12.25.09 Issue #407 Forward This Newsletter To A Colleague
Reveal Practice Value
Utilize Job Descriptions
Protect Your Job

Patients Have a Choice: Make it Clear
by Sally McKenzie CEO
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Dental teams – doctors, business staff, assistants, hygienists – see patients day after day. While the dental care provided may be excellent, often the experience and the process can come across to the patient as yet another expense without much return. You may think or feel as though you are providing excellent customer service but today’s “high expectation” patients, who are questioning their expenditures more than we’ve seen in decades, want to feel the time spent in your practice is truly worth the investment.


If they don’t feel that the investment is worth it, you’re likely to experience more patients missing, skipping, or cancelling appointments, long before you have even the slightest inkling that there’s a problem. Seldom is there any fanfare in their departure, just a sudden realization one day that you haven’t seen so and so for a very long time, or you run into Mrs. Such and Such in the grocery store and after some small talk you realize that you cannot remember the last time you saw her, her husband, or their two children in the chair.

Make the most of the moments you have with your patients. Take just two minutes to maximize the importance and value of your care. The hygienist tells the doctor what she/he has found and subsequently discussed with that patient. The doctor immediately knows that the patient is prepared to hear a more detailed diagnosis and treatment plan. The patient, in turn, understands the value of ongoing dental treatment and sees yours as a clinically reliable team in which she can place her trust and her limited health care dollars. 

In addition, recognize that your practice’s relationship with the patient truly is a partnership, as without them there is no practice. Look your patients in the eye and say: “thank you for choosing this practice.”  Give them a letter from you and your team thanking them for their ongoing confidence in the practice and their commitment to pursuing excellent oral health. If you haven’t done this, try it. You’ll find that your patients are both stunned and thoroughly impressed. 

Have a Joyous Holiday Season

While you’re at it, during the next staff meeting develop a list of steps the practice could take to regularly show patients they are appreciated. Start with the new patient welcome packet. Is it warm and inviting? Does it motivate the patient to desire the services provided? Does it help the patient get to know the team members? Does it put them at ease? Does it thank them for choosing your practice?

Next, evaluate your procedures for thanking patients for referrals. Consider a four-step plan for those patients that consistently send new patients to your practice.

  1. For the first referral send a thank you note and a small token gift such as a certificate for a specialty coffee at a local coffee bar, or pastry at a local pastry shop.
  2. For two referrals send a thank you note and a fruit basket or gift certificate to a local bookstore.
  3. For three referrals send a thank you note and bottle of wine or tickets to the movie theater.
  4. For four referrals send a thank you note and a gift certificate for dinner for two to a local quality restaurant.

Routinely show patients that you value them by taking time to discuss their oral health goals, answer their questions, and show interest in them and their families. Treat each patient as if they are the single most important person to enter your practice today.

Inform patients about a service you offer that they may not be aware of. Tell them how a continuing education program you and/or your team recently completed will benefit them. Provide information on dental topics that they see and read about in the news media, such as whitening, implants, or the link between oral health and overall health. Direct them to a credible website such as your state dental association or the American Dental Association. In educating your patients, you emphasize the value of ongoing dental care and the dentistry that you and your team provide. Moreover, you reinforce to each of your patients that you genuinely value their health and wellbeing and your practice is well-worth their financial investment.

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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Free Overhead Assessment

Nancy Caudill
Senior Consultant
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Job Descriptions - Why Does It Really Matter?

Dr. Jamey Gleason – Case Study #332

“I didn’t do it... I have no idea who did!”
“I wasn’t working that day so I don’t know who scheduled that patient.”
“I didn’t know that you wanted me to do that.”

These were very familiar comments made by Dr. Gleason’s team. Dr. Gleason felt like his practice was out of control and he was unable to hold anyone accountable for his or her performance. The interesting fact is that these comments were true. No one was trying to hide anything and because of the lack of specific job descriptions, no one in the office knew what the doctor expected of them, except the typical “just do your job and do it well.” 

Dr. Gleason’s practice needed the following job descriptions: Patient Coordinator, Schedule Coordinator, Financial Coordinator, Treatment Coordinator, Hygienist and Assistants.  While Dr. Gleason has only 4 employees, he needs 6 positions filled.  Someone apparently is going to wear two hats.

Hygiene Coordinator Tasks:
This position is responsible for the growth of the practice through the Hygiene Department. If there are 30 new patients being seen in hygiene each month, but 35 are not coming back on average through hygiene, the practice is not growing. This is the “Dialing for Dollars” position. The Hygiene Coordinator has a 5-step follow-up process that she performs every month to maintain the integrity of the Hygiene Department. The Coordinator schedules the Hygienist to a pre-determined goal set by the doctor, based on either 3x the hygiene salary or 1/3 of the total practice production goal.

Schedule Coordinator Tasks:
This position is responsible for scheduling the doctor to a predetermined daily gross production goal. In this office, this position will also check out all the patients (post their charges and payments and schedule the next appointment). She/he also follows up on unscheduled treatment plans.

Financial Coordinator Tasks:
This person is responsible for outstanding insurance claims, outstanding account balances and weekly statements. The Financial Coordinator generates claims daily, verifies patient insurance eligibility and confirms that all insurance information in the computer is correct.

Treatment Coordinator Tasks:
This position presents to the patient what their clinical needs are.

Hygienists and Assistants Tasks:
These positions perform specific duties that are associated with their clinical training.

Dividing up the Workload
With the understanding that every office is different and the design of the business area can influence the decision of who does what, typically the Hygiene and Financial Coordinator are one person. The Schedule Coordinator is in the “hot seat” so this is all this person can manage. The Treatment Coordinator position is carried out by all the clinical team, including the doctor. The treatment that is needed by the patient should be explained chairside by the doctor and supported by the assistant and/or hygienist.

