Protocol – Seven Thoughts For Seamless Patient Movement

Protocol – Seven Thoughts For Seamless Patient Movement

One of my favourite restaurants ever was Pier, on New South Head Road, in Rose Bay Sydney. An iconic restaurant, owned and run by Greg Doyle, it featured amongst the top hatted restaurants every year in the annual edition of the Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide.

My wife and I ate there at least once per year. It was indeed a special treat. The food was always superb, and the wait staff, and attention to detail were always exemplary.

In the book by the same name, Doyle discusses the food, and the philosophy that make up what we know, as Pier.

One item, which I picked up on, was that they had systems for just about everything, so that nothing was left to chance. Nothing happened by accident.

Pier restaurant was housed in a pier, as such, jutting out into Rose Bay. The dining room, or area, was a long and narrow room with glass on both sides and of course glass at the end to capture the magnificent views of Sydney Harbour and Rose Bay and Point Piper.

In the book, I read where Doyle explained that because of the anatomy of the building, and the table arrangements, the restaurant had a specific set of protocols and guidelines for the best way to transfer guests and diners from the restaurant entrance down to their reserved table. This protocol included, who should walk first, and how, along the not so wide passage between tables.

In dental practice we have a similar issue. Some offices are designed with long hallways between client lounge and treatment rooms, passing several operatories, offices, sterilisation areas and storage rooms and laboratories.

The way a patient is led, or directed in this journey can have a direct or indirect effect on that patient and the people working or visiting in the rooms that they pass.

Having a system of protocols avoids or reduces the chance of awkward or embarrassing moments.

Here are some of the ideas that we developed in our office:

  1. Firstly, it is fairly obvious that it is difficult to have meaningful conversation with a client while in motion. It is impossible to engage in eye contact and facial reflection while walking beside, in front of, or behind someone. So we decided that the transfer from client lounge to treatment room would only involve spoken words of direction.Even courteous throwaway lines about “how are you?” etc. were considered wasted in the environment of movement. It would be hard to gauge patient facial expression, as well as share facial expressions with the patient, as you both walk to the treatment room. It is also difficult to control content of conversation in a hallway, which is a shared environment. Adjoining rooms would be in earshot of those conversations.
  2. The hallway may be a place where accidental collisions could occur. Sterilised and unsterilized instruments are transported along the hallway, so movement of patients should be swift from client lounge to treatment room, to avoid accidental collisions.
  3. Open any connecting doors for the client that are usually closed. Connecting doors that separate treatment areas from office areas may be heavy and awkward. It is a great courtesy to open a door for your client. It is even more powerful to say to them “Allow me to open the door for you.”
  4. Decide whether to walk behind or in front of the client. We decided to give direction and walk behind them. This discourages chitchat, and encourages swift transfer.
  5. Make sure any doors along the passage that need to be closed are closed, and vice versa. Tearooms, “busy looking” offices, laboratories etc., may present better with their doors closed.
  6. Where possible, look for ways to assist your clients. Look for opportunities to carry bags or shopping or umbrellas or coats etc. along the hallway for them.
  7. Finally, a policy that should be mandatory in every business, not just dental, but everywhere:
    *All team members should know to greet each other, and also guests, if passing in the hallway.
    *Nothing exudes “fail” more than two team members passing each other without a quick smile or raised eyes or a tiny hello. It’s just common courtesy. Having a patient see two team members pass each other in the hallway like strangers cannot be good for business.Conversely, a patient greeted in the hall by another passing team member would only build confidence and respect for the dental office.

So how’s your protocol for transferring clients, customers and patients? Do you have a system of preferred dos and don’ts?

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Protocol – Seven Thoughts For Seamless Patient Movement

How’s Your Dental Lab?

With dental lab expenses in a dental practice ranging from 5% to 15% of the practice gross income, I thought this was a good time to share an anecdotal experience I had this week..

I had an interesting phone chat yesterday with a marketer who had sought me out for an opinion. The contact had initially been made a couple of weeks earlier   through a first level contact of mine on LinkedIn. It was all handled professionally, a time was sought and arranged and the call was very amicable.

The line of enquiry from the marketer went something like this: he had a client who owned a dental laboratory in Brisbane who was interested in setting up a dental lab in Sydney, so was seeking my opinions and comments on various factors in the Sydney dental market in general.

The questioning was polite and thorough. I was impressed with the marketer’s lines of questioning, as well as his attention to details of my comments, and his crosschecking and referring back to comments I had made.

What came out of this interview, for me, was very, very interesting….

  1. I personally use five dental labs to cover all my dental laboratory options.
  2. I have been a very loyal client to these labs.
  3. I pretty well chose all of these labs by referral after my own inquiries. That is, I asked fellow colleagues for recommendations.
  4. Price is not a factor. I don’t know what my labs charge. I like their work.
  5. I don’t really have a handle on the Sydney dental market for labs. I’m not interested in seeing what else is out there. I’m not in the market to change.

