Harmony by Design: How Dental Champions Forge Team Success

My husband and I finished assembling a particularly challenging family puzzle created from our 2023 holiday photos. The puzzle was difficult due to the duplication of images featuring everyone in identical positions, clothing, and colors. However, the real challenge arose when we discovered a missing piece in the upper left photo! Unwilling to accept an incomplete puzzle, we took matters into our own hands. Using cardboard from the puzzle box, we fashioned a replacement piece and meticulously recreated the image using colored sharpies. Finally, with the addition of our makeshift piece, the family “portrait” was complete, and harmony restored.

Harmony in dentistry is by design. Within the bustling environment of dental practices, there exists a team of unsung heroes whose collective efforts are the backbone of every successful practice. Each person plays a crucial role in the puzzle to deliver exceptional care to patients while ensuring the smooth functioning of the practice.

Dentists

The leaders of the dental team, responsible for diagnosing and treating dental conditions while ensuring the overall health of patients. They perform complex procedures ranging from routine check-ups to intricate restorative work, surgeries, and beyond. Their leadership extends beyond the operatory. Dentists contribute to cultivating a supportive team environment, fostering collaboration and professional growth among their colleagues.

Dental Assistants

Dental assistants are the silent superheroes, providing invaluable balance and support to team members throughout the day. They do it all, from preparing treatment rooms, sterilizing instruments, assisting chairside and ensuring patient comfort. Their meticulous attention to detail and swift actions are essential for efficient days. Beyond their multi-tasking technical skills, they serve as a comforting presence for patients and team members.

Dental Hygienists

Dental hygienists are the guardians of oral health, performing vital preventive and therapeutic procedures. From thorough screenings to patient education, they ensure optimal oral and systemic health. Their expertise in identifying early signs of diseases empowers patients to prioritize dental wellness. In the practice building department, their contributions are invaluable.

Office Managers and Administrators

Office administrators are the behind-the-scenes maestros, managing the day-to-day tasks that keep the practice running smoothly. From scheduling appointments and coordinating patient records to managing billing and insurance claims, their organizational prowess ensures efficient practice operations.
Their friendly demeanor and adept communication skills contribute to a positive patient experience, from booking to departure.

Harmony by Design

In the face of emergencies, this collective effort shines even brighter. Whether it’s a dental emergency or a team member missing for the day, the quick thinking and coordinated actions are essential for effective resolution. Their ability to remain calm under pressure and work together seamlessly ensures the best possible experience for patients and the practice alike.

Conclusion

Dental practices are powered by the collective efforts of the team. Their collaboration and dedication are the driving force behind every successful patient interaction and practice operation. As we celebrate the silent superheroes of dentistry, let’s recognize and appreciate the invaluable contributions of each member forging practice success.

It’s time to shine a spotlight on these unseen champions and acknowledge the invaluable role they play in harmonizing the world of dentistry.

Connect with me if you’re interested in scheduling or discussing:

Generational Smiles: Strategies For Successful Treatment And Product Recommendations

Embracing the traditions of my father, a devoted Traditionalist, I continue the endearing practice of tipping with $2 bills.

His unique gesture always elicited smiles and prompted delightful conversations about cherished memories. He created a positive experience with his unique gesture.

As we sorted through his belongings after his passing at the age of 97, we stumbled upon a hidden treasure of… you guessed it, $2 dollar bills!

Tasked with inheriting this collection due to my frequent travels, I’ve adopted the joyful responsibility of perpetuating his legacy. Using these special bills for tips has become a heartwarming and enjoyable means for me to stay connected with him, keeping his spirit alive in the simple act of generosity.

Create a memorable, positive experiences that cater to the diverse needs of every generation

Have you ever found it challenging to connect with a patient or experienced resistance to treatment or product recommendations? The key may lie in understanding and bridging generational gaps in communication styles. Here is a strategic, comprehensive breakdown of four generations that today’s dental practices encounter. Included are insights on how to effectively interact with generational diversity in the dental practice.


Traditionalists (before 1946): Prefer Provider Guidance

Traditionalists appreciate clear and straightforward solutions when receiving recommendations from their healthcare provider. When presenting a treatment plan, aim for uncomplicated explanations that resonate with their preference for simplicity. Emphasize the longevity and durability of suggested solutions, ensuring they align with what suits them best. To bolster their confidence, offer real-life examples of patients within a similar age range who have undergone similar treatments successfully.

Baby Boomers (1946-1964): Valuing Personal Connection

Baby Boomers appreciate thorough explanations and prefer direct communication in person or by phone. They dislike feeling rushed, and taking the time for a relaxed discussion is crucial. Emphasize the benefits of a good smile and sound dental health, aligning their treatment with these values. Given their often-ample resources, schedule their treatments thoughtfully and extend an invitation for further questions.

Generation X (1965-1977): Ideal Plans and Clear Communication

Generation X, characterized by respect for authority and linear thinking, respond well to ideal treatment plans with phased scheduling and payment options. As high achievers, they value dental health for appearance and overall well-being. Follow-up communication, preferably through text or email, is appreciated.

Generation Y/Millennials (1978-1999): Desire Instant Gratification

Millennials are technology-dependent, seeking instant gratification and despising delays. To connect with them, be patient-attentive, provide same-day service, and combine appointments efficiently.

Gen Z (2000-2016): A Future-Focused Approach

Gen Z is future-oriented and prioritizes prevention while being cost-conscious. Deliver explanations and options that emphasize prevention, aligning with their forward-thinking mindset. As advocates for avoiding future expenses, they are an excellent fit for dental practices with a strong focus on preventive care.

