Story by Kevin Henry, Editor
Living and practicing in the shadows of snow-capped Wasatch mountains in Provo, Utah, Dr. Chris Hammond is very familiar with natural beauty. Within the walls of his office — an office he shares with his father, Dr. Roy Hammond — he does everything he can to translate that beauty onto the smiles of his patients.
While that might be the goal of the majority of dental offices in the United States, Dr. Hammond and his team have taken a different approach to get the job done. Some of the unique tactics in Dr. Hammond's office include:
⇒ Providing two full Thursdays every month as days of learning for the staff. These days are spent on topics ranging from communication to clinical breakthroughs.
⇒ Having a box in the office where employees drop some of the unique situations they have faced during the day. Then, once a week, the box is opened and role play ensues in an effort to figure out different ways to solve the problem and plan for
it the next time it occurs.
⇒ Hiring staff from outside the dental industry. If Dr. Hammond encounters an employee at a department store or restaurant he feels would make his patients feel welcome and comfortable, he will remember him or her when he has a staffing need.
"I believe it's easier to teach someone about dentistry than to teach someone how to be a caring, patient-centered person," he said.
⇒ A philosophy of "nothing but the best" for all of his patients.
"We always try to incorporate the highest level of care we can provide for our patients, no matter the cost to us," Dr. Hammond said. "Our patients deserve the best materials, the best laboratories, and the best employees we can find."
Practicing near the campus of Brigham Young University and several technology-oriented corporations, Dr. Hammond also knows that high-tech is high on the priority list for many of his patients.
"Provo is a college town, but it is also a high-tech town," he said. "Our patients know, and we know, that the more time you can use technology in the dental office, the more time we will have to spend with the patients. If you want the high-tech employees to choose your practice, you have to have a high-tech office."
No problem there for Dr. Hammond. Lasers and digital photography may capture the eye of the patients, but it's the computers and the software that they run that is the real backbone of the practice, he says.
"I can't overemphasize the importance of having Dentrix for my office," Dr. Hammond said. "All of the paperwork is kept to a minimum thanks to it, and that allows my staff and me to concentrate on our relationships with the patients. We can actually sit down, talk to our patients, and try to give them treatment options that best suit their needs. Things like insurance, appointment scheduling, and X-rays are condensed so they take up approximately 10 percent of our time rather than a majority of the day."
Dr. Hammond's location also has a side benefit in his relationship with Dentrix — the company's main headquarters are roughly 15 minutes away from Dr. Hammond's practice.
"We are close, and that's great, but I chose them more on their product and customer service rather than proximity to my office," Dr. Hammond said. "I've never had a problem with customer service or tech support from Dentrix. They seem to be as concerned with profitability as I am."
Along with his practice-management software, Dr. Hammond also gives a big thumbs-up to the communication systems within his office.
"I think having a communication system in the office is very important," he explained. "It's very distracting for the patients to hear staff members yelling up and down the hall if there's a question or something is needed. My staff members, including me, wear a headset during the workday to keep track of needs within the office. The only time we won't wear a headset is when we're in consultation with a patient. That patient deserves our uninterrupted attention during this time."
Of course, it's hard to have a high-tech office filled with the latest offerings without having a knowledgeable staff to use the equipment to its fullest potential. Dr. Hammond devotes two full days per month to staff education, shutting down the office in order for the staff to come together and learn.
"I really don't think there's another office in the country that does as much learning as a team as we do," Dr. Hammond said. "You can have the latest pieces of equipment, but if you don't have sharp employees who are willing to learn and adapt, it does you no good. I.believe that you have to have time away from the office routine to have team development and training. We wouldn't be able to do what we do in this office without this time. It scares some of my colleagues to think of an office with no production for two days each month, but we have found that we maintained our level of production, even with these two days. We are able to sharpen the saw, and that pays big benefits for our staff and our patients."
Also paying big benefits for Dr. Hammond's patients is the office's environment. The office can certainly be classified as a "spa dental office," with benefits such as massage pads in the dental chairs and 3-D movie glasses for adult and pediatric patients on the office's resumé.
"We'll offer our patients everything from sugar-free chocolates and fresh baked bread and cookies to paraffin wax treatments and heated neck pillows," Dr. Hammond said. "Offering these services is part of our emphasis on the patient."
