11.03.06 - Issue # 243 Forward This Newsletter To A Colleague
Schedule Management
Keeping Staff

Steer Clear of the Top Three
Scheduling Missteps
by Sally McKenzie CEO
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Your Scheduling Coordinator may be pretty good, but I’ll bet she/he doesn’t wear a cape, and I’m virtually certain she/he doesn’t have mind-reading super powers. So why would you think this person is capable of knowing how much time to schedule for each procedure? And therein lies Mistake #1 in scheduling.

Too often the person booking the appointments has little or no direction as to how the doctor wants to schedule his or her day other than, “The doctor wants to be busy.” As we talked about last week, and as virtually every dental team eventually discovers, there’s a big difference between busy and productive.

The Scheduling Coordinator should not be dictating the doctor’s day. If she/he is forced to guess how much time to allocate for procedures, because she/he has little or no direction, doctor and staff will pay dearly in frustration and aggravation – to say nothing of lost revenues. And…if you think that scheduling templates might be the answer…they’re not.  Scheduling time for each patient must be communicated by the doctor/assistant to the Scheduling Coordinator – not the other way around.  It also should be clear and consistent.

For example, the Doctor examines a hygiene patient and determines the patient needs two fillings and a crown. The Doctor tells the Hygienist exactly how much time is necessary. She, in turn, communicates to the Scheduling Coordinator the amount of doctor time and assistant time required. The doctor’s time should be scheduled in one color on the computer and the assistant’s in another. This simple strategy ensures that the doctor is not double-booked. And with just a bit more communication among the team, you can steer clear of scheduling mistake #1.

Scheduling Mistake #2 - Dream days can turn production into a nightmare. Here’s what happens, the Doctor decides that she/he wants to start living the dream and building her/his ideal day one unit at a time, blocking the schedule for specific procedures. Doctor wants X number of crown and bridge appointments reserved each week, so the Scheduling Coordinator reserves X number of crown and bridge appointments. But wanting crown and bridge cases and having crown and bridge cases actually scheduled are, unfortunately, two very different things. Oftentimes the doctor pulls a number out of the air without the benefit of actual data or information. The practice reserves what the doctor would like to have in the schedule rather than what is realistic.

If you are going to block the schedule, base it on historical data - what you know you can achieve -  not just on what you would like to do. Calculate the number of crown and bridge units over the last six months, and divide by the number of days worked. Reserve time in the schedule based on the number of units actually performed. And while nothing in life or work is truly perfect, you’re on your way to enjoying far more ideal days.

Mistake #3 – Ignoring the bread and butter. You may be on a low carb diet, but if you ignore the bread and butter in your practice, it will be the revenues, not your waistline, growing thin. Reserve time for new patients; they won’t wait six months, three months, or even four weeks for an appointment. When new patients call, they want your services promptly. They want to feel like you would actually value them in your practice. Be prepared to handle the demand and don’t forget to diversify the time to provide good customer service.

First, determine how much time you need to allocate in the schedule to accommodate new patients.  Look at new patient activity over the last six months. If you saw 60 new patients, that would be 10 per month and 2.5 per week. Reserve at least that much time in your schedule to handle immediate demand.

Second, monitor new patient activity each week. If demand increases, block additional new patient time in your schedule, even if it means extending hours for a period.

Third, new patient slots should be reserved during prime time. Those are the hours in which your practice experiences the greatest demand for appointments, and, typically, they are in the late afternoons, evenings, and on Saturdays.

Effectively managing the schedule requires constant vigilance, commitment, and training. It is the foundation for the success of the entire practice. And every solid foundation begins with a few sturdy cornerstones upon which everything else is framed.

Interested in speaking to Sally about your practice concerns? Email her at sallymck@mckenziemgmt.com.

Interested in having Sally speak to your dental society or study club? Click Here.

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Jean Gallienne RDH BS
Hygiene Consultant
McKenzie Management
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So You Want To Keep Your Staff?

I once had a doctor friend of mine come up and ask me at a dental society meeting, “How does a doctor make an employee want to stay long term at their practice?” Then at another meeting I had a group of doctors ask, “What do doctors do that make employees want to leave their practice and go to another?” Both of these are good questions. However, the first question is the better of the two. He/She is the doctor that will more than likely be able to keep his employees long term, not the group that asked the second question.

I had a golf coach who taught me to look for what I do right in every swing that I make so I can repeat that movement. Looking for what you or an employee does wrong does not mean you or the employee will know what to do to make it right.

What makes working for one doctor different than working for another? These are just a few things that make a staff member want to stay long term.

1. Autonomy
Autonomy is about trusting your hygienist and knowing that he/she is there to take care of the patients in the same manner and provide the same quality of care to your patients that you do. Allow him/her to use the education he/ she worked so hard to obtain.

2. Respect
Remember that your hygienist is educated. He/She has gone to college and earned the degree he/she has because he/she is competent. He/She is trained in his/her specific field of hygiene and views the patients he/she sees as hers. He/She will provide quality of care.
3. Appreciation
Have you ever thanked your staff for being there? Have you ever stopped to tell them, “Wow! Those are some great x-rays you took.” “You handled that difficult patient in a fantastic manner.” Showing your staff that you appreciate them is priceless and it does not have to cost a thing.
4. Benefits
Ask your employees what benefits are most important to them. Some may prefer more money instead of benefits, but ask them. There are many ways to go about setting up retirement plans that will help you work towards your own retirement too.