Customizing dental product recommendations is equally crucial. Each generation has distinct preferences, needs, and communication styles that should be considered.

Traditionalists (Born before 1946): Simplicity and Reliability

• Keep it simple.
• Emphasize durability and reliability.
• Use respectful, formal language.
• Highlight products with a long history of success.
• Leverage personal testimonials and word-of-mouth recommendations.

Baby Boomers (1946-1964): Health, Aesthetics, and Trust

• Focus on health and aesthetics.
• Highlight products that improve or maintain appearance.
• Emphasize value for money and long-term benefits.
• Provide detailed information and studies to build trust.
• Adopt a professional and respectful tone.

Gen X (1965-1977): Convenience and Independence

• Offer convenience and practicality.
• Mention time-saving features or benefits.
• Use a straightforward, informative approach.
• Provide options and flexibility.
• Appeal to their desire for independence and self-care.

Gen Y (1978-1999): Technology and Social Values

• Emphasize technology and innovation.
• Align with environmental and social values.
• Utilize visuals, videos, and online reviews.
• Be concise and address cost-effectiveness and customization potential.

Gen Z (2000-2016): Technology and Sustainability

• Leverage technology and interactivity.
• Appeal to their desire for self-expression and uniqueness.
• Showcase products aligning with sustainability and ethical values.
• Use social media and influencers for recommendations.
• Keep the message short and visually engaging.

Adapting Strategies: Beyond Products to Communication

Customization extends beyond products to communication and marketing strategies. Consider different channels such as social media, email, or in-person consultations based on the preferences of the generation you are targeting. Gathering feedback from each generation can help refine recommendations over time, ensuring your dental practice meets their evolving needs and expectations. Embrace these insights to create a successful, patient-focused practice that caters to the diverse needs of every generation.

How Can We Improve Patient Satisfaction And Experience In Our Dental Practice?

Elevating the patient journey requires a comprehensive approach

A key aspect of running a successful dental practice is ensuring patient satisfaction and providing a positive experience. Happy patients are more likely to return for regular wellness visits, refer others, and contribute to the growth of your practice. Several strategies and initiatives can help improve patient satisfaction and elevate their experience during dental visits.

Clear and Effective Communication

Clear communication is essential in building trust and alleviating patient anxiety. Dentists and dental teams should strive to create a warm and welcoming environment where patients feel comfortable expressing their concerns and asking questions.

It’s important to use simple, non-technical language when explaining diagnoses, treatment options, and procedures. Taking the time to listen actively and empathetically to patients helps establish a strong relationship.

Additionally, providing written materials, video links, and generationally appropriate resources can help reinforce important oral health information and promote patient education.

Minimizing Wait Times

Reducing patient wait times demonstrates respect for their time and enhances their overall experience. Implementing efficient appointment scheduling and streamlining administrative processes can help minimize delays. Regularly assessing and optimizing the flow of patients in the office can significantly reduce wait times.

Informing patients in advance about any potential delays or rescheduling changes can also help manage expectations and minimize frustration. Creating a pleasant waiting area with comfortable seating, soothing music, and informative reading material can contribute to a more positive patient experience.

Focus on Patient Comfort

Dental anxiety is a common concern for many patients, which can negatively impact their overall experience. Implementing strategies to enhance patient comfort can go a long way in addressing this issue. It can include practices such as using gentle techniques during treatments, providing pain management options, and regularly checking in with patients to ensure their comfort level.

Offering amenities like blankets, headphones for listening to music, or virtual reality headsets to distract patients during procedures can help alleviate anxiety. A calm and friendly demeanor from the dental team can also contribute to a relaxed atmosphere.

Patient Education and Involvement

Educating patients about oral health and involving them in treatment decisions empowers them to take an active role in their care. Dental professionals can use visual aids, models, and digital presentations to explain diagnoses, treatment plans, and preventive measures.

Encouraging patients to ask questions and seek clarification helps foster a sense of trust and engagement. Providing post-treatment instructions and oral hygiene tips, both verbally and in written form, helps patients maintain their oral health and reinforces the value of their dental visits.

Continual Feedback and Improvement

Actively seeking patient feedback is crucial for identifying areas of improvement and enhancing the patient experience.

Implementing surveys, suggestion boxes, or online feedback forms allows patients to share their thoughts and suggestions. Regularly reviewing and analyzing this feedback enables dental practices to make necessary adjustments to their services, communication, or facilities.

Additionally, creating a culture that values patient feedback and making it a part of ongoing team training and professional development can contribute to continuous improvement in patient satisfaction.

Conclusion

Elevating patient satisfaction and experience in your dental practice requires a comprehensive approach that encompasses clear communication, minimal wait times, patient comfort, education, and continual improvement. By focusing on these aspects, dental practices can create an environment that fosters trust, reduces anxiety, and enhances overall patient satisfaction. A positive patient experience not only contributes to the success of your practice but also promotes long-term oral health and encourages patients to become advocates for your services.

To expand your understanding of dental team communication schedule a discovery call with me. During the call, we can delve deeper into the specifics and explore the details you’re interested in.

Bonus: Watch this short video on how wait time impacts your patient experience.

5 Strategies for Improving the Patient Experience in Your Dental Practice

The patient experience is a critical factor in the success of any dental practice. Patients who have positive experiences are more likely to return for future appointments, refer friends and family, and leave positive reviews.

