Anyone for Practice Systems?

Dental Practices enjoy many of the advantages inherent to small businesses. One of the best is that their teams can be flexible in the way they deal with their patients and deliver their services. This means that their patients have the opportunity to experience elements of a bespoke service, potentially creating fantastic customer service.

Some of the practices we visit and work with have very little in the way of written systems. So, they have the opportunity to create a bespoke service providing a fantastic customer service for their patients. This however, is very rarely what actually happens!

What happens on a day-to-day basis is that their teams find a way of doing things that (with or without the principal’s agreement) they have decided is effective. They might vary these ad-hoc systems for the benefit of the patient, or more often they will vary them to make their own day easier! This may well work reasonably effectively until somebody new joins the team… At this moment the team member who knows the system gets to pass it on to the newcomer and nothing gets written down. Or, in the absence of this happening (or it happening effectively), the new team member finds themselves having to create a new system all of their own…

This is particularly evident when listening to the information that front desk teams give to patients. In the worst cases, and where there are no systems in place, the messages given to patients can be inaccurate, biased, inconsistent and sometimes simply plain wrong!

If you want to discover whether your own team is giving a consistent message, we suggest you try a little mystery shopping. In disguise, ask the same (slightly difficult) question on more than one occasion. Try a question such as, “I’ve just moved into the area, I have tooth ache and I would like to join your practice and have my pain sorted out today please.” You may well receive conflicting or varying information, and if you do, we believe the solution is to create scripts and prompts for your reception team, then have them practice and role play them whilst you appraise their performance. This will ensure that your team delivers a consistent and accurate message. In other words, you will have created some systems that enable your patients to receive the message that you want them to hear.

So, without systems your team can:

  • Be very flexible to suit the patients and themselves.
  • Exhibit a ‘can do’ attitude towards your patients.
  • And deliver a different message every time!

However, with systems your team can:

  • Deliver a consistent and accurate message.
  • Feel confident that the message they are giving is the right one.
  • Give a message that is congruent with your brand.

Let’s look at a possible system that you could implement to deal with the “mystery shopping” enquiry we suggested: “I’ve just moved into the area, I have tooth ache and I would like to join your practice and have my pain sorted out today please.”

New Patient Enquiry By Phone:

  • Answer the phone within 5 rings.
  • Use the agreed practice greeting. “ABC Dental Practice, Good Morning, Karen speaking, how can I help you?”
  • Ask for the clients name and then use it to address them.
  • Tell them that we can help them.
  • Ask them how they heard about the practice and record their reply on the appropriate form.
  • Explain the basis we can offer treatment today: NHS/Private.
  • Reassure them that we will provide them with a private emergency appointment at xxxxhrs today and that Dr X will attend to their pain.
  • The fee will be £X

If they wish to go ahead with the appointment:

  • Tell them the fee is payable in full, now/in advance to secure this appointment.
  • Explain that when they attend the practice for this appointment, you will make them a further appointment for a New Patient Consultation, the fee for which will be payable at the time of booking. Tell them that the fee is £X (and includes (eg:) all x rays).
  • Ask, ‘Are you able to give me your credit card details now so that I can book the emergency appointment for you today’?
  • Record all information on computer software and process credit card payment on credit card machine.
  • Keep transaction receipt for caller for when they attend later today.
  • Give the caller the practice address and directions including car park options.
  • Ask them to come at least 10 minutes before the appointment time so that the treatment coordinator can go through their medical and social history with them.
  • Ask them if they have any questions about today’s appointment.
  • Advise them to have something to eat before they attend today’s appointment.
  • Tell the patient that you are looking forward to meeting them later today and say goodbye.
  • Prepare our Welcome Pack (new client letter, appointment cards, practice brochure, business card of dentist and client coordinator, membership brochure, smile check, medical history form) to give them when they attend.
  • * Alert the clinical team that there is an additional patient for today’s list.

If they don’t go ahead with the appointment:

  • Ask if they would like to receive some information about the practice
  • If yes, take their address and arrange to send a welcome pack in today’s post with a letter signed by you.
  • Tell them how to find the web site.
  • Say goodbye and tell them that you hope we might be able to help them in the future.

In many ways the most important systems are not the back-office, hidden systems that help your administration run well (although they are, of course, important), but the systems that are patient-facing which enable your team to give a consistent message that truly represents what you and your practice stand for.

A system like the one described will enable your reception team to:

  • Be very approachable
  • Feel able to take charge
  • Be knowledgeable
  • Meet your customer’s expectations
  • Appear confident and can-do
  • Make the patient feel very well looked after
  • Give a consistent message

Good, well-run systems also help make many areas of existing practice compliance and the upcoming compliance from the Care Quality Commission, much easier to implement and keep the right side of, particularly in important areas such as:

  • Clinical Compliance.
  • Health and Safety
  • Staff Discipline.
  • Staff Interviewing and Recruitment.
  • Induction of new staff.
  • Appraisals.

Systems will also make the practice manager’s job a lot easier, as their work becomes more focused around creating, implementing and managing your systems.

Please contact Ernie on 0845 299 7209 or to understand how we can help you develop the right systems for your practice.


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