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As the CEO of your dental practice, itâ€™s up to you, the dentist, to come up with the policies your practice will use. According to Kerry Straine, CPBA and CEO of Straine Consulting, quite simply, policies are your dental business philosophy as it is to be implemented by your staff. Having effective policies means being clear on your philosophy and putting appropriate resources into training your staff. Hereâ€™s how to start putting better policies in place in your practice.
As the CEO of your dental practice, it’s up to you, the dentist, to come up with the policies your practice will use. According to Kerry Straine, CPBA and CEO of Straine Consulting, quite simply, policies are your dental business philosophy as it is to be implemented by your staff. Having effective policies means being clear on your philosophy and putting appropriate resources into training your staff. Here’s how to start putting better policies in place in your practice.
Interview Transcript (Modified for Readability)
“When we explore the systems and policies for a practice, we have to be clear on the definition. Those terms are used, all too often, without clarity. Operating policies have to be established in order to clarify the way the team and the doctor are going to treat their patients — their customers. We break it down into 10 operating policies. Each one begins with the owner’s unique philosophy.
The way that we define philosophy in this case is the system of ideas that reflects that owner’s unique values. Those 10 operating policies, they begin with clinical because that’s where we begin every relationship: the new patient policy. Within that, we might house how many new patients we want, what we’re going to say and do, how we’re going to market. The quantity we need, the dollars diagnosed, the dollars accepted, and who’s going to do what, and say what, and track what with respect to the movement of that patient from their home, to reading whatever collateral material has been created, all the way into that chair, and to reappointment.
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We’re going to need a radiographic policy as well. You’ve got to take radiographs, and yet you see a lot of staff members aren’t clear on when to take certain radiographs and with what frequency.
The third would be continuing care for general dentists, and that’s unique to the general dentist, the pediatric dentist, and oftentimes the periodontist and the prosthodontist, because they very often have continuing care departments. That allows us to clearly define the philosophy of the owner with respect to treating periodontal disease.
The fourth is emergencies or what we call problem-focused patient policies.
Once we’ve moved a patient through an exam, the fifth policy is financial policy. Inform before you perform. Make sure you’re going to get paid. Make sure the patient knows what they’re going to pay. Who’s going to say and do what. Then we can schedule it. Not until then. And of course, you have a way of scheduling using your computer with time estimates and a very clear understanding of how we use technology and very qualified associates and hygienists to perform parts of the procedure.
Well, then the day comes when we’re going to deliver the treatment. I guess we need a confirmation policy beforehand. And of course, if anybody doesn’t show up, we have a reactivation policy.
These are our operating policies. Policies are the curriculum according to that doctor’s unique philosophy that will be used in training their employees on how to represent the practice to the patient when the owner can’t do it themselves. It’s often a misstep. There’s very little education going into qualifying an employee to become fit for a position. But the practices that spend the time on training, they’re going to have fit team members able to make the contribution so that they feel fulfilled in the process. And that’s where the system begins.
The management system is to take a new employee and expose them to our philosophy so that they can understand how to bake the cookies, so to speak, do their job — whether they’re assistants, or administrators, or hygienists – and how others interact with them. We have to train. That’s the first step in our management process, in our system of onboarding an employee.
Then, of course, we lead them — leading an employee to understand what to do every day, every week, every month, occurs in your management process. Activities in daily huddles, or planning sessions. Weekly staff meetings. End-of-month department leader meetings and maybe end-of-month training sessions. This guides the employee to know what to do.
These are very expensive, because you’re committing time with respect to educate your team, but you need to make this investment so that they understand how to represent you and deliver to you what they want to in this relationship. Of course, the way you keep that team members always performing at a high level, where they’re putting forth that discretionary extra effort, is with the positive reinforcement they get on a daily basis.
When you walk into a treatment room and see that an assistant has done something and communicating with a patient that really exemplifies exactly what was in the training session, let them know. Give them the positive reinforcement. There’s three As in positive reinforcement: attention, approval and appreciation. And that’s what people strive for. Immediate is better than daily. You can’t be everywhere immediately, so we do those things daily in the morning huddle. If you have a 10-minute huddle, 70 percent of the time should be spent reviewing the previous day’s performance so you can set the tone for people to be fired up and motivated to then implement today’s behaviors. You’re shaping the performance of everyone in your world with that feedback.
If we’re going to create the system to guide people to represent you, the employees ultimately have the responsibility to perform the tasks within the policy that are tied to their job description. The reality is, they can’t be responsible for attaining the results of the organization. The reason is, they didn’t create the strategy. It’s up to the owner to create the strategy for defining what we’re going to do and committing the time and the system of planning, doing and reviewing, to provide a safe environment where the team member can learn, they can implement and nurture, and know they’re going to become the leaders that doctor needs.”