Archive for the ‘Management’ Category

How To Fight Off Burnout by Investing in Yourself (It Might Seem Crazy, But It’s Worth It!)

Monday, May 1st, 2017

By Courtney L. Lavigne, DMD

Graduating dental school with today’s student debt burden is overwhelming. It can be even more stressful to finally finish school and realize how little you know, how inundated dentistry can make you feel, and how difficult it can be to find the path to do the dentistry you always dreamed of doing. Three years out of dental school, I found myself burning out—feeling overworked and underpaid.

In that situation, it’s hard to imagine spending any more money, but in my experience, it’s a necessity to advance your potential clinically, which will in turn increase the satisfaction you gain from the profession.

One of the ways I found my path out of burnout and into a real passion for the profession was through the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry (AACD). It was through this association that I found mentors who taught me how to decrease the number of patients I see per day, increase my clinical ability and the complexity of the dental work I’m doing, and find greater financial and personal rewards in the process.

It can be intimidating to attend an annual meeting when you are flying out of town, staying at a hotel by yourself, questioning how to dress, and realizing you don’t know anyone. The AACD’s annual meeting made it easy to enter the world of cosmetic dentistry because they find mentors to reach out to first-time attendees. At my first meeting, I met my mentor, and we’ve become good friends since. The lectures and hands-on workshops at their annual meeting are, in my opinion, the best bang-for-your-buck available in dentistry today. Over the course of a three-day period, you can learn from some of the best lecturers in the world, and take home pearls you can put into practice the next time you’re in the office.

I’ve attended the conference every year since my first, and I take Newton Fahl’s hands-on workshop multiple times at every conference. In addition to the educational material, I always look forward to the evening events which are not only fun, but allow you to network with some of dentistry’s best and brightest. I’ve made some of my closest friends in dentistry this way.

This year at the annual meeting in Las Vegas, I was honored to be on the other side, lecturing for the first time. A few years ago, I would have never imagined I could have knowledge others would benefit from. But today, I’m enjoying sharing the knowledge, tips and tricks I’ve learned along the way, alongside others striving to do the same.

It’s hard to swallow the expenses of some of this continuing education as a new graduate, but the return on your investment will truly be priceless.

AACDBlogPicCourtney Lavigne received her undergraduate degree at Creighton University and her doctorate at the University of Connecticut. She maintains a private fee-for-service practice in the Boston suburbs with a focus on cosmetic dentistry. She started her practice from scratch in 2013.

Dr. Lavigne is a fellow in the Academy of General Dentistry, the Pierre Fauchard Academy, visiting faculty and online author for Spear Education, and working towards accreditation through the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry.

Understanding Risk from a Clinical Perspective

Tuesday, January 24th, 2017

Guest post by Dawn Christodoulou, President/Owner of XLDent

Whether you’re just getting started or a seasoned vet, every dentist has heard the phrase “If it’s not in the chart, it didn’t happen.” And, even though we’ve all heard it before, many dentists continue to repeat the bad habits of their predecessors, leaving themselves at risk for malpractice lawsuits and fraud.

The Dental Chart

In order for the dental chart, or electronic dental record, to be defensible in a court of law, it needs to provide a consistent and detailed account of events.

Health History

While most practices are good about obtaining health history information at the time of a patient’s initial visit, many fail to maintain consistency when it comes to updating information. With a lot of dentists counting on hygienists and assistants to update health history information, it’s easy to get lazy with your review of this information. Make it a habit to review the information in your electronic dental record prior to each patient encounter and document this in your clinical progress note. The recent addition of the Medical Tab in the XLDent chart helps clinicians view and update medical conditions and medications easily.

Pre-Treatment Diagnosis

Failure to document a definitive diagnosis is a common weakness to the electronic dental record in many practices. The clinical progress note should reflect your diagnosis and the findings that led to your diagnosis. Supporting items, like radiographs and treatment plans, will also help strengthen and validate your progress note. Your documentation must reflect the treatment options that were recommended and alternatives that were discussed with the patient.