In contrast, patients who have negative experiences may not return and can potentially harm the reputation of the practice. Here are some strategies that dental professionals can use to improve the patient experience in their practice.

1. Focus On Communication

Clear and effective communication is key to ensuring a positive patient experience. Dental professionals should take the time to listen to their patient’s concerns and explain procedures and treatments in a way that patients can understand. Providing patients with clear instructions after treatment can also help improve the patient experience.

  • Listen: Dental professionals can demonstrate active listening by repeating patients’ concerns back to them and asking intentional follow-up questions to ensure that they understand the issue.
  • Use plain language: Avoid using technical jargon that patients may not understand.
  • Provide written instructions: After a procedure or treatment, provide patients with written or text instructions on what to expect and how to continue care at home.

2. Improve The Welcome/Reception Experience

Waiting rooms can be a source of anxiety for patients, so it’s important to make them as comfortable and welcoming as possible. A Reception Area is a much more appealing name. Offer amenities such as video loops, relaxing music, magazines, comfortable seating, complimentary beverages, and fresh flowers (be careful of strong scents), and diverse artwork.

Keeping patients informed about wait times and updating them on any delays can also help reduce anxiety. Use technology such as text messaging or a digital display to keep patients informed.

Smile, be personable, and check in frequently to keep the patient in the know.

3. Personalize The Experience

Every patient is unique and has different needs and preferences. Dental professionals can improve the patient experience by taking the time to build relationships with their patients and tailor their care accordingly.

  • Offer sedation for anxious patients or provide special accommodations for patients with disabilities.
  • For patients with disabilities, provide accommodations such as a wheelchair ramp, accessible restroom, or sign language interpreter.
  • Ask patients about their preferences and needs, such as whether they prefer a certain type of music or would like a blanket during treatment.

4. Use Technology To Enhance The Patient Experience

Technology can be a powerful tool for improving the patient journey. For example, online appointment scheduling can make it easier for patients to book appointments at their convenience, and digital patient portals can allow patients to access and update their health information and communicate with their dental team.

  • Allowing patients to schedule appointments online at their convenience means you’ll never miss an opportunity.
  • Offering patients a secure digital portal helps keep patient records and information secure and up to date.

5. Solicit Feedback From Patients

The best way to understand the patient experience is to ask patients directly. Dental professionals can use surveys, feedback forms, or focus groups to gather input from patients and identify areas where they can improve.

  • Send patients a survey after their appointment to gather feedback on their experience and identify areas for improvement.
  • Invite patients to participate in focus groups where they can share their experiences and provide feedback on how the practice can improve.
  • Always reply to ALL patient comments. The interaction provides one more touchpoint to keep your practice top of mind.

Improving the patient journey requires a commitment to ongoing communication, personalization, and continuous improvement. By focusing on these 5 strategies, dental professionals can create a welcoming and supportive environment that encourages patients to prioritize their oral health and return for future appointments.

Bonus:  Watch 4 Tips to Improve the Patient Journey

Patient Retention vs. Acquiring New Patients

Don’t get me wrong, new patients are important for practice growth, but retaining existing patients has a greater practice impact.

They know the drill…pun intended.

• Maintain practice loyalty
• Keep appointments
• Show up regularly
• Accept treatment
• Book next appointments

What Should You Do to Retain Your Loyal Patients?

Patients are looking at healthcare providers and practices differently. 

Prosites, a dental marketing company, outlined 25 ways to Get Patients to Love Your Dental Practice. By implementing some of these ideas into your marketing strategy, you will attract and retain more patients and experience faster practice growth.

  • Demonstrate Honesty, particularly when   relating to insurance acceptance
  • Offer Financial Assistance
  • Provide Flexible Scheduling
  • Deliver Same-Day Dentistry
  • Maintain 5-star Online Reviews
  • Recognize / Appreciate Patient Testimonials
  • Appointment Reminders
  • Incentivize Patient Referral
  • Run On-Time
  • Friendly Team

Solutions

Times have changed and patients are not as dedicated to our practices.  They are looking for an uber-customized experience.  If we are not providing that, they will look elsewhere.

How can we adapt?

  • Customize communication software to meet specific needs, generationally for example.
  • Engage the team in creating videos and messages. Use humor to increase patient engagement
  • Personalize texts
  • Always reschedule a broken appointment
  • Wellness calls work! Pick up the phone and chat!
  • Improve the patient experience at every opportunity

Cancellations and No-Show Solutions

This is a common theme for dental practices lately.

Communication: verbal, written, and virtual with continual reinforcement of the importance and value of the services our practice provides is essential. Creating a script, together as a team, with verbal skills that everyone uses regularly improves patient loyalty.

Try a few of these ideas to reverse the problem:

  • Rate your patients, A, B, and C based on reliability and payment status.
  • No-shows, cancellations, and outstanding balances should be lower-tier patients.
  • Create a  scheduling template for every provider and stick to it! It makes scheduling and filling holes much easier for everyone! Plus, it helps with practitioner efficiency. Such as three hygienists waiting for an exam at the top of the hour 5-6 times a day.
  • Allow one ‘Get Out of Jail Free’ pass for any scheduled procedure the patient cancels within 24 hours. Explain that the practice is busy, and patients are wait-listed to be scheduled. Respecting your practice time is appreciated.
  • Charge the patient a % of the scheduled procedure each time they cancel
  • Allow time in the schedule to provide same-day treatment. Your practice revenue will increase significantly.
  • “All hands-on deck”! Be persistent and consistent once you create a policy.

