3.20.15 Issue #680 info@mckenziemgmt.com 1-877-777-6151 Forward This Newsletter

6 Ways to Convert Emergency Patients into Loyal Patients
By Sally McKenzie, CEO

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For most practices, emergency patients are a huge source of frustration. You do your best to work them into your busy schedule and get them out of pain, only to never hear from them again. They bring stress and chaos to your day, and no matter how many emergency patients you see, they never seem to turn into loyal patients who are proud to call your practice their dental home.

Yes, it is frustrating, but I’m here to tell you it doesn’t have to be this way. It is possible to turn emergency patients into loyal patients, you just need to make a few changes in how you and your team members approach them.

I’ve put together six tips to help you take advantage of this huge growth opportunity, and to turn emergency visits into increased production and revenue for your practice.

1. Create a Script
Emergency patients should receive a warm welcome when they call your practice. Patients should never feel like they’re annoying the team member on the other end of the line, or that they’re causing a major disruption to your day. Instead, they should hang up the phone knowing your practice is concerned about their situation, and ready to help.

The best way to make this happen is to create phone scripts. If team members have a script, they won’t be put on the spot when an emergency patient calls. They’ll know exactly how to handle the call, and will start laying the groundwork to turn this emergency into a comprehensive exam. Remember, the script should serve as a general guide to assist all team members, no matter who picks up the phone, in gathering necessary information, conveying essential details and expressing a helpful, caring tone throughout the conversation.

2. Increase Awareness Among Your Team Members
When emergency patients walk into your practice they’re likely scared, stressed, in pain and in need of more attention than your typical patient. Remind team members that they may need to show these patients a little more concern and empathy than normal, and to never come off as annoyed. 

3. Make Them Feel at Ease
Chances are, patients who come to your practice with a dental emergency are going to be a little anxious. Help them relax by greeting them with a smile and assuring them they’re in great hands.

These patients may also be a little frazzled, so ask them if they’d like help filling out their paperwork. If they’re in a lot of pain or discomfort, I recommend taking them to a private consultation room where a team member can help them fill out the necessary forms. Once they’re done, let them know how long it will be before they see the doctor. Simply put, make them feel as comfortable as possible. They’ll appreciate the effort, and may even tell family and friends about the excellent care they received while at your practice.

4. Watch for Cues
When talking with emergency patients, your dental assistant should take note of any obstacles they are likely to bring up when the dental team speaks with them about scheduling a comprehensive exam. Do they appear scared or anxious? Do they keep asking about how much treatment will cost, how much pain they can expect or how long the procedure will take? Do they keep apologizing because it’s been so long since they’ve seen a dentist? Do they seem angry or frustrated? Has a negative dental experience kept them from pursuing comprehensive care?

If you know why these patients have avoided the dentist for so long, you can tailor your education to ease their specific concerns and fears, which will help them to overcome these barriers and make them more likely to schedule a comprehensive exam before they leave.

5. Stress the Importance of Ongoing Care
While you have them chairside, educate emergency patients about their condition and the importance of maintaining their oral health. Use tools such as an intraoral camera, hand mirrors and educational videos to help them see exactly what’s going on in their mouth, and why they can no longer ignore it.

Continue to educate patients after treatment is complete. Escort them to the front desk and stress the importance of continual care. Tell your Scheduling Coordinator to schedule the patient for a comprehensive exam as soon as possible. There should be time in the schedule reserved for emergency patients who are ready to make appointments. You want these patients to come back for their comprehensive exam within a week, not six weeks or six months down the road.

6. Follow-Up
Even if an emergency patient schedules a comprehensive exam before leaving, be sure to follow-up with a phone call to check on the patient that evening or the next. Ask how they are feeling, and thank them for allowing you and your team to provide care. This will go a long way in winning patients over, but the follow-up shouldn’t end there. Within a few days, mail the patient a package filled with information about your practice and the services you offer. Attach a handwritten note that specifically addresses the patient’s experience and expresses concern for his or her well-being. Let the patient know you and your team are looking forward to their next appointment, and to visit the practice website or call the office with any questions.

Emergency patients don’t have to be a source of frustration. Instead of getting annoyed when they call and disrupt your day, think of them as an opportunity for practice growth. Follow these tips and you won’t have to wonder what happened to those emergency patients who never came back, because they’ll be loyal patients who are helping to boost your practice productivity and your bottom line.

For additional information on this topic and more, visit my blog: The Lighter Side

Interested in speaking to me about your practice concerns? Email sallymck@mckenziemgmt.com
Interested in having McKenzie Management Seminars speak to your dental society or study club? Click here.
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Jonathan Gale, Ph.D.
Leadership Coach
McKenzie Management
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Are Dentists Leaders?
By Jonathan Gale, Ph.D.

Is “Leader” just a buzzword used to make us feel important, or does it actually refer to something tangible? Did you complete your dental training to become a “Leader” or a “Dentist?” What is the difference?

Let’s break down what it is to be a leader and see what you think. Leaders are typically people to whom others look up to. Leaders set direction, have vision and generally have risen to their position through hard work, ambition and tenacity, and often with some political awareness of their professional environment.

Also inherent in the definition of a leader is that there are followers. These can be fans, loyal constituents or employees. Do leaders have to be charismatic speakers? Do they have to love the limelight? Do they have to have won every debate in their high school debate club? Not really… According to the research, leadership manifests in several different ‘power types.’ As you review these, think about which leadership style(s) applies to you.

Leaders, by definition, all have some sort of power – more than others who are not leaders, anyway. According to French and Raven’s research in the 1960s, which is still a very used and valid classification of the leadership styles, there are five fundamental types of power demonstrated by leaders: Coercive, Reward, Legitimate, Expert and Referent.

