Service and Support: The Key to Dental Software Satisfaction

Recently I wrote a blog about four main factors to consider when evaluating and purchasing dental software. One of the factors cited was the importance of a vendor’s quality and level of service and support. While writing, this had me thinking back to a time when we were doing a lot of conversions from other vendor’s systems – the primary reason not being lack of functionality as one might think, but rather in many cases, the lack of sufficient customer support at critical times.

With the increased complexity and functionality of dental software today, the importance of service and support is even more critical, yet often remains a neglected factor when evaluating which practice management system to implement. Let’s look at the components of a comprehensive support plan that help ensure your practice runs smoothly with minimal interruption.

Solution Implementation

The first indication of the level of support you will receive from a vendor usually comes during the sales process – but at this stage you are dealing with promises. It’s during the software implementation phase where you will receive tangible evidence of a vendor’s commitment to support.

Whether you choose a local server or a cloud-based solution, it needs to be configured to the workflow requirements of your practice and that requires assistance from the software vendor. In many cases, you will need to contract third party hardware/IT vendors that will also rely on your dental software vendor for support. Many installations also involve conversion of practice data from a previous system – another indicator of service level based on the quality and delivery time of the data converted.

Training

The amount and level of training you will receive is another indicator of the vendor’s dedication to high service levels and is a huge determinant of how your dental team will perceive the functionality and quality of the software.

Look for a vendor that has the resources to offer a variety of training methods including onsite, classroom and web-based, and ask about the software’s built in help system and whether they have other training collateral available such as tutorials and videos. The number and experience level of trainers on staff is also a good indication of the quality of training you will receive.

There is a temptation to skimp on this area in an effort to save money but the irony is that quality, comprehensive training allows for the greatest return on investment. However, if you have a person on staff that is skilled enough to train the rest of your team, this can be a viable option to optimize your investment and help ensure that all team members follow the same procedures when using the software.

Software Support

As mentioned, a common reason practices switch to new dental software is poor customer support from their vendor – specifically, slow response times and insufficient problem resolution.

  • Request performance statistics, such as the average on-hold time and average length of call. This information will provide you with an objective metric when comparing service levels between vendors.
  • Ask how many software support analysts they have on staff to respond to technical questions and/or issues.
  • Check out the type of support plans offered and the scope of service hours to see if they match your requirements and budget. Ideally, the vendor should provide 24/7/365 support.
  • Find out from your colleagues whether their vendor’s technical support staff often go beyond simple problem resolution by providing helpful tips based on their experience working with dental practices.
  • Review the vendor’s customer newsletters, blogs, ebooks, training materials, etc. to gauge how helpful they will be and the degree to which they will keep you informed.
  • Look for vendors that provide a customer portal for convenient access to value added resources.

Software Updates

As the dental industry and practice management best practices continue to evolve, so will your dental software need to progress. Software updates you receive from your vendor should consist of improvements to existing features as well as new functionality rather than simply “bug” fixes. Downloading updates should be seamless and require minimal setup to limit practice downtime. Small incremental updates are preferred so that learning curves to implement new features are short and reliance on support services is minimized.   

Third-Party Integrations

No matter how comprehensive the dental software package you choose is, there may be third party applications you want to add that can benefit from an integration. The integration will typically involve sharing of information between the new application and the dental practice management software to provide administrative/clinical synergies and reduce data entry. Third-party applications that can benefit from integration include imaging software, payment card processing, reputation management, and automated patient communication. The number of integration partnerships a vendor provides is an indication of how dedicated they are to delivering leading-edge solutions to their customers.

Conclusion 

Like all companies that use software to help manage their business, dental practices rely on service and support to maintain productivity and minimize downtime. Unfortunately, many dental practices underestimate the importance of quality support before purchasing dental practice management software only to realize its impact after it is too late to change course easily. There is also a temptation to cut support costs since it is an ongoing expense – however, this service has the potential to provide a large return on investment if used effectively.

