How prepared are we?

Feb. 14, 2012
Tina Brown, FAADOM, says being prepared and doing the necessary groundwork before you see your patients can save a whole lot of time and may even help to ease you into something far greater in the future. She uses the morning huddle as an example.

By Tina Brown, FAADOM

With all the hustle and bustle of everyday life, do you really take the time to properly prepare for tasks? Are you someone who flies by the seat of your pants, or do you put some thought and time into what lies ahead? Are you anticipating the next item on your agenda, or are you just crossing your fingers and hoping everything will go smoothly? These are just a few of the questions you need to ask if you want a productive and successful outcome for the responsibilities that lie ahead.

I’m the type of person who likes to be prepared and even be ahead of the game if I can do it! As the office manager of a dental practice in Southern California, I pride myself in being ready for the day ahead. The preparation sometimes starts days or even weeks ahead of time. Let’s use the morning huddle as an example.

Our patients should be our No. 1 priority. They sought us out and are putting their trust in us that we will treat them with respect and take care of their dental needs. I’m fortunate to work with a team of well-rounded professionals that takes great care of our patients’ needs. The cycle starts at the front office when a patient calls for an appointment.

Are you prepared for that patient? Whether someone is in discomfort or in need of a continuing care appointment, we need to be ready to handle any questions or concerns. Have you ever called a doctor’s office and been immediately put on hold? How about the person who answers the phone loudly chewing gum? These folks clearly are not prepared for their patients! Make sure that your team members answer the phone fully prepared to be a key part in the success of each patient’s visit. The more confidently your team answers these questions, the more prepared patients will be to meet the doctor. It’s the beginning of a great relationship!

Let’s go through the protocol for the morning huddle. It’s amazing to me how many stories I hear from offices about how unproductive their meetings are. Someone is usually late, another is finishing breakfast, and yet another forgets to turn off his or her cell phone. All of these are unnecessary distractions that must be handled immediately by the team leader. The huddle should typically last 15 to 20 minutes, and that’s if everyone is prepared. The team should arrive early enough to address their personal needs, get their rooms opened up and charts looked at to make sure they’re prepared for the day, and then be ready to start the meeting.

I’ve found that giving each team member a copy of the daily schedule to review and write notes on is most effective. The huddle is held away from the front office in an operatory or the doctor’s office with the schedule up on the monitor for everyone to see and follow. By this time the front office, hygienist, and assistants should have already gone through their patient lists for the day.

Starting with the hygiene schedule, each patient should be highlighted and the hygienist should note outstanding treatment and recent specialist visits. Personal facts such as birthdays, vacations, or patients they may have referred should also be discussed so other team members can interact with the patient as well. The doctor’s schedule should be discussed in a similar manner, adding a little more detail as to types of materials and additional set-ups that may be needed. The front office should be clear regarding what needs to be collected from each patient, and if the collecting should be done before starting a procedure. At this time other questions and comments regarding the day should be discussed, and this will lead to a seamless and productive day.

This is just one example of being prepared, but as you can see it takes a great deal of thought, research, and preparation to be ready for just one day. The most successful practices I have worked with start their days like this. Being prepared and doing the necessary groundwork can save a whole lot of time and may even help to ease you into something far greater. So whatever lies ahead — be prepared!

Author bio
Tina Woods Brown, FAADOM, has more than 30 years of experience in the dental field. She attended San Diego State University and Pacific College of Dental Assistants in San Diego. She is a retired RDA, and has spent the last 20 years in the front office. She is a lifetime member of the American Association of Dental Office Managers (AADOM) and has written articles for the front office team. Tina is currently working as an office manager in San Dimas, Calif., and continues her education through seminars, workshops, and conferences. For more information on AADOM, check out