Practice Management

The Value of Teamwork in Our Dental Offices


Ron Weintraub


June 15, 2013

June 15, 2013

Successful practices require expertise beyond providing high level clinical skills. A well-run dental practice requires a group of competent professionals who create a positive atmosphere, embrace a common philosophy, and contribute to the effectiveness of the operation of the office. This group of people constitutes the TEAM.

Identifying Team MembersThe TEAM is divided into two groups that perform specific duties and play an indispensable role in the ultimate success of dental practices. Examining the TEAM’s interactions with a view to enhancing outcomes of their roles’ contribution within the practice is prudent. The numbers of TEAM members range from a single practitioner’s receptionist who is sometimes combined with clinical responsibilities to larger practices’ Human Resource allocations that could be as complex as the following:

1. Administrative Groupa. Greeter/Dismisserb. Receptionist/appointment providerc. Re-care coordinatorsd. Treatment coordinatore. Office manager

2. Clinical Providersa. Dentistsb. Hygienistsc. Chairside assistantsd. Treatment facilitatorse. Denture therapistsf. Lab technicians

Solo and multi-provider practicesIn solo practices, many support functions are, of necessity, assigned to two or three staff members. It is, therefore, crucial that they be adequately cross-trained to cover the variety of tasks smaller practices need to be discharged satisfactorily in much the same way as their larger counterparts. An even more daunting task than training is finding people with the proper skill set to be proficient in all the roles they may be asked to fulfill. When we are fortunate enough to attract individuals with this potential, we need to provide sufficient training for them to be able to multitask successfully on behalf of the practice.

In contrast, large multi-provider practices have the luxury of departmentalizing the different office and clinical functions allowing team members to focus on specific roles. Having a large team,  however, creates the necessity for a serious focus on internal TEAM management; the success of which has a huge effect on the professional and financial outcomes of the office. The challenge is to incorporate the various possibilities to maximize positive interactions of the TEAM with patients and their teammates.

Recruitment practicesRecruiting staff needs careful attention. Currently, advertising on Kijiji and other such sites add another dimension to recruiting in addition to advertising on conventional print publications. Such advertisements should yield a good variety of applicants. Careful screening of applicants’ experience, acquired skills through work, and interpersonal skills is followed by a face-to-face interview to determine the personality profile and, most importantly, how the candidate would mesh with the existing office culture and personalities.

Another crucial step in the process of recruiting is having a panel of interviewers that include the dentist or designated office manager and, if it is an administrative slot to be filled, a representative of the existing team. For example, someone who has front desk exposure would have insight as to the qualities needed for the position in addition to being helpful to smooth the  integration process of the new hire.

In the case of clinical staff, an arranged paid working interview should be agreed upon to assure that the applicant and practitioner are both comfortable. For all new hires, hours and salary parameters presented in written form avoid any misunderstanding. Once a candidate has been cleared, a definite confirmation needs to be offered immediately without any procrastination to prevent losing someone who is acknowledged as a “fine fit.”

Importance of retaining effective team membersA well trained, talented, patient-connected team member is a significant asset in a practice. Today, when asked where they receive their oral care, many patients answer “dentistry on ________St.” or “___________ dental group,” thus confirming that although dentists are the primary TEAM member, they are not the sole attraction for the patient. In fact, the entire clinical and administrative team play an important role in patient retention and new patient acquisition.

The importance of a TEAM member is noted particularly when we are invited to enhance a practice; we frequently attempt to retain and augment the skill set that already exists rather than suggest new hires. Often the existing staff has pre-existing significant relationships with the patient base that takes years to develop.

Strategies to maintain and maximize excellent current team membershipAmong some of the effective strategies to help retain, maintain, and maximize an excellent team are the following:

1. Project support and appreciation of the importance of staff members’ role for the office as motivation for them to be even more invested in the success of the office.

2. Provide clear job descriptions and offer help to expand their roles through continuing education internally and via seminars. A series of metrics can be set up to be able to quantify the improvement that team members have brought to their role. This allows for goal setting for the employer.

3. Recognize achievement to maintain the momentum. Many people are not necessarily motivated only by increased compensation but are more motivated by job improvement and recognition.

4. Schedule regular team meetings with an agenda that are chaired by rotating staff members.

A well-integrated, highly motivated team respectful of patients and the roles of other  teammates is an outstanding precursor of excellent practice success. It is beneficial to provide the framework for the TEAM for this to be the norm in our offices. PA