Ring Up Your #1 Practice Builder
by Sally McKenzie CEO
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Take just a few steps to improve your practice’s telephone communication and you’ll ensure that every time the phone rings it will be music to your ears rather than alarm bells to your team. Step #1: Prepare before you pick up the phone. Prepared phone presentations ensure that when it comes to “managing the message” everyone is “singing the same hymn.”
Step #2: Identify your objective. What action do you want the patient to take? Do you want them to schedule an appointment, pay their bill, consider a new service that will benefit them, etc.? Use the following example to determine your communication objectives:
- What is the current situation?
The patient is due for their oral health exam and professional teeth cleaning.
- My focused objective is what?
To contact the patient and schedule an appointment.
- My general objective is what?
To reach a responsible party, to leave a message, or to call back at a specific time to schedule the appointment.
- What are the benefits for the patient?
Healthier mouth, maintain existing dental restoration, and overall better health and wellness.
- What new services/practice features do you want to tell the patient?
Whitening techniques, intra-oral camera, more convenient hours, doctor or staff recent certification in a particular specialty, patient financing options?
- What specific information do you have about this patient?
- Do they prefer a specific hygienist, a specific time of day?
- How do they want to be addressed –first name, Mr., Ms., Mrs.?
- Is the patient 10 years old or 30?
- Does the patient have insurance?
- Do they need to be pre-medicated?
- What do you know about them personally?
- Did they run a marathon?
- Was their child recognized in the newspaper recently?
- Did they just take a family vacation?
- The greater personal connection you can establish with patients the more committed they will be to your practice.
Using the communication objectives, develop telephone scripts that are tailored specifically for your practice. The examples below touch on a couple of scenarios and give a general idea of what a telephone script might include.
Contacting the busy executive – get to the point.
Hello Ms. Elliot, this is Michelle from Dr. Carey’s office. Our records show that you are due for your six-month exam and professional oral hygiene appointment. What time of day is best for you?
Ms. Elliot: This is a terrible time for me, Michelle. I’m under some really major deadlines at work, here. Can I just call you back when things free up for me?
Michelle: Let me give you one less thing to worry about, Ms. Elliot. I will give you a call back the week after next and we can see how your schedule looks. Also, let me drop in the mail to you some information about our evening and weekend hours, which we have recently expanded. You can get an idea of what times might work best for you. I assure you we will do everything we can to accommodate your busy schedule.
Following up on unscheduled treatment:
"Good morning, Mr. Jones? This is Ellen from Dr. Klein’s office. How are you? Great! Dr. Klein asked me to give you a call. She was reviewing the treatment she had recommended for you that had not been completed and was concerned about you. You had some areas that needed doctor’s attention last May. And Mr. Jones, we want to do everything possible to HELP patients, like you, get the care they need, so Dr. Klein asked me to let you know that we now have a relationship with CareCredit . It’s an excellent treatment financing company that allows you to get the necessary care you need right away, and it’s very affordable. In fact, the treatment doctor has recommended for you can be paid for in monthly installments of just $xxxx with no interest. We just need a little information to secure approval on those low monthly payments... (Walk patient through approval process) … Let me review doctor’s recommended treatment for you…
Now let’s get you on doctor’s schedule!
Step #3. Practice, practice, practice. The script provides a guide for the staff member and the patient should always feel they are having a normal conversation with the employee. Practicing, role playing, and preparing before you pick up the phone ensure that you make the most of every message you communicate to your patients.
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Patient Education and Treatment Acceptance
The typical patient of today is savvier than the patient of yesteryear. These patients want to be actively involved in the process of deciding what treatment they will have performed. Information is readily available through several mediums making today’s dental consumer better educated and more critical. Patients want the time to have their questions answered and want to know what each treatment option will do to promote their dental health.
Not only do patients want this information, but it is necessary that they have it to make an informed consent for treatment. Without informed consent there could be trouble down the road when the patient is not happy with the treatment and claims “he/she wasn’t told of the risks in having the procedure.”
A patient education system should be an integral part of every practice. During the patient’s visit there are numerous opportunities to impart information, either customized to that patient, as in a treatment presentation, or generalized. Educational video, brochures, demonstration models, and flip charts are great methods of providing general information. Intra-oral photos, diagnostic casts, radiographs and clinical charts are personal evidence of dental conditions and are hard facts. This valuable information is the basis for the treatment presentation.
Before making the presentation, it is recommended that you know the key motivating factors that caused the patient to seek dental care in your practice. This factor is sometimes called the chief concern. If the patient is one of record, returning for a recall appointment, there should be clinical notes or progress notes on file with information about the patient’s first visit. If the patient is new to the practice, the new patient interview will reveal the motivators.
Dental Practice Report magazine measured the effectiveness of various mediums of patient education and came up with recommendations as to what concepts work the best. The following is a summary of the findings:
- Printed materials: Prove to be effective and inexpensive. Increase perception of value because patient can take it home. This adds value to the proposed services. The computer informed (techie) patient may view it as unsophisticated. Don’t overwhelm with too much paper and make sure copies are readable and attractive. All brochures should have the practice name and phone number either printed or on a label. Great for health/function and cost driven patients.