Dental practices are facing many challenges over the past few years with team shortages, turnover and a decrease in patient scheduling.  Doing the same thing we have always done will not change the way things are going.  A commitment to change is necessary to keep the boat from sinking and get all the entire team rowing in the right direction. It all starts with  communication and systems.

Bonus:  Watch Attracting and Retaining Dental Patients

Specialty Practice Communication: Challenges & Solutions Part II

Part II of this blog series will address the communication challenges and solutions with our Team Members and Practice.

Part I revealed details about the Patient interactions.

While presenting at AAOMS, American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, we began the day with a group activity to identify daily communication challenges. The focus was on three areas: Patients, Players (team members), and Practice.

The diagram above reveals their responses in each category.

Players Challenges & Solutions

Expectations of the Team Are Not Well Defined or Communicated

When communication is not well defined or delivered, we become less impactful as a team.

Team communication starts with active listening by all members. Ask thought-provoking questions, be empathetic, and be flexible to increase understanding and decrease misinterpretations. Times are stressful and that impacts morale, health, wellness, and individual performance.

Build a team-centric culture so everyone is 100% involved and committed. Culture is the pulse of your practice! It is the tangible actions and beliefs of your team. It’s also what happens when the leader (not the boss) leaves the room.  A strong culture continues to gain momentum by inspiring everyone to participate and indivisibly links everyone together, no matter their department.

Here are a few team-centric ideas to try:

  • Attend team CE courses, live or virtual, all year.
  • Set goals for attending conferences and share information after the conference in a team meeting.
  • Assign a volunteer “wellness officer”, someone to check in on employee health and monitor the pulse of the practice.

Empower your team with problem-solving skills.

  • Have an SOP developed by the team members as a guide to handling specific situations:  team member conflict, difficult patient, HIPPA, OSHA…
  • Because the guidelines are rapidly changing, you need to have a leader to constantly study and update the APPROVED guidelines to keep everyone informed.
  • We can’t anticipate every issue that may occur, but you can prepare your team with diverse problem-solving skills, which are crucial when facing an unanticipated situation.

Negative Team Feedback

Negativity is contagious and impacts everyone. What started as ONE now becomes many negative experiences. Getting to know each team member and their communication preferences is a great place to start.  Communication interpretation is generational as well.

There is a communication process that needs to occur regularly to promote teamwork.

During daily, weekly, monthly, and annual meetings, a facilitator/leader in the practice (not always the DDS) is responsible for making sure each staff member brings completed reality checks, acknowledgments, and quality requests.

Your team relationships benefit from increased meetings and intentional communications throughout the year. I offer a presentation to dental teams focusing on meeting structure and customized outcomes which can improve your productivity significantly

Practice Challenges & Solutions

Bi-Directional Miscommunication Between the Doctor(s) and Team Members

Levin Group’s 30-year ongoing study of the top 10% producing practices revealed that they all had a culture of accountability within the practice.

The study indicated six ways to improve accountability:

1. Deadline/CTA – No deadline = No accountability

2. Realistic Time Management – How long, relative to the deadline

3. Deadline Flexibility – Allow for positive negotiation

4. Encourage Comments – Creating new strategies for completing the task and allows for renegotiating a deadline

5. Explain the desired results – Understand the task assigned

6. Encourage Questions – Thoughtful questions save time and energy. The desired result is more likely to be achieved.

The more accountable the team, the more efficient the practice, and the better the systems are followed. This all typically leads to higher profit, performance, and productivity. Happy culture and satisfying careers for everyone. Every team member does what they agreed to do.

Incomplete Information from Referral Practice

Make it easy for practices to provide a complete referral document. Assign one person to spearhead the referral process so things don’t fall through the cracks.

Starting with the patient handoff in the referring office. Discuss the communications that occur before the patient meets your practice. Make it personal, positive, and professional.

For example:

Hygiene to Office Manager in a General Practice

“Sharon, this is Linda our office manager. She will be taking care of you to schedule your next appointment with the oral surgeon and answer any questions you have about the implant treatment we recommended today”.

Design a handoff blueprint that referring offices have as a template in their software. Hint, make all the fields required so they don’t skip any information. Referral information should be sent promptly and include all the information needed. Request that the patient schedules the appointment with your practice while they are in the referring office.

Customize the information you need specifically for the treatment recommended. Expand on this list in an all-team meeting.

  • Date seen
  • Pt Name
  • Pt Age
  • Special considerations
  • X-rays-sent electronically
  • Pt history of the area
  • Diagnosis
  • Instructions

Every office is unique in its communication challenges. However, some common, repetitive issues occur. The more organized we are in preparing our team and referring offices, the better the outcome for all.

Watch Communication Tips on Study Club Referrals

Are You Asking Intentional Questions?

Asking intentional questions takes preparation and planning. The good news is we become more skilled at it as we practice.

An intentional question should be thought evoking and create a pause that generates curiosity. To ask an intentional question, we start by actively listening. Then, ask yourself, are you clear with the statement/question? Next, move to ask clarifying questions to enhance communications and relationships.

For example:

  • I am curious what you mean by…
  • Tell me more about that…
  • Help me understand what that looks like…

Clinical Application

Take time to observe and understand the patients’ behavioral styles.

“Katie mentioned you shared with her that you were a little nervous about today’s appointment. Tell me more about that so we can address your concerns and increase your comfort today.”

Delivering a patient’s ideal dental experience starts by addressing concerns and fears, and then discuss the best approach to providing the dental work needed. Acknowledging the patient’s fear and discussing the approach is psychologically comforting. By involving them in the solutions we build trust and provide a safe, comfortable environment.

