Dental Staff Training: Discuss your Clinical Philosophy
Following my recent post: Clinical Philosophy vs. Staff Turnover, this article jumps directly into the “how to” for discussing your clinical philosophy with your team – so that you can reduce your staff turnover.
This is a great opportunity for the office manager to partner with the dentist to prepare for this full staff meeting. The doctor will be the one driving the discussion, but the office manager will have prepared the materials in advance so things run smoothly. Beginning with the end in mind, the goal for this meeting is to help your entire team (even including your receptionist!) to appreciate, and (for your advanced clinical team members, to understand) your clinical philosophy.
Your goal is to engage them in discussion about specific patients and walk them through your diagnosis, treatment selection and actual treatment. This will be far more interesting if you have not only x-rays, but photos to share – especially before/after. It also becomes real when you talk about the whole person – age, health, job – why did they decide to come into the office? Why do they want to fix their teeth?
Print a few treatment plans
If you want to look at the types of treatment you perform most often in order to choose the types of cases you will review, run the Production Summary Report in Dentrix. This report shows you each procedure, the number of times it has been charged out and in the far right column, the % of the total production. The highest percentage procedures are the ones completed most often.
Another way to choose the cases is to think through the treatment options you provide to patients, such as:
- Filling vs. crown
- Partial vs. bridge
- Bridge vs. Implant
- Extraction vs. Root canal
- Implants vs. Dentures
Once you decide the types of cases you want to discuss, the office manager needs to find a good patient example. In Dentrix, you can use the Letters feature to easily run a report to find specific procedure codes completed for specific patients. Then, the manager can look into their imaging/document center to see which patient has the best pictures and supporting documentation. Once you find a good patient example for each of the procedures or treatment decisions you want to discuss, you may want to create a one page ‘bio’ that you will review with your team. If you have a saved treatment plan for the patient, I recommend printing that and writing the patient’s age, health concerns and job or personal interests at the top. This treatment plan can be copied and handed out to the team.
The dentist could use this patient’s treatment plan to start the discussion – “let me introduce you to Mary Smith. Mary is 45 years old and is a schoolteacher at Newton Elementary. She came to see us because she broke a tooth and was generally unhappy with her smile.” – this is a great time to show any pictures of Mary if your team can see your computer screen – or perhaps, hold this meeting in an operatory where you can put the images up on the TV screen?
Continue your discussion of Mary with why you chose the x-rays you did (that’s for the admin team) and then talk through the treatment options you could see available. Explain why you selected the treatment plan you did. If you have clinical notes documentation, you can share specific discussions you had with Mary and why she ended up agreeing to the treatment plan.
Create a Safe Environment
Every dental staff member knows that you never question a doctor’s treatment in front of the patient. That can cause distrust and fear in the patient – and it can distract the dentist to focusing on the staff person’s questions rather than on the patient. Some dentists also feel insulted when their treatment is questioned, feeling it is an affront to their years of education.
This is exactly the reason that to hold a successful meeting where clinical philosophy is discussed with the team – the dentist must create a safe environment where staff are allowed and encouraged to ask questions. Doctor, you can say to the team, “I want to share with you my thought process on why I recommend certain treatment to patients – and you are welcome to ask questions. I know that each of you has a different level of clinical experience and I just want to invite you to ask me why I choose certain treatment plans for certain patients.” The more your team engages with this discussion, they will appreciate your clinical philosophy and support your practice.
Congratulations! You just trained your team on Case Presentation!
If you just spent your staff meeting talking through why you did a crown and not a large filling on Mrs. Jones, why the implant was a better choice than a bridge on Mr. Harrison and how your implant-supported denture is so much more secure than the traditional denture option – Congratulations! You just helped your entire team to better communicate dentistry to patients. This helps your case acceptance because everyone that comes into contact with patients understands some of the benefits of treatment – and can share the stories (minus the specific names, of course) of how the dentist helped other patients facing this same treatment option.
This is key for your team members who actually present treatment to patients. Hygienists and lead assistants often present the printed treatment plan to patients – and since this reflects the fees, the more clinical philosophy understanding you can provide to these team members, the more successful they can be in their job. This kind of meeting is unique for administrative team members as well, they want to be a part of the clinical success of patients, but often feel excluded. This type of meeting can bring an entire team together and increase the goodwill that together, we change people’s lives for the better.
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One of the biggest challenges to managing a dental practice is managing dental insurance. With dental insurance handled, then dental marketing for new patients becomes a primary focus. In today’s day of online reviews, handling patient complaints well is essential. As your practice grows, hiring dental staff becomes more important. With 18+ years of dental practice management experience, I’m open to your questions to help you run a successful dental office.