It can be difficult to determine which vendor is positioned to provide the best levels of service and support. It is wise to start by evaluating the vendor’s overall track record in the industry – a good indicator of the quality of support they will provide after you purchase their software.

Discover Your Hidden Profit: Uncover Unscheduled Treatment

In working with hundreds of dental practices over the years, I’ve discovered a common theme – each practice seems to have a group of patients that prove to be elusive when it comes to scheduling their outstanding treatment or overdue recall. The simple solution is to get each patient to book their next appointment upon leaving the office and then contact them prior to the appointment to confirm. But what about patients who refuse to book right away or book and then cancel their appointment later without rescheduling?

To solve this dilemma, ensuring that you retain these patients and deliver the treatment they require, let’s look at two practice management tools that you can leverage – dental software and automated patient communication.

One essential tool is your dental practice management software that, ideally, has a system to automatically:     

  • Assign contact dates for follow up with patients, based on their specific appointment interval, after they are billed a recall or scaling code
  • Create predetermination contact dates for patients after a predetermination is sent
  • Create a contact date for patients who cancel or miss an appointment
  • Assign appointment contact dates for unscheduled treatment plans for each required appointment and allow manual adjustment/entry of contact dates
  • Delete the appropriate contact(s) when the patient schedules to avoid booking duplicate appointments

Picture a virtual Rolodex with all of those contacts organized – patients requiring appointments for different reasons at specific times and intervals. Next, visualize a system that logically organizes those contacts and retrieves targeted groups based on specific selection criteria such as:

  • Due date range
  • Procedures required
  • Outstanding predeterminations
  • Cancellations and missed appointments
  • Provider

The following image shows such a system and how it manages a group of identified patients.

In the above example, ABELDent’s Contact Manager:

  1. Shows the list of patients that meet the selection criteria along with each contact’s date
  2. Displays the appointment profile for the selected patient
  3. Shows a financial summary and note profile – these boxes can be expanded for more detail
  4. Lists all contacts for the chosen patient and family members
  5. Displays future appointments booked to avoid duplication
  6. Keeps a record of previous patient contact for reference
  7. Immediately links to the appointment scheduler – once the appointment is booked, the contact is removed 

There are even more benefits to using a tool such as the one above since it will allow you to:  

  • Book all family members that are due with one phone call
  • View all relevant information from one screen before calling
  • Update patient files based on their feedback
  • Track phone call results for future reference
  • Use one click for schedule access to book the appointment
  • Send email/texts to patients not available by phone

Another increasingly popular tool to assist with boosting appointment booking and is automated patient communication.

With a keystroke, the software application sends individual “request for confirmation” and/or an “outstanding treatment notice” messages to the selected group of patients using each individual’s preferred communication method (text or email). Message recipients can then respond using their smart phone, notebook or computer and, in many cases, automatically update their e-calendars.

In fully-integrated systems, patient responses automatically update the appropriate data fields within the practice management software, for example, scheduled appointments would show as confirmed.

There is a tremendous time and cost savings opportunity when managing appointments using this technology and there is strong evidence of improved booking and appointment retention rates.

In summary, technology tools can greatly assist a dental practice with identifying and booking outstanding treatment and help the dental team fulfill production and profit goals. When staff can easily find patients that have outstanding treatment and use automated tools to remind those patients of the importance of their recommended treatment, it shows that you value their dental health and increases case acceptance.

4 Ways to Increase Patient Satisfaction and Grow Your Dental Practice

Are your patients happy?

In our line of work, this question can’t be asked often enough. Patients are at the very heart of healthcare service provision, and if the patients are unhappy, we clearly aren’t doing our job.

Oddly, while dental practice owners and administrators frequently ask me how they can expand their services and attract new patients, I don’t often get questions from people who want to ensure that they are providing the best possible experience for their patient base.

This strikes me as strange because if you aren’t keeping your current patients happy you’ll probably struggle to attract new patients. It’s no secret that few advertisements for your practice will be as effective as having a large number of satisfied patients.

