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8.22.08 Issue #337 Forward This Newsletter To A Colleague
Telephone Skill Training
Changes in Business Cert.
Organ Donor Facts

Is It The Economy Or Your Front Line That’s Costing You?
by Sally McKenzie CEO
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I know that many of you are concerned about the current economy and the impact you think it could have on your practice. Although it’s easy to fall into the trap of worrying about outside circumstances, the fact is that dentistry is largely recession resistant. Patients still need oral health care; they still have teeth that break, cavities that need to be filled, crowns that need to be diagnosed, etc.

California Cruzin'

In reality, if patients are not in the chair, the problem probably isn’t so much the economy or some other outside force as it is your practice. That may be a bitter pill to swallow, but it’s actually some of the best news you could get because it’s within your power to fix. Read on.

Let me tell you about Mary Ellen. Her experience is illustrative of what is going on in practice after practice across the country. She’s been working in Dr. Sullivan’s office for about nine months. Mary Ellen is a hard worker. She is very task-oriented and pays excellent attention to detail. Sounds like the type of person you’d like in your own practice, right? Well she would be, were it not for one seemingly small, but significant, shortcoming. She absolutely hates the telephone.

In her view, it is a constant interruption. The people who call always take forever to get to the point. They are never happy with what she has to offer. They have a gazillion insurance questions, millions of treatment questions and umpteen other issues and problems that she doesn’t really know how to address intelligently. As far as Mary Ellen is concerned, the job would be perfect if it weren’t for that ringing, whining telephone.

However, ask her how she thinks she comes across to patients and she’ll shrug her shoulders and confidently assert that her customer/patient service skills are just fine.

And why do you suppose new patient numbers are down, no-shows are up and production is shrinking in this practice? I can almost guarantee that it has little to do with the price of gas. Rather it’s far more likely a result of the fact that Mary Ellen has not had a shred of telephone skills training.

I see this issue time and again in dental practices. The dentist looks at the open appointment times, dwindling new patient numbers and sinking production figures, and blames them on the cost of a gallon of milk, the neighborhood, the weather, the politicians, the economy and any other outside circumstance he/she can come up with. It never occurs to him/her that the hardworking business employee who is managing check-in and checkout, answering the phones, running reports, etc., has erected the Great Wall of China between the practice and prospective patients.

And it’s not because the employees are incapable or unwilling—they simply have never been given the opportunity to learn how to maximize the telephone lines to boost new patients and production. Consequently, they have no idea how poorly they are representing the practice and you, Doctor, have no idea how many patients you’re losing.

This week, I suggest that you invest less energy worrying about what the daily headlines say and more on what your front line says on the telephone. While you’re at it, invest a mere 90 minutes in telephone skills training for the business staff. With just three 30-minute sessions, you’ll develop a top-notch telephone team ready and willing to guide new patients to your practice, handle tricky insurance questions, effectively manage those annoying price shoppers, and masterfully handle virtually any other day-to-day telephone challenge. You can then rest easy knowing your business team is well prepared to make the most of that most important production tool: the telephone.

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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Belle DuCharme CDPMA
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DANB Recognizes Business Manager’s Changing Role

DANB has discontinued administration of the current Certified Dental Practice Management Administrator (CDPMA) exam as of May 31, 2008, in order to evaluate the possibility of updating the exam to more accurately reflect current practice managers' responsibilities.

Excerpts from the DANB publication Certified Press, Volume 27, Issue 3, Summer 2008.

DANB is the nationally recognized premier certification and credentialing agency for dental assistants. Since 1948, the Dental Assisting National Board, Inc. (DANB), a nonprofit organization, has played a vital role in the oral healthcare community. Recognized by the American Dental Association (ADA) as the national credentialing agency for dental assistants, DANB serves the public good by providing a means of identifying qualified and competent dental assistants and by measuring and promoting excellence in oral healthcare delivery. DANB exam programs are accredited by the National Commission forCertifying Agencies (NCCA) for meeting the highest standards of validity, reliability and objectivity.

Last year, in conjunction with the American Dental Assistants Association and the American Association of Dental Office Managers, DANB conducted focus groups with dental team members employed as dental office managers, many of whom held the CDPMA credential. DANB learned that the scope of the CDPMA role is expanding, with many managers entering the field with strong business backgrounds rather than dental backgrounds.

As a result of these findings, and after an analysis of CDPMA exam results, DANB determined that the current CDPMA exam content coverage might not reflect the practice of many, if not most, dental practice managers today. Therefore, the administration of the CDPMA examination will be discontinued during DANB's content validation study of this aspect of dental office practice.

The current CDPMA credential is not affected by this change. CDPMAs can still annually renew their credential by meeting DANB's recertification requirements (12 hours of continuing dental education, holding current DANB-accepted CPR certification and submitting the renewal fee). After June 1, 2008, reinstatement of a lapsed CDPMA certification will only be possible if the credential has been lapsed for less than one year.

McKenzie Management’s Advanced Training Programs have long supported the CDPMA credential and have recommended that career Dental Business Office employees prepare for and take the test. In taking the proctored CDPMA exam (prior to the decision to revamp it) the challenge for Business Managers without dental clinical background was questions concerning mounting x-rays, identifying teeth numbers and other items that only an applicant with clinical knowledge would have known how to answer. For dentists seeking someone to manage the front desk, the quest to find qualified applicants with both clinical knowledge and excellent business skills has been difficult, and for some doctors impossible. The search for applicants with polished customer service skills or applicants with business, marketing, advertising and strong computer skills to fill their front office positions became the next plausible step. Because of the dental software technology and patient education products available for staff training, many business personnel can become quite an asset without prior dental clinical knowledge.

