The ‘kitchen bin’ syndrome

If you plan ahead to keep it fresh and sexy in 2013, then those major changes are in the bag!

The new year is renowned for being the time to ‘throw out the old and bring in the new’ and one exciting development on the horizon is the proposal from the GDC to consider direct access.

That, of course, means giving patients the option to see a dental care professional (DCP) without having to see a dentist first. So, looking forwards, how do we prepare for these changes and ensure that they will bring us success? Change can bring opportunities and threats and it’s not the making of new year’s resolutions that’s going to help. The secret is in the implementation of what, where and how we want to change. To quote the old adage: ‘If we always do what we’ve always done, we’ll always get what we’ve always got’.

New behaviour

So, that’s the difficult bit. Resolutions are simple, but reality is a different ball game entirely. Changing personal or work habits requires sustained effort – some research tells us we need to embed a new behaviour 21 times before we go on autopilot. I call it the ‘kitchen bin syndrome’. Imagine, for example, changing the location of your kitchen bin. It will take you 21 visits to the bin in the new place before you really feel at ease with it – and use it without thinking.

Here are some suggestions for making resolutions that work:

• Don’t pick too many – far better to be selective. Think about relative priorities in terms of urgency and importance

• Choose resolutions you have had on your mind for some time. You are more likely to stick to them

• Thinking about changing a behaviour? Opt for improvement rather the cessation

• As with any project, do start with the end in mind; imagine what it will be like when you have achieved your goal. That will keep it real and keep you focused on progress.

Wrap it up!

1 Look at what you want to change from new perspectives and dimensions

2 Write these down using action-centred words – with deadlines attached

3 Devote time and energy to a plan to implement these changes, noting ideas on how to sustain the new actions

Resolution ideas

If you are thinking about ideas for your practice, here are some suggestions:

• Identify three opportunities that the GDC proposed changes bring for your practice and set a plan to grasp those opportunities. Set a date to review progress.

• Are your staff trained to convert those patient enquiries into visits to the practice? Have you had any mystery shopping done? I did some recently for a practice that thought they were on top of their game. I found a range of opportunities to get more patients into the practice by simply improving phone enquiry handling!

• Consider checking that your performance management system is working. With the need to keep staff performing through challenging economic times, a real attention to effective performance management helps

• How about developing those employees who you are relying on with an investment in increasing their personal effectiveness?

• Has your patient experience performance slipped in recent times? How do you know if it has or hasn’t? What about the employees, are they up to speed with their patient care training? Have their training needs been reviewed? Is now a good time to be thinking of undertaking this?

• The patient is now even more value conscious because of the economic conditions so you may be getting more complaints. How is your complaints handling? Do your people feel comfortable handling complaints? Are they looking forward to turning that complaint into a compliment? If not you might want to look at developing the complaints handling skills of your team.

Whatever you decide, good luck with seeing the resolutions through and best wishes for successful implementation of the changes ahead.

Alison Miles-Jenkins BA FCIPD is founder and CEO of Training To Achieve Enterprises. She has spent 28 years training more than 36,000 managers and professionals. She now specialises in working within dentistry and complaints handling, and has the BDA, GDC, DCS, West Midlands Deanery and numerous practices among her clients. She also works with Brian Franks BDS (U.Lond) LDS RCS (Eng) MFGDP (UK) FPFA ACIArb, clinical director, dentistry, for Bupa Health and Wellbeing UK.

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