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Why dentists should be grateful for their practice management team. Thanksgiving is the time of year that we reflect on the good things in our lives.
Thanksgiving is the time of year that we reflect on the good things in our lives.
While it is valuable to make that a yearly ritual, it’s important not to lose sight of those blessings throughout the year, and the various shapes and sizes in which they come. For instance, no successful practice can exist without a dedicated staff, committed to the practice and its patients.
With that in mind, we talked to some members of our Editorial Advisory Board who shared a few of the reasons that they are thankful for their front office staff.
Continue to the next page to see why dentists should be thankful for their staff.
Knowing who you are
For Dr. Erinne Kennedy, DMD, Dental Public Health Resident at Harvard School of Dental Medicine, the receptionist’s awareness of her rapport with patients underscores her commitment to patient wellness.
“She calls me Professor Kennedy, and that’s meant to be a joke, because I’m always trying to teach my patients something or another,” Dr. Kennedy says. “And she’s awesome because she gives me the time that I need to interact with my patient and she makes my schedule work. Without her, I couldn’t do what I do.”
The key to success
There are many different players in a dental practice. The doctor, hygienists and assistants, of course, come to mind. But without the front office personnel, the machine could not run smoothly.
Dr. Jason Watts, DMD, a general dentist in Cape Coral, Florida., underscores this belief, noting just how critical they are to a smoothly running practice.
“An office can be successful without a doctor, but it can’t be successful without a staff,” Dr. Watts observes.
Making a connection
Since front office staff has such an outward function in the practice, it is important that they have great interpersonal skills. And not just anyone can sit in their chair and do the job.
“Life has taught me there's a difference in meeting someone and greeting someone,” Dr. David Rice, DDS, a general dentist in Amherst, New York and founder of IgniteDDS.com says. “Meeting is what most do. Greeting is what the best do. When I watch you stand up and greet our patients as they walk in, I know how welcome they feel.”
The little things
While front office staff have clear roles in the practice, there are other duties they willingly take on to make the office a better place to spend eight hours a day.
“She always makes the best lemon tea,” Dr. Kennedy adds. “She makes me lemon tea every day, and it is awesome. And she brings a treat at every single one of our office meetings. She’s the one that goes out on her lunch hour and picks up a delicious cake or something, and she always brings it in and celebrates something every single month, whether it’s a birthday or something else. She organizes all the celebrations. Without her, we wouldn’t have the morale that we have.”
Sometimes it’s personal
Dr. Watts has a unique connection and a singular appreciation for office management.
“My mother was an office manager,” Dr. Watts says. “Trust me, I have great understanding and respect for them - more than what most doctors have. A lot of dentists think that their staff is blessed to be there. I think, ‘No, I’m blessed that my staff wants to be there or wants to make me look so good.’ Most doctors say that they are a patient-centered practice. Well, that’s wrong. I’m a staff-centered practice, or a team-focused practice with an indirect patient focus. If I focus on my staff, my staff will indirectly focus on my patients.
"Meaning, if I give my staff a happy working environment, they will innately, unconsciously treat my patients better, because they want to be at work. I’m a staff-centered doctor with a patient focus. Because of my staff is happy my patients are happy and then I’m happy.”
Keeping the calendar
Key to keeping the practice running smoothly is efficiently and effectively managing the practice’s calendar.
“Patients are busy today,” Dr. Rice observes. “In fact, just like us, they are getting dragged in multiple directions and as a result, we the dental practice can easily get pushed aside. Every time you transform a busted schedule to a solid schedule, we all feel amazing.”
Front office staff is the liaison between the practice and the outside world. In many ways, they become the public face of the practice.
“She knows people so well that she, personally, texts them and reaches out if she feels that something happens in the community,” Dr. Kennedy says. “For instance, if something happens with their family, she knows people so well that she reaches out on behalf of our office and just builds these relationships with community. It’s going above and beyond. No software can do that. It takes a human, and she knows with every single family is doing every single week. She’s so good at building lifelong relationships with families.”
Order from chaos
Further, they do more than just answer phones. They bring order from chaos.
“They are our Hidden Figures behind all of the functions and services and processes that run our offices,” Dr. Watts says, referencing the award-winning 2015 movie. “No automated anything can replace them, because they do some of the most work in the office.”
More patient interaction
Patients may come to the practice for the doctor and the care they receive, but they also spend important time with front desk staff.
“They’re the first and last voice the patient will talk to,” Dr. Watts says. “The patient will walk in, check in with them; patient will check out, pay with them, and walk out. They are the front line when a patient calls. When a patient cancels or reschedules, they’re filling in the holes. Went collection calls need to be made, they make it they get yelled at by other patients. They’re the ones to find out things with the insurance. They’re the voice behind the whole company, behind the whole practice.”
Doctors have plenty of hats to wear, and while they need to be able to run a business and practice dentistry, there are some jobs that they just shouldn’t do. Being a collector is one of them.
“I have always been a fan of separating clinical care from the money,” Dr. Rice says. “When we do that, we ensure that we offer and treat every patient with the very best we have. Every time you walk a patient through the money talk, our entire clinical team breathes easy.”