Informed Consent

Prior to treatment, the dentist bears the responsibility of obtaining informed consent from the patient to perform the procedures that were diagnosed. For most, the process to obtain consent involves a conversation with the patient that results in patient understanding and acceptance of the treatment that will be provided. When it comes to malpractice claims, lack of consent is frequently cited. The clinical progress note should reference the process used to obtain consent and that the patient consented to treatment provided. For riskier procedures, consider obtaining consent in writing to help support your clinical note. One method is clinical consent forms that are signed on the tablet pc when using XLDent’s Ink Forms.

Medications

Even in 2017, many prescribers will be the victim of prescription theft or tampering. Sending prescriptions to the pharmacy electronically offers greater protection for the prescriber, reducing the risk of fraud. Additionally, ePrescribing software offers safety measures for the patient.

We hope these recommendations will help you minimize the risk of fraud or error in your clinical settings.

To connect with someone from XLDent, please call 800-328-2925 or email xldentinfo@xldent.com.

Dawn

Dawn Christodoulou is the President/Owner of XLDent. She has more than 25 years of experience computerizing dental offices and helping both new and established practices streamline electronic workflows for increased efficiency, improve patient engagement, and achieve maximum profitability. Dawn is also a member of ADA SCDI Working Groups 11.1 Standard Clinical Architecture and 11.9 Core Reference Data Set.

Common Scheduling Mistakes ( 1 of 3)

Thursday, January 15th, 2015

Maintaining a productive schedule isn’t easy. It takes commitment and the willingness to implement measurable systems that will bring about real change in your practice. The person in charge of your schedule must be properly trained and have a clear understanding of the difference between scheduling to keep the team busy, and scheduling to keep the team productive.

When you finally start scheduling to meet productivity objectives rather than just to fill the day, you’ll notice a huge difference in your practice, as will your patients. Stress levels will go down, patients won’t wait as long to see you, and instead of just reacting to what’s thrown your direction, you will be prepared for every appointment. All this, plus you’ll start meeting your practice’s financial goals.

Yes, managing the schedule can be tricky business, but it’s vital to your practice’s success. You may be overwhelmed by the thought of nixing your old system and designing one that actually works, but I’m here to help you through it. I’m about to share with you three of the most common scheduling mistakes dental practices make, along with tips on how you can avoid them. Read on, then start making the necessary changes.

Mistake #1:
You’re Not Communicating with your Scheduling Coordinator
You expect your coordinator to fill in procedure times but are you communicating how long the procedures take? Instead of making your coordinator play the guessing game, let him or her know exactly how long it will take you to perform a scheduled procedure, as well as how long it will take the assistant. The coordinator should then mark the times in different colors on the schedule. Just like that, you’ve saved yourself and your team some unnecessary frustration and aggravation, and you’ve ensured you’re not double-booked.

Whether it comes directly from you or from a hygienist after you’ve provided the time break down, I can’t stress enough how important it is to clearly communicate procedure times with your scheduling coordinator.

Controlling the schedule is vital to your practice’s success. The schedule determines the level of care you provide, how stressful your day is and how much money you bring in. Avoiding these common pitfalls and making a commitment to properly manage the schedule will help ensure that you meet daily production objectives, allowing you and your team to focus on what’s most important—providing the best patient care possible.

Additional Tips for Increasing your Production

Tuesday, December 30th, 2014

In the last post addressing change for the new year and goal setting, we discussed a few simple steps on what you can do to increase your production. The example that was given was to implement new procedures for your practice, making sure to talk to the staff and educate them to answer questions, informing the patients both in person, online and with printed materials available in your office. To take this one step further, let’s take a look at patient follow-up. Another area that ties to production and often is neglected or at the least could be improved.

When patients cancel appointments and say they will call back to reschedule, give them a reasonable amount of time to do so; however, if they do not reschedule within a few days, they should be contacted. Your concern is the patient’s welfare. It is in their best interest to receive treatment.

