Consistent outcomes. Being able to fully focus on patients. Less vulnerability when there is staff turnover. Peace of mind knowing things are being done the way you want.
Is all the above possible…or a dream? The great news is, with system implementation all the above and more are easily within reach to help enhance the success of your dental practice.
Let’s face it, when there are several “cooks in the kitchen” and everyone is using their own recipe, it’s hard to know what the outcome will be until “dinner is served”. That’s a heck of a time to find out that while the recipes were somewhat similar, those added dashes of salt made the soup inedible. Or that one of the cooks assumed someone else was taking care of the salad and setting the table.
If we take that out of the kitchen and into the dental practice, you end up with lab cases that aren’t delivered in time, patients scheduled incorrectly for their treatment needs, running out of supplies, fees not collected…the list of undesirable outcomes goes on.
The solution is simple; easy-to-implement systems that every team member can operate and that is “the way” that things operate in your practice. Instead of a group of lone rangers, system implementation brings everyone together to form a team that can support each other with ease and in turn, serve the patients in the best way possible.
When thinking of systems in your practice, let’s start with one of the most common ways patients have a first “live” contact with your team—how your phone is answered. A true and effective system has each person who answers the phone using the same greeting and has a format of information to be collected that is needed to best serve the patient, whether it’s a patient of record, emergency patient or new patient. If fewer than 90% of new patients who call your office do not schedule an appointment, this is a priority area for system implementation and training.
Another sure indication that system training is needed is how the team views a ringing telephone. If the response is “if that thing rings one more time I’m going to scream!!”, discussion and training on the phone greeting/use needs to be done stat! Your phone, along with your online presence, is your connection to the world.
Foolproof Appointment Scheduling
How is your schedule? Does it look great at the start of the day and then crumble as the day progresses? Do you wonder if you have the appropriate number of days for your hygiene schedule? Do you have the “roller coaster” schedule where one day is terrific and the next day you all work as hard as you can only to produce a minimal amount?
The schedule is everybody’s responsibility and yet when many teams are asked, “who’s responsible for a good schedule?” all heads turn to the appointment administrator or whoever sits at the front desk. When effective systems are in place, the answer to who is responsible is “each of us!”. A full schedule starts with diagnosis, the support of the clinical team to gain treatment acceptance, followed by the financial coordinator who secures the payment agreement and finally, the appointment administrator who schedules that patient per the practice’s ideal day template.
To get started, determine how much needs to be produced daily by each provider to cover your overhead. Next, how do you want your day to look? Start things off with a new patient examination or a crown prep or endo? To serve your patients best, plan your schedule and when you want certain procedures. If, as a doctor, you tend to be your most energetic in the morning, that may be the best time to schedule a new patient exam—when you can make the very best of the adage “you never get a second chance to make a great first impression”.
The key to filling your schedule per your ideal day rests upon communication skills that guide the patients toward specific appointment times and help to overcome any objections. For instance, never ask a patient, “do you want to schedule?”. Right away you run a 50% chance that the patient will say “no” and that’s a tough one to come back from.
Payment Arrangements That Work!
Have you ever gone to the grocery store and told the cashier that you forgot your credit card, send me a bill, and gotten away with it? Ever tried to put gasoline in your car without paying, and gotten away with it? Ordered something custom made without having to make some sort of initial payment, and gotten away with it? The answer in most situations is no, no, no (unless you’re extremely charismatic!).
Why then, in dentistry, do we sometimes hesitate to ask for payment at the time of service, or when providing a “custom service” (i.e., crown, implant, surgery) require an initial investment if not payment in full? I’m still not sure why that still occurs, however, the good news is most of your patients do expect to pay at the time and are surprised if they are not asked for payment. It’s normal, it’s natural, we need to be consistent.
Effective payment arrangements and payment collection begins with having the right person in that position. Some of the most important traits of a successful financial coordinator are:
– Clear communication skills
– Can express empathy, not sympathy
– Removes their own personal financial situation from patient interactions
– Is very comfortable and confident asking for payment
Factor in to the success equation things such as clear internal credit guidelines, the best location for financial discussions, and great negotiation skills and you are on your way to a solid system for payment agreements.
Recare: The Heart of Your Practice
Here, in the heart of your practice, is where a clear, consistently used system is crucial to your patients’ health. Unfortunately, in many practices, this is the most overlooked system, and yet, it’s vital to providing the best health to patients.
How are you doing?
– Is there an employee designated to follow-up on past due patients?
– What is the system for the follow-up?
– Do you have the appropriate number of hygiene days for your practice?
– Does the doctor exam in hygiene take more than 7 minutes?
– How are late patients handled in the hygiene schedule?
– Are your unfilled hygiene hours <7%?
These are important questions to consider and recognize that if a system is not in place, you run the risk of significant patient attrition. While the focus seems to be on how many new patients you’re attracting, having a solid system to close the back door to patient attrition will help for the overall health of your patients and your practice.
Systems are the answer to better practice success. To learn how to successfully implement systems into your practice, consider booking one of our remote consulting packages. They’re a great way to take the first step towards improving your business.