An ideal system
Your practice runs like a well-oiled machine; the team is efficient, your patients are happy, your strategy is working, and you go home at the end of each day content in the knowledge that tomorrow will once again be smooth, successful and stress free.
In an ideal world, this would be fantastic. However, unfortunately, we do not live in an ideal world and this scenario may well not quite be your reality.
The magic number
When it comes to establishing an effective practice, very little, if anything at all, comes about by accident. As anyone who has been involved in the organisation and day-to-day running of a dental practice will know, success isn’t something that just happens, it needs to be worked at using three standard management themes – organisation, planning and communication. All of these, of course, involve people.
From receptionist to dentist, good organisation starts with each and every employee understanding the remit of his or her role. Each job needs a distinct definition, purpose and function so that everyone knows who should be doing what and nothing is overlooked.
Most practices employ a manager to oversee the running of the business, and whose purpose is to ensure good organisation.
The manager is an accomplished individual, a coordinator with the skills to manage administration and business issues such as practice performance analysis, finance strategies and profit and loss reports. They establish effective systems and procedures that ensure the efficacy of daily life within the practice.
Another facet of a good practice manager is to have vision and the ability to create a clear strategy to help take the business forwards. This means not only understanding the internal workings of the practice, but also keeping up with changing market conditions and appreciating possible external factors such as new or evolving competitors.
However, the crucial role of the manager is to manage the practice’s human resource – its people. They are responsible for recruitment, job descriptions, performance reviews, grievances, salaries, employee policies and team meetings.
An effective manager leads by example, embodying the behaviours and efficiencies they expect from staff, whether they are talking to patients or working with suppliers. Practising what they preach will elicit respect from those around them and encourage emulation – a manager ignores that at their peril.
The success of the practice will also be underpinned by first-class communication, which is essential on so many levels. It is at the heart of every patient encounter, every supplier discussion and every exchange between staff members.
It is important, therefore, that the practice manager is able to communicate with the team in a way that resonates with them and radiates out through the practice, providing an atmosphere that encourages the sharing of feedback and best practice.
These communication skills, along with planning and careful organisation, are especially important with respect to patient interactions. Attracting new people and keeping the existing patient-base happy is, of course, essential.
While patient relationships will be mostly built when the patient is physically in the practice, it should be remembered that their experience begins before then.
For example, if pain strikes someone outside of the practice’s opening hours and they have to wait through the night, or possibly even part of the weekend, to book an appointment by phone, the practice risks them looking elsewhere. Similarly, if they try to call but the practice’s phone line is busy and they fail to reach the receptionist, they are again unlikely to persist.
A new way
One way to combat this problem is to invest in an online booking system, which allows patients to choose and book their own appointments 24/7.
By signing up to an online appointment service such as Zesty, practices can make the booking system indirectly available to thousands of potential new patients.
Through a variety of devices such as smartphones, tablets and computers, this type of service provides a practice with a profile page that can include key messages, dentist biographies and price lists. More than a simple directory listing, it sits alongside the existing booking system and provides a link that allows both potential and existing patients to use an internet-enabled device to search for and book an appointment with a dental professional near them.
A culture that embraces effective and convenient communication will impact on patients, making them feel welcome. It also creates an environment that makes them feel more comfortable and relaxed about asking questions or discussing their fears, which leads to a more successful outcome.
By investing time and effort in good organisation, planning and communication, that well-oiled machine is more likely to become a daily occurrence for your practice. Then, you and your team can go home content in the knowledge that tomorrow will be smooth, successful and stress free.
Lloyd Price is co-founder and chief operating officer of Zesty, an online appointment booking service for the healthcare profession. For more information, visit www.zesty.co.uk