Types of Questions

Distinct types of questions have their place in a conversation

Closed-ended question start with:  Will, Do /Does, Is, and Are

Open-ended question allow for conversation, increased knowledge, and information gathering. They begin with: What, How, and Why

Clinical Application

A clinical example of a closed-ended question looks like this.

  • Do you have any changes in your health or medications that we need to update?

Most people will say no so you can move on!

An open-ended question could be structured this way.

  • What medications, including OTC, vitamins, and supplements, you are currently taking?

When we use the right language, we get the information we need and more. This allows us to ask intentional questions, practice active listening, and guide the conversation to positively influence the patient’s dental journey in our practice.

Using Verbal Softeners

Clarifying questions should also include cooperative communication techniques. They are used both to prevent escalation and to defuse emotional situations.

Consider the way we say things to each other or your patients.

People don’t respond well to absolute, authoritarian, or harsh language.

Try using a sales training technique of inserting verbal softeners.

  • Phrases and words like “sometimes”, “it could be”, and “perhaps” state things in a less abrasive way.
  • Other softeners include “it’s possible,” and “occasionally.”

My favorite verbal softener is “perhaps.” 

  • “Perhaps we have had miscommunicated. Tell me more about your interpretation or expectations of the treatment plan we discussed last week.” 

Verbal softeners are valuable tools in helping you appear more cooperative and likable to prevent conflict.

Two actions you can clinically implement today are:

  1. Add an open-ended question to your health history requesting updated medications like above.
  2. Select a verbal softener and practice using it with patients during a conversation. It will become a habit very quickly.

Communication is Our Currency for Successful Dentistry

The lifeline of our dental practice is communication. Three pillars that conversations impact in dentistry are:

  • Patients
  • Players (Team)
  • Practice

Dentistry is in the midst of a shift from product-centricity to people-centricity. Investments in your team members and your patients are essential.

Practices pushing services rather than focusing on the wants of the patient will see their revenues dwindle over time. You must have a strong culture to be patient-centric because it requires knowing the patient and catering to their wants.

PATIENTS

According to the Beryl Institute, the total of every touchpoint before, during, and after their appointment impact the patient experience.

These are four influencers of the patient experience:

  1. Interactions of people, processes, policies, communications, actions, and environment.
  2. Culture: The vision, values, team, and community
  3. Perceptions: Everything is recognized, understood, and remembered by patients and support people.
    • Perceptions vary based on individual experiences
  4. Continuum of Care: Every interaction with a practice or provider before, during, and after delivery of care.

How we influence these four categories will optimize the patient experience and their healthcare journey. The ongoing goal is to maintain existing patients and attract new patients simultaneously. Research from Forbes indicates it costs a practice five times more to attract a new patient than it does to retain an existing one.

TEAM

When communication is not well defined or delivered, we become less impactful as a team.

A healthy practice requires Proactive Leadership. Not by one person but by each team member at any given time. Team culture is driven by “leading by example.” Culture encompasses the tangible actions and beliefs of your team.  It is the pulse of your practice! It’s about what happens when the leader (not the boss) leaves the room.

There is a communication process that needs to occur regularly to promote teamwork.

During daily, weekly, monthly, and annual meetings, a facilitator/leader in the practice (not always the DDS) is responsible for making sure each staff member brings completed reality checks, acknowledgments, and quality requests.

Understanding that leadership is Bi-Directional is the first step to creating a happy, engaged, and productive team! It links everyone together, no matter what role they play on the team and will:

  • Reduce Turnover – Individuals that feel appreciated for their knowledge support the practice
  • Improve Team Engagement – People will do more than asked if they feel valued
  • Increase Production – A team working cohesively and sharing the load will be far more productive than individuals working in silos without collaborating

To keep the momentum going throughout the year, teams are encouraged to conduct the communication process every week as part of their team meetings. I have worked with dental teams to help them focus on meeting structure and customized outcomes which can change your productivity significantly!

PRACTICE

When I ask you, what is your office brand, what do you think of?

  • High-quality dentistry, implants, orthodontics, cosmetics, children, special needs, public health?

All of those answers are correct, but your brand is much more than the high-level procedures you perform. It is systemic and it trickles down into the words we say and the communication “tools” we use. Your brand should speak the language of the patients you are trying to attract!

Language is our currency and a bridge to trust! All team members should be speaking the same language. You don’t want half the team two-stepping and the other half breakdancing!

The chart below provides examples of how we can level up our vocabulary to represent the brand we are embracing.

2022 Copyright Communicate With Influence LLC

Communication is a lot like cooking. You take all these individual ingredients and blend them to create a delicious dish.

The “ingredients” are the people we interact with:  your patients, your team, your vendors, your family.

The “spices” are the way we customize the communication or the flavor.

The result, the delicious dish, is a harmonious team and practice.

Successfully & Ethically Recommending Products to Patients

One of the conversations we have quite frequently throughout the day with our patients is a recommendation for a specific procedure or product.

As dental professionals, we all know that very few patients follow through with recommendations once they leave the office.

WHY IS THAT?

We need to make it as appealing and easy as possible for the patient to want to use the products you are personally and professionally endorsing.  They want to know what our preferences and routines are.

The first step to success is stocking the products in your office. I have participated or initiated this in every office I have practiced in.

Most companies offer practices a bulk order discount or online ordering memberships that are significantly less than retail pricing. Getting started is easy. Invite your local company sales specialist to provide a lunch and learn for your team to investigate the products and pricing options that would be the best fit for your practice. They usually have unique marketing ideas for you to implement as well.

