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4.11.08 Issue #318 Forward This Newsletter To A Colleague
Patient Retention
Prayer in the Workplace
Nonverbal Communication

Whatever Happened to ?
Fast and Easy Patient Recovery
by Sally McKenzie CEO
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It’s one of those awkward moments. There you are in a restaurant with your spouse, eating dinner, when you spot one of your patients with her two children dining across from you. You start racking your brain trying to remember the last time you saw her in your office—the oldest child, well, he must be ready for sealants by now!

Before you can sort out the particulars in your mind, the patient recognizes you and gives an embarrassed, “Hello doctor, how are you?” In that instant, you realize it’s been well over a year since she’s been into the practice. Although you wouldn’t dare ask why it’s been so long for fear she’d tell you something you don’t want to hear, she proceeds to explain how busy she’s been with the two little ones and working full-time. Yes, she knows she needs to see you because it’s been, well, like forever since her last cleaning. And she needs to get the kids in. It’s just that she usually thinks about scheduling an appointment sometime around 3 a.m.

And that is often how patients and whole families slip away. It’s not some major mistake your practice has made or terrible experience the patient has had. Most of the time it’s just that other priorities take over and going to the dentist becomes an afterthought for patients. You are out of sight and out of mind. When the patient finally does get around to making the call, it is weeks before they can get an appointment. So they eventually decide to take their dental needs elsewhere.

But what if your office could identify daily which patients had not been in to the practice for the last 12 months and could promptly contact them? And what if it didn’t cost a single moment of your time or a penny of your revenues? You’d say, “Sally’s been enjoying too much of the California sun these days, and she’s lost her grip on reality.” But let me assure you, this is very real and is available to virtually every practicing dentist with a computer.

Elexity, which is known for its patient communication systems, recently announced that its patient communication package,, will be available absolutely free beginning May 1. Purchasing a similar package would cost more than $4,000 annually.

One of the key features of this package is a patient reactivation component. Each day, the system reads your practice management software and determines which patients have not been in the office for the past year. People identified as patients that you would like to retain in your practice are sent friendly personalized email reminders encouraging them to call the office to schedule an appointment. From there, works with your practice management software and takes care of the details. There is no drain on staff resources and no drain on dollars. All you do is register for the service.

What’s more, practices can also register for annual communication campaigns to ensure that they stay in touch with patients between appointments. Through educational newsletters that are sent periodically, patients better understand the importance of keeping appointments, maintaining excellent oral health and the true value of pursuing quality dental care.

Visit and check it out. You have absolutely nothing to lose. It won’t cost you a penny. There’s no staff time required and no contracts to sign. If you decide the service isn’t for your practice you can cancel at any time. But I’m confident you will find this to be a very helpful instrument in your total patient communication and retention tool box.

And the next time you run into Mrs. Patient at the restaurant, you can ask her how she liked your most recent e-mail newsletter rather than why she hasn’t been in to see you in the last year.

Interested in speaking to Sally about your practice concerns? Email her at
Interested in having Sally speak to your dental society or study club? Click Here.

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Michael Moore, Esq.
Director McKenzie
HR Solutions
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To Pray or Not To Pray

Our consultants have recently been confronted with practices that are conducting prayer sessions as part of the morning meetings or daily huddles. Although few doctors have questioned the wisdom of these activities, they should seriously consider discontinuing these activities on-site.

I am now working with a doctor in Michigan who is defending a religious discrimination suit brought by a former employee. The doctor and her staff took time for prayer at the end of each morning’s meetings. The doctor told all incoming staff about the prayers and that attendance was entirely voluntary. This particular employee claims to have declined to participate and, as a result, was shunned by co-workers and the doctor and eventually terminated after she complained of the discriminatory treatment. The doctor faces months, if not years, of litigation and tens of thousands of dollars out of pocket.

In light of this, I had considered incorporating into our Employment Policies a written notification to be given to each staff member—to be signed by each—which would address the prayer sessions, confirm the voluntary nature of them and confirm that no retaliation will be tolerated for not participating. I had considered it, but ultimately I have concluded that even that document will not effectively immunize a doctor against religious discrimination litigation.

The problem with on-site prayer is that it affirmatively injects religion into the workplace. No other type of potentially discriminatory conduct has similarity. Consider this admittedly extreme example: Say that a doctor belongs to a white supremacist organization and decides to take 10 minutes at the end of each morning huddle to promote education in white supremacist theory. He has each employee sign a notification that participation is voluntary and no retaliation will occur for not joining. The impact of this on minority staff members, or those related to minorities, or even those who have differing views of culture, is immediately apparent.

The problem with introducing the doctor’s view of religion, or race, or any other cultural attribute into the workplace is that there is an implicit coercive impact on the staff. Our consultants have expressed concern that co-worker friction is almost inevitable when one staff member declines to participate. Indeed, the United States Supreme Court has grappled with this conundrum in the context of “voluntary” school prayer and has pretty much decided that the inherently coercive impact of the school environment cannot guarantee that participation is indeed voluntary.

