Technology It’s All About Relationships

Doctor, I have a proposal. I’d like you to hire me. It’s a sweet deal, really, an excellent working relation-ship...just keep reading. You hire me to do all this great technology stuff for your practice. You pay me a nice, fat, full-time salary, and—here’s the best part—I actually work about 30% of the time. The other 70% of the time I get to play golf, go to the gym, enjoy long lunches, afternoon naps, whatever I choose. Of course, at this moment, you are rolling your eyes and saying, “Yeah, right, Dilatush, you’re crazy.” Well, I’d have to agree. So my question to you is why are you managing your technology systems this way? You pay what some of you describe as “through the nose” for excellent systems that can make your life, your practice, and your relationships considerably better. Then you just let them sit there doing what underutilized technology systems do—absolutely nothing—languishing in oblivion while you stress over schedules, payments, getting out of the office on time, the laboratory, the team, ad nauseam.


It’s technology self-evaluation time, doctor; no more of this 70/30 arrangement for you. Time to maximize every technology dollar you have spent as well as the time and energy you’ve expended on this “technology thing.”

Table. Some of the relationships that practice management software can help manage.

Yourself

Patients

Business team

Dentists you refer to

Bank

Accountant

Lawyer

Malpractice agent/lawyer

Your spouse

Patient’s spouse (significant other)

Clinical assistants

Dentists who refer to you

Your healthcare financing company

Insurance companies

Local pharmacies

Prospective new patients

Your family

Patient’s parents

Hygiene team

Other medical professionals

Collection companies

Your lab(s)

Local schools

Your colleagues worldwide

PATIENT RELATIONSHIP MANAGEMENT
Many of you techno-savvy dentists will recognize the acronym CRM. It stands for “customer relationship management.” Big companies spend millions of dollars on massive customer relationship management software systems, and they want to make sure they are getting every penny out of every dollar spent on technology—think “blood from a turnip” and you get the idea. Conversely, dental practices, being small businesses, spend thousands of dollars on “patient relationship management” systems, and, well, I’ve already told you how little most of you are getting out of your systems—think “bleeding your technology budget dry” and you get the idea.


The goal of this article is to help you realize how much more technology you own than just a “patient relationship management” system and how to put that technology to good use to make your life and your relationships all the better. 

So, you are asking, “What does this technology thing have to do with relationships?”

This would be a “Ripley’s Believe It or Not” moment. The table shows just some of the relationships your practice management software could and should be helping you manage—believe it! 

Take a long look at the list. Other than your patients, which of the remaining relationships are directly affected by the clinical dentistry you perform? The answer is none! Most dental practices bill patients, bill insurance companies, schedule patients, and recall patients. They skip the rest of the practice management software and move exclusively into clinical charting, digital photography, and digital x-rays. Of course, those areas are very important, and it is fabulous that you are making great use of them. However, that’s perhaps 30% of your system. You have another 70% of techno-power just sitting there, snoozing on the job. 

It’s not surprising that you are using x-rays, charting, and digital photography. These are well within the typical dentist’s comfort zone. The “business” of dentistry starts to teeter on the periphery of what many doctors are truly comfortable getting into, which explains why more time, energy, and money are spent on clinical technology, even though the same practice’s management software is 70% underutilized. But no practice can justify losing 70% on an investment. Not even yours, right?

So, you’re asking, “How do I capture that other 70%?”

MOTIVATE—PLAN—DELEGATE—PRIORITIZE—MEASURE

Motivation
This is the energy, the will, and the determination to complete the plan. You have to want to quit losing 70% of your investment; otherwise, you’ll just continue to stand there and watch the greenbacks burn. You’ll continue to suffer from the acid boiling up in your midsection, and you’ll continue to be stressed over the details that your practice management system should be taking care of for you. So, let’s start with some motivating relationships. I shouldn’t have to go beyond your spouse and your team.

Relationship: Spouse
How can your practice management software and technology platform help you manage your relationship with your spouse? Do time and money ring a bell? What if you were on track with your personal financial objectives? What if you actually got home on time? Ever get a weekend emergency call and have to interrupt your family life? You could have handled the interruption more efficiently. Your practice management software has a very direct effect on your time, your money, and your home stress level.