For this reason, you’ll want to keep the foundation of your clientele strong and ensure that overall patient satisfaction is not compromised as you expand your practice. If you want to build your patient base without negatively affecting legacy patients, consider these four steps.

1. Survey Your Patients

In order to find out how you can create a better experience and increase patient satisfaction, first you have to find out what your current patients think could use improvement!

Every dental practice has a different mix of patient types so when it comes to offering better service there is no one-size-fits all solution: a practice that primarily serves seniors will want to focus on different aspects of care than a practice that caters to Millennial patients or young families will.

If you are trying to expand your service to include a specific patient demographic, you will have to find a way to balance the needs of your current patients with the needs of the new patients you are trying to attract.

Surveys are one of the most reliable ways to find out what your current patients like about your service and what they think could be made better. The first step toward increasing patient satisfaction should always be discovering the reasons why your current patients are unsatisfied.

You can also invest in reputation management software to quickly and easily survey your patients and encourage them to leave reviews. Positive reviews and testimonials are the single best tool to promote your brand. Did you know that Millennial consumers trust word-of-mouth advertising (including testimonials) over traditional advertising by more than 700%?

The right reputation management software will not only help you better understand what your patients think of your practice, but will also allow you to share positive experiences to help you grow your practice.

2. Enhance Your Online Services

In the twenty-first century, one of the easiest and best ways to make patients feel more plugged in is by meeting them where they are: online. Software for dentists is quickly becoming an essential tool for practices of all sizes, as they make it a lot easier to automate patient registration, track patient needs and keep treatment recommendations from falling through the cracks.

Moving to a more expansive dental practice management software that includes automated patient communication is a great way to reach out to new tech savvy patients and offer more convenience to your existing patients.

Effective use of dental practice management software also reduces no shows and short notice cancellations – a sure sign that it is keeping patients plugged in and engaged with your practice. Patients who regularly make and honour their appointments see the value in the service you offer – lower frequencies of no shows and cancellations are an indicator of improved overall patient satisfaction with the added benefit that it reduces costly downtime.  

3. Focus on Experience as Well as Service

In the dental industry, we spend a lot of time talking about the level of service we are offering. But until recently, it was fairly unusual to hear someone talk about patient experiences.

As the late health industry executive and bestselling author Fred Lee outlined in the following TEDx lecture, given in Maastricht back in 2017, patients don’t just look to healthcare providers for a service, they look for an experience of care that goes beyond the simple transaction of receiving medical help. 

It is not a question of trading one experience for another: it is about viewing patient experience as an additional dimension of the economy of your dental practice. If you want to improve patient satisfaction while attracting new patients, you’ll need to rethink the entire landscape of the patient experience and be willing to make adjustments.  

Start with why patients came to see you in the first place – to either be assured that they are on the right track with their dental hygiene and/or to receive treatment for whatever is required. In fact, your treatment plan acceptance rate is another good indicator of patient satisfaction and of whether your consultations are hitting their mark.

4. Update Your Waiting Room

If you are like most dentists or dental administrators, you put in a lot of hours at your office. Over time, this can mean that you become less sensitive to the impression it makes on new patients.

For established dental practices that have been around for a long time, this can be a major problem: a waiting room that seems familiar and comfortable may seem shabby or depressing to a new patient. 

But while updating your waiting room is important for making a good impression, it is also a great way to improve the experience for your current patients. Simple improvements like purchasing new furniture, adding access to multimedia or changing the layout can go a long way toward making your patients feel at home in your practice.

In summary, patients that are unsatisfied with the overall experience you offer will be reluctant to book appointments, follow through on scheduled appointments or recommend your practice to family, friends and colleagues.

This means that improving levels of satisfaction among your current patients needs to be job number one for any practice that is trying to expand its patient base. Remember, happy patients are the best advertisement a dental practice can get!

