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Launch a supercharged system


February 22, 2010 | Dental Products Report Think like a ceo Launch a supercharged system The proper steps for creating successful practice protocols. by C

February 22, 2010 | Dental Products Report
Think like a ceo

Launch a supercharged system

The proper steps for creating successful practice protocols.

by Callie Haynes, Pride Institute Consultant

Photo: Medioimages/Photodisc/Getty Images 

Most dentists crave systems and the predictability and results they provide for their practices, but quite often have no idea where to start or how to connect individual staff members in developing and implementing systems. Team members often crave the structure of systems too. However, if the dentist does not take the lead, staff members may create and utilize their own protocols, but without others in the office knowing what those processes are or their role in supporting them. This is why things “fall apart” when a key staff member is on vacation or medical leave.

Additionally, staff turnover can be debilitating to a practice without organized systems. In such cases,the team feels like they are back at square one, with no road map to move forward. So how can you determine when you need to revamp an existing system or develop a new one without waiting for things to fall apart? 

“Successful, organized protocols lead to successful statistics that lead to increased compensation for the whole team.”

Analyzing and interpreting your practice statistics will flush out broken systems or the need to develop new ones. By educating your team on statistical analysis and interpretation, they will more likely see the need for effective processes and “buy in” to developing and implementing new systems. This is an excellent professional opportunity for them to expand their individual perspectives on their job descriptions and enable them to see how they can positively impact a new system of operation and ensure its success.

Successful, organized protocols lead to successful statistics that lead to increased compensation for the whole team-doctor included! Are you seeing how all of this is connected?

Where to begin

Once you’re have an idea about the system you need to develop or enhance, put a staff meeting on the schedule and post the agenda topic. For example, Dr. Strive wants to address creating an improved system and processes to submit, monitor and support lab cases. What prompted Dr. Strive’s need for a lab system upgrade? Ever since Tanya, the RDA, moved, there have been 2-3 patients per week who have arrived for their appointments expecting to leave with their new crowns, but the crowns were not delivered by the lab. Obviously, this created a lot of stress for all concerned. The office lost credibility with patients, damaged patient relationships, wasted potentially productive time and delayed revenue. Clearly a system was needed.

Dr. Strive started by asking for a volunteer to facilitate the meeting and keep it on track. He requested another volunteer to record action items, specifically who is responsible for each action item and their due dates for completion. The recorder then ensures that each team member gets a legible copy of the meeting notes and places the notes in a Staff Meeting binder for future reference and implementation tracking. Dr. Strive was ready to access his team’s creativity and made the decision to delegate to them the majority of the development of this new system.

How to get it done

Let’s study the cycle of creating a system by observing how his team developed one for tracking lab cases by following the systems format. Note that the italicized words indicate the steps in a system.

It was agreed that the purpose for this system is to ensure that lab cases are in the office and ready when patients arrive for their seat appointments. This will result in smooth-flowing appointments, satisfied patients who pay their balances and a happier, less stressed team.

The mechanics consist of specific steps to be completed by a named team member (who) with timed target dates (when). These were outlined by the team as follows:

  • It was determined that the assistant who does the prep with the doctor is responsible for packing up the case with all of the components according to what the lab needs for that particular case (i.e. study models, impressions, etc.) and for completing the lab slip thoroughly and accurately.

  • RDA, Sharon, volunteered to schedule a meeting with Dr. Strive to determine, document and post in the lab what components are needed for the lab cases for each of the specific types of restorations, including the amount of time needed by the lab for completion. A date was set for the meeting with the doctor and for completion of the checklist. Sharon also agreed to do a flowchart with all of the specific steps outlined and to post it in the lab. She also agreed to create a binder with all of the steps of the new system to be utilized for training purposes.

  • A sample lab slip was written up and posted with the critical information highlighted in order to eliminate any delays or confusion. It was agreed that the assistant writing up the lab slip will put his or her initials on it in case any questions come up.

  • A rough draft for a Lab Case Tracking form was created. Ann, Scheduling Coordinator, agreed to make a chart like the sample below to post in the lab and a due date for completion of the form was established and recorded.

Patient’s Name Type of Restoration Date of Prep Lab Used Date of Pick Up or Date Mailed Case Due Date Date Delivered and Initials of Team Member                                          


  • Ann suggested that all of the lab cases be picked up and dropped off at the front desk. She would then check to ensure that the patients had seat appointments and make notes on the appointment schedule that the cases were in.

  • Ann would then walk the case into their lab and enter the delivery date on the Lab Case Tracking Form and initial it.

  • Ann agreed to cross train Laura, Financial/Insurance Coordinator, to back her up.

  • RDA, Sharon, agreed to unpack the cases and check them to ensure that each case was the correct case for each patient. She would put all of the cases to be checked by the doctor before the seat date on a designated, labeled shelf with a clearly visible, well-attached note indicating the seat date on the lab case.

  • Sharon agreed to cross train RDA, Annette.

  • Dr. Strive agreed to place the cases on the “ready” shelf after he checked and approved them.

  • The team agreed that the system seemed complete and once the action items were finished in one week, the “launch” would officially start.



Addressing patients

The next step was to develop the verbal skills for talking with or sending a letter to the patients who experienced inconvenience because of the lack of a system for lab cases.

The team agreed that patients who had already come back a second time and whose cases had been seated would get a letter using the verbal skills below, personally signed by Dr. Strive and including a gift card to the local coffee shop. Ann agreed to create a list of all patients affected and will follow up with each one accordingly and document these contacts in patients’ charts.

  • The patients who were currently on the appointment schedule the second time for a seat appointment will have their names highlighted by Ann on the schedule for review at the huddle. These patients will hear from the assistants, “Mrs. Cooper, we apologize that you had to make a second trip for this appointment. We appreciate your patience and we want you to know that our team created a detailed system to ensure that this won’t happen again. We value you as our patient and we value your time. Your inconvenience was not in vain, because this system will benefit you in the future as well as other patients in our dental family. Ann has a gift from our team for you up front. It’s our way of thanking you for your extra trip to our office.”

  • RDH, Amy, agreed to write up the verbal skills and to create a template for the letters to be sent and set a date for completion.

  • The assistants will say to Ann during the patient hand offs, “Ann, Mrs. Cooper now has her beautiful new crown. Her next appointment with us is for her dental hygiene visit in May. I told her about our thank-you gift for her for being so nice about the extra visit.”

  • At this point, Dr. Strive spoke up and asked the team members to pair up and practice the verbal skills for the last 15 minutes of their meeting. At first, there was resistance, but after the practice session, it was unanimous that the team felt more confident about what they were going to say.

The results

At a scheduled staff meeting six weeks later, the team checked on follow-up for the new system to ensure that all steps had been completed and launched. The final step was analyzing the effectiveness of their new lab case tracking system. This was easy!

There was not a single instance of a lab case not arriving on time or not being checked by Dr. Strive before patients’ seat appointments. The team had successfully created and launched a new system that improved their level of customer service to their patients, increased their patients’ level of satisfaction, ensured predictable revenue and reduced stress for all concerned. This newly confident team was already talking about developing a system for managing emergency patients. They celebrated their success with a pizza party!


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