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

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