So lets look at the laboratories I use

  1. My local dental lab. Crown and bridge. All Dentures. Mouthguards. I’ve been a client on and off of theirs for over twenty years. They do great “pop in” post and cores, and great dentures. We have a good working relationship, and they certainly scratch my back, so to speak….
  2. My ceramic guy. The high-end smile enhancement, cosmetic guy. Beautiful smiles are created in his hands.
  3. My local ortho lab. Makes my functional appliances, my passive retainers.
  4. An interstate lab for functional TMJ appliances. Great work, good turnaround and attention to customer needs.
  5. An overseas crown and bridge lab for posterior crowns. This lab has been a revelation. I have used them for say 15 years, at least. Their products are better than most locally made, and at a fraction of the cost. This lab has turned the dental laboratory market in Australia on its ear. I’ve visited their overseas site, and am impressed with their cleanliness, quality control and tracking. In fact I’m so impressed, that I have one of their crowns in my own mouth, as well as the mouths of my father, father-in-law, mother-in-law, and brother-in-law.

So what do all these labs have in common?

  1. High quality low defect work. There is rarely a poor fit or problem.
  2. Prompt early delivery of their work. Allowing our practice to “look good” to our clients. It’s impressive to be contacting the patients and bringing their appointments forward. Makes us look good to the patient.
  3. On the rare occasions there is an adjustment, or a remake, it’s done promptly, no fuss, no blame. But like I said, these instances are rare.
  4. The labs love our business, and they love business. They have great staff members who are great with customer service!

So where have been the failings of other labs I used?

  1. Dropping the ball. Now, firstly, let me tell you that I’ve left one of these labs I just mentioned above, in the past, but I came back. One part of their service deteriorated…I changed lab. They lifted their game…and I came back.
  2. Poor quality. Errors in work, with no acceptance of accountability. This would be the biggest cause for change.
  3. Failure to deliver on time. I don’t care how good the work, if they can’t get it there on time; it makes our office look bad to the patient.
  4. Personal reasons. I’ve had labs drop the punctuality ball due to their distraction for  personal reasons, and this is hard…. but business is business. Don’t mix the time for business, and the time for play.
  5. A great dental technician leaves and is replaced with an ordinary one. Not so much a concern in small local operations, but if a different ceramicist does your work…you know the change.

In summary, good quality labs that respect dentist’s time, deliver and pick up promptly, and look at the big picture when it’s needed; these are the labs that stick around long term….and if you’re going to be around long term yourself, then these are the labs you need…

After all, dentistry is a business….

What are your experiences with dental laboratories? Leave your feedback below…

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Protocol – Seven Thoughts For Seamless Patient Movement

"Won’t Be Too Long. Just Take A Seat."

Sometimes I cannot believe what goes on in dental offices.

Some of the behaviors and operations I see surprise me as being OK or accepted practice, in what should be for our customers and patients, a warm caring customer service experience.

It’s not that staff, or team members at the Dental Office behave ignorantly and rudely on purpose. It’s just, that I believe they don’t know or haven’t been taught any other way to behave, that’s all.

Recently I visited an office where I saw this scenario unfold. Now I don’t believe the two team members are bad people. I just believe that nobody has taken the time to explain to them a better way.

Here’s the scenario. Two front office team members, sitting at a reception desk about three or four metres apart. Early morning. Client lounge in front of them has one patient, waiting on the doctor to write a referral. The two receptionists are discussing their weekends, out loud, within earshot of the customer, who is not invited to the conversation.

A new person, a patient with an appointment, enters the office. His greeting, from one receptionist is

“Won’t be too long. Just take a seat”

And then she and her colleague return immediately to their social conversation…

What’s wrong here and how could this be improved?

Firstly, the team members need to understand the social conversation they are having instead of working, is on paid time. This is wrong! We’ll discuss this in more depth in future posts…

Secondly, the first patient should be being entertained by the two team members. The front office team members’ role is to socialize with him, as it is his business, or his treatment, that pays their wages. Every patient wears an invisible sign that reads “*Make Me Feel Special!*”

Thirdly, when the second patient entered the dental office, one team member should have left the discussion (that wasn’t happening) with the first patient and attended to, and started visiting with the newly arrived patient.

We want our patients to feel special. We want them to be raving fans. We want that when they need to have dental work done, that our office is the one they call.

We don’t want to feel like our front desk is like the Post Office…or the Bank!

Imagine how special each of these patients would have felt if a front office team member had conversed with the, or offered them some coffee or refreshment? Surely this would have been a much better scenario….

Team members need to ask themselves these Questions…

  1. Is what I’m doing now helping to build relationships with patients, or is it sending the patient a poor message about this office?
  2. Is what I’m doing now, so important, or can I put it aside and talk to and engage with my customer right now?
  3. If I was paying me, would I be happy with what me was doing, or would I ask me to do something different, or differently?
  4. If I was the customer/patient, how would I feel about this business witnessing the behavior in front of me right now?

Two simple thoughts for team members to consider:

  1. 130/38 rule
    There are 168 hours in the week. 38 hours are paid for by our employer. 130 are unpaid. Is what I’m doing right now an activity that my employer should be paying for? Or is it an activity that belongs in the 130 side of the equation? With respect to this activity, would my employer be happy or unhappy seeing me performing this activity on the 38 side of the equation?
  2. Is what I’m doing right now improving someone’s day, or not? And if it’s not, then what can I do right now to change that!!

Have your team members discuss these thoughts and comments and see what they think, see if they can change for the betterment of patient, practice and team.

You’ll find that when your dental office staff members make this switch to being patient-centered, then your business will improve markedly, and remarkably.

The beauty of this is…it’s not ROCKET SCIENCE!! Give it a go!

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