Archive for August, 2013

Patient Complaint? Do This

Thursday, August 15th, 2013

Most dissatisfied patients will never say a word … to you. They complain to their friends. They have their records sent down the street. Like that summer tan, they just fade away. So it can be particularly jarring when a patient makes the effort to express displeasure or dissatisfaction with the “care” they have received. Difficult as it is to believe, this gripe is an act of genuine respect.


Follow these steps to manage your next patient complaint:


1. Listen. They want to tell you what went wrong. Give them the opportunity without interrupting. Remember this is a business concern that the practice now has the opportunity to address.


2. Be careful not to indicate irritation or frustration in your demeanor. If you think of yourself as calm and concerned it will come across to the patient.


3. Take notes detailing the experience or situation.


4. Apologize sincerely to the patient for the problem, even if you do not feel the practice is at fault.


5. Tell them that you will look into the matter.


6. If it requires follow-up with the patient, tell them that you will get back to them within a specified time period, such as by the close of business tomorrow and do so.


7. Thank them for bringing the issue to your attention.


8. Investigate the matter further to get the full picture.


9. If the complaint is the result of a practice system, consider bringing the matter up at the next staff meeting and ask the staff for input on how it can be addressed to avoid similar complaints in the future.


10. Take action. Don’t just gather information and do nothing. Implement steps and procedures to avoid a recurrence of the same or similar problem.


Little Inefficiencies Cost Big $

Thursday, August 1st, 2013

It is not uncommon for dentists to emerge from dental school with little or no training in how to effectively use a dental assistant. Consequently, clinical inefficiencies develop almost immediately. Those inefficiencies grow into work habits that become second nature – so much a part of the routine that they are almost never considered for improvement. If the clinical efficiency is lacking, the procedure takes longer, and fewer patients can be scheduled. Consequently, production suffers.


It is not uncommon for dentists that struggle with productivity to get up from their chair numerous times during patient procedures or have their assistants leave the treatment room to retrieve items that should have been set up in the first place. Each of these interruptions equates to clinical inefficiencies, as do slow treatment room turnaround, under-utilization of chairside assistants, and inefficient procedural protocols. The consequence is lower production, greater stress on the doctor, staff, patients, and the practice as a whole.


Then there is the matter of delegation. If you feel you are run ragged day after day, take a good look at the tasks you are performing that should be the responsibility of other team members. Ideally, dentists delegate every procedure, patient interaction, and staff matter legally allowable in their state. However, newer dentists are often performing these procedures, which is clinically inefficient. Improving clinical efficiency never involves compromising care. Rather the focus is on improving the delivery of that care as well as fully maximizing each hour of doctor and staff time.

You’re Likely Underestimating Overhead

Thursday, August 1st, 2013

New Dentists are always surprised by the overhead benchmarks that are established for dentistry:


Dental supplies – 5%


Office supplies – 2%


Rent – 5%


Laboratory – 10%


Payroll – 20%


Payroll taxes and benefits -3%


Miscellaneous 10%.


They have to carefully manage their start-up monies and consider purchases thoroughly. Oftentimes new dentists get so caught up in all the sparkle and shine of all that new state-of-the-art equipment there’s no money left for other critical start-up expenditures, such as marketing.


What’s more, it is common for new dentists to be treating family and friends when they open their practices, and many feel pressured to give freebies and discounts. Freebies and discounts will not pay for staff salaries, taxes, or supply and equipment purchases. But they will give you many sleepless nights worrying about how the bills will be paid. Nothing in the new practice should be given away for free. Fees must be set at a level that is appropriate for the area, and, most importantly, patients must be charged.


Additionally, now is the time to begin educating patients about the value of care that you are providing. Talk about what is involved in the procedure; explain the instruments on the tray, the many steps in the process. Very quickly the patient begins to realize that a so-called “simple” filling is a highly detailed procedure that requires numerous steps, a multitude of instruments, and a variety of materials that must be precisely applied. Too often dentists at every level – new and experienced – minimize the care that they deliver. Remember, dentistry requires a level education, training, and skill that most people simply don’t have.


If you are wondering how your overhead compares, I am happy to look at yours. Feel free to take the FREE Overhead Assessment available on my website at