CAUTION: MIND SHIFT AHEAD: THE “COURAGEOUS CONVERSATION”

Many dental professionals tell me they do not want to ‘sell’ to patients.                     

We are providing patients with choices every day that will improve their oral/systemic health.  The bottom line is, from presenting treatment plans to product recommendations, we are advocates continually partnering with our patients to achieve the best possible outcome.

THAT… my friends is ethical ‘selling’!

NOT WHAT, BUT HOW WE SAY IT

Throughout the appointment, we build trust, respect, and relations.  When the patient education time is right, HOW we initiate the conversation is key. If we start the recommendation with a negative statement, we often create an awkward conversation. For example:

“I’d like to show you a new product to try at home that could help you with your problem areas.”

TIP:  It’s all about me and what I want you to do.

It’s a little messy but you’ll get used to it after a while.”

TIP:  The patient probably won’t be very enthusiastic about trying it.

_____________________________________________________________________________

On the contrary, if we ask the patient for permission to show them a new product that you have had great success with other patients, they will be more accepting of the new information.

TIP:  We are expressing concern and respect.

_____________________________________________________________________________

Intentional communication might look like this.

“Jerry, you’re doing well removing plaque from your front teeth, your smile is beautiful!” “You do have several areas that concerned the doctor and me on your back teeth.

TIP:  You have vs. we found, or I see puts the ownership on the patient

“Can you tell me more about your daily routine for taking care of your mouth?”

TIP: Open-ended questions/answers can reveal patient habits and challenges which you can address with your recommendations.

“I have been using and recommending a new power toothbrush and love it.” 

“I have recommended this product to several patients with similar areas of concern to yours and they have had great results.  Can I share some information with you about it”?

If you are interested, I will be sure to give us enough time before you leave for me to demonstrate, in your mouth, how you would use it in specific areas to decrease the inflammation/hemorrhage areas that you have.

TIP:  As a convenience for you, we have this product available for purchase at the lowest retail price.

_____________________________________________________________________________

By using this communication strategy, you will find that your patient compliance improves which positively impacts their oral/systemic health.

I encourage you to partner with your patients and give it a try. 

You won’t be disappointed with the results!

September is National Preparedness Month: Has Your Practice ‘Preparedness Kit’ Been Updated?

Parleys Canyon Fire, UT

Last month we were evacuated from our home, in Park City, UT, due to the Parleys Canyon Fire raging toward our mountain homes.  The smoke plume expanded quickly, directly behind our neighborhood.

In 2021, Utah has experienced one of the worst droughts in history.

The fire started at 1:30 PM on a Saturday. By 2:30 PM we were receiving possible evacuation text and email notices. At 4:30 PM we were told to evacuate, quickly!

We called friends that lived out of harm’s way to seek refuge, which they did with open arms. 

As we packed the essentials: cloths, computers, work files, passports, bikes, ski / snowboard equipment, and a few cherished photos, we planned the logistics of moving 3 vehicles. One being a 1967 Camaro fondly named “the mistress”.  Within an hour, we left our home, not knowing what we would return to.  Hoping for the best possible outcome.

As we exited the neighborhood, we laughed at the number of cars we saw with bikes and skis included in their evacuation essentials…living up to the true Park City life reputation!

The first responders had amazing systems in place and they were executed flawlessly.  The symbols in the upper right photo are indicating no occupancy on first and second knock on our front door. 

As we drove around the neighborhood the following week we could see varying hieroglyphics on driveways indicating the occupancy status. 

Mother nature came through with a horrific thunderstorm that swept through the area after 3 days of battling the fire with 0% containment. Within 24 hours the fire was 40%, then 80% contained. The bonus was the double rainbow, ending in our neighborhood.

We feel very fortunate and are so grateful and appreciative of the heroic efforts of our community responders and neighbors.

September is National Preparedness Month and the 2021 theme is “Prepare to Protect.”

COVID-19 has had a similar crisis pattern on dentistry.

Practices were forced evacuate. Upon re-opening, we needed to evaluate and restructure our recovery plan in order to protect our practice and team.

When we experience traumatic events personally, it forces us to evaluate our reactions, protocols, communications, and systems.

This sparked my curiosity and I wanted to explore the steps you may have taken since your evacuation to structure your practice differently?

TEN ideas to pack into your Preparedness Kit as a future safety net for your practice.

  1. Have you upgraded your technology and trained all team members in more efficient / effective communication strategies?
  2. Do you use text messaging to engage with your patients and team members more frequently?
  3. If you lost team players, what are you doing differently to attract and retain new team members?
  4. Has your team revisited your annual goals and made adjustments?
  5. How are you expressing appreciation to your current team members?
  6. What did you execute really well during your shut down?
  7. What could you have done better?
  8. Are you working to create an emotionally safe environment?
  9. What have you done to attract and retain new and loyal patients?
  10. How do you and your team step away from dentistry and have a little FUN?

Preparation and planning are the pathways to practice success.

How to Improve Treatment Case Acceptance

We are in the midst of a shift from product-centricity to people-centricity. Investments in your team and your customer is essential.

Dental practices pushing services rather than focusing on the wants of the patient will see their revenues dwindle over time.

We must have a strong culture in order to be patient-centric because it requires knowing the patient and catering to their wants.

If there is a service that they need but do not want, IT IS THE TEAMS JOB to influence the patients’ mindset from a need to a want.