Financial Tracking, Ledgers and Reports: Getting What You Need from Dental Practice Management Software

It’s easy to get caught up looking at the “bells and whistles” when deciding on what dental practice management software to choose for your practice. However, in my experience, the importance of the software’s ability to track, display and report on financial entries is often not recognized until well after the software has been implemented. By then it’s too late to easily address shortcomings in functionalities such as transaction viewing modes, multiple provider/practice reporting, payment entry/tracking, insurance processing and financial adjustments.

Financial transaction tracking and can be complex and comprehensive depending on specific needs of the practice. For example, the following list shows typical requirements to be aware of prior to purchasing a practice management system so that you can ensure it will:

  • Keep track of separate practice/provider production and receivables
  • Apply payments to specific production transactions if required (Open Item accounting)
  • Display billing and accounting transactions in chronological order or open item, either in a summarized or detailed format
  • Allow Adjustments to correct past entry errors along with a corresponding audit trail
  • Display/print a full audit trail for all adjustments and deletions
  • Track separate insurance and patient receivables for assignment offices
  • Present Insurance coverage estimation by service and account for maximums, deductibles and other limits
  • Print or preview Financial Reports for any date range without requiring month end closing procedures
  • Include Account Holder ledgers that display all family member transactions and accommodate the creation of separate ledgers for family members that become responsible for their own transactions
  • Allow financial transactions/adjustments directly from the patient ledger
  • Easily accommodate input of bulk and prepayments, and set up monthly charge plans with corresponding post-dated payments
  • Maintain multiple bank accounts as required

Patient Ledger Views

There are many ways to present financial information in a patient ledger. The order and level of detail of transactions displayed will determine how easy it is for staff to communicate with patients about their financial history. Let’s look at two distinct views that cover the needs of most dental offices.

The following example – Chronological Order Display – lists all services and payments in the order in which they occur. The dollar value shown in the New Bal column is a running total of the patient balance by date. The blue figures display outstanding insurance payments and the New Bal column gives a running total of the patient balance.

The example below – Open Item Display – lists each service as a separate transaction along with the associated payment (that may have been made on a different date). This is useful for easily determining if a specific service has been paid. The Ins Bal and Act Bal columns display the remaining balance owed per service for insurance and patient balance respectively.

The two examples presented above suggest that dental transactions can be relatively complex depending on the level of detail needed and whether insurance payment tracking is required. Look for a dental practice management system with financial capabilities that provide as much flexibility as possible to avoid disappointment, particularly if you cannot anticipate all your needs ahead of time. 

Financial Reporting

A report such as the one displayed below conveniently provides a complete snapshot of the day eliminating the need to view/reconcile multiple reports.

Example: Cash Summary Report

Accounts Receivable

The following report includes additional detail that identifies potential problem areas.

Conclusion

We have covered the standard requirements that are commonly overlooked when evaluating dental practice management software. There are other types of financial reports and metrics to consider but they go beyond the scope of this blog. 

Assessing and defining your financial tracking needs early on in the process can save you from making the wrong choice and having to live with a number of compromises and time-consuming workarounds.

4 Ways to Build a Better Website for Your Dental Practice

The importance of a strong web presence to the success of any dental practice cannot be overstated. This is why I’ve decided to write a follow-up article to one we published earlier this year on how to maximize your web presence with a strong site. This time, I’m putting a deeper focus on the technical side of things.

As I constantly tell my colleagues in the dental industry, it’s not enough to simply have a site anymore. In order to compete today, you must put in the work to have your online presence noticed and to ensure its relevance week after week and month after month.

Not every clinic has the money to allot big budgets toward paid advertising and so it becomes all the more vital to make organic efforts. But what many people don’t realize is that to achieve organic results, you need to understand what’s going on under the hood, so to speak.

To ensure your site’s success, you’ll need to roll up your sleeves and/or use third-parties that specialize in improving the look and functionality of websites.

