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  Sally McKenzie's
 Weekly Management e-Motivator

  5.30.03 Issue #66

Breaking Down the "Don’t Ask, They Won’t Tell Barrier"

Sally Mckenzie, CMC
McKenzie Management

      Ignorance is bliss as the adage goes. It’s also very, very expensive. Not knowing what’s on the minds of your patients is a bit like turning off the lights and the power in your practice. You’re not going to get a lot accomplished by trying to function in the dark. Use simple surveys and give your patients the opportunity to provide feedback on a regular basis. What you receive in return is information that can be used to make major gains in practice efficiency and revenues. Follow these guidelines and get firsthand information on what your patients really think.

  1. Develop a clear objective for your survey. In other words, what do you want to learn from this survey and/or what decisions do you want to make based on the results. Have you been thinking about changing your hours or perhaps your location?
  2. Keep the form concise and simple.
  3. Ask several questions that require a “yes” or “no” answer.
  4. Ask a few open-ended questions to elicit feedback from patients as to what they like most and least about the office. You will gather excellent information from these sections. Pay close attention. The feedback you gather will give you specific areas that can be improved right away.
  5. Hand patients the form with a self-addressed, postage-paid envelope when they leave and mail survey forms to inactive patients. Or, preferably, mail the form to all active and inactive patients.
  6. Use a different color paper for surveys that are sent to inactive patients to differentiate the responses.
  7. Pay close attention to negative comments. If one person out of 100 complains about a specific problem, recognize that many people choose not to say anything. It’s easy to dismiss it as “only one complaint.” But that one complaint is speaking for many others who chose to remain silent on the issue.
  8. Implement reasonable suggestions promptly. This demonstrates clearly to patients that not only do you want their input, you are prepared to act on their suggestions.

Take some decisive steps and urge your patients to open their mouths for more than just today’s appointment. What you hear may surprise you, but it will also make your practice more profitable down the road.

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Building On The Theory

How An Ailing Business Foundation Can Cause
“Digital Chaos” Part 9

Mark Dilatush
VP Professional Relations
McKenzie Management

Technology Tool Box

#9 Scheduling systems

Last week I discussed your treatment planning system as an integral part of your overall business foundation. Different ways to leverage your technology investment were explained. [see article] . This week I will focus on your scheduling system and ways to leverage your technology platform.

Below is the foundation of your scheduling system.

Job description – The written, discussed, and agreed reason for employment
Expectations – The performance you expect from this one “system”
Goals – Clearly attainable performance objectives in support of your vision
Responsibility – Who is ultimately responsible for this particular business system
Reporting mechanisms – Which reports they run to measure their performance
Accountability – Presenting the reporting results to the owner and the team
Statistical performance reviews – Compilation of reports for the business system(s) under the responsibility of a particular team member

Your scheduling coordinator or one of your business administrators assigned to your scheduling system should report the following at each of your team meetings.

  1. # of open time units (per provider) from the last reporting period (this needs to be tracked manually – no system will tell you this accurately)
  2. # of new patients last reporting period
  3. # of new patients vs. leaving patient comparison (last 6 months)
  4. Performance against goal in last reporting period
  5. State future goal for next reporting period
  6. Currently scheduled vs. future goal
  7. Total value of treatment in tickler file(s) – print and review list with team

All reports should be compared from last month to this month unless otherwise stated.

If the above business foundation exists in your office, here are some ways to use your computer system to leverage growth, efficiency, and customer service.

  1. Always establish goals. If you do not have production goals in your computer system, learn how to set them up and implement them as soon as possible. Once you have practice goals, you can advance to implementing individual provider goals.
  2. Always review the patient’s family recall needs, outstanding treatment plan, and account balance BEFORE making an appointment. You can turn one appointment into several, stop a potential collection problem, and greatly enhance your productivity by knowing what you need to know FIRST.
  3. Never have your computer “find” the next available appointment in the system. ALWAYS “look” visually for the next available appointment on the screen. Computer systems don’t know where you can squeeze time. They don’t know your patients. A computer system will skip twelve, 8 unit openings to find a 9 unit opening three weeks from today. Scheduling is a very subjective process. Your computer system is hardly subjective when finding available appointment times.
  4. Review your schedule two to three days ahead. Morning huddles are TOO LATE to fix the same day schedule. Bring a copy of the schedule for tomorrow and the next day to every team huddle. Review them together. Take necessary action.
  5. When you see an opening in the schedule beyond tomorrow, always go to your system’s tickler file/unscheduled treatment list (as opposed to the short call/notice report) to fill the gap. Your system’s short call (or “as soon as possible” list) should represent people who are already scheduled but said “could” come in sooner. Your system’s tickler file/unscheduled treatment list represents people who need appointments but are NOT in the schedule. Use the short call for gaps within 24 hours. Use the big tickler file/unscheduled treatment report to fill gaps beyond 24 hours. The bottom line here is that using the big tickler file/unscheduled treatment report adds production to your schedule. Using the short call does not.
  6. Always schedule appointments from the patient’s treatment plan window! Doing so allows a perfect flow of information, makes scheduling ridiculously efficient, and keeps your reports every month as accurate as possible.

