As the evolution of our dental practices continues at a swift pace, it befits us to refocus on the significant impact the support team has on patients’ overall dental experience. No longer is it deemed to be only Dr. X to whom patients seek to entrust their families’ oral health requirements, but they associate Dr. X more commonly as the “Dentistry on Hill Street”. To maintain this perception, empowering the support team will pay huge dividends.
Perception of Office EnvironmentThe underlying quiet shift in the public attitude reflects the realization that the level of satisfactory treatment depends heavily on their interface with not only dentists and other clinical providers but also on all team members attached to their visit. This is evidenced when one peruses the visually appealing websites that almost always portray the office story or brand to identify the personalities that current or potential patients may encounter during their visit. The human appeal is important as patients evaluate how comfortable they would feel in that particular environment.
Empowerment of Team Members If we agree, as office owners, that the support team is worthy of our heightened awareness and of their significant value to the ongoing success of the practice, it behooves us to carefully examine the job descriptions that we have in place. Looking at our operation through the eyes of a new or prospective patient has benefits rather than accepting our current modus operandi as the optimal norm.
One of the mainstays of empowering our team members is to define their responsibilities with clarity and collegiality. In order for the support team to function with maximum effectiveness, they have to have the ability to measure their relative success at agreed upon responsibilities. They need to have a clear understanding of these responsibilities and be held accountable for their execution. The use of metrics (the subject of a future article), particularly in administrative and hygiene departments, facilitates both of these points.
Understanding the MandateTeam members need to understand the limits of their mandate, and if an issue overrides their position, they can raise it with a higher authority. We often hear the staff muttering, “G-d help me”, but that is not the higher authority to whom we refer. Some examples to empower them by giving the team to higher authority include the following:
Potential Responsibilities of StaffThe investment of time taken by the administrative staff to foster an enhanced relationship between patient and support staff justifies incurred costs. Patients take away from their experience the competence and thoughtful interactions they enjoyed with the team. Upon exiting, they appreciate equally the thorough clinical treatment and supportive administrative management. The action of a Treatment Coordinator, for example, who had the time and interest to “take” a medical history as opposed to handing out a clipboard and disposable pen to check off the boxes makes a positive impression on patients.
In addition to a Treatment Coordinator, often Clinical Assistants play a significant role in the total patient experience. They should begin with patients by explaining what is going to occur during their dental treatment thus attempting to alleviate any potential apprehension or anxiety.
Re-care Coordinators play an important role, too, by keeping track of all calls made to confirm the hygiene schedule. Recording the interaction as to whether patients were spoken to, left messages, or could not be reached motivates the employee to schedule or reconfirm previously scheduled appointments diligently. Such attention to detail makes a huge difference in filling the schedule thereby reducing the downtime in the hygiene department. Recording these interactions allows coordinators to quantify their effectiveness. In addition, it gives office team members an awareness of their personal success in this area. Furthermore, it allows for the owner’s recognition and positive feedback of an exemplary performance.
Hygienists are encouraged to suggest a recare examination yearly and a complete oral examination (COE) every three to five years accompanied with the formal series of panoramic x-rays (PAN), or formal mouth series (FMX) to patients who would benefit from them. Moreover, hygienists should encourage patients to book this level of care for the next re-care cycle through education. Successful motivations can be tracked with obvious benefits to patients for their enhanced care as well as to the office as calculable financial compensation.
Enhancing the support staff’s self-image and performance has a multiplicity of benefits for the contemporary dental operation. PA
Ron Weintraub is a founding partner with the Bayview Village & Downtown Dental Associates and brings over thirty-five years of knowledge and experience in the practice of general dentistry to The Professional Advisory. Large companies such as Patterson Dental, Ash Temple Ltd, Henry Schein Arcona, & the former Canadian Dental Co. have benefited from his insight. As owner of Innovative Practice Solutions, Ron advises dentists on practice enhancement, practice purchases, sales, location evaluations, associate buy-ins, and business mergers. Dr. Weintraub can be contacted at (905) 470-6222 Ext. 221 or firstname.lastname@example.org.