Relationship: Team
The second most stressful relationship you have is probably the one you have with your team. Your practice management software will not give you a strong team. Only a solid business foundation will do that. However, your software will help you manage your employer/em-ployee relationship. Do you measure employee performance with your practice management software? Does your team run reports and present its performance to the rest of the team? Do you know if an employee is embezzling? Do you know which team member is making data entry mistakes? Have you experienced staff turnover recently? Was there a negative impact during the staff change? The negative impact could have been greatly neutralized by teaching established and systemized routines to the new team member. As you can see, your practice management software has a lot to do with developing and maintaining a happy, productive, cohesive team.

Planning
The plan is your strategy. It spells out where you delegate, who is responsible for what, and when you are going to complete each step in the plan. Without a plan, you don’t know where to go or how to get there. Planning to implement more of your practice management system requires that the owner of the practice knows what its capabilities are. Now, fight the temptation to glaze over here. I offer you an idea that I have seen work countless times. It will help speed up the process and take that “monkey” off your back.

Delegate the Discovery Process
When I speak in front of a mixed audience of dentists and staff, the staff members are the ones jotting down all the notes, asking all the questions, and generally involved in lively debate. They are excited about the potential of the systems. Could it be that this area is within their comfort zone?
Maximize their interest and you leverage their comfort zone. Have a team meeting. Announce your goal to add one management system item per month in each department. An example of departments might be business and clinical. Or, if you have computers in your treatment rooms, you might have 3 departments—business, assistants, and hy-giene. You are adding one new “automation process” that you currently do not utilize within your practice management software. Team members will most likely look at you like deer looking into headlights. What they need is your direction. My advice is to empower them with discovering a list of new things they “could” add to their automation repertoire. Tell them you expect the complete list by the next team meeting.


A very simple way to “discover” what the possibilities are is to go to your software, bring up a patient, and look at every menu offering (not the buttons—the menu) at the top. Start making a list of the things you do not currently utilize. 

You should have a very long list from the business department. (The list of reports you do not run is alone probably at least 20 items.) The clinical team will most likely struggle to put 10 things on its list. That’s okay! Your clinical team may not know or understand the software capabilities. Perhaps it is struggling with “why” it would use a certain feature. Instruct the team to take any item it does not understand and call your system provider’s software support line for guidance. The support team will be happy to tell your team about the menu commands. (And it will be impressed that your team has a list!)

Prioritize What You Have Discovered
Once you have your department lists, it’s time to prioritize as a team. Many things on the list will affect multiple departments (multiple relationships). Search for those connections first. Complete your priority list. Remember, each department is going to implement one new feature per month. Everyone can manage just one new feature per month, which makes the experience both fun and doable.

Measure
Measuring the impact of these efforts is critical. Reporting that the office is more productive and more profitable represents only 2 simple measurements. Each department should uncover numerous new reports as it begins to implement new features, and each department should be responsible for running those reports before your team meetings. De­partments should present the results at the team meetings. Reporting progress is essential to sustaining the motivation, the commitment, and the sense of improved self-worth among your team members. They will want to see the results of their efforts. You will automatically see the positive results pouring straight to your bottom line.


You may be saying, “This sounds more and more like something we can do! So, what’s the catch?” Well, 2 “catches” may affect the outcome.

Foundation
The business foundation of your practice will propel you or stop you from truly automating the processes within the office. If your practice lacks the proper patient growth, office design, financial policy, scheduling policy, insurance systems, recall systems, billing procedures, personnel management, etc, automating those procedures and policies will not provide optimum results.


If you measure the results of your current business systems and find that repairs are needed, make them before moving forward with a more aggressive automation plan. If you are genuinely motivated, you will regularly assess and restructure your business foundation to support the near-, mid-, and long-range objectives you have for the practice. You will use more of your existing technology during this process to leverage the impact.

Even if you already own and use all of the clinical technology, look at what’s not being tapped within the practice management software. Better productivity, more efficiency, better patient service, and less stress are sitting there right on your desktop.

Training
This section is devoted to all of our hardworking consultants and the company software trainers out there. Many dentists place little or no value in professional training for the team. Aren’t we all glad that you don’t feel the same about your own professional training! If you have decided to rebuild your business foundation and accelerate the process by using more of your existing technology, you must (no exceptions) provide training for your team or once again you are right back in that 70/30 scenario, with no one to blame but yourself.


Overall, technology in dentistry has grown by leaps and bounds over the past 10 years. Now is the time to look at what you might have leapt over and left behind!


Mr. Dilatush is a writer, editor, and speaker and has spent the past 20 years of his career teaching advanced practice management principles to many 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. Mr. Dilatush is also a contributing editor for McKenzie Management’s E-Motivator newsletter. To receive a free copy or to contact Mr. Dilatush, call (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.

 

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