Company

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The phone rings, the front desk handles the call, you go about performing dentistry and seldom give those perfunctory phone duties a second thought. Except, perhaps, when you happen to overhear a response from your front desk employee that troubles you or you start to wonder why new patient numbers are weak. Then you might begin to question just how those perfunctory phone duties are handled. Unfortunately, if yours is like many practices, they are probably not handled well.

Dental teams grossly underestimate the expectations of potential new patients. While many of today’s patients are demanding, they also are intelligent. And intelligent patients are the best patients. They do their homework. They are more likely to appreciate excellent dental care. They are at least familiar with some of the options available in dentistry, and they are genuinely open to learning more. And that is where dental teams often fail to meet the prospective patients’ expectations.

Take the example of Mrs. Carolyn S. Her dentist is retiring and she is looking for another practice. She calls your office on Monday morning. She would like information sent to her home about you, the office, and what your practice has to offer. She’s also interested in any literature on whitening and implant dentistry. Mrs. S. is a professional. Any service purchased whether it’s service for her car, her home, or her oral health is purchased only after careful research and evaluation. 

Linda, your Business Coordinator, is busy with a number of things on this Monday morning including Mrs. S.’s inquiry. She quickly jots down her name and address and promises to mail the information out ASAP. As soon as possible, in this case is about three months later when Linda happens to stumble upon the scrap piece of paper with her note to send Mrs. S. practice info, brochures on whitening, and information on implants. Prospective new patient Mrs. S. is long gone.

All the superior dentistry you have to offer cannot make up for a lack of follow through on the part of your staff. The experience that prospective new patient has when they call your office is the make it or break it opportunity. It doesn’t matter if they know you personally. It doesn’t matter if they’ve heard you’re fantastic from their colleague or personally seen your work and been wowed by it. If the front desk is too busy to take the time to make the prospective patient feel valued and welcome, if the material they request is never received, if they simply don’t get the impression that their investment in your practice will be appreciated, they are not likely to bother making the appointment.

For most practices, just being aware of how prospective new patient inquires are handled is a big step in the right direction. Start paying attention. Keep a list of the types of inquiries the practice is receiving and discuss how the office responds to these. If patients are requesting information that you don’t have readily available, establish a timeline to develop and/or purchase the necessary informational materials. Establish a protocol for handling all inquiries, including calls from new patients seeking appointments, calls from prospective patients seeking information on the doctor, the practice, procedures offered, etc.

Prospective patients who request information should be sent the material the day the request is made – not the next, not at the end of the week, not when the business team gets around to it – the day they ask for it. Consider including additional information about the practice, such as the doctor’s commitment to providing the best possible care for patients. Information emphasizing 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 make the patient wait more than 5-10 minutes, etc.

The prospective new patient has given you permission to market your practice, to educate and inform them. They expect it and they want to know what you have to offer. Make the most of it.

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Build a Super Bowl Team

Dr. Nancy Haller
Executive Coach
McKenzie Management

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The BIG game is next week. The hype has started. Maybe you’ll tune in to see if the Rolling Stones have any ‘wardrobe malfunctions’. Perhaps you find the commercials entertaining.

Truth be told, I’m not that interested in football, but I am extremely interested in leadership. And it just so happens that sports is one of the best ways to learn about good (and bad) leadership techniques…and team performance.

I'm not saying that dentistry is like football. But people are people, and the keys to influencing them to perform to their full potential are pretty much the same whether they're playing on a field or working in your practice!

If you’re frustrated by an employee that needs constant pampering, just imagine being a football coach with a group of prima donnas! Leading for peak performance is hard work. And being an NFL coach is the ultimate high-pressure job. What if the media were in your operatories scrutinizing and second-guessing your every move? Add that to the possibility that you might be fired if you didn’t have results.

To make it to the Super Bowl, a team needs leadership. If you want to ‘wear the ring’, the principles and values that ultimately drive Super Bowl victories can help you to achieve greater success in your practice. Just like an NFL coach needs to know more than X’s and O’s to be a winner, you need to go beyond drilling and filling to run a productive dental business.

Pick the best people.

The NFL draft is the selection process for each franchise. Sizable sums of time and money are spent on assessing players. Many teams use psychologists and personality testing to make the most informed decisions. McKenzie’s Employee Assessment Test enables you to identify peak performers so you can hire wisely.

Have a plan.
Communicate expectations.
Clarify job responsibilities with every employee.

Coaches do their most important work before game day. They formulate plays for different scenarios. Winning coaches also meet with their players for alignment with those plans. Then they review films and make adjustments.

Just like a winning coach, give constant feedback. Morning ‘huddles’ are important and so are monthly staff meetings. As the leader, be sure to illuminate what’s working…the good ‘plays’. Show each team member the value of their contributions to practice successes. Help them to improve in areas that need attention. By teaching and training your employees, you enable them to align with your expectations. When each person understands and executes his/her role, it leads to a winning team.

