Technology: Maximize Your ROI
From digital radiography and photography to 3-D cone beam, to digital panoramic X-ray to electronic charting, to more efficient practice management software, dental practice technology is a rapidly moving target. You no more than remove the packaging on that shiny new device, and the next better, faster, sleeker, and cooler generation is waiting in the wings. Certainly, new technology presents a host of temptations that can create a lot of expense and an often undefined return, unless there’s a solid plan.
Those that achieve the greatest return on their technology investments are integrating the equipment, hardware, and software methodically. Their focus is quality, not bargain. And they know exactly how each component will be used – from the flow of patient and practice information through their practice management software to the clinical software and hardware that enables the practice to enhance diagnostic capabilities and treatment acceptance. In addition, these practices have a budget and they adhere to it.
Consider your pending technology purchases. How much will you invest? How will you use the technology? How will you measure the return on your investment? I have created a technology ROI spreadsheet that doctors can use to enable them to better understand exactly how much this major expenditure will cost, how quickly they can recover that cost, and most importantly, how much will the practice benefit financially from this investment over time.
And that is the key - carefully evaluate what your anticipated return will be on this major technology investment. Establish your priorities and consider fully what system(s) in your practice will improve because of this investment. Is this a software program or patient communication tool that will minimize patient cancellations and no shows? Will it simplify the treatment financing process for patients, thereby improving treatment acceptance? Will it enable the doctor and the team to more effectively educate patients on treatment options using state-of-the art digital tools?
Keep in mind that your investment will likely involve far more than the new device, new hardware, or new software. Do your homework. Determine what additional costs need to be factored into the equation. Maximizing your purchase will likely require that you have a technological infrastructure that can support it, including the hardware, software, and wiring. You’ll probably pay more up front, but the investment will serve your needs more effectively and for a longer time period if the infrastructure is in place. You’ll also need to plan for ongoing service, maintenance, and probably training as well.
When it comes to digital radiography, you’ll want to weigh the pros and cons of purchasing the imaging software from the practice management software company or a third party vendor. From the practice management software vendor, you’ll benefit from a virtually seamless integration between the management component and the radiography component of the software. Regardless of your decision, it’s essential that you evaluate your options and have a clear understanding of where your costs will lie and how quickly your practice can recover its investment.
Consider the package deals. Piecemeal purchases often make you feel good initially, only to leave you shelling out cash again and again for additional options, new updates, service packages, etc. A “good deal” today in which you are saving hundreds or thousands may well have you paying more for service and upgrades down the road. The same goes for short-term vs. long-term costs. Short-term deals are very attractive, but may end up costing you more in the long run.
As is the case with virtually any other product on the market, when it comes to technology hardware and software, you get what you pay for, so prepare and invest your dollars wisely. Develop a plan, establish a budget, and arrange to professionally train your team to get the very most from your technology.
For more information on this topic, visit my blog: The Lighter Side
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Never NEVER Give Up
If there ever was a lesson in resiliency, it was staged this year at the 34th America’s Cup Races. In an epic comeback, a defense for the ages, Skipper Jimmy Spithill made believers of us all. Personally I thought he had serious mental issues when he said the U.S. team would be victorious despite an 8 to 1 deficit with the Kiwis, Emirates Team New Zealand. His crew didn’t flinch. Oracle's shore crew and designers never stood pat in seeking tiny improvements. They followed his leadership, pushed the limits of technology and won 8 straight to retain the Cup last week. In his interview right after the victory he said, “On your own you’re nothing but when you’ve got a team like this around, you fight to the end and you never give up.”
Except for a few sailing lessons in my life, I had minimal knowledge of this 162 year old international competition. But the 7-ton water-skimming yachts (underwritten by iconic tycoon Larry Ellison), the speed, the breathtaking San Francisco Bay racecourse, and the drama (including a 2-race penalty imposed on Team USA for a scandalous weight violation during the Cup's warm-up regattas in 2012) caught my interest. As a dental leader, you may not be dealing with cancellations because the wind is too strong, or conversely the winds are too calm, but how well are you inspiring your employees to tune and improve each day? Like the Oracle team leader, do you buoy your team when the tides aren’t in your favor?
Succeeding in the competitive world of dentistry requires creativity, imagination, and most important, mental toughness. Resiliency - the ability to ‘bounce back’ when circumstances are difficult - is the key factor to surviving in these enormously challenging times in which you live and work. Remember that you have no control over others, but you have full control over your behavior and your thinking. And by managing your thoughts and actions, you put yourself in a better position to succeed.