Dr. Gleason didn’t want to hear “I don’t know who did it.” He wanted the problem addressed and resolved. Why is this so difficult? Because there was a lack of job descriptions in his practice. Everyone does a little bit of everything, so there were “too many spoons in the soup” and he didn’t know who was holding the saltshaker!

During the morning meeting, Dr. Gleason expressed his concern to his entire team. Due to lack of accountability, he didn’t know which person to be directing this conversation to. As a result, they all heard his comments and dismissed them because they were thinking, “Sure glad that he is not talking about me.” Having a specific job description attached to his employees will allow him to direct his concerns to the person who is responsible for that department. Even if they didn’t do the deed, they are responsible for correcting it and making sure that it doesn’t occur again. It also keeps his concern from falling on those team members that aren’t involved.

Example:  Mrs. Jones was scheduled on the doctor’s schedule for 2 hours for a crown on Tooth #3, according to the computer.  When she came in that morning and the assistant seated Mrs. Jones, it was determined by the assistant that Mrs. Jones didn’t need a crown, she actually needed a root canal and THEN a crown on her next appointment. Dr. Gleason was unhappy!  At the end of the day he asked everyone what had happened. How did the appointment get scheduled as a crown?  No one knew. The computer indicated that the Hygiene Coordinator scheduled the appointment two months ago, but she doesn’t remember. Now everyone is upset, including the doctor.

The Solution
The Schedule Coordinator is ultimately responsible for Dr. Gleason’s schedule. When a patient is scheduled incorrectly, he goes to her/him. End of the line!  As the Schedule Coordinator, it is her responsibility to confirm that the appointments are correct in the computer by reviewing the clinical notes prior to the morning meeting.  It is also recommended that the Schedule Coordinator “solicit” assistance from the assistant the day before to review the patient records and double-check for errors.

Dr. Gleason invited his team to determine which job descriptions best fit their temperament types and experience, and implemented these specific responsibilities to those team members. Now instead of “fussing” at everyone, he directs his concerns to those that are responsible, with the expectation that they will resolve the issue and avoid it in the future.

If you would like more information on how McKenzie's Practice Enrichment Programs can help you IMPLEMENT proven strategies, email info@mckenziemgmt.com.

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Belle DuCharme CDPMA
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Keep Your Job - Don't Fly Under the Radar

“I just don’t see that Mary is contributing enough to warrant keeping her next year,” lamented Dr. G. as he addressed his overhead concerns while setting goals for 2010.
Mary kept her head down and worked at what she was hired to do, no more and no less, surely she will be protected from a layoff.  If that is your thought pattern to protect your job, then your thinking is off and needs to be adjusted immediately. The recession is technically over but the recovery will take time and money is short all around, with layoffs still happening daily. Many practices have frozen salaries, cut benefits and hours to keep the staff that they have. This still may not be enough if collection figures cannot support the overhead.

Having an Action Plan for you position in 2010 needs to start now. Start setting a goal to excel at what you do. Take a hard look at your job description and assess whether your skills are at the level necessary to take the practice to a new high. If you are an RDA or a CDA, have you thought about taking the pit and fissure sealant course to free up the doctor or hygienist on the schedule? Do research and bring the information to the doctor. It will demonstrate your willingness to improve your skills and the practice production. 

Treatment plans need to be entered in the computer from the treatment rooms.  If dental assistants are still writing them on paper and taking them to the front office, this is an outdated system that leads to errors and miscommunications. Dental assistants should be cross trained to enter treatment plans, set up appointments and post a check if necessary to manage patient flow in the treatment rooms. Offer to learn new skills that will benefit the practice, volunteer to work over or through lunch, and offer to take on a project that needs someone in charge such as taking gifts to referral sources in the area.

According to the December 2009 issue of Money magazine, raises will average 2.7% next year - the first time in more than 30 years that average pay hikes have dropped below 3%. If you position yourself as a top performer you may be able to justify more.

Get paid for results. Practices grow with new patients, so get the team motivated to personally bring in new patients. If you can’t get them going, then do it yourself. Suggest a $50.00 off any service campaign for all patients bringing in the doctor’s business card with your name on it. Be in charge of putting together an informal holiday open house and invite patients, friends, peers, businesses etc. to drop by for a warm cup of cider and a cookie. 

Even if they are postponing maintenance visits, stay connected to your patients with a newsletter. Start collecting samples of newsletters that have appeal and determine what messages you want to deliver to your patients. Emphasize total quality of care and service, and that even though times are tough you are still there to take care of them.  When you have launched your newsletter either hard copy or email, ask for feedback from your patients. This is another way to stay connected to the most important reason that you are a dental practice - patient care. Now more than ever it is important to keep your name in front of your patients so that when things improve they will come back to you.

One of the most important things to do at this time is to improve skills in patient communication and business development. Many people, whether employed or unemployed, have identified the necessity to keep learning and developing new skills to stay in demand as an employee.

McKenzie Management’s Advanced Business Training is more than a course in dental business systems. It is a course that is targeted to the concerns of your particular practice, with the goal of improving your production and collection statistics. A recent report from several training client’s revealed improvements made in treatment acceptance, overdue accounts receivable and overdue insurance claims. Most importantly was the expression of improved confidence and professionalism after completing the training.

Keep your job by improving your practice. Sign up today for Advanced Business Training and improve your odds for a prosperous new year.

If you would like more information on McKenzie Management’s Advanced Training Programs  to improve the performance of your team, email training@mckenziemgmt.com

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