High-tech, high-touch: The power of the green dental team

March 21, 2012

Is your staff referring to itself as office furniture?  At a recent convention, I asked a young woman about her role in the practice, to which she responded: “I’m the front desk.”  This employee has clearly lost a sense of her true value to the dental practice, and it’s likely the office is losing out on the benefit this woman could be providing as communications central.

Is your staff referring to itself as office furniture?  At a recent convention, I asked a young woman about her role in the practice, to which she responded: “I’m the front desk.”  This employee has clearly lost a sense of her true value to the dental practice, and it’s likely the office is losing out on the benefit this woman could be providing as communications central.

There is a powerful and growing market segment of 100 million U.S. consumers that value environmental stewardship, wellness and authentic human interaction with their service providers. Incorporation of the latest technologies for efficiency, waste reduction and patient care are a hallmark of a green dental office and offer your practice the benefit of tremendous efficiencies, but you don’t want it to turn your staff into office furniture. The most successful green dental offices leverage high-tech to become high-touch, building relationships of trust with patients.  And once a relationship of trust is built, you have a patient for life. 

Using high-tech to be high-touch starts with recognizing the unique human assets your team provides and re-thinking their roles. Let’s look at some of the support positions in your practice and consider how to use technology to help maximize the value of your employees’ skills and experience and why this new approach is so effective in meeting the wants and needs of green dental patients.

The hygienist: the educator

The green hygiene team uses lasers, digital imaging, and other high-tech diagnostic tools. While hygienists are skilled technicians, perhaps their greatest strength is as health educators. Green dental patients prioritize wellness and love to learn new information. When their hygienist takes the time to share the latest research article about the connection between gum disease and whole-body health, instead of being out of the room for five or 10 minutes developing x-rays, they are all ears. Green dentistry patients don’t like to be “told” information, but prefer a coaching, educational model in which they are in partnership with their healthcare provider to make health decisions collaboratively.  When treated in this way, these patients are more likely to keep to their hygiene recall schedule and forgo an evening on the town for an hour of prevention in a dental chair.

The dental assistant: the relationship-builder

Green and high-tech innovations like instrument washers, steam sterilizers, and digital patient charting also allow you to re-think your dental assistant’s time. A quality dental assistant is like having a second right arm, and the best assistants anticipate the doctor’s needs even before they do. Patients pick up on this level of comradery and supportive working relationship and it makes them feel comfortable.

A dental assistant made efficient with technology has more time to talk to your patients and more time to do all the tasks for which they are licensed. Giving assistants permission to build relationship with patients yields many benefits. An engaged assistant can effectively support your treatment recommendations to the patient while you are in another operatory doing a periodic exam. This translates into a more robust schedule for you and a patient bonded to your practice by personal relationship.

The front office staff: communications central

When your front office team members stop “pulling charts” and sending out paper billing statements, their focus shifts from paper-pushing to relating to the humans that come into, call or otherwise contact your office. This shift yields a priceless return of a loyal patient base and schedule stability. The first priority of your front office staff should be to communicate the mission of your practice and the value of prioritizing dental wellness and your team’s time.

Green dentistry patients expect personalized attention and are avid networkers. When your office front line has the time to respond to the green dental patient’s need for interaction and information, your practice taps into a powerful network of friends and family who also value your services and prioritize environmental stewardship and wellness.

Recognizing the true value of your human resources combats staff turnover, a dreaded saboteur of successful business. In a recent tour of an instrument manufacturing facility, I was impressed not only by the technology used, but by the loyalty of the people working there, some for as long as 30 years. Imagine the fine-tuned efficiency and productivity your practice could achieve if you were able to reduce turnover and engender the kind of staff loyalty that comes from employees who are truly gratified by their work.

Imagine the marketing boost you would enjoy if your patients became Evangelists for your practice, extolling the virtues of your commitment to technology, quality and teamwork. The green dentistry model leverages your high-tech equipment to help you build a team that is passionate, in which each person excels in their role as educators and relationship-builders, tasks that future technologies will only enhance, never replace.