Luckily, there are many different ways to engage with users and to build your audience – read on to learn more about how to improve your dental practice website:

1. Update Your Site’s Look and Functionality

Internet content is evolving at an increasingly rapid pace and what looked good three years ago might not cut it today. A dated website won’t inspire prospective patients to take the next step and get in touch. The first step toward improving your site means conducting an overhaul.

The first thing you’ll need to do is to make sure that everything on your site is working as it should be. You’ll want to conduct a thorough audit of your clinic’s website, going through each page looking for:

  • Out-of-date content
  • Missing or poor-quality images
  • Plugins or themes that require an update
  • Broken links
  • Style or formatting inconsistencies

While this may seem like a lot of work, updating your website will pay off in major ways, starting by maintaining your relevance in the dental services marketplace.

You can also improve your site’s performance by checking your analytics – these will help indicate where you may need to make changes. This may seem like a hundred-dollar word, but this simple tutorial will show you the basics:

Once you’ve learned how to access and use analytics, you can start to track:

  • Which pages are the most popular
  • Which pages are engaging users and keeping them browsing
  • Which pages your users find uninteresting or unnecessary

2. Invest in Search Engine Optimization

Some companies swear by what’s known as search engine marketing, paid advertising such as Google AdWords that boost your site’s visibility through a cost-per-click model. While effective, this can get very pricey.

Search engine optimization (SEO) on the other hand tries to increase rankings organically. This is done by identifying which words are most associated with your field, and then using those words – or keywords as they’e called – to buff up your site’s content.

By sprucing up your homepage with keywords, and by running a regular blog (see below) that also includes keywords, your brand will slowly become tethered to the most popular search terms in your industry. This will help your practice climb to the top ranks of a Google search – making it easier to entice new visitors. Although it might seem obvious, make sure your website includes applicable keywords such as:

Dental Exam, Dental Emergency, Dental Cleaning, Teeth Polishing, Perio Scaling, Dental Implants, Teeth Whitening, TMJ, Mouth Guard, Root Canal, Tooth Extraction, Dental Crowns, Family Dentistry, Periodontics, Orthodontics, Oral Surgery, and Child Dentistry.

3. Start a Blog

Speaking of blogs, creating one that’s accessible through your website and posting weekly content will help you to connect with your audience about topics or issues relevant to your business. It also gives you a reason to spark engagement on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

Furthermore, it humanizes your brand, allowing an authentic voice to come out and build brand loyalty. Finally, by including keywords like those mentioned above into your content, you’ll increase search engine rankings at the same time.

If you don’t already have a blog, it can be easier than you think to generate some great content. Here are a few basic blog topic ideas to help you get started:

  • Top 10 Ways to Improve Your Smile
  • 5 Tips for Improving Your At-Home Dental Routine
  • A Simple-to-Follow Guide on Teeth Whitening
  • ​3 Signs That It Might Be Time to See Your Dentist
  • Does it Matter Which Tooth Brush or Tooth Paste I Use?

4. Maintain Up Time

Whether you’re a multinational corporation, a simple blogger, a not-for-profit organization, a news outlet, or a dental practice, traffic must reach your website otherwise it is partially closed for business. 

If you are using an unreliable service provider and your site goes down, you’ve effectively disappeared off the internet radar. Essentially, dental practice seekers can’t find or reach you when they need to – causing your credibility to plummet and making it seem to search engines like Google that you’ve received zero clicks or visits during that period and are therefore losing relevance.

Host your site with a credible provider – one who can ensure 100% up time guarantees as part of their hosting package.

I’ve talked before about cyber scamming, and the best way to stay safe is to find a hosting provider that can also help you protect your site from hacking attempts. While you should stay educated and regularly test your site for functionality, also make sure that your provider guarantees automatic updates and maintenance to prevent data leaks.

Staying up and running is integral to maintaining a strong reputation – especially for those who are looking to boost their SEO.

When it comes to websites, remember that a little goes a long way.

Hopefully, these tips will help get your practice noticed and engaging with more of your present and future patients. Continue to visit the ABELDent blog for more on this and other topics.