  • First, we have to be able to prove the value of the need to the patient. WIIFT!  What’s In It For Them?
  • The secondary approach is explaining how the treatment will benefit their long-term oral health.
  • Lastly, demonstrate how accepting treatment now will lower their long-term costs

Generations will respond better to treatment recommendations if we close the generational gap and deliver the information to them in the communication style they expect.

Baby Boomers

  • Need thorough explanations
  • Prefer conversations in person or by phone
  • Value an appealing smile and optimal dental health
  • Allow time to have a relaxed discussion
  • Schedule treatment and invite them to contact you with any other questions

Generation X

  • Respect authority, follow rules, and are often linear thinkers
  • High achievers, but not always creative thinkers
  • Recommend ideal treatment plan(s) with phased scheduling and payment options
  • Focus on good dental health for appearance and as part of total body care.  
  • Appreciate follow-up communication with text or email as their preferred engagement

Generation Y (Millennials)

  • Technology dependent
  • Want instant gratification, and are intolerant of waiting
  • “What is best for me?” attitude when it comes to dental care decisions
  • Be patient-attentive, without interruptions
  • Provide same day service and combine appointments

Gen Z (Age 5 – mid-20’s)

  • As digital natives they expect the use of advanced technology
  • Look to the future and are very money conscious
  • Want explanations and options that focus on prevention 
  • Goal is to avoid expenses in the future, that could be addressed now 

Sticky Notes Or Apps To Stay On Task?

“Sticking to a checklist itself can not only help you increase focus, but crossing off each task may have cognitive benefits as well’.

Whichever process we apply: sticky note, app, calendar, or one of my favorites, highlighting, we can successfully achieve task completion by applying a single task action.

According to The Brain-Healthy Reason You Should Make Checklists, a systematic approach to our day can improve our wellness. If we are unable to complete a task, it can impact the quality of our next activity.

How Can We Apply This to Our Daily Tasks in Dentistry?

___________________________________________________________________________

Let’s break it down by dental practice departments.

ADMINISTRATION

Start the day by prioritizing and rating what needs to be completed.
We all know, the reception area has continual interruptions all day, every day.
In order to allow each person time to complete their priority tasks, rotate the admin team members to a “quiet zone” where disruptions are limited.
• Confirmation calls
• Insurance verification emails / calls
• Patient follow up from previous days’ procedures
• New patient scheduling
• Consultation / informational calls

DDS / DMD

The schedule dictates where the doctor spends time for the day.
It is critical to schedule procedure time matched with provider time accordingly.
Remember, each provider has different procedure completion times.
If your practice uses a scheduling template, be sure to adjust for each provider!

Wait times can impact office reviews, which in turn affects production and growth!
Watch my latest VLOG addressing the 20 minute rule.

In the Morning Stand-Up (aka Huddle), identify the available times that the doctor can address urgent issues and return calls / emails.
• Midmorning – Call referring doctors about patient treatment plans
• Before / After Lunch – Follow up with patients who need direct communication from the doctor
• End of day – Lab case review, study club collaboration

HYGIENE

Everyday tasks can become overwhelming and time consuming.
Having a process in place to systematically approach the day will reduce stress and help you complete the goals.
• Patient follow up from previous days’ procedures
• Follow up email / text to patients regarding information you discussed
• Referral follow up / call / closure if indicated
• Instrument sharpening
• Operatory re-stock

ASSISTING

Dental assisting requires multitasking and staying organized to keep the clinical cases, now-time treatment, and day running smoothly.
• Patient calls
• Lab work: impressions / models, whitening trays, lab Rx…
• Checking in / reviewing cases for delivery
• Ordering clinical supplies
• Operatory re-stock
• Sterilization monitoring

Throughout my 30-year career, I have been employed for every position in the office, except the doctor.
Which gives me an undeniable appreciation for every team member’s role and responsibilities.

Let’s commit to working smarter, not harder, by using a systemic approach to over achieve our practice goals.
Your brain will thank you!

Being Authentic Builds Your Dental Practice

Dental Professionals Are:

IF YOUR EMPLOYEES AREN’T THRIVING PERSONALLY AND PROFESSIONALLY, YOUR PRACTICE MAY BE STRUGGLING

According to Gallup Workplace, COVID-19 challenges are influencing your team dynamics. 

Employees are craving clear, honest, direct communication.  The reality is, many employees are disengaged and feeling anxious about their job or career.

Work is a stabilizer in good times, and more so in bad times. Focusing on the team’s wellbeing is essential for better team performance.

The Well Being Five are identified as:

Career         Enjoying your career and having motivation to reach goals

Social           Having supportive relationships

Financial     Stability to decrease stress

Community Feeling safe with a sense of pride

Physical       Health that allows you to complete daily tasks

As a leader, maintaining practice health is a delicate balancing act which requires the entire team to embrace: new guidelines, compassion, active listening, and empathy.

FOCUSES ON PRACTICE WELLBEING BY FOLLOWING THE THREE C’S:

COLLABORATION

Decide as a team the direction the practice is going post COVID-19.

  • Schedule a semi-annual team meeting to evaluate, discuss, and plan the remainder of the year
  • Meetings should follow a specific, timed agenda with each team member participating
  • Utilize engaging strategies such as: polling, breakout rooms, surveys, interactive handouts, and Q&A,
  • Every team member has leadership skills, coach them to shine in their area of expertise

COMMUNICATION

Invest in your team and level up your listening and communication skills.

  • Has your team every worked with a communications coach? 
  • Do you have stand-up (huddles) meetings daily?
  • Are you engaging the team in weekly, monthly and annual meetings?
  • Have you updated your mission statement AND does everyone support it?

