From Taskmaster to Telephone Toastmaster
Jean Gallienne RDH BS
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Many offices complain about patients not showing for appointments, canceling at the last minute or scheduling the appointment the day before and the patient confirming they would be there and then they do not show up.
When the patient is called, they just state, “I forgot”. So…overnight they forgot they had an appointment with the dentist? They may have, particularly if they do not place any need or value to the appointment.
Throughout the professional hygiene appointment, the hygienist should show the patient, with the aid of a hand mirror or the intra-oral camera, potential problem areas; whether periodontally involved or requiring possible restorative work in the near future. The more verbal communication and visualization are used, the better the patient understands the need to return and how it will benefit them.
The patient needs to know how important it is to return on an interval appropriate for them and a system to track and contact patients. Today’s computer system allows you that ability. It will remind you when they are expected to return, why they need to come back, how much time is needed for their appointment, and when is the best time to schedule them and all the information needed to contact them.
At the completion of the hygiene visit, the hygienist should review the findings with the patient. The patient is informed when it is appropriate to return for the next hygiene visit and why it is important to schedule that appointment when they receive notification.
The hygienist will write a personal note on the invitation style recall notice, or note card, reminding the patient why it is important for them to return for their appointment. This personalization tells the patient he’s not just one of the thousand mouths you look at a year, but an individual that you specifically care about. It is best to reference a clinical observation versus a personal message. This message will also be put into the computer so the patient coordinator has access to this information when they call to confirm the patient’s appointment.
The clinical, “why you need to return message”, can be used as a “selling” point to the patient when doing telephone follow up. Being able to reinforce the reason of why the patient needs to return is critical. The American Dental Association has stated that the number one reason why patients don’t visit the dentist is because they don’t perceive the need.
The patients rely on the dentist and hygienist for expert advice regarding why they need to maintain good oral health and how to achieve it. That’s why they go to a professional rather than relying on their own judgment.
It is also important that the dentist point out again, with the aid of visualization, possible areas for treatment that need to be “reevaluated” on the return recall visit. The hygienist will still have the pictures on the intra-oral monitor areas of concern for the doctor to address.
Once again it is the responsibility of the entire team to help with creating a need and educating the patient on why they want to make it to their dental appointments. This is just one recommendation that will help decrease the amount of no shows and cancellations that your office is experiencing.
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Dr. Nancy Haller
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It’s football time again. As a double-decade, season-ticket holder with the San Diego Chargers, it continues to amaze me how much money and time owners and coaches put into the selection and training of their players. While this sport is billed as ‘entertainment’, it also is big business.
Dental offices are much more serious venues. After all, you deal with your patients’ health, and potentially real life-and-death matters. But you can still learn a lot from professional football franchises. Here are three basic game plans.
#1 Invest in smart hiring procedures
The NFL uses scouts, agents, even psychological testing to determine the best candidates. Then there’s weeks of training camp, followed by pre-season elimination. That’s a huge investment of resources.
Interestingly, dentists do spend a lot of money on new hires. Just calculate the number and prices of ads you place, plus the hours spent reviewing resumes and returning phone calls. Tally that by the number of candidates and interviews. Now add in the salary of the position. This cost doesn't even include the major expense or losses you could incur if you had a negligent hiring lawsuit or if the employee stole from your company. Bottom line…it’s expensive to make a bad hire.
Unfortunately most dental leaders eagerly fill vacant positions rather than select the right personality characteristics. The candidate has an acceptable resume, the interview goes smoothly, and the job offer is made. Psychologists call this the "halo" effect. It occurs when you are so impressed by an applicant that you make unfounded assumptions about other job skills.
But how do you know if he/she will be conscientious? They may look calm and poised talking with you, but what about when there are unexpected walk-in appointments and the schedule is full? They may tell you that they are honest and follow orders but talk is cheap and they want the job. You won’t know if your bank deposit is missing until it’s too late.
Partnering with the Institute for Personality and Ability Testing (IPAT), McKenzie Management has developed Internet personality testing exclusively for dentistry. The Employee Assessment Test strictly adheres to legal guidelines for employment testing. It assesses 12 essential personality traits so you know how closely your candidate or existing employee matches the profiles of peak performers in the dental industry. No more guessing. You have objective and scientific data to help you determine suitability for one of four dental positions.
#2 Develop your employees
Today’s employees use their ‘brains’ instead of their ‘brawn’ to get work done. Their talents drive the success of your dental practice. To ensure high performance, you need to manage them differently than employees of the past. Like a fast running back, they must be handled with care. You might think that if employees aren’t screwing up, they don’t need to hear from you. But the “no news is good news” approach is a receipt for disaster. Today’s employees want to be recognized. They need your attention. Commend them for their efforts to help them move in the right direction. This fuels their enthusiasm. Avoid focusing only on what’s wrong and acknowledge what’s going right.
Just like NFL teams view game films over and over, get into the habit of giving feedback. Employees need to know when their actions are contributing or impeding to your practice success. No matter how exceptional the person is, he or she can make a mistake, sometimes without knowing it. A wise leader helps individuals recognize problems and learn from problems. Don’t wait until there is a crisis to raise a touchy subject and give feedback. Regular feedback helps employees grow. McKenzie offers practical guidebooks on feedback to help you.
#3 Be courageous and make necessary cuts.
According to the latest studies, the average employee is delivering only 50% of what they are capable of offering to your organization. As a leader, you’re frustrated by this lack of performance. You’d like to clone your high performers so you can become more results oriented. Your best employees want you to deal with poor performers...otherwise the problem lands in their lap. There’s no joy in just getting by. You don’t help employees by allowing a bad fit to continue. Reassign staff to new areas where their talents are best suited, or remove them altogether. In either case, pay attention to problems and take corrective action. Don’t let laggards linger, derail your progress and de-motivate good employees.
Your primary role as a dental leader is to inspire your players. Put these ideas into action and watch performance skyrocket!
If you want to develop a Super Bowl team, contact Dr. Haller at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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