Treating Dental Patients with Special Needs

Everyone deserves the best possible quality of dental care. If you want your dental clinic to be a place that welcomes all people, it is important to be proactive in your approach to care for one particular segment of the population: people with special needs.

As was recently noted in a paper from the National Centre of Biotechnology Information, the incidence of oral disease is much higher among adults with disabilities than in the general population, in part because people with special needs often struggle to get the same level of dental care.

In my years working in the dental industry, I have become convinced that providing high quality care to patients with special needs is the responsibility of all healthcare professionals, including dentists.

However, there are several barriers to oral health care often faced by those with special needs that every practitioner should be aware of:

  • Language barriers
  • Transportation issues
  • Sensory impairments (including hearing and vision problems)
  • Dental clinics that are not wheelchair accessible
  • Psychosocial challenges, such as a lack of oral health literacy, general dental anxiety, as well as past negative experiences
  • Cultural barriers, including health care providers without training in cultural competency in areas such as disability language and knowledge of how to treat patients with special needs

Adding education on treating patients with special needs to dental and dental hygiene curricula is a major step toward solving these issues, but progress is slow, and in the meantime, it’s up to individual dental practices to stay ahead of the curve.

To make our practices more open to people with special needs and our staff better equipped to provide a high standard of service to all people, we first need to understand both the challenges and rewards of treating these patients. Here are two things to keep in mind as you make your clinic more accessible for everyone:   

 “Special Needs” is a Broad Category

According to the American Association of Pediatric Dentists, in the context of healthcare a special need is “any physical, developmental, mental, sensory, behavioural, cognitive, or emotional impairment or limiting condition that requires medical management, health care intervention, and/or use of specialized services or programs.”

This means there is no single way to make your dental clinic more accessible: instead, you need to approach accessibility from a variety of different angles, always placing the patient at the centre of service.

In some cases, this may simply mean training your staff to be more sensitive to the needs and preferences of patients who may not be capable of using any automated patient communication you may have implemented or who may require additional support during check-ups. In other cases, it may mean making your clinic itself more accessible by removing barriers to entry and interaction with your staff.

In order to facilitate these different needs, it is important to pay attention to the work done by organizations like the National Council on Disability and the Canadian Public Health Association. These organizations have resources available to help you make your clinic more accessible to a broad range of patients.

Every Patient is an Individual

Perhaps most importantly, it is crucial to remember that people with special needs are individuals just like everyone else and deserve to be treated as such.

While technical tools can help you to keep track of needs that each of your patients has, it is also important to avoid stereotyping patients based on those needs. One of the most common mistakes that healthcare practitioners make when dealing with patients who have special needs is to foreground the disability, rather than seeing it as merely one aspect of a complex person.

Taken to an extreme, this can lead to problems like improper or insufficient pain management, or even a misdiagnosis. But even when this isn’t the case, overemphasizing the disability can make patients feel alienated and unseen.  

For this reason, in addition to making sure your clinic can accommodate different needs, you should also strive to foster an environment in which the unique challenges faced by any person aren’t a barrier that keeps them from getting the care they deserve.

This does not need to require a complete overhaul of your approach to healthcare provision: as I have noted in previous blogs, making sure your front-line staff are generally trained to provide engaging and customer-centred care is essential to the success of your clinic.

You should view provision of care to patients with special needs as simply an extension of the high-quality care you provide to everyone who comes into your clinic.

As Sandie Baillargeon, owner of Dental Practice Consulting Services, states in her piece on interacting with clients that have disabilities or impairments, “Removing barriers to communication is the best way of building and sustaining a positive long term relationship with all of your clients”.

If we are to truly extend the same level of care and respect to all our patients, we will need to bear in mind that special needs come in a variety of different forms. Seeing the person rather than the disability is paramount to the provision of high quality service. 