Teaching dental terminology and dental insurance coding can occur over time, as can instruction about dental procedures and their benefits. With many dental practices today producing millions of dollars, it is poor business to employ someone as a Business Manager who does not have formal business training coupled with exceptional customer service and communication skills.

Scheduling daily for a dental practice is not about filling in lines on a page—it is about constructing a profitable and well-balanced day. Understanding overhead demands and its relationship to meeting production and collection goals is basic business knowledge that is not necessarily understood by a clinical assistant who was moved to the front office because she “knows” the patients.

McKenzie Managements Advanced Training for Dentists and their teams has always maintained high-standard course information to serve the needs of the professional business administrators of today’s dental practices. The course information is designed to teach both the Business Coordinator with a clinical background and the Business Coordinator with a formal business education how to understand the business of dentistry.

In its update, DANB has also added three Background Information questions in its 2008 national exam applications and annual Certification renewal notices. These questions are in keeping with DANB’s mission of public protection and DANB’s Code of Professional Conduct, and are in line with national trends in hiring and credentialing practices. All current DANB Certified Assistants (CDPMA also) will be asked annually to respond to these questions, which relate to prior conviction of a crime, revocation or suspension of a dental credential or a court declaration of mental incompetence. This is not a background check but not disclosing information constitutes a violation of DANB’s disciplinary policy and may lead to disciplinary action. All of these changes indicate recognition for the professional status of today’s Dental Business Coordinators and Managers.

For more information about McKenzie Management’s Advanced Training courses, email, call 1-877-777-6151 or visit our website at
Interested in having Belle speak to your dental society or study club? Click here.

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Risa Pollack-Simon
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The Organ Shortage Crisis: A Humanitarian Dilemma

Every 11 minutes, a new name is added to a list on which nearly 100,000 people currently reside, awaiting a call. Although no one argues the call is worth waiting for, the average wait time spans three to five years, which is much too long for far too many.

As a result, 18 people die every day because they can wait no longer1. Astonishingly, this list does not reflect a pool of cancer patients, the homeless or the wounded from the war. Instead, it is the ever-growing national transplant list, which sadly confirms that the need for organs is vastly greater than the donated supply2.

What’s even more baffling is that this public health problem is rarely talked about when discussing universal healthcare and the right to life. Could it be that most individuals (like myself) feel they have already done their part by declaring their intentions on the back of their driver’s licenses? Perhaps it is that most people are unaware that this generous declaration is insufficient to address our nation’s current demand.

Intriguingly, other countries have what is known as a presumed consent law3 that assumes a person wishes to donate unless he or she expressly “opts out.” No doubt the United States could greatly benefit from this model.

Case in Point:
Although 95% of Americans say they support donation,
only 52.7% grant permission on a driver’s license or organ donor card3.

Donor rates are increasing, but not enough. Furthermore, potential donors who grant permission before their passing would be horrified to discover a family member overruled their decision while grieving the loss. This incredible loophole is most vulnerable when the donor isn’t officially registered with a donor registry4.

Indeed, these circumstances call for a serious review of our nation’s donor policy. Likewise, donor registry awareness becomes critically important as our nation continues to seek more resourceful opportunities for organ and tissue donation.

Living Donations
Blessed by the miracle of medical technology and the ultimate gift of human kindness, individuals are now learning that they don’t have to wait for their passing to give renewed life. Bone marrow, lobes of the lung, fractions of the liver and kidneys can be obtained from living donors. In fact, an entire kidney can be donated from a living donor, because both the donor and recipient only need one each for normal function.

The superlative advantage of living donation is that it makes it feasible to donate now - while living - rather than waiting for one’s passing to make a difference to another.

Auspiciously, because of an increase in living donor awareness, more than half of all kidney donors in the United States are from living donors. In 2007, there were 10,587 deceased donors, but as many as 6,039 living donors5. In total, there have been 117,717 deceased donors and 92,693 living donors as of the date of writing this article. Yet we still lose over 6,500 lives a year because of a shortage.

Living Organ Benefits
A living organ is considered a “healthy organ” when taken from a living donor with continuous circulation prior to removal. This differs significantly from deceased organs, particularly those from fatal incidents that occur outside a hospital. In such cases, organs often stop functioning hours before a decision is made to donate, which disqualifies them for transplantation.

Although hospital donors typically have a brain-based definition of death, this classification only accounts for 2% of hospital cases. Yet as organizations like the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS)1 continue to educate the public, and hospitals continue to foster more effective policies for victims of brain death and cardiac death, we can increase the donor pool.

Of course, the real work must come directly from the government and the general public as a genuine and like-minded effort to embrace renewed life opportunities. Upon doing so, our nation’s wealth of human kindness shall no doubt meet this dying cry for help.

This article will be continued in two more parts, alternating over the next four weeks.


1. United Network of Organ Sharing:

2. John Hopkins Medicine Press Release; Altruistic donor makes possible the first “domino” three-way kidney transplant operation, May 19, 2005.

3. 2005 National Survey Organ and Tissue Donation Attitudes and Behaviors.

4. Formal registration for organ and tissue donation:

5. OPTN:The Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network.

Risa Simon is a certified management consultant, professional speaker and published author who inherited a rare cystic kidney condition, which has positioned her among the many in need of a kidney transplant. After observing family members and friends with Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD) struggle with dialysis and unrealistic waitlists (and after experiencing her own challenges in trying to find a compatible donor), she decided to join a movement to increase awareness in the humanitarian call for “living” and “paired” donation. For more information, contact

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