This month, KOMET Korner welcomes back our friend and colleague, Shari Becker. Shari works for Dr. Stephen Snow in Danville, Calif., and is on the faculty at the Mt. Diablo Adult Education Center in Concord, Calif. She has been teaching dental assisting for more than 14 years, and also helped develop the Shari Becker Provisional Fabrication Kit (TD 2118) for KOMET USA.
This month, Shari gives her opinion on how to increase your office’s case production, how to continue to get local practices to recommend your dentist, and what dental meetings you should attend. We thank Shari for participating in Dental Assisting Digest™’s interactive column. Don’t forget, we want to know what’s on your mind. If you have something you want to ask the KOMET USA panel of assistants, please e-mail your questions to [email protected]. Keep your questions coming, and we promise to answer them in the next available issue.
DAD: I want to help increase case production in our office. What are some simple things I can do to assist the team?
Becker: There are many simple things we all can do to increase production in the office regardless of our role or title. Here are a few:
- Be on time with your patients. If the back office is running late, jump in and help. See if there is something you can help with during an appointment, such as dispensing or mixing materials, periodontal chart notation, or taking X-rays. At the close of the appointment, offer to help with administration (i.e., make the next appointment, collect payment, discuss insurance) or with clinical areas by breaking down and disinfecting the operatory, seating the next patient, or sterilizing instruments.
- Be informed. Know what patients are scheduled and what they are scheduled for. If a patient has a concern you’re aware of, such as finances or timing of the appointment, try to handle it right as the patient arrives. Communication between staff members regarding patient care and communication is critical for an effective and efficient team.
- Be prepared. Morning huddles are a great way to discuss the day’s schedule. Try to get all questions answered during the morning meeting regarding patients or procedures. Oftentimes those questions that are not asked create problems later in the day.
- Follow up on pending treatment plans that are not yet scheduled. Check the patient’s chart to see what objection prevented the patient from scheduling treatment. Follow up with patients to see how you can assist them in overcoming objections. For example, offer payment plans if finances are an obstacle, or perhaps present sedation for patients if anxiety is an issue. The fact that you are willing to grow the practice is terrific. Having the right attitude and wanting to offer support to the doctor and fellow staff are important characteristics to any successful practice. Often it’s the little things that make all the difference. By implementing one or two of these simple ideas, hopefully you will see additional success.
DAD: We are a well-established specialty practice that relies on referrals from a network of local general practices. We’ve noticed that one large general practice is no longer referring patients to our office. How do you suggest we follow up with that office?
Becker: I would give the office a call and schedule a meeting for either the doctors or the office managers from each practice. It might be something as simple as the general practice’s patient flow has slowed down, thus slowing down their referral numbers. It might also be something fairly complex. When referrals stop, there is often some kind of problem. Perhaps a staff member was rude or did not follow through. Perhaps there was a complaint about the doctor. The hope is that both offices can resolve any problem. Regardless, there should be open communication to clarify whether or not the relationship between the two offices will continue to include patient referrals.
DAD: There are so many dental meetings I want to attend, and some of them require traveling. I want to be among my industry peers; however, I also want to see the latest and greatest dental technology. How do I decide which meetings I should attend?
Becker: What a great dilemma! You should always be hungry for education and want to keep up on the latest and greatest in dentistry. Here are some suggestions to assist you:
- Try to determine which meeting or meetings will give you the biggest bang for your buck. Pick two or three specific interests to focus on and see what meetings meet those needs. Many larger meetings have a vendor component, which allows time for exhibitors to demonstrate their latest technology and newest materials. Many vendors are open to scheduling visits to offices or schools for a lunch-and-learn as well.
- Consult with your doctor/employer. Discuss the various meetings and see how the dentist may be able to provide some financial assistance, especially if it is a meeting that he or she may already be attending. Often the doctor/employer can take staff to meetings at a reduced rate.
- Discuss with your doctor/employer the possibility of setting up a continuing-education fund for the entire staff. This can take on a number of different approaches, such as picking a specific time (perhaps certain weeks or months) when production goals are exceeded. The additional monies can go into the fund, and a percentage of the monies can be matched by the doctor/employer. Another approach is to set aside specific production days to be directly contributed to the fund. One final suggestion is to take a value-added part of your practice (i.e., whitening), and have all the monies from those procedures performed in a certain time frame donated to the fund.
- Another suggestion is to check with your local professional associations (dental assistant society, hygiene society, dental society) to see if others from your immediate area also want to attend a meeting. You may be able to share expenses on hotels, airfare, and registration fees. Also, your local associations may offer the latest and greatest right in your own backyard, without the need for travel expenses. Your professional organization will often provide discounts on education seminars, conferences, airfare, and hotels. If you are not currently a member of a professional organization (ADAA, ADHA, ADA), I strongly recommend it. It’s a great first step in keeping yourself up-to-date on the latest in the profession. Maintaining your skills and expertise takes time and some financial investment. Among national, regional, state, and local meetings, the opportunities are endless. Setting goals and establishing priorities and an education fund should help make the decision easier.
Shari Becker, CDA, RDA, FADAA, has been a full-time chairside assistant for Dr. Stephen Snow in Danville, Calif., for 15 years, and has been an RDA and CDA since 1985. Shari is on the faculty at the Mt. Diablo Adult Education Center in Concord, and has been teaching dental assisting for more than 14 years. She is a member of the American Dental Assistants Association, the California Dental Assistants Association, Diablo Dental Assistants Society, the California Association of Dental Assisting Teachers, and the California Council on Adult Education. She is a fellow of the American Dental Assistants Association, and is currently serving as the 12th District Trustee to the American Dental Assistants Association, representing California, Nevada, Hawaii, and Guam. She has served in many capacities on the local, state, and national levels, including president of the California Dental Assistants Association and president of the California Association of Dental Assisting Teachers. Shari is currently working in conjunction with dental manufacturing companies to heighten the awareness and acknowledge the contribution of dental assistants to the profession of dentistry.