CONNECTION

Staying connected and confronting the business of dentistry with our teams is essential.

  • Daily touch points with each team member is a communication must in our new routines
  • The younger employee, the more check-ins needed
  • Provide continual updates on the status of the business
  • Practice empathy, openly, with all employees

BE INSPIRATIONAL

BE AUTHENTIC

ENABLE UNITY

STAY WITHIN THE REALITY OF THE SITUATION

SEVEN RESET STRATEGIES FOR PRACTICE ADAPTATION

HIT THE RESET BUTTON WITH ENTHUSIASM

Right now, as our dental offices begin to re-open, constant changes are inevitable. Having a positive mindset and looking at change enthusiastically will help us adapt and move forward.

  1. New process or procedure implemented backfiring?
    • RESET with a new strategy.
  2. 90-minute hygiene appointment went really well and you had 15 minutes of time open? 
    • RESET to 75-minutes.
  3. Patient entry / exit through the same door creating overlap? 
    • RESET and have entry through the front door and exit out the back door. Assuming you have dual entries.
  4. Want to eliminate your complimentary beverage area?
    • RESET by changing it into a sanitization station.
  5. Transitioning from emergency treatment only to propriety patients?
    • RESET to schedule elderly, immunocompromised for the first appointment of the day to reduce their risks.
  6. Concerned about low PPE inventory?
    • RESET by considering teledentistry with no exam at hygiene therapy appointments.
    • RESET by staggering / extending hours in shifts with the same team members working together to minimize exposure.
  7. Rescheduling patients that were displaced during shut-down?
    • RESET and schedule patients using a category system:
  • GOLD = Reliable patients who are: timely, pay invoices, rarely cancel, combine restorative and hygiene therapy
  • SILVER = Solid patients with occasional schedule changes
  • BRONZE = Cancel or no show more frequently, slow making payment

BE INSPIRATIONAL

BE AUTHENTIC

ENABLE UNITY

STAY WITHIN THE REALITY OF THE SITUATION

PRACTICING H.O.P.E.

The world is in a very fragile state.

Every interaction should imply H.O.P.E.

Honesty

Open honest communication is always the best way to approach a fragile situation.

Options

Provide people with options: 

Patients: Would you like to reschedule your appointment for June or would you like us to call you when our office is reopened? Please keep in mind we have many patients to re-schedule. You may not get in as quickly as you would like.

Vendors:  Can we place a hold on our auto shipment until we are back in the office, or should we accept the next one and get our office supplies fully stocked.  How are other offices handling this?

People

Focus on people…not the processes. 

Everyone is feeling isolated and anxious. Take the time to actively listen to everyone you interact with.  It will benefit you in the long game.

Empathy

Empathy is a gift.

People are in different stages of dealing with this: 

Fear, Acceptance, Opportunistic

Try to recognize where that person is and realize that individuals handle stress differently.

If we can get to Acceptance, that is where we begin to move forward and become creative!

Keep in mind, some people may never be able to leave the fear / impulsive / protection stage.

Copyright 2020 Lisa Copeland. All Rights Reserved

Make Time to Focus ON Your Business

iRONMAN COMMUNICATION TIP

Make time to focus ON your business!

Having grown up in PA, Punxsutawney Phil was a celebratory day every year. Phil is a groundhog in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. On February 2 , Phil did NOT see his shadow which means spring is on the way and it’s time to come out of hibernation.

Is your practice ready to Spring into action with new marketing tactics?

DENTAL DRILLS

Monthly Promotion

Each Month, promote a special on a selected procedure.

February is National Children’s Dental Health Month. According to an AAPD national survey, only one in four parents are taking their child to the dentist by his or her first birthday, the age recommended by leading health experts, which means that children’s teeth are at risk. Offer a free new patient exam for children 1 year old. Read more HERE about AAPD focus for February.

Try a New Marketing Platform

Adding a social media platform to your existing marketing plan may help you reach a wider range of existing and potential patients.

· YouTube Channel

· Twitter

· Instagram

· Facebook Page

Try posting a short video, VLOG, instead of a blog or newsletter.

Newsletter Brag

Have you implemented new technology or a new procedure into your office menu? Shout it from the roof top…or add it into your VLOG, so people know you are up-to-date with the latest and greatest!

ARE YOU GETTING TO THE ROOT OF YOUR PROBLEM?

Have you surveyed your patients on their preferred method of communication? According to ZipWhip, ALL generations prefer confirmation via text. Research shows that SMS (text) open rates are as high as 98%, compared to just 20% of all emails. And, on average, it takes 90 seconds for someone to respond to a text and 90 minutes to respond to an email.

WHERE IN THE WORLD IS LISA?

My dad turned 95 years old with a surprise party hosted by my sister. As a traditionalist, he was raised on a farm in Lancaster PA, Pennsylvania Dutch territory. His mother passed away when he was 14 and his father and siblings ran the farm. He served in WWII at age 17, on the USS Alaska.  Married to my mom for over 50 years and retired from a lifelong career at the Bell Telephone Company after 50 plus years of  employment. His stories  of life and hardship are amazing. Our family wanted for nothing and lived a very modest lifestyle. 

Knowing what my dad has experienced in his life, when I work with traditionalists in my audience or dental practice, I always take the time to show my respect and get to know where they came from and what’s important to them.  It means so much to them and improves our relationship exponentially.

Happy birthday dad.  He is aspiring to hit 100!