Written by Mark Dilatush Saturday, 31 January 2004 19:00
In 1980, Dick Vermeil led the Philadelphia Eagles to the Super Bowl against the Oakland Raiders. Philadelphia lost. Shortly thereafter, Dick Vermeil announced his retirement from coaching football. He cited “coach burnout” as the determining factor for his decision. As hard as he worked (and no coach outworked Dick Vermeil), he failed to get his team to the “promised land.”
SCANNING THE FIELD
McKenzie Management consultants such as myself have traveled the country working with dental offices for 23 years. Consistently, we find that most of our clients feel as if they have lost control of their teams. Game plans don’t exist or have been forgotten. In other cases, the team is working hard but not working together. More often than not, this lack of control is taking its toll on the owners/dentists. They are stressed, and more and more of their time is spent in the practice trying to fix things by personally running all the “plays.”
Dentist/Owner (Head Coach)
The head football coach is responsible for understanding the strengths and weaknesses of each player. He or she is also responsible for creating a game plan designed to leverage both the players’ talents and the equipment available to the players. As coach, you are responsible for providing the education and support every player needs to become a stronger, better player. You are leading the team. You are not performing each play. It is not the coach’s job to use or even know how to use every feature available in the technology platform.
Business Administrator/Office Manager (Offensive and Defensive Coordinator)
Great coaches delegate without losing control. They do this by maintaining regular communication with each player, and because great coaches are committed to training, each player is well prepared to handle his or her responsibilities. Therefore, the coach can enjoy his or her role (patient care) and delegate the business implementation responsibility to someone who is properly trained and enjoys the role of coordinator.
Financial Coordinator (Running Back)
She can dance like a butterfly and sting like a bee. Agile and fast yet directed and powerful, the financial coordinator has to adapt on the fly like a running back. Your financial coordinator listens to patients and responds appropriately. She knows what’s going on at all times. Her peripheral vision is astounding. She uses this awareness to maintain world-class patient/customer service and reach the practice revenue objectives. This is not an easy job. Sometimes, financial coordinators wind up on the “injured list,” particularly when the patient goes directly to the coach to complain! But that doesn’t mean she’s relegated to the bench. A great coach defers this type of complaint to the business administrator for proper follow-up. After all, the coach has a well-trained team allowing him or her to focus on caring for the patients, knowing the patient’s concerns will be addressed.
The financial coordinator’s key technology responsibilities are the following:
- Set up the computer system to track over-the-counter collections. These should be at 45% or greater (98% in a nonparticipating practice).
- Run patient billing daily. This accelerates cash flow.
- Track, follow up, and ensure overdue patient receivables are no more than one month’s production.
- Track, follow up, and maintain 90-day-plus receivables. Ensure they are no greater than 15% of total receivables.
- Track, follow up, and maintain overdue insurance claims.
- Enter pertinent notes of patient conversations into the technology platform. This enables all the other players to know what’s going on with each patient as well as the ongoing status of these accounts.
How do you improve immediately? Your now fully trained business administrator trains the financial coordinator.
Scheduling Coordinator (Quarterback)
You probably thought the business administrator was the quarterback! Football quarterbacks have to read what is in front of them, determine the best option for the team, and take definitive action. That’s pretty much what a scheduling coordinator does. Your scheduling coordinator must make quick decisions. Look for an opening that’s right for the office production and offer it to the patient. Fumble? Look for an alternate opening that’s right for the office production and offer it to the patient. And so on, until agreement is reached with the patient, and both parties are satisfied with the result. A quarterback on a football team largely determines the success of the offense of that team–so does your scheduling coordinator. A quarterback on a football team is constantly working with the offensive coordinator to increase the team’s point production. Do you see the similarities? The scheduling coordinator in your office works hand-in-hand with the business administrator.
The scheduling coordinator’s key technology responsibilities are the following:
- Schedule to meet or exceed team goals.
- Consistently communicate family scheduling objectives with patients to leverage all scheduling opportunities.
- Keep open time units to a bare minimum.
- Report open time units to the team at review meetings.
- Calculate and report hygiene hours needed to service patient load.
- Constantly work the tickler file and short-call list in the software to add production to the schedule.
- Continually follow up with patients who have unscheduled treatment.
- Confirm appointments well in advance and consistently fill openings.
- Enter pertinent notes from patient conversations that will benefit the patient and team.
Your scheduling coordinator is definitely the most “offensive-minded” player on your team.
How do you improve immediately? Once again, your trained business administrator, who is now the technology platform expert, trains the scheduling coordinator.
Dental Assistant (Wide Receiver)
Dental Hygienist (Offensive Line)
The dental hygienists in your practice pave the way for the rest of your team. Offensive linemen in football rarely get the accolades. This is also true of great dental hygienists. The importance of a great hygiene team is immeasurable to the overall success of a dental team. The importance of a great offensive line has been chronicled in football for years.
In closing, I realize that many readers are solo practitioners with one person administrating the business. That one person is your offensive and defensive coordinator, running back (financial coordinator), and quarterback (scheduling coordinator). Some practices may have a financial coordinator and a scheduling coordinator but no business administrator. In that scenario, both the financial and scheduling coordinator need to be fully trained on the entire technology platform.
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