One way to relay the importance of a patient keeping or scheduling their appointment is to ensure that patient education is taking place in the process. Remember that in the dental practice, marketing is patient education; it’s not high pressure sales. It’s your responsibility to educate patients on the necessity and value of dental care. If the team isn’t sure how to educate patients effectively, train them. Conduct mini-clinics during staff meetings to share key benefits of new/existing treatments the practice offers. Draft question/answer sheets on the most common questions patients ask about specific procedures so everyone is prepared to answer the fundamental inquiries.

In addition to improving treatment education and follow-up, take three more steps to increase production in the New Year:
1. Establish daily production goals and schedule to meet those goals.
2. Implement an interceptive periodontal therapy program.
3. Provide superior customer service that will encourage patients to refer friends and family.

Take confidence in the success we have seen taking these very steps to help dentists across the country to improve their practices. Let me hear your success stories or failures!
Feel free to leave your comments below or contact me directly at sally@thenewdentistnet.

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Looking for additional resources for your practice or wish to start a practice? Check out the available resources to you on The New Dentist Website at www.thenewdentist.net/resources.htm

How to Resolve Production Challenges

Friday, December 12th, 2014

Well, here we are. It’s that time again. Dust off the resolutions and the promises to yourself and others. We will soon stand at the threshold of a whole new year. And this will be the one in which you not only resolve to do this and stop doing that, but you actually fulfill your commitment – or so you hope. If you are among those who take part in this annual ritual, you are in good company. In fact, nearly half of all Americans make New Year’s resolutions. Clearly, many of us have a sincere desire to change or improve something in our lives.

While wanting to change is the easy part, actually doing so is no small challenge. And if you’re resolving to change not only yourself but also your practice, you have a whole host of challenging variables, obstacles, personalities, and agendas to overcome. Leading change in any business can be an undertaking of seemingly Herculean proportions.

We have long been schooled in the fact that change is never easy or comfortable, but as successful practitioners know full well, it is not only necessary – it’s unavoidable. The key is managing it to the full benefit of your practice and your team. Focus on one area at a time, and break the process down into manageable steps.

Here are a few simple steps to help you increase production in your practice – a critical area for every office.

1. Talk to patients about the new services that are available to them.
2. Create a FAQ (frequently asked questions) sheet about the procedure(s).
3. Post information on your website as well as links to credible sites that give additional details.
4. Make sure your entire staff is well-educated on the service and prepared to answer patient questions.

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Looking for additional resources for your practice or wish to start a practice? Check out the available resources to you on The New Dentist Website at www.thenewdentist.net/resources.htm

Spreading Holiday Cheer …within the Budget

Thursday, November 20th, 2014

holiday party imagesholiday party images
As the year winds down, I hope you and your staff are seeing a bit more “sparkle” on the practice profit margin and you can take time to celebrate the Holiday Season. After all, there’s nothing like a little “rockin’ around the Christmas tree” to build camaraderie. But how do you ensure that you spread the holiday cheer without having to hand over a chunk of cash? Follow a few guidelines to keep the party on pace and the budget in line.

Here are a few suggestions of my own for a holiday party success:

1. Involve employees in the planning. Making them part of the process helps to ensure that you can deliver a celebration they will enjoy.
2. Provide clear budget guidelines, and encourage the party planners to be creative. For example the location could be a museum, or perhaps an ice rink.
3. Fixed Menu – If you do choose to hold your party at a restaurant, select items in advance from a limited menu. Include a variety of appetizers, pasta, chicken and fish. While you don’t want to skimp on food, you can be selective.
4. Limit Libations – Keep in mind that toasting the success of the practice once or twice is great, but should be limited. An open bar is an open invitation to potential problems. 5. Holding the event during the day can also keep expenses down – If the event is held during the day, the guest list is expected to be employees only.
6. Use the holiday party as an opportunity to give to others as well – In the spirit of “it is better to give than receive,” encourage staff to bring non-perishable items to the party that will be donated to the local food pantry or collect unwrapped new toys for area toy drives.
7. Make it a point to celebrate the accomplishments of the past year by showing genuine appreciation to your team members. Perhaps write a note of thanks and read it to them before presenting it to each team member present.