Maybe that hygienist who has worked in your office for the last ten years one day a week would like to add a day or two.

5. Reward Program
A reward program must be well thought out. In planning a reward program, first determine what objectives you hope to reach in specific areas of the practice as well as your practice’s values. Involve the staff in creating the practice objectives. Some different rewards may be to send a staff member and their family to an amusement park, take an employee and spouse to dinner, or fill up their gas tank. These and many other ideas and how to set up a reward are in our book, “How To Reward Your Dental Team”.  

6. Raises
Should be based on production and performance. Usually these two items go hand and hand.

7. Surprises
When is the last time you surprised your hygienist or staff by buying them lunch or having somebody run for breakfast? Treating them to a spa day? Having them show up at work only to find out they are going to a baseball game and will be paid for the day? These are just a few surprises that show your staff how much you appreciate them.

8. The way they are made to feel.
Listen to their ideas and suggestions. Who knows, they may have the best marketing idea yet for your practice.

If you have a quality staff and you want to keep them, then show them. Everybody knows good workers are hard to find.

Many offices have a high staffturn over. Not only does it cost the doctor when it comes to training new people, but it also costs the doctor when it comes to patient retention. Many patients go to other practices because they were tired of seeing a different hygienist every time they went to the dentist.

When you look at the numbers and what it costs to train a new employee and how many patients you may have lost because of staff turnover, that small token of appreciation or the benefit plan you have set up may not cost nearly as much. Ask yourself, “Do I really show my employees what they mean to me by the way I treat them?”

Interested in knowing more about how to improve your hygiene department? Email hygiene@mckenziemgmt.com.

Interested in having Jean speak to your dental society or study club Click Here.

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Dr. Nancy Haller
Dentist Coach
McKenzie Management
coach@ mckenziemgmt.com
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The trouble with the rat race is even if you win you’re still a rat.
-Lily Tomlin

Delegation - Part 2

The advantages of delegation are plentiful – higher efficiency and increased motivation in your staff and more time for yourself. When you delegate you develop the skills of your team. However, delegation is not just dumping things you don’t want to do onto your employees. It is about entrusting authority to the staff. While the objective of delegation is to get the work done, it goes beyond completing tasks. Effective delegation includes giving employees the power to make decisions when they get new information. It teaches them to think through alternatives and to make wise recommendations to you. In other words, the right way to delegate is to empower your staff to respond to situations without referring back to you.

Now there are responsibilities that you should never delegate. These are the personnel duties that only leaders and managers must handle. Things like performance reviews, promotions, team-building, organization, terminations. But it is likely that there are many aspects of your practice that you could be delegating to others. Here are some steps toward that goal.

  1. Delegate gradually

    Be sure that the employee feels able to complete the task you assign. The last thing you want to do is to de-motivate your staff. Build up skills and confidence in stages. Start with a small job that leads to success. Then add another small task that builds on the first and when that is accomplished add another stage, etc. etc. Each task delegated should have enough complexity to ‘stretch’ the employee just a little. This is akin to giving employees a staircase rather than asking them to scale a wall.

  1. Provide training

    For your employees to be entrusted with decision making requires confidence, on their part and yours. The route to that end is training. This is not necessarily formal training, although it might be. In most cases, training involves helping employees gain access to knowledge and information they will need to get the job done. For example, who to call when the x-ray machine malfunctions; the name and phone number of your IT consultant; and preferred vendors for office and dental supplies.

  2. Be accessible

    ‘Letting go’ of tasks increases as you gain confidence in your staff. That means keeping an eye on your employees. At the same time, it is a mistake to keep checking up on your team and asking for progress reports. That’s called micro-managing. The correct way to delegate is to agree in advance how often and at what time you will meet. Decide on the reporting schedule beforehand. Your employees will feel encouraged by your continuing support. When you stay involved you also communicate the importance of the task and your willingness to help employees learn and grow.

  3. Celebrate small victories along the way

    When you review delegated projects with staff members, avoid jumping in too quickly. The primary goal in delegation is for your employees to learn. If Sally the hygienist is capable of making decisions, encourage her to do so. Your job is to validate her choices. In turn, she will be more willing to take risks. If she made a wise decision, congratulate her. Certainly it’s okay to suggest modifications but leave the final solution to her. Now if Sally is wrong you need to tell her, but be kind as well as honest.

  4. Keep your high standards in check

    Refrain from criticizing the outcome of employees’ work because you would have done it better or faster. Instead, prompt them to evaluate themselves. Ask questions and insist that they provide you with answers before giving them feedback on the end result. The point is to teach employees to think through issues and questions before raising them with you. By helping them to rehearse the full authority of decision-making your employees benefit, and you do too.

Dr. Haller is available to coach you to higher levels of performance in your practice. Contact her at coach@mckenziemgmt.com.

Interested in having Nancy speak to your dental society or study club? Click Here.

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