Gerilyn Alfe, DMD, MBA.
A number of practices have addressed this by bringing someone new into the practice in a special role -- what we call the practice concierge. This is a nonclinical person who has several functions:
- Patient greeter
- Traffic controller
- Room sanitizer
- Medical history taker
- And more!
This person streamlines the flow of patients in and out of the office, while allowing team members to focus on their clinical duties with the patients. The concierge will take the patient's temperature, gather all key information on COVID-19 exposure, alert patients when they can enter the practice, and then escort them to the appropriate operatory. When treatment is complete, the concierge leads the patient out of the office, handles any collection issues and presents all take-home items, and then assists in sterilizing rooms.
This could simply be a nonskilled person coming in, as the tasks are not complicated to learn, but imagine if the person were mature and intelligent enough to handle more. He or she could schedule follow-up or recall appointments, for example. And, as we all move to touchless payment, the concierge could even be collecting fees in advance of treatment, either over the phone the day before or while the patient is waiting to enter the office.
This second additional role is timely. Patients, more than ever, are willing to adapt to new payment policies, as many businesses they are interacting with are going touchless and cashless. Here is a chance to reduce accounts receivable and make the visit about dentistry and not money.
The benefits of this new person are clear. If you've had to add time and gaps to your schedule to handle traffic and room sterilization, you can now tighten that back up and regain those clinical minutes of production. Also, reducing patient contact reduces the number of times clinicians need to change PPE. This is how concierges pay for themselves, and beyond.
The advantage for patients is that they are in the practice as briefly as possible and encountering as few team members as possible. Now, more than ever, that's what patients want. Plus, with all the PPE we are wearing and the absence of reception amenities and social contact with patients, creating a remarkable patient experience is much more difficult. A concierge solves that.
So, what type of person are you looking for? We found the concierge should have the following qualities:
This could be a college student who is taking a gap year or doing asynchronous learning, someone who was working in hospitality and lost his or her job, or someone who is interested in a long-term career in dentistry and looking to become familiar with the profession.
And here's a big bonus that this concierge could provide: The person could assume the responsibility of asking for patient reviews or even recording patient testimonial videos. These videos could show how safe the patient feels, as well as how cared for and friendly it still feels to come to the practice. In this new era, those are extremely valuable testimonials.
We understand that as you are working hard to get back up to full production levels, adding to overhead is not appealing; however, consider what your team members are required to do now. These team members cost you more per hour and should be doing what they are clinically responsible for. If a concierge allows for just two more prophy patients a day, it's worth it.
It's all about efficiency. If you can tighten up the movement from room to room, as well as eliminate delays and the need to change PPE, a lot of time gets saved. More time means more production.
A practice coach can break down the cost savings created by a practice concierge. A practice coach can see the changes you could make to your scheduling. A coach can also show you, in a spreadsheet, the true return on investment. The right increase in overhead can have an amplified effect on production and profitability when executed properly.
A good coach can also help you find that person and simplify his or her training, based on what other practices are doing to maximize the value of a practice concierge. It can be a crucial step in getting your practice to full production while optimizing the patient experience.
Gerilyn Alfe, DMD, MBA, was a practicing cosmetic dentist and practice owner for 25 years. In 2005, she started her last practice, Chicago Smile Spa, from scratch. Dr. Alfe now serves as a managing partner and executive coach with Fortune Management.
Fred Joyal is a renowned speaker, author, and consultant on dental marketing. He is the co-founder of 1-800-DENTIST and author of two best-selling books, Everything is Marketing and Becoming Remarkable.
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