The Human Side of Technology: A Team-wide Look at the Implementation “Game”

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.”


After 15 years, Dick Vermeil decided to make a return to coaching. He accepted a position with the St Louis Rams. He took the Rams to the Super Bowl and won. Now he is with the Kansas City Chiefs, which he led to a division championship this year.

I will present to you that in 1980, Dick Vermeil didn’t understand how to delegate appropriately, and it almost cost him his health and his marriage. Over the years, he learned what it meant truly to build a winning team. He learned he didn’t have to do and know everything. He learned that other people are also responsible–not just him. He learned that a good coach has to surround himself or herself with capable people. A truly great coach must provide the team with the right tools (education and technology) and must lead the team with an overall game plan that allows the individual team members to understand the goals as well as flourish in their efforts to achieve them. 

Whether you’re a football fan or not, you want and need to build the very best team you can. Your “Super Bowl” season runs year- round, and it’s not the trophies that line your wall of fame, it’s the satisfied “fans”—the patients—that keep returning and investing in your treatment that are testimonials to your extraordinary abilities. Since the NFL has just concluded its season, and many of you parked yourselves in front of the screen to watch the Panthers and Patriots battle it out for the Super Bowl trophy, let’s look at your practice as if you were building a superstar football team. 

Who holds what position and why? How does the coach help individuals achieve their personal goals and lead the team to achieve its goals? How does the coach let go and allow the team members to thrive in their individual positions? No coach would send his or her team on the field without necessary equipment; what tools does your team need to do its job? What steps must you take to reach the promised land of success? Slip on your jerseys and your helmets, doctors, drills are about to begin.

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.”


The equipment the team uses, in this case the technology platform, has a significant impact on dentists’ ability to regain control without feeling like they are the only player in the arena. It also is one of the most significant contributing factors in the success or failure of your game plan. The technology platform is the “shoulder pads and helmet” for your players. Not only is the technology platform a competitive necessity, but without it, your players can’t even get on the field. It provides a continual review—the instant replay—of every play, so you know exactly what to adjust and precisely where you are in the game.

THE PLAYERS

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.


However, you must have an overall understanding of the existing features and recognize that making the best use of technology enables the team to take down that 300-pound opponent barreling straight for your productivity goals. Using the available technology puts everyone on the same page when it comes to the game plan. Everyone knows and clearly understands the “plays” as well as the specifics about each patient. Everyone knows and understands the team/practice numbers. And every member of the team uses technology to advance the productivity—the “wins”—of the practice. 

The head coach is aware of currently unimplemented features of the technology platform and views those as underleveraged opportunities for improvement. 
Focus on how you can use the technology platform to make your players better. Use professional experience and resources to develop your game plan. There isn’t a true professional of any type—football or otherwise—who is not trained. Arrange for your players to receive necessary training with company software trainers. Monitor individual players and team achievement as they advance toward the practice objectives. Insist that individuals monitor their own progress and report it to your “offensive” and “defensive” coordinator.

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.


The best business administrators (coordinators) have made the effective use of the practice technology platform the very center of all activities. They know that a properly prepared and implemented technology platform will make every player better. Subsequently, the team as a whole is better, and the practice is winning. What’s more, the business administrator has the satisfaction of knowing that in helping the other players better themselves, she/he excels in the eyes of the coach. 

Business administrators (coordinators) are responsible for patient service satisfaction and improving and monitoring all 20 operational business systems. They are continually looking for ways to teach teammates how to use the technology platform more effectively. Prepared business administrators meet with the coach to share the statistical progress of the 20 operational business systems. Great business administrators know every function and every feature of the entire technology platform. This includes all clinical software functions. It is the business administrator’s responsibility—not the coach’s responsibility—to make sure the coach’s technology plan is implemented. 

Many dental offices have or are in the process of taking their computer/technology platform into the treatment rooms. The business administrator will be the first person on the team to recognize if any players are underutilizing or struggling with the technology. In his or her role of helping players improve their use of technology, the business administrator monitors and directs the technology training needs of the clinical players. The business administrator has a technology education budget to work with throughout the year and is responsible for determining how to use those dollars most effectively. 

How do you improve immediately? Arrange for your business administrator to receive immediate professional training on the entire technology platform.

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 Plays
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 Plays
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)

Great dental assistants re­ceive information from everyone on the team as well as the patients. They use the technology platform to manage that information as well as lab cases, inventory, referrals to specialists, and supply ordering. They “receive” information from “the coach” verbally during the examination and enter it into the treatment room computers as it is presented. Great dental assistants prepare the treatment room, the setup, and have patient information on screen prior to the dentist entering so the “coach” is ready for the patient. 

A great dental assistant stores pertinent notes of patient conversations into the computer system so the rest of the team is apprised of specific information about the pa­tient. More information is “received”–and should be passed to the rest of the team–by a dental assistant than any other team member. 

A great dental assistant uses the technology platform to educate the patient about the coach’s treatment recommendation. This supports the assistant’s verbal “bragging” about the coach’s work. Dental assistants are constantly moving each patient toward the treatment that is best for them. It might be 1 yard at a time or a 99-yard “Hail Mary” pass. The clinical assistant’s use of technology in the treatment room is critical to an overall successful game plan.

How do you improve immediately? Again, the trained business administrator/ platform guru trains the assistant to use the practice technology most effectively.

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.


Great hygiene teams use the technology platform to benefit every patient. They chart existing restorations, perform periodontal charting, and take digital photographs and radiographs before the coach/dentist enters the room. Great hy­giene teams use the technology platform to enter patient-specific scheduling needs for follow-up recalls. They use it to inform and educate each patient. Like a “huddle,” great hygiene teams review an incoming patient record before the patient is seated so they are prepared to communicate previously recommended (but incomplete) treatment. Great hygiene teams use technology to increase the perceived value to the patient of the treatment the practice offers.

Second only to your dental assistants, the hygienist has the opportunity to build value, compliance, and referrals at every visit. The technology platform is filled with tools to build value, compliance, and generate referrals. 

How do you improve immediately? The technology expert/business administrator, who is fully and completely committed to ensuring that every member of the team effectively uses technology, trains the hygienists on the platform.

CONCLUSION
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.


Consider the following essential elements of the winning team: (1) a solid game plan; (2) a solid equipment manager (technology platform); and (3) the right players/coordinators with de­le­gated and learned re­sponsibilities.

Which one of the above is keeping your team from reaching your Super Bowl this year?


Mr. Dilatush, a writer, editor, and speaker, has spent the past 20 years of his career teaching advanced practice management principles to various companies and thousands of dentists and their teams in the United States and abroad. He is the vice president of professional relations for McKenzie Management, which provides in-office analysis, rebuilding, and training of the business, clinical, and hygiene departments in dental practices throughout the United States and Canada. He writes and lectures on the implementation of advanced practice management principles to dental societies and study clubs throughout the nation. He writes for numerous dental trade journals, is active on many Internet dental forums, and is a contributing editor to McKenzie Management’s weekly e-newsletter. To receive your free newsletter, call Mr. Dilatush at (877) 777-6151, e-mail This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , or visit mckenziemgmt.com or dentalcareerdevelop.com.