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Sticky situations: How a dentist who runs late with patients can get back on time


Dr. Drax loves talking to his patients. In fact, he thinks this is the reason for his success and why he gets so many word-of-mouth referrals. The team agrees that he is personable and charming with his patients but also that he is not too considerate of his team because they have to schedule around him. It is especially hard on Ling, the hygienist, who is stuck in the room while the dentist chats about skiing and restoring his old muscle cars. Ling is always running late as well because the doctor can’t help socializing.

ADVICE AND SOLUTION“You’re All About that Relationship!” (Sung to the tune of “I’m All About That Base!”)
By ML Wheaton, Director of Consulting, Pride Institute

I would hope here that Dr. Drax has a Vision/Philosophy Statement that Ling could utilize as a tool in addressing her boss about his behavior. A practice that “walks their talk” living and abiding by their vision can address issues with one another (even with the boss!) with the common bond being the vision. Let’s assume he does and that it states in the vision the importance of developing long-term relationships with patients and it states that the team will honor that relationship by aspiring to be on time for patients.

I would also hope that they have a Morning Huddle where they discuss the potential areas for hygiene periodic exams that best suit the doctor’s schedule. And lastly I would hope that Ling is well prepared with her report of findings to the doctor when he arrives for the exam. (Note: in observing this situation many times in practices I visit, I have found an interesting psychology emerging in which the doctor feels the need to cement the relationship with this type of lengthy conversation because they are afraid that the team member has not done so! That is the other side of this story, by the way!) With those “hopes” in mind, how could Ling approach Dr. Drax about this? Here’s an example of a possible conversation.

Ling: “Dr. Drax, can I speak with you about the periodic exams in my operatory?”

Dr. Drax: “Sure, how about I take you to lunch today and we’ll talk?” (I know, you think I’m dreaming!)

Ling: “I know we believe in building relationships with our patients and you, in particular, are a master at it. And when you are in my operatory for the periodic exams and talking with patients, I am getting more and more anxious every day as I fear we are getting a reputation for not being on time for our patients. This extra time is causing me to run behind for the next patient and it has a cumulative effect. By the end of the session, my last patient is often angry. Can we discuss how to improve that all important time so that it is a quality event and not necessarily a quantity event?”

Dr. Drax: “Ling, thank you for bringing this to my attention and yes, I do feel the need to spend time with my patients. And I often feel I must discover a lot for myself by asking a lot of these questions and I have to pull information from you as opposed to you providing it upfront. I think this takes a lot more time.”

Ling: “I can see how you might feel that way. And yet I cannot seem to find the right time to ‘break in’ to your conversation with my report.”

Dr. Drax: “Let’s work out some verbiage and a choreographed approach to these exams where I can expect some information about the patient on a personal level and then a clinical report from you. This will be more of a team approach and should be better for the patient and for our schedule. Let’s go back to the office and role play this in your operatory.”

Ling: “Thank you! I’m excited to go back and practice and be on time for my patients!”

These two professionals want the same thing for their patients and they are brought together by their mutual vision. Make sure that you not only have a vision in your practice, but one that “sings” to you every day and can be utilized to have courageous conversations with each other when you are “off base” because “You’re All About That Base!”

Have a Sticky Situation you need help with? Contact us at info@prideinstitute.com. Pride Institute offers an array of consulting services, products, and seminars to enhance the lives of dentists, their teams and ultimately their patients. For more information about our services, speak with one of our client services specialists at (800) 925-2600 or visit us at www.prideinstitute.com.

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