That emphasis is evident from the time the patient enters the practice.
"Since 1983, we've never had a front desk in this office, and we never will again," Dr. Hammond said as he pointed to a place in his waiting area where a shark tank stands. "Our patients get a feel for our philosophy the minute they walk through our door.
"When a patient walks through our front door, he or she is greeted by name by a hygienist or assistant who will be with the patient during his or her entire appointment," he continued. "That staff member will care for the patient during the appointment, make sure all questions are answered and return appointments are booked, and walk the patient back to the front door or the car. We also make sure that the same staff member works with the same patient every time the patient comes into our practice. We want there to be a feeling of continuity and trust."
It has obviously worked. Dr. Hammond said that a majority of his new patients come through referrals. There is some external marketing conducted, and Dr. Hammond's Web site (www.hammondsmiledesign.com) is very comprehensive, giving patients a chance to know the practice before entering it.
Not only has Dr. Hammond's practice built quite a reputation with patients, it has also become an object of interest for many of his colleagues as well.
"Dentists who have heard me lecture in the area want to come and see the office for themselves," Dr. Hammond smiled. "I don't think a lot of them think a place like this exists. We make a huge investment in cross-training our staff on everything in the office. Everyone has to know all of the procedures in order to fill in when there is an illness or other events occur. Other dentists will see what we've done and say, 'Oh, we could never do that in my practice.' I always have to ask them, 'Why not?'. It has worked for me, and the patients love this office."
Dr. Hammond and his father, Dr. Roy Hammond, also see a number of dentists come to the office for another reason — the "Ride and Learn" continuing-education course, otherwise known as dentistry's only national Harley motorcycle tour company. Routes include ventures through the Smoky Mountains, Grand Canyon, and Yellowstone. Attending dentists and course instructors ride their motorcycles during the day and attend CE courses at night.
"It really makes a huge impact with a lot of dentists," Dr. Chris Hammond said. "I'm proud of the fact that my dad is one of the founders and the creative genius behind the idea of Ride and Learn. The motorcycles all have very low mileage and are maintained in top condition. The bikes are trucked to the trip starting point and picked up again at the end of our ride. Dentists fly in, ride the Harleys, get CE credits, and have a great time."
Editor's Note: For more information, on the Ride and Learn CE course, log on to www.rideandlearn.com or call (480) 951-1652.
Harley memorabilia is scattered throughout Dr. Roy Hammond's treatment rooms. Dr. Chris Hammond gives much of the credit for his practice philosophy to his father.
"My dad has been in practice for 36 years, and I've been lucky enough to rub shoulders with him in our practice since 1996," Dr. Chris Hammond said. "This has always been a family practice with an emphasis on cosmetics. There has always been a philosophy of caring for patients. I'm very proud of that."
Autoclaves/sterilizers Harvey Chemclave EM 500
Bleaching systems Zoom! in-office by Discus Dental
Cameras, digital Canon D60
Cameras, intraoral Dentrix DDO Image Cam
Chairs A-dec Cascade
Cleaners, ultrasonic Coltene Whaledent, Biosonic
Compressors, air Air Techniques Vacstar
Computer hardware Dell
Computer software Dentrix
Digital X-ray Dentrix Image Ray
Dryers, air A-dec warm air dryer
Endodontic handpieces Dentsply Tulsa Dental
Handpieces KaVo, Dentsply Midwest
Impression materials 3M ESPE Imprint II
In-office restorative system 3M ESPE Filtek Supreme, Dentsply Caulk Esthet-X
Intercom system Personal radios and headsets from Radio Shack
Lasers Diolase by ADT
Lights, curing Kerr Demetron, Discus Flashlight
Lights, operating Pelton & Crane
Nirtous oxygen units, accessories Porter MXR
Patient education system CAESY, Dentrix
Polishers, air Dentsply Cavitron Jet
Scalers, ultrasonic Dentsply Cavitron Jet
Vacuum units, accessories Vacudent
X-ray processor Dent-X 810 basic
X-ray unit Sirona Heliodent DS
To contact Drs. Chris and Roy Hammond:
Phone: (801) 374-0070
Web site: www.hammondsmiledesign.com