Next week, I will continue the topic of the Scheduling System.

If you have any questions or comments, please email Mark Dilatush at

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Missed Past Issues of Our e-Motivator Newsletter?

Getting The Cold Shoulder


Giving Dentists And Their Staff Different Perspectives On Day To Day Issues

Dear Coach,
I work for a very good dentist that takes pride in his work but he is really frustrating us all at the office. He is very wishy washy and does not stick to what he says i.e., all accounts must be paid before the visit then he says that's o.k. right now

don't worry about paying, he will say that he is going to do two fillings, as financial coordinator I tell the patient how much it will be at the next visit then he goes and does 6 fillings. Now it is up to me, the financial coordinator, to get the money before they leave. I become the sounding board for them as they get mad at me. Then, they do not pay all of it because they did not plan for the extra work and now my A/R is a mess and the doctor asks why? I know this is his office, but I am very experienced with this and I just want what is best for the patient and the Doctor. What can I do about these situations? It is making me crazzzzzzzy.
Thank You! Cheryl

The Coach Replies:
It is wonderful that you like and respect your dentist. Just as he takes pride in his work, you take pride in your performance and success. There should not be any compromise in your desire to do good work. Right?

Your sense of frustration stems from feeling prevented from performing up to your own standards of excellence. This makes sense.

Your characterization of your dentist as “wishy-washy” might also be your perception of your dentist's desire to accommodate the people who pay his and your salary. Being “wishy-washy” is not unreasonable if you remember that this is America and business is about competing for customers.

The fact that he changes the treatment plan for the day without consulting with you is a problem. The fact that he insists on balances paid before more treatment and then changes his mind is a problem. However, he is certainly free to make treatment and business decisions as he sees fit. Therefore, I believe there is another problem at work.

As Financial Coordinator, you take great pride in your position and responsibility. When his behavior throws off the A/R for the day, your performance standards of accuracy and precision are violated and you find these changes annoying.

The real problem arises when you believe that he believes that the A/R should be correct for the work done. I think this is an erroneous assumption and the partial source of your frustration.

Yes, you must try to get as much money as possible, and yes, asking for more money than expected is difficult on the patient and the financial coordinator. And Yes, when people become irritated and angry it is uncomfortable for you. And yes, this is the dentist’s office and he can do whatever he likes, and yes, the A/R is no longer correct and must be adjusted... But NO, there is no problem when the dentist asks “why?”.

There is a perfectly good explanation for all discrepancies in the A/R and the dentist is simply told what they are....

You changed this... You said that... You decided on this... You OK'd that....

Instead of relying on the perfect balance sheet or A/R as a mark of your excellence, perhaps it is better to accept that your responsibility for a job well done ends with his decisions.

It is more reasonable to see your job as keeping track of everything financial rather than having to make everything balance TODAY.

If your value is measured by the accounting system, then you will always have a problem with a gentle and accommodating dentist. However, would you really rather work for an authoritative dictator who only cares about perfect order.

Your A/R is not a mess. First of all, it is his A/R. Secondly, he values the job you do, and therefore, you can answer him with an explanation for all changes and discrepancies he initiated.

It is your reluctance to confront him with the consequences of his decisions that is the heart of the issue. What is best for the doctor and the patient is that you express yourself freely and keep everything well ordered so that everyone’s interests are maintained.

Yes, I agree this makes more work for you; however, I also believe that you will feel better about your position as coordinator and the A/R situation if you feel free to tell him the truth without any fear and the “crazzzzy” will disappear.

The Coach

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Telephone Tips To Win Business
Answer all incoming phone calls before the third ring.
When you answer the phone, be warm and enthusiastic. Your voice at the end of the telephone line is sometimes the only impression of your company a caller will get.
When answering the phone, welcome callers courteously and identify yourself and your organization. Say, for instance, "Good morning. ABC Dental. Susan speaking. How may I help you?"
Enunciate clearly, keep your voice volume moderate, and speak slowly and clearly when answering the phone, so your caller can understand you easily.
Control your language when answering the phone. Don't use slang or jargon. Instead of saying, "OK", or "No problem", for instance, say "Certainly", "Very well", or "All right".
Train your voice and vocabulary to be positive when phone answering, even on a "down" day. For example, rather than saying, "I don't know", say, "Let me find out about that for you."
Take telephone messages completely and accurately. If there's something you don't understand or can't spell, such as a person's surname, ask the caller to repeat it or spell it for you. Then make sure the message gets to the intended recipient.
Answer all your calls within one business day. I can't emphasize this one enough. Remember the early bird?
The Coach


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