Dental Consultant | Time – Do Your Patients Know What to Expect?

Have you ever played that listening game where a statement is told to someone? Then, they are told to pass on what they heard to the person next to them. By the 4th person the statement is not even close to the original thought. This game brings to mind the multiple people that must communicate to successfully complete a process. We do this everyday in our practice, and I want to share from personal experience how this can create issues that are not intended.

Last week my father had knee surgery to repair a torn lateral meniscus. The procedure was done on an outpatient basis and is pretty routine for all personnel involved. The only catch is that it was performed on an 81-year old man who has been free from any previous surgical needs. At 6AM, we arrived at the hospital registration as requested by the surgeons’ office. These instructions were given at time of scheduling the surgery, and again confirmed the day before surgery. After a lengthy wait for him to be taken back for pre-op, I asked the gentleman that registered my father why we were experiencing the delay. I had already seen his doctor walk  into the hospital earlier, so I knew he was there. Imagine my surprise when he told me he was confused why we had arrived so early for a 9am surgery. Really?! A 9am surgery and told to be there at 6am! You can imagine my displeasure upon hearing this. I was glad I inquired about the delay, but now I had to explain this to my mom and dad who were getting more anxious as every minute passed and blaming his surgeon for this delay.

I had to place blame at the responsible party which was not the hospital or any of their employees, nor the surgeon. My father was already doubting the trust he had placed in this surgeon for something that had nothing to do with his skills, ability, or the hospital he is affiliated with. The blame was with the scheduling coordinator at the surgeons’ office who told us to be there an hour too early. All of this could have been easily avoidable and was totally preventable. I found out it is standard for this office to ask patients to be there 2 hours before surgery for registration, not 3, so something happened. Was it the end of the world, no. Did it upset him and cause concern, definitely. Could it have been avoidable, yes. I am sharing this because the same thing can happen in your office if someone is not attentive to the details and communicates ineffectively.

While dad was in the operating room, I called the surgeons’ office and spoke with the scheduling coordinator about this situation. She deeply apologized to me and took responsibility for her error. Being the coach that I am I asked her how she was going to prevent that from happening again to another patient. She was surprised by my questions until I told her what I did for a living. She signed and said she needed to fix her process and agreed with my suggestion about using a standard template for surgery instead of manually filling in the blank for each patient. That way the time was calculated correctly as surgery time – 2 hours = registration time.

At your next huddle, please discuss how time and expectations are communicated to your patients. Hopefully, unlike my father, they will not experience any inconvenience or miscommunication.

If you have any questions or problems you are facing in your practice, please get in touch with me for a complementary call.

Dental Coach | Sometimes You Need to Focus on the Basics

Have you ever walked away from a business scratching your head? That is exactly what happened to my husband and I during a purchase at a local hardware store a few days ago. We needed some bulbs for our light fixture above our sink in the kitchen and we like to do business with this locally owned company. They always have what we are looking for and the customer experience is usually better than the big chains.  When we brought the bulbs up to check out, the cashier noticed there was no bar code to scan. Instead of asking a team member to get him the code, he looked at my husband and said, can you go back and write down the code for me? My husband was gracious about it, but as he was walking away, I looked at the cashier and said I can’t believe you think this is good customer service.  He looked at me, shrugged his shoulders like he didn’t’ know what to do, and waited on the guy behind me.  As we were walking out with our purchase, I looked at Steve and said I have my next blog article. I recount this story with the main purpose of asking you, how are your patients being walked out and checked out in your practice?

You can perform well in every area of your practice.  Your patients are greeted well, receive the best care at service level, but their experience when checking out of your office ends like mine in the hardware store, their last impression is one of incompetence.  Think about that for a moment.  At the time you are getting your patient to pay for their services, this is the time they are not treated in the best manner possible.  Better yet, ask yourself if you think this patient will tell others about their experience at your practice or post about it on social media.  Of course they will!

I believe two things would have made my experience better at the hardware store; the attitude of the cashier and making sure he was taught the skills necessary for the job. I can understand the need to check out many people at one time, (sound like a dental office?) and you may need some help from a teammate (also a dental office?). There is no need to ask a customer, or patient to do something that the business or practice should be doing. Think of it as a simple courtesy. The cashier could have used the intercom for help or could have locked his computer and gotten the information he needed for our transaction.  He clearly made the wrong choice by asking a customer to do his or another teammates job.

It is worthwhile to take a moment and review the basics with your team what should occur when there are several patients to check out at one time. How does your front office handle this when it happens? I know I am asked many times, “how do I differentiate myself from other practices?” It starts with these basic customer service skills and handling issues with simple courtesy and professionalism. The basics cannot be ignored if you want to succeed.

If you would like to review these types of things or have questions, please get in touch with me so we can make your practice the best it can be.