Written by Robert D. Westerman, DDS, FICD Friday, 31 October 2003 19:00
Achieving your dream practice is dependent upon understanding and exercising basic organizational applications. One of the first things to do is remove the bottleneck around you. Good administrative and technical help are needed to take the load off the dentist and unclog the bottleneck. Sometimes, there are those who do not recognize how much the doctor is overloaded. They think this is normal or business as usual. The staff must be aware of the problems and know that conditions can change. Then basic systems and procedures must be adopted for everyone to follow. When staffers realize the efficiency of new organizational applications, they all will be more willing to continue. You will soon see how magical the results are in terms of relieving the workload (Figure 1).
HAVE AND USE A STAFF EMPLOYMENT POLICY MANUAL
|Figure 1. Unburden yourself by removing the bottleneck around you. Delegate and trust your staff.|
As long as agreements exist between individuals, groups, countries, etc, there are no problems. Where there is disagreement, problems exist. This also applies to doctors and staff in dental offices. A complete and easily understood manual that spells out employment arrangements, policies, and philosophy is mandatory. This manual informs incoming new employees of what they can expect and obtains their agreement prior to them becoming a team member. It is also used for review from time to time for tenured employees. Employees may ask you, “Can I clean my husband’s teeth for free? Is Memorial Day a paid holiday? Do I get funeral leave for my cousin who passed away up in Canada? Can I get a loan from you for a couple of months?” Having a general policy manual already answers these questions, makes employment fair for everyone, and greatly unburdens those in managerial positions.
HAVE DETAILED JOB DESCRIPTIONS FOR EVERY POSITION
Organize all the duties that you and your staff perform. Start by listing every duty that you and each member of your staff can think of and develop a job description for everyone as a permanent record in your office (Figure 2). Staffers will need help and encouragement with this, so show some leadership. This list of job descriptions can easily be added to and handed down to new personnel as your staff changes. Beginning this process with the basic duties performed in the office starts to unburden the dentist, and this unburdening brings about happiness, higher morale, and more production where more quality can be delivered.
|Figure 2. Have detailed job descriptions for every position and have specific instructions ready for staff.||Figure 3. Training staff on standard operating procedures.|
Figure 4a. You lose.
Figure 4b. You win!
DON’T MISTAKENLY SOLVE THE WRONG PROBLEM
I have had hundreds of participants in my office for training and workshops for office administration, scheduling, accounts receivable, and office manager training. When we ask these dentists and their staff members what they think their number one problem is, they nearly always say it is acquiring a good staff. This is a vast misconception. I have been teaching this in my training manuals, workshops, and seminars for over 20 years, and it is finally being proposed by many others. This misconception can be deadly, and often is.
KNOW THE INGREDIENTS FOR A SUCCESSFUL PRACTICE
Dentists often ask me what it takes to make a successful practice. They also ask what is the quick fix or bag of tricks. There are none. So, to amuse myself one day, I sat down to address this question and make a list of some of the ingredients it takes.
FIND THE MISSING INGREDIENTS
|Figure 5. Ingredients for practice success.|
|Figure 6. Standardize your scheduling and appointment book control.|
|Figure 7. Which ones would you not give credit to?|
To get the practice under better control, all we have to do is look and see which ingredient is missing and put it in, or recognize which ingredient is weak and bolster it up. We should continually be trying to improve each facet of the office. For example, a recall system exists, but it is not getting the job done. There is a lot of unfilled production time on the appointment book and there are too many broken appointments. This is a weak ingredient that needs strengthening. (The first thing to remember is that almost any system is better than no system.)
SIMPLIFY FOR SUCCESS BY PUTTING ORDER INTO STAFF DUTIES
Consider a list of (1) every duty we perform, all the decisions that have to be made, and all the armamentaria necessary to perform every dental procedure we do; (2) all the supplies used for our dental and office procedures, and ordering, stocking, and distributing them; (3) handling all the business forms and paying the bills and taxes; (4) doing all the scheduling and recalls; and (5) working with patients on their accounts, finances, and insurance. Then there is administering payroll, handling benefits, and coordinating all the laboratory crown and bridge and removable prosthodontic cases as well as other intraoral appliances. Then we have to do staff enhancement and training, take care of the building maintenance, evaluate new products and procedures, and on and on.
MAKE DECISION-MAKING EASY WITH STANDARD OPERATING PROCEDURES
One of the things many staff members don’t want to do is make decisions. The demand for us to make so many decisions so often is where a great deal of our stress comes from. This is especially true in dental offices where there are so many things to be addressed. Establishing office policy for how things are to be done in most instances makes their decisions automatic, so staff members do not have to decide on administrative actions in the office. Staff members love having decisions already made for them. It makes their life so much easier, regardless of how much you have heard to the contrary. Don’t worry, if staffers like making decisions, there will be plenty of opportunities.
STANDARDIZE YOUR SCHEDULING AND APPOINTMENT BOOK CONTROL
In general, is your production lower than you would like it to be? Would you like to be producing in a higher range and realize the rewards of working smarter, not harder? Are broken appointments costing you production? Is your staff scheduling patients who may not pay you? Would you like to get your staff really trained so they are effective and feeling better and more confident in their ability to create an ideal schedule every day? Do your staff members know the right scripts for getting patients to schedule their needed treatments? Do they know the 7 objections to scheduling? Do they know how to salvage broken appointments and no-shows? If a staff member is not good at calling recall patients and is not successful, is she going to be happy trying to do so? Of course not! People don’t like to do things they are not good at.
So, when there is poor scheduling, no one is having any fun or making enough profit. It is essential to address the above questions and develop standardized scheduling and appointment book control (Figure 6).
Do not treat everyone’s account the same
All patients are not the same and should not be treated the same, especially when it comes to how they pay for their services. I have talked to thousands of dentists and dental office personnel, and I can tell you that the decision to go into a cash practice is based on several things. They, like you and I, have been victims of patients who were deceiving and dishonest or were actually credit criminals that we were not aware of and trusted they would pay their accounts. We have given deadbeat and untruthful patients appointments on our schedules and had the appointment times wasted by them not showing up, or if they did, never paying us. Others, however, are totally honest, sincere, and trustworthy, and should be treated as such.
In a future issue of Dentistry Today, the third and final article in this series will discuss more valuable systems for achieving your dream practice.
- Clinical Update
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- Dental Materials
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- Forensic Dentistry
- Geriatric Dentistry
- Infection Control
- Interdisciplinary Dentistry
- New Directions
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- Oral Cancer Screening
- Oral Medicine
- Oral-Systemic connection
- Pediatric Dentistry
- Pain Management
- Post-and-Core Technique
- Sleep Disorders
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- Technique of the Week
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