What to Look For in a Dental Office Manager

A dental office manager plays a central role in the smooth functioning of the dental practice. If you want your clinic to succeed, ensure that the position is filled by someone who is passionate about patient care and has the hard skills to make sure that every aspect of clinic business is addressed.  

But what does that actually look like, and how can you tell just from an interview and a resume that someone has the character and experience to run your clinic?

Hiring becomes even more challenging when the person you are hiring is going to be responsible for just about every aspect of the day-to-day functioning of your business.

In my experience, the clinics that have been able to find the best people for the job are the ones that have looked beyond basic criteria like credentials and years in the industry to take a more holistic approach.

If you are looking to hire a new office manager in 2019, here are a few things to consider before you start the search.

Make Sure They Have the Hard Skills

In addition to dental office managers requiring a sufficient grasp of industry norms and standards, they also need to be familiar with the software and service technology used in modern dental practices. 

A good manager should be able to perform the following roles:

  • General office administration
  • Financial reporting functions for accounting purposes – perform basic bookkeeping duties as necessary
  • Organize and help lead (along with the dentist) regular staff meetings
  • Coordinate marketing efforts
  • Budget for office expenses and assist with supply orders
  • Oversee staff scheduling and payroll
  • Cover for Front Desk duties and Dental Assisting (if certified)

This means that when it comes to considering candidates, you should look for the following qualifications:

  • High School diploma and relevant certificates or associate degrees (there are a variety of certificate and degree programs designed to provide dental administrators with a background in medical terminology and dental health safety)
  • At least two or three years working in dental administration
  • Solid and demonstrated understanding of billing and insurance procedures, and a high degree of familiarity with the dental accounting and practice management software

These qualifications should be viewed as the basic requirements needed to be considered for the position – there are additional skills that you should look for if possible.

Experience with management in other industries adds diversity and new ideas. Candidates with backgrounds in healthcare marketing, dental technology and software or dental hygiene can also provide new and valuable perspective to the practice. Remember, dental office managers oversee many operational areas – the more diversified their experience, the better equipped they will be to provide direction to staff members and the practice overall.

Don’t Forget Chemistry and Character

When hiring people for management positions in the healthcare sector, my experience has been that most of the candidates applying have similar qualifications and skills.

That means that you are likely to have a range of candidates who all have the knowledge and skills, but may have very different degrees of competency in other areas. These can be the differentiators in order to identify the preferred candidate.

One of the biggest hiring mistakes clinics can make is by selecting the person who has the most experience, or seems most dazzling in the interview. While these things are important, be aware that you are presumably hiring a person that will be working with the practice long term. Therefore, making sure that the manager you hire has the kinds of character traits you desire – being extroverted, communicative, friendly, confident, and patient-focused – is just as important as making sure they have the hard skills to do the job.

Finding a manager with whom you get along is really important and a candidate who is more personable and friendly but less experienced will probably be a better hire in the long run than someone who doesn’t gel with your team or who has a very different approach to management than the one your team is comfortable with.   

Soft Skills Matter

In recent years – in dentistry as well as other fields – employers and recruiters focus their talent identification strategies around soft skills (inherent personality traits that can’t really be taught). With enough time to train, a new hire can learn how to use various components of practice management software such as automated appointment reminders but you can’t teach someone how to have a higher Emotional Quotient (EQ) or how to be more adaptable.

These days, most candidates for dental management shouldn’t be considered unless they possess strong soft skills such as leadership, communication, collaboration, and even culture-fit. A candidate with these attributes is likely to be better at other areas – there’s a natural synergy.

For example, a leader who demonstrates curiosity will listen and pay more attention to feedback so they can better understand where improvements are needed. And, a leader with a higher EQ is more likely to build on feedback to become more self-aware and learn from mistakes.

Bringing on a new member of the management team is not an easy process, but given how impactful the decision is going to be in the long run, it’s important to make sure you do your due diligence when recruiting.

In summary, consider more than just the hard skills: as any experienced leader knows, character is just as important as qualifications when it comes to building a healthy workplace culture and a thriving business.