Doctors should consider the flip side of this coin. If they promote—even “voluntarily”—their religious preference, do they not open up the practice for staff to evangelize for their own denomination or religion? How would you as a doctor react to a staff member “witnessing” to other staff during lunch hours or breaks?

Of more concern, the courts have held that an employer must provide reasonable accommodation for an employee’s religious practices. Failure to accommodate can result in liability. If the doctor sets aside time on-site to conduct prayer for one religion or denomination, it makes it easier for a staff member to argue that his or her religion must be accommodated.

As a litigator, I must look at how this will play out before a judge and jury. Many jurors do not like to disclose their religious preferences—or their preferences against any religion at all. If a juror is of a different denomination—not to say religion—than the doctor, he or she might very well reject the doctor’s prayer sessions out of hand.

These are only a few issues that such activities raise. My strong recommendation is that the doctor—if he or she insists on continuing the practice—hold any prayer sessions off-site and off company time. Certainly the doctor can convene with those who would participate over breakfast. But the problem of coercion and potential staff friction remains. It is best that prayer be personal.

Mike Moore is ranked among the best in employment law and named one of the top 10 lawyers in Ohio. As Director of McKenzie’s HR Solutions, Mike is the creator of The Employment Policy and Handbook, geared to provide dentists who are unsophisticated in the legal arena with a step-by-step policy manual.For more information, Click here.
Interested in having Mike speak to your dental society or study club? Click here.

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Dr. Nancy Haller
Dentist Coach
McKenzie Management
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Read between the Lines: Using Nonverbal Communication to Increase Your Influence

Being a successful dental leader requires you to influence people just about all of the time. You need to persuade your patients and your employees to take action based on what you say. Being an effective influencer makes your job easier and your practice more profitable!

Influence is what happens between people; the vehicle for persuasion is communication. People communicate in a variety of patterns. Research shows that verbal communication—the actual words—accounts for approximately 10% of the message. This is the “surface” of communication. Below the words are the “nonverbals,” which science tells us account for nearly 90% of the real meaning in what is communicated.

 Humans are sensitive to things like body language, facial expression, posture, movement and tone of voice. We have the ability to communicate many emotions without saying a word. Is there ever any doubt in your mind about the mood of your employees when they walk into the office? Do you have the ability to get children to behave by simply giving them “the eye”?

More than words, nonverbal communication can tell you what’s really on another person’s mind. The old saying, "It's not what you say, it’s how you say it," underscores the importance of nonverbal communication and your credibility. Even on an intuitive level you know this to be true. Consider the idioms we use:

It’s not what you say but what you do.
A picture’s worth a thousand words.
Talk is cheap.
Actions speak louder than words.

Given the importance of nonverbal communication, it behooves you to learn to read between the lines to increase your influence on others. To deliver the full intention of your messages, use the following nonverbal behaviors to raise the impact of your communication.

  • Eye Contact. It has been said that the eyes are the window to the soul. By making eye contact, you show interest in the other person and you convey empathy and sincerity. 
  • Facial Expressions. When you smile, you convey approachability. Your employees and your patients will feel more comfortable around you and they will listen more attentively. Be careful, however, to avoid smiling when the message is serious.
  • Voice. The volume, rate, tone, pitch and inflections of your speech are major factors in communication. When you use a soft voice, you may be seen as lacking confidence. On the other hand, using a slower, quieter voice in stressful circumstances signals strength and control. A strong voice shows confidence. Yet in matters of disagreement, a booming voice often escalates the conflict.
  • Body Language. The way you stand, walk and move speaks volumes. If you are too fast-paced, you convey tension much more than efficiency. A relaxed, calm posture signals confidence and receptivity. Your posture also influences whether you are seen as competent. Slumped shoulders undermine credibility. Stiffness conveys nervousness. Unfold your arms and uncross your legs when engaged in important conversations.
  • Gestures. When gestures are natural and flow with your words, they enhance the impact of your message. But be careful of distracting gestures, like fiddling with pens and clothing, foot-tapping and fingernail clicking. These behaviors are seen as signals of discomfort. They show a lack of confidence and diminish your credibility.

The ability to influence others continues to be the single most important factor for effective leadership. Your practice success is directly related to your ability to win trust and gain respect through communication with your team and your patients. By aligning your verbal and nonverbal communication, you increase your power to influence. Just focus on improving one aspect of your nonverbal communication at a time. With consistent practice, you’ll feel more natural, and you’ll be more successful in leading your team and your patients.

McKenzie’s Advanced Leadership Training is designed to improve your communication with your team and your patients. For more information, email

Dr. Haller is available for team building and dental leadership coaching. She can be reached at

Interested in having Dr. Haller speak to your dental society or study club? Click here.

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