If a holiday party is not in your budget this year, consider offering staff members flexible scheduling over the holidays. This is a potentially huge reward with little/no impact on the bottom line. It can be a relatively easy way to thank employees who, like most of us, struggle to keep their work and personal life in balance.

Keep in mind that while the holidays offer an opportunity to recognize hard work and thank employees for their commitment to the practice throughout the year, they should not to be the only time of year in which you acknowledge their efforts.

3 of 3 Steps to Establish Performance Expectations

Monday, June 30th, 2014

This is a continuation of my previous post on 3 Steps to Establish Performance Expectations.  As you have learned, the culprit of poor performance is typically due to lack of or weak performance measurement systems. To address this we first created effective Job Descriptions.  Then we looked at providing the tools and finally, it is time to measure results.

Step #3 – What Gets Measured Gets Done
Appraise employee performance using an effective performance appraisal instrument that evaluates key areas such as:

    • The employee’s ability to follow instructions
    • Their willingness to help others and cooperate with others
    • The incidents of errors in their work
    • Their initiative, commitment, and innovation in carrying out their responsibilities and improving work flow
    • Their work ethic, attitude, and individual productivity

When you provide your team with clear direction they have the opportunity to do more than just perform a task. They can excel. Remember, the vast majority of employees want to deliver a quality work product. They want to feel they are part of a harmonious team that not only enjoys working together, but also is committed to succeeding together. They want to feel that they are rewarded based on their individual ability to achieve what is expected of them. And they want to know that they are heading down the right path to achieve individual and overall practice success.

Interested in speaking to Sally about your practice concerns? Email her at sally@thenewdentist.net

24 hours to Goal

Monday, May 5th, 2014

In our previous posts we have talked about setting goals for growth. Now that we have closed out the first quarter of 2014 you have a baseline to set some goals from.

 

Regardless of whether in business or at home, there are certain goals that can help us as individuals to improve the areas of our lives where we wish to see growth.
Let’s set those goals so we can reach toward greater personal and professional fulfillment and achievement. On average, I feel safe to say we feel better when we are more productive. Why not do more to fulfill that need which in turn improves your environment and perhaps those who get to experience being around you as well.

 

Take a moment to consider that your time has become your most important asset. No matter where you choose to spend that time, there are ways to keep track of how it is spent. Taking time for self improvement obvious measure for how that resource as it is most certainly finite and precious resource that we have. An important comparison for benchmarks are going to be this first quarter compared to last quarter as compares to yearly averages as well as specifically the first quarter of years past.
There is a lot of information available perhaps and not enough time to sift through it all.

 

For others it was just more of the same. Inadequate systems that managed to shuffle through the first quarter will limp into the second. Productivity will continue to teeter between the “sorely lacking” and the “barely good enough” levels – not because the doctor isn’t working his/her hardest or individual team members aren’t committed to the cause. Rather it’s typically because the primary focus is on dealing with whatever problem has to be managed right now and not on addressing what caused that problem and what can be done to prevent it in the future.

 

Ironically, a mere 24 hours over the next year could transform a practice locked in a seemingly perpetual state of crisis management or lackluster success into one of superior efficiency and productivity. Monthly business meetings that are given just two hours of dedicated, uninterrupted doctor and staff time could be most cost-effective, production efficient step you’ll take to achieve your practice’s full potential in the coming year. The key: designate every member of the team a contributor.