- Website: Practice appears up to date. Make sure it is kept current. Educational material can be read and stored on computer. Some patients do not like online or don’t have computers. The website should not be used as a substitute for human interaction. Techies like to be able to access office via e-mail and want the office to be able to e-mail communications about appointments, billing, etc.
- In-Office-Video: Provides detailed information in a professional high quality manner. Techies like this medium. Low dental IQ patients may find the information too overwhelming and post viewing consultations are advised.
- Intra-Oral Camera and Digital X-ray. When used correctly, it’s the most powerful patient education tool. Allows the patient to interact with their own teeth. Can take home copies of photos and digital radiographs. Explain in lay terms what they are looking at in relation to their mouths. Great for treatment acceptance.
- Demonstration Models: For patients who like visual and great for being able to touch and see what the dental prosthetic looks like on the teeth. A visual can dispel a miscommunication. Techies like this if accompanied by excellent communication skills. Allows for varying course of education from simple to detailed. Demonstrate how it may be difficult for some patients to remove a partial or denture from a model. This is a selling point for implants.
- Digital makeover: Powerful concept for those patients highly influenced by the visual and the “latest and greatest” media glitz. Perceived by cost driven patients as “over the top” and not necessary. Digital, with the virtual, can over-promise what can be delivered.
The patient education system must be supported by every team member. Understanding what works best for each patient should be discussed prior to treatment presentations and consultations. The new patient interview will be explained in my next article.
McKenzie Management now offers professional training to improve Treatment Acceptance. For more information go here or Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 877.777.6151
Interested in having Belle speak to your dental society or study club? Click Here
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Your Team Can Make or ‘Brake’ You!
Dr. Sharon Jenkins – Case Study #167
Dr. Jenkins’s concerns:
Dr. Jenkins contacted McKenzie Management because she was not happy with the performance of her dental team and wanted to know how to resolve the issue. She wanted to be friendly with the team but was having difficulty separating friendship from the responsibilities of being an employer. Dr. Jenkins revealed that she liked her employees as people, but “they are driving me crazy as employees.” Dr. Jenkins asked for help in determining what actions need to be taken to motivate them to be as good at their work as they were at being friends.
- The team proved to be mature, friendly, and more than willing to share information about the practice.
- The team did not know what was expected of them.
- There were no opportunities for employees to communicate their needs for assistance other than breaks between patients.
- Morning huddles or monthly business meetings were not scheduled resulting in no communication regarding how the practice was performing.
- The business team did not have written job descriptions or defined areas of accountability. Both team members were running on auto-pilot and just “doing what needs to be done”.
- Dr. Jenkins spent a lot of her time looking for supplies that she needed in order to perform treatment on patients. This inefficiency was slowing her down and making her tense.
- The team expressed being unhappy with Dr. Jenkins’s performance and felt that she spent too much time doing things that she could delegate to them.
- Dr. Jenkins was not good at communicating her needs to her team and thought that “they should be experienced enough to know what I want”.
Recommendations and Implementation
- Instruction was provided on how to establish a clinical procedural manual which included photos of tray setups and a list of all the materials needed. In addition, with the help of the assistants, the approximate time to perform the procedures was documented. This protocol manual was to be completed for all clinical procedures so that everyone would understand how each procedure is performed.
- A meeting was scheduled to review all the procedures that are performed with all the team members, including the business team and the hygienist so everyone was on the same page.
- Job descriptions were established for the business team along with performance measurements of their assigned duties.
- The entire team and the doctor learn by doing, even if something is done incorrectly. The error must be communicated with the team so that there is a benefit from the error and it doesn’t get repeated. The team and the doctor must give each other “permission” to be open and honest regarding errors or “perceived errors” so it can be discussed and corrected.
- Performance reviews are to be conducted twice a year in order to discuss particular concerns with each employee, and to give the employee an opportunity to share his/her thoughts as well.
- The doctor is the employer and not a friend in the dental office. Mutual respect is necessary for a smooth-running practice. It was recommended and agreed upon that Dr. Jenkins would enroll in McKenzie’s Leadership Training course to learn how to lead her employees and guide them to achieve peak performance.
Team members do not intentionally “under perform”. They do what they know until they learn something different. It is up to the doctor to demonstrate the desired methods of preparing and completing daily tasks.
Don’t continue to allow your team members to slow you down because of their lack of knowledge. Train them to be the best they can be. Invite McKenzie Management into your office to establish your business systems and hygiene protocols. Train the clinical team the steps of each procedure so you can work together as chairside partners and expedite the treatment for efficiency and quality.
The best compliment you can have from a patient is, “Doctor, it is amazing to watch you and your assistant work together. You don’t need to tell her what you want – she just seems to always have it.” Don’t settle for a working environment that may “brake” you in the end.
If you would like more information on how McKenzie's Practice Enrichment Programs can help you IMPLEMENT proven strategies….. email email@example.com.
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