It’s easy to manage yourself when things are going well. But how do you handle the times when things are beyond your control? When your chairside fails to show up at work, your initial thoughts may be, “Oh (expletive deleted)...this is going to be a miserable day!” Your mood follows suit. You feel defeated. This sets off a chain of events. You might brood or even snap at your front desk staff when she brings you the schedule. Your negative thinking leads to negative actions. It even ‘leaks’ into your interactions with patients.
If you expect to have a peak performing practice and team, you’ve got to put a “psychological tourniquet” on your thinking. Unexpected or unwanted events are part of life. And while you don’t have control over what happens to you, you do have control of how you respond to those events. Evaluate your situations objectively. “Yes, it will be a challenging day but it’s not the end of the world.”
Your thoughts affect your emotions and your actions. It’s normal to be angry, disappointed, or anxious when a member of your dental team calls in sick…or worse, just doesn’t show up. But the starting point toward better leadership isn’t with your feelings. That’s because emotions are almost impossible to change directly. If you’ve ever tried to tell yourself not to feel something or to feel something different, you know what I mean.
Similarly, telling yourself the opposite of what you have been negatively saying to yourself rarely works. “Oh great, I don’t have a clinical assistant today. It’s going to be a terrific day” is just as inaccurate as “It’s going to be a miserable day.”
Resiliency is about finding alternative ways of looking at adversities when they occur. Start by remembering other times when you were short-staffed and how understanding your patients were. Even if your dental experience in working alone is not particularly stellar, there must be moments in your past when you achieved something and did it well. Drawing from those basic and pure images – mental scenes when you accomplished a task better than you expected – enables you to shift your thoughts and change your mood.
If you have been experiencing lowered productivity and/or a tendency to become overstressed with life’s inevitable downturns, evaluate your thoughts. Challenge automatic beliefs. Start thinking like a winner and lead your team to victory.If you want to build resiliency, contact Dr. Haller at email@example.com. She’ll help you to develop your team leadership.
Dr. Haller provides training for leadership effectiveness, interpersonal communication, conflict management, and team building. If you would like to learn more contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
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Many offices believe the treatment coordinator is responsible for selling and getting patients to accept treatment. However, this is the job of the entire team. The treatment coordinator may be excellent at going over the treatment and financials, but he/she is not the only person on the team who has the power of influence.
The doctor needs to be precise and informative when telling patients what is needed and why. The confidence presented by the doctor when giving this information to the patient is very important. It is recommended that the optimal treatment plan be presented first - it is up to the patient if they want to be given more options.
For instance, if #14 needs to be extracted, the treatment plan may be to have an extraction, bone graft, and implant. This would be reviewed with the patient in the operatory, then the patient would be asked, “What questions do you have about my recommendations?” The patient might reply that he/she has no questions, or may ask if there are any other options. Or, the patient may not have any questions for the doctor because they are more comfortable asking the hygienist. Regardless, once the doctor has asked the open-ended question, the patient needs to be given time to think. This one-time silence on the provider’s part is golden. This is also the time to be definitive and confident with the diagnosis and treatment plan or plans being given.
If the patient does ask, “What other options do I have, because I can’t afford that?” the doctor will want to lay out the different options. The patient may want to consider a three unit bridge, and the doctor can go over all of the risks, benefits, and alternatives to a three unit bridge compared to an implant. The patient should also be educated about the risk and benefits if they do not replace the tooth at all. During this time, the doctor can also mention that the implant may not cost as much as the patient thinks, and have the treatment coordinator review the options.
In the above scenario, I used the doctor as the provider. However, if the doctor were to come into the hygienist’s room and diagnose this treatment, the hygienist should be totally comfortable answering the patient’s questions. It is important that the entire office is on the same page when it comes to any treatment that is recommended by the doctor, and why the doctor has chosen that particular treatment as the best for that patient. If for some reason the hygienist does not know the answer the doctor would give, then the doctor should be asked or brought back in the room.
At this time, the hygienist needs to stay in the room in order to understand the doctor’s philosophy better. If the staff does not know the philosophy of the doctor when it comes to treatment planning, it will be more difficult for them to help with educating the patient. The patient needs and wants to have the same answers, regardless of whom they may ask in the practice. If one person’s answers differentiate from another, the treatment may not be accepted. This does not imply that every person on your dental team would use the exact same verbiage. However, they should all have the same answer.
Next, the patient will be handed off to the treatment coordinator. S/he will go over all of the treatment options and financials. No matter how good or bad the insurance company pays, it is best to highlight the positive fact that they have any help at all. Sometimes patients need to be shown how they can afford treatment. CareCredit is a great way to make what a patient thinks they cannot afford become affordable.Making sure the entire team is trained with the same philosophy and protocol when it comes to presenting and discussing treatment with patients is essential when it comes to the success of your practice.
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