1. Coercive Power is considered a formal type of power used by leaders. As the name might lead us to think, it is based heavily on punishment, or the threat of a punishment as motivation. Coercive leaders use their role to bring about the change they want typically through strict behavioral means. Often you will see coercive leaders threatening job loss or career ruin to try to achieve their desired results.

2. Reward Power is another formal type of power, but is kind of the opposite of coercive. Leaders who use reward power will offer rewards, recognition or celebrations to try to move their staff to the desired state.

3. Legitimate Power is the third type of formal power leaders can engender, and is recognized via their title or position. In this case, leaders who are “the boss” or “the CEO” have legitimate power in the sense that, by rights, they can make decisions that others are expected to follow and/or support.

4. Expert Power is considered a personal form of power, and comes from a leader’s experience, skills or knowledge. Perhaps you have heard the term “Thought Leader.” One who employs expert power is often a thought leader in that he or she has demonstrated a particular skill and therefore is the go-to person for the job or task requiring that skill.

5. Referent Power is the final type of power shown by leaders and it is also thought of as a personal form of power. Leaders who have referent power are those who, according to their followers, are role models. Often we see this with professional athletes or Hollywood stars. In the work setting, referent power can come from being trusted and respected. For example, leaders who do what they say and say what they do.

After this brief review of the five basic forms of leadership power, which kind do you think best describes your style? What kind of leader do you aspire to be? Are they the same? Does only one leadership style fit all situations or all employees? How do you know when to move from one style to another? If you have found yourself using coercion in your leadership role, what have you done to dial this back? If you use rewards, how do you rate their effectiveness? If you hold legitimate power, which I believe all dentists do, have you engaged others in your office to help with decisions despite your ‘legitimate’ ability to make them yourself? Do you think a collaborative approach will win you greater loyalty? If you demonstrate expert knowledge or ability, what is it specifically that you bring to the table that perhaps someone else would not? How do you let others know about this comparative advantage? Finally, if your leadership style reflects referent power, how did you obtain this? Are you cognizant of the impact you can have on others just by serving as a role model?

Based on your answers to these questions, you may be interested in gaining further knowledge and awareness of your leadership style and how you might strategize adjusting it to maximize your hoped-for endeavors in your personal practice. A leadership coach can help you hone your style to get the most out of your staff, increase customer loyalty and treatment adherence, and ultimately bring up your bottom line.

Dr. Gale provides coaching and training to enhance leadership skills, interpersonal communications and team building. If you would like to learn more, contact him at jgalephd@mckenziemgmt.com

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Jean Gallienne RDH BS
McKenzie Management
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One Way to Monitor Your Hygiene Department
By Jean Gallienne, RDH BS

When most offices monitor the dental hygiene department in their practice, they are somewhat aware of open time, cancellations, and no-shows. They may have an idea of how many there are, but not actually take the time to monitor how many they have in each category. Even if they do monitor the number of no-shows, cancellations and open time slots, they only do it on occasion and never really look at all the numbers at the end of the year.

If you take the time to monitor your hygiene department and actually look at the negative units at the end of the year, you may realize there are too many hours of hygiene in the schedule to start with, your recall system may be broken, or patients need to be educated more about the importance of their hygiene appointment. One of the main reasons we do monitoring is to keep track of cancellations, no-shows, and open time. The other reason is to utilize them as checks and balances when it comes to posting.

Even though the front office will do treatment verification, they will still miss things, particularly if the back office forgets to write it down on the route slip and it was not in the appointment originally, or if it was originally in the appointment and they forgot to remove it. You do not want to miss posting the treatment to the patient’s ledger, but at the same time you do not want to make the mistake of charging for something that did not get done. If you did something and it is not in the ledger, it needs to be brought to the attention of the front office so they can add it to the patient’s treatment. This may be done in writing or verbally. You may want to make a note to yourself to go back in the ledger and confirm that the changes were made before the end of the month.

A hygiene monitor would consist of how many actual hours the hygienist is available for patient care. If there is a meeting or training, those are not counted in the hours available. Below are the definitions of “negative” time categories.

1. No-show: Patient does not call prior to the appointment and does not come in.
2. Cancellation: Patient called within a 24 hour period and cancelled their appointment.
3. Open time: Open for more than a 24 hour period.

The total negative time plus total treatment hours should equal the amount of time available for patient care. The hygienists should record what they do with each patient as it is being done, in order to accurately check the treatment posted to the ledger with the treatment that was actually done. This should be done as soon as possible, during open time in the hygiene schedule. This is not to accrue any additional hours.

The hygienist then totals the amounts charged for each patient. This is based on what is actually paid by insurance. The daily total should be based on what insurance pays, NOT the fee schedule. Once the monitors have been filled out for the entire month, they will be totaled and entered into a spreadsheet, listed month-to-month. Then at the end of the year, the total number of cancellations, no-shows, and open time will be evaluated.

If you do not have these numbers, you won’t know where to start with fixing your hygiene department. You will continue to make the same mistakes, and continue to have a lot of time unscheduled. A high number of no-shows and cancellations can be a sign that patients do not value their appointments, or your time. If this is where your problem is, you may want to look at working with your hygienist on verbiage and patient education. If you have a lot of open time, it may be a sign that there are weaknesses in your recall system, the practice has poor patient retention or you have too many hygiene hours.

Interested in improving your hygiene department? Email hygiene@mckenziemgmt.com and ask us about our 1-Day Hygiene Training Program or call 877-777-6151

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