Create a positive bond between members and leaders.
Team chemistry comes from intense training and time together. It doesn’t mean that everyone is each other’s best friend. But if there is competition between team members it’s healthy, not destructive. The competition pushes each to do better.

In addition to staff meetings, schedule time for your team to be together outside the office. Conduct a one or two day retreat that encompasses training with fun activities that unify employees. It will keep your team fresh and motivated to perform.

Hold people accountable.

The NFL suspends players whose outrageous behaviors show they care more about themselves than the quality of teamwork and performance.  As leader of your dental team, you must be disciplined…and you must strive for a disciplined staff of employees. Praise and encouragement are as important as constructive criticism.

Be determined and tough-minded.

Mental toughness is a prerequisite to Super Bowl team success. Intercept doom-and-gloom thinking when you’ve had a hard day. Exceptional people don't shrink from set backs. They're willing to sacrifice for themselves, and for others. Challenge negative beliefs and pessimistic forecasting. To build a winning team, keep your employees focused on getting their work done, even in times of chaos and uncertainty. Your team will reflect your actions. Be resilient.

Super Bowl leadership is about relating to people in such a way as to inspire them to give their best effort, for themselves and for their team.

Let Dr. Nancy Haller coach you and your team to higher levels of performance.

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Adding Hygiene Chair Time?

Jean Gallienne RDH BS
Hygiene Consultant McKenzie Management

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So, you have decided to add a hygienist to your practice or you are thinking about adding a day of hygiene to your already existing hygiene department, or even worse you have an existing hygiene department that has a lot of open time.

Let’s talk about what a dental office may want to evaluate when looking at adding a hygienist for the first time or when thinking about adding more hygiene time. It involves more than hiring the hygienist to fill the time and do the prophylaxis. Listed below are just a few of the things that you may want to have evaluated before adding a hygienist or more days:

  • How much hygiene chair time do you need? .
  • Are salaries in line with production?
  • Do you have an Interceptive periodontal therapy program in place? Is it productive?
  • Is your practice growing?
  • Do you have a written x-ray and periodontal recall protocol?
  • Does your Hygienist provide ancillary services?

While you may not have ever thought about how the hygiene department could be tracked statistically, we are going to look at the hygiene department as a business within a business.

For example, how much hygiene availability do you really need? Unfortunately, most dental offices determine their availability simply by looking at the schedule and seeing holes or no openings.

Are your hygiene salaries in line with production or what are you going to pay the hygienist you are about to hire? What will determine raises? You can’t have more going out of the checkbook in salaries than you are putting into the checkbook with collections.
What will the protocol be for your interceptive periodontal therapy program? How will the patient be routed through the office when they have been diagnosed with periodontal disease? Who is responsible to go over financial arrangements? Do you have an interceptive periodontal therapy program in place and if so, how successful is it? Many hygiene departments simply provide prophylaxis, exam, and bitewings with an occasional root planing.

Do you have a written x-ray protocol? Are bitewings taken every six-month, once a year or every eighteen to twenty-four months? Is your hygiene department meeting or exceeding this protocol?
I think you get the picture now, there is much more to a hygiene department than making a recall appointment.

As far as recall, how does your current recall system work or how is your recall system going to work? What is the protocol when it comes to making the next appointment for the patient? What is the office policy when it comes to no-shows and cancellations? How are you going to fill open time? Who is responsible for working the recall system? Hygienists who rely on “down time” from treating patients to work on the system rarely devote the amount of time actually needed to make the system successful. The recall system is the most neglected system in dentistry. The time required to successfully operate this system can only be obtained by delegating the task to a person who is not involved in duties, which routinely contain interruption as most front desk positions do. The recall retention system directly affects the largest patient referral source in the dental practice, word of mouth referrals from existing patients. It costs five times as much to get one new patient as it does just keeping the ones you currently have. Therefore, the practice’s investment in a retention system that will keep patients returning should not be minimal.

Having hygiene open time is a hardship on everyone. In many practices it means that the hygienist is still getting a salary and nothing is being produced. If nothing is produced, then no monies are collected but expenses are still occurring.

Our goals with the Advanced Hygiene Performance Enrichment program are to help prevent any open time, no shows, or cancellations from occurring in the first place. To have the hygiene department meet or exceed the industry standards which are:

  • 33% of practice production coming from the hygiene department.
  • Hygienist’s salaries should not exceed 33% of their production.
  • 33% of total hygiene production should come form ancillary services and an interceptive periodontal program.

So, if you are thinking about making changes or adding a hygiene department you may want to do this self evaluation above and consider having an outside professional come in to your practice in order to help prevent future chaos or breakdown with your hygiene department.

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