I spend a lot of time in dental offices, observing the day-to-day systems that they use.
Frankly, I see a lot of systems, policies, and office flow that don’t make much sense. Let me give you some real-life examples that I have actually observed:
Answering the phones with “Dr. Smith’s office, how may I direct your call?”
For most dental offices, when a front desk employee answers the phone, the same person answering the phone is the one who is actually going to handle the caller’s request. Very rarely does the person answering the phone need to direct that call to anyone else, as we handle it right then and there for the patient.
So why not just answer the phone with something like, “How may I help you?” The patient who is calling will understand that you are going to be able to actually help them, not just pass them on to someone else. Using software that tells you who is calling as well as all relevant information about the patient, will help you build trust with your patients and is a way to provide great customer service. It also just makes more sense.
Making extra work by copying treatment plans into Excel.
Here’s what I have witnessed in some offices: Entering all of the treatment plan into Eaglesoft, but then copying all of the treatment plan into an Excel spreadsheet, so that you can present the treatment plan with payment options on a form that shows the out-of-pocket costs and the patient’s payment options.
This is just an extra step that doesn’t serve a real purpose. The software is designed to make our lives easier, so why not use the software for its intended purposes? Get that information into your system so you can get what you need to present to the patient, without the added task of entering it into Excel.
Using paper forms in binders instead of relying on Dentrix.
This is another way that offices make extra work for themselves just because they are more comfortable with paper than with software. I have seen office filling out forms that list what the patient’s treatment plan is, after entering into Dentrix, so that the paper can be filed into 3-ring binders labeled either “scheduled” or “unscheduled” by the doctor under the date that the patient was seen.
This paper then has to be moved accordingly if the patient schedules the appointment or cancels after the initial appointment. The paper also has to be tracked down by the hygienist or dental assistant on the day of the next appointment to be reviewed in the huddle, even though the same information is in Dentrix already.
Why use two systems to track the same information? Just rely on the software that has been implemented for that very purpose. Let the software do its job of making your office more efficient.
Tracking information that never gets reviewed with the team.
This is so common, but it makes absolutely no sense. At the end of the day, some offices are tracking certain pieces of information by entering them onto a piece of paper (such as amount of patients that scheduled their next appointment that day, amount of Sonicares sold that day, amount of referrals the team asked for that day, etc.) and then filing it away in a book.
The thing is, this information is never reviewed by anyone! It doesn’t get shared with the team to discuss how well or poorly the numbers were in any given area, and to make a plan to improve those numbers. Literally, someone is just filing it away every day and going home. What is the point of tracking information if it is never actually used to make improvements?
Every single one of these examples are real things that I have observed in dental offices.
When I ask why they do what they do, I hear the same answer from each and every employee: “Because that’s the way we have always done it.” The employees have no idea why they are doing these extra tasks or answering the phones the way they do. They just keep on doing it that way because it’s how they were originally trained, and they never stop to think, “Why do we do this? Is this necessary? Is there a more efficient way?”
Now, maybe you are reading this and thinking, “Our office doesn’t do any of those things in your list.” That may be true, but are you doing other things that make no sense? Think about your daily duties and tasks. Have you ever asked yourself, “Why do we even do this? This just seems like extra work.”
There are probably things that you do in your office on a daily and weekly basis that made sense in the past but are no longer necessary. Yet you still do them because “that is the way we have always done it.” Famous last words…
I suggest taking a moment to review all the systems you have in place, and decide if they are necessary and producing the intended results. Analyze if there might be a better way or a more efficient way.
If there is a daily or weekly task that falls into a questionable category, discuss it. Ask: “Why do we do this?” and “Are we getting the results we want from this?” If you or your coworkers answer with something like “I don’t know, this is just the way we have always done it,” then decide whether there is a better or more efficient way.
Many times things become rote in an organization, and everyone just becomes a creature of habit. But it does not have to stay that way.
Step into an outside perspective and look at the systems you use every day. This will help you recognize some areas that could use some improvement or changes.
Take the time to identify what might need to be updated, so that it is no longer done just because “that’s how it’s always been done.” Figure out a way to make it not only more efficient but also more effective. Then everyone in your office will be more productive and feel better about the fact that their daily job tasks are necessary to effectively serve patients, and no one will view any part of their job as busy work.