 

Here’s how:

 

1. Block off two hours each month over the next 12 months. These are the 24-hours that you commit to continuously improving your practice during the next year.
2. Develop an agenda with input from the entire team.
3. Include all areas that impact the profitability/success of the practice. For example: numbers of new patients, recall patients, collections, treatment acceptance, production, accounts receivables, unscheduled time units for doctor and hygiene, uncollected insurance revenues over 60 days, overhead, etc.
4. Distribute the agenda at least two days in advance of the meeting.
5. Assign each member of the team to report on the area for which they are responsible. For example, the scheduling coordinator reports on the monthly production as compared to the goal, the number of unscheduled time units for the doctor, and the doctor’s daily average production.
6. Encourage team members to come prepared to discuss topics on the agenda. For example, if the doctor has a higher number of unscheduled time units than desired, the team can discuss contacting patients with unscheduled treatment, encouraging hygiene patients with unscheduled treatment to move forward on recommended care, identifying patients with unused insurance benefits, etc.
7. Seek input from everyone by asking questions such as, “What is your reaction to that?” “As the patient, how would you react?” “What are the advantages of this approach? What are the potential disadvantages?”
8. Delegate responsibilities and establish deadlines for completing tasks identified during the staff meetings. For example, if hygiene cancellations are high and the group has developed a plan to reduce the cancellations the person responsible, probably the hygiene coordinator, needs to know she is accountable for implementing the changes and should be prepared to report on the effects of those changes at the next monthly meeting.
9. Share ideas during staff meetings for improving the work environment, the patient experience, and the efficiency of the practice.
10. Designate the amount of time you will spend discussing each issue and avoid getting bogged down on unrelated topics.
11. Discuss only what is on the agenda.
12. Hold staff meetings off-site in a conference room with a conference table. Many local libraries, community colleges, and other public facilities have public meeting rooms available for use.
13. Eliminate outside interruptions.
14. Seek consensus from the staff as to the best time to hold staff meetings; meetings scheduled outside normal work hours should be paid.
15. Hold meetings at least once per month, more frequently if you are implementing several changes.

 

Meetings are meant to be designated times in which you can focus all of your energy and team resources on addressing key management issues and problems that arise as a part of operating a small business. Run correctly, they are the most effective means to identify and solve problems, establish policies, share information, motivate each other, define areas of responsibility, and exchange ideas. Use them to your practice’s full advantage.

 

Shoot HIGH and finish strong next quarter!

 

Goals = Growth

Tuesday, March 25th, 2014

Regardless of where you are or what you are doing if you have goals, you will have growth. Similarly, if there are no goals, objectives, or measurement systems in place productivity will languish or decline. The situation continues until you are facing a crisis which will then demand change. Whether personal or in business, establish goals and you create the first step in reaching them.

 

The dental practice itself can set certain business goals based on benchmarks that we know effective dental teams achieve: Collections should be 98% of the dentistry produced. Case Acceptance should be at 85%; Hygiene should produce 33% of practice production; 80% of emergency patients should be converted to comprehensive exams; and the schedule should have fewer than .5 hygiene openings per day.

 

Although I have seen practices of all types and in virtually every area of the country achieve those benchmarks, it doesn’t just happen. Protocols are in place, measurements are established, and in many cases the doctor recognized that s/he could not singlehandedly fix the shortfalls. With multiple systems in the dental practice all affecting profitability, determining where to start can be daunting. The next step is to break down the goals into specific tasks and areas that can be managed. In this case, it may be easier to look at it in terms of four broad categories: Service, Staff, Profit, and Growth.
 
Service: Establish specific goals to improve and deliver superior service.
 
Staff: Establish specific goals related to attracting and retaining excellent staff.
 
Profit: Establish goals to monitor and improve profitability. If specific practice management systems are in place, you should be able to expect an increase in profits each year. Start by taking a close look at your practice management system reports. These are readily available on your computer in your practice management software system.
 
Growth: Establish goals focused on improving patient retention.
 
Watch the blog here for more detail on specific practice goals and benchmarks. Start today by setting your own goals to grow. Feel free to add your questions and thoughts in the comment section below.

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.