7 ways dental offices can stay productive during the pandemic

2020 04 27 23 37 6260 Sewell Josey 400thumb

A dental office is a lot like a beehive. Daily coordinated activities, from checking patients in and out to developing treatment plans to getting invoices paid, keep the staff buzzing.

Josey Sewell.Josey Sewell.

When dental teams don't have patients to see, they often feel aimless and lost like there isn't anything to do. This feeling is there whether there's a pandemic or the dentist is on vacation.

Looking at it this way helps you realize there's still plenty of work that needs to be done. You now have time to do all those important tasks that you can't complete while patients are in the office.

Turn this hiatus from your practice into a time to play catch-up or tackle your wish list so your business is in the best possible position when it's time to reopen.

It's not a break, downtime, or a vacation

The words "downtime" or "break" give you the impression that it's time to hang out, binge watch Netflix, and curl up on the couch until the time runs out. Though that's all very appealing, why not take the time to be productive?

As leaders, we need to set appropriate expectations and the right environments. Make this time away administrative, team, and/or office development time. The expectation should be that we give the same amount of energy to developing the office as we would to treating patients.

Now that you've shifted your mindset, try doing the following seven things.

1. Develop a plan

Teams do best when they have opportunities to contribute and drive their activities. Little will get accomplished if you allow your team to "find something to do." It's equally unproductive to micromanage every move. Strike a balance by giving direction and listening to their ideas.

As leaders, it's your job to prioritize and set goals and clear outcomes. People don't want to be told how to do something, but they do want a clear picture of what you want it to look like in the end. Know 100% of what needs to be done but come to your team with 80%, and let your team fill in the rest. It's the best way to gain team buy-in and commitment.

2. Clean your space

If the team is still coming to the office, you may want to consider doing some spring cleaning. Tidy up the lab or supply room, the front office workspace, or the dentist's office. Having a cleaned workspace with minimal clutter increases patient confidence and opens mental energy for team members. While patients are not around, get rid of the dust and clutter. If you need to keep team members separated due to the need for social distancing, consider having the team rotate during different days or times of the day or work in different areas of the office. It also may be a great time to update the office with a new coat of paint.

3. Focus on training

Many offices struggle to keep their processes and training manuals up to date. Now is the time to leverage the strength and knowledge of the team to update checklists or create some simple training videos, like how to set up your clinical instruments or how to do a great impression.

This is a great opportunity to discuss the way your team operates and how it can improve. Maybe it's time to resuscitate your social media or get the team calibrated on the language and clinical process to do more implants?

Use this time to make sure everyone gets the training they need for whatever is most important to your practice.

4. Assess practices as a team

Open a handful of charts and review the medical and dental histories, radiographs, and assessments. Get on the same page and create your standard of health for your patients. If you do not have a documented periodontal protocol, create one.

Do a chart audit. Is blood pressure being taken on all adult patients? Are the clinical notes written appropriately and signed by the right person? Work with the team to get on the same page and set clear expectations for patient care.

5. Do online training

Like many other offices, you probably have several different programs and software systems you use to keep the practice running. Have the team spend time learning them and coming up with improvements.

6. Get into your dashboards

Show team members how their work affects different metrics in the practice. Have them do a little research and come up with three personal strengths and one area of opportunity. Have the team create a vision for its personal growth and development and set some specific goals that can be measured.

Utilize the collections board to follow up on outstanding accounts receivable. It would not be a good idea to send out patient bills in the middle of the COVID-19 disruption, but it is a great time to work on your old claims. It's a way to keep revenue coming in while you're not seeing patients.

7. Focus on team health

Positive culture and relationships will drive your business better than great processes. Take the time to get to know your team members.

Have them create a vision board for themselves, then host a virtual meeting so they can share. Find ways to play games or show appreciation. Make efforts to truly connect with them on a personal level. During these times, we face much worry, confusion, and uncertainty. The teams that triumph will be the ones that feel connected, valued, and appreciated.

Now turn lemons into lemonade

Spending time without patients and revenue can be tough, but that's where most of us are. We can't control many things, but we can decide how we react and use our time.

You don't need to do everything on this list, but spending this time focusing on some personal and business development will help.

As vice president of education for Dental Intelligence, Josey Sewell is passionate about empowering individuals and teams to grow. Her career has included time as a hygienist, past president of the New Mexico Dental Hygienists' Association, a speaker and practice consultant, and most recently chief operating officer for CarolinasDentist in North Carolina.

The comments and observations expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the opinions of DrBicuspid.com, nor should they be construed as an endorsement or admonishment of any particular idea, vendor, or organization.

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