The ability of the dental team to communicate efficiently has a direct effect on overall practice production. We estimate that practice can increase production significantly by evaluating and improving the flow of internal communication.
Here are several factors, common to many dental teams, that are areas where improved communication within the team would benefit the practice and its patients.
- The dental team may believe they communicate well, but it does not mean they’re maximizing efficiency. The opportunity, for example, to communicate that there is open time in the schedule, and that if a patient needs additional treatment and is willing to stay for it, they can be accommodated, can fill in for no-shows, last-minute cancellations, or non-scheduled appointments.
- The front and back often do not know what the other one is doing or thinking. The classic example is when front desk people place emergencies in the schedule, upsetting the dental assistants, creating chaos and rushing in the clinical area. Not to mention, patients having to wait for appointments because the back is literally “backed up” when the emergency patient arrives. Emergencies have an approximate 98% case acceptance rate and contribute heavily to production but should not blow up the schedule on a regular basis.
- If one person or group does not follow the practice systems or protocols, then it creates a cascade of other problems in the practice. It is like the Zen question if a butterfly flaps its wings in New York, does it create a tsunami in Asia? In some cases, one violation of practice systems without asking or communicating with other effective team members will create a tsunami in the practice schedule.
Here are several opportunities to improve communication in these areas easily and quickly.
- Have a well thought out set agenda for the morning meeting. The morning meeting is critical for efficiency and good communication. If you do not have the right agenda, then having a meeting will not make a difference. The agenda should include key communication items, such as the next open appointment (so everyone is aware and does their part in filling it), emergencies that contacted the office that morning, any scheduling issues or breakdowns that might take place during the day, expected interruptions, etc. These are not the main focal points but they are still critically important.
- Whenever you communicate with another team member start by stating the topic. “Mary, Mrs. Jones needs to come in for an emergency this afternoon.” This allows the person to immediately understand and focus on the task at hand. By starting with the topic, you eliminate any misunderstanding about what subject is being discussed and what the request is.
- Wait for the answer. If you communicate information to another team member, take a breath and wait for them to respond. In the above example, the answer may not be to schedule Mrs. Jones in the afternoon, or it may be essential and requested by the doctor. Either way, wait for the answer to ensure that the communication has been delivered in both directions. You may receive information such as, “Tina, I can schedule Mrs. Jones for this afternoon, but it does mean that we will be in a time crunch between 3:00 and 3:30.”
- Communicate the most important things first. We often see a communication where the trivial items are communicated at the same time and level as the important items. Everything is not equal, and topics need to be prioritized. For example, dealing with a patient that is running late right now and informing the front desk is more important than mentioning something that might be happening two or three days later. Prioritize which items you want to communicate, start with a topic sentence, and wait for a response.
Efficient communication is not only beneficial in reducing stress and chaos, but it can increase practice production in some cases by as much as 15%. Communication allows all practice systems to be carried out. You need excellent systems, but then you need to communicate around those systems, especially the exceptions.
There will always be exceptions, but these can be managed far better in an environment where everyone is communicating openly, clearly and completely.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Roger P. Levin, DDS is the CEO and Founder of Levin Group, a leading practice management consulting firm that has worked with over 30,000 clients to increase production. A recognized expert on dental practice management and marketing, he has written more than 60 books and over 4,000 articles and regularly presents seminars in the U.S. and around the world.