Why They Stay and Why They Go: A Guide to Keeping Patients

It’s a situation most dentists can unfortunately relate to: a patient who has been coming to you for years calls to cancel their upcoming appointment or doesn’t show up for it at all.

At first you think it’s just a scheduling issue, but then you find out they’ve transferred to another dentist a few blocks away. Clearly they didn’t move out of the city and they obviously still need care – so what happened?

Why, after years of coming to your dental clinic, did they decide to switch? Many of the dentists I talk to can’t help but admit that they often feel hurt in these situations. While that feeling is natural, the reason usually is not personal.

Patients come to your practice for the service you provide so instead of wondering what is wrong with you, it’s better to treat it as a learning experience that can help you improve the level of care you offer.

Why do Patients Leave?

If you want to improve patient retention, you need to understand why patients decide to switch service providers in the first place. While you can’t control all the factors that lead a patient to leave, you can make it easier for them to stay.

Here are the top reasons, according to one leading industry magazine, why patients leave dental service providers:

  • Bad experiences at the front desk
  • Long wait times
  • Difficulties getting timely appointments or changing appointments
  • Insurance problems
  • Perception of unnecessary discomfort during care

From my own experience, and from the experience of dental professionals I work with, I would add a few others:

  • Concerns over prices
  • Outdated methods of patient communication
  • Perception the practice is not “modern” and keeping up with the latest technologies
  • Better service available elsewhere

Switching healthcare providers is not very convenient, which is why people generally only do it if they are legitimately unhappy with the service they’ve experienced.

The good news is that there are strategies clinics can employ to keep their patients, such as investing in better dental software or making the patient experience more enjoyable. If you want to improve patient retention here are four things you should start doing immediately: 

1. Hire A Secret Shopper

A lot of work is involved in setting up your own practice and once things are running smoothly it can be easy to fall into routines. While routines are not bad in and of themselves (in fact can be very useful in the workplace!) routines can make it easy to become complacent. And, when you spend every day working in your clinic it can be difficult to know how a patient seeing it for the first time experiences it.

One way to get a first-time patient’s honest take is by hiring someone to act as a patient and then report on their experience at your clinic. This can help you see your clinic through fresh eyes and give you an opportunity to learn what kind of treatment your patients are getting from your receptionists and hygienists.  

2. Get Patient Feedback – And Act On It

There are lots of tools that can help you get feedback from your patients about how your clinic is doing but none of it is worth much if you aren’t able to act on it.

While dentists and healthcare service providers around the world are investing lots of resources in getting customer feedback, implementing the insights that feedback provides is often significantly more difficult.

Listening to what patients tell you is one of the most essential aspects of improving care. For example, if they say:

3. Manage Your Reputation

It’s easy to imagine that reputation management only matters for bringing in new patients. Yet the truth is that a patient’s view of the care they receive can be shaped by the views they are exposed to.

If you heard someone complaining about the food they ate at a restaurant you frequent wouldn’t it make you think twice about your own experience?

Being intentional about how your brand is perceived online can also help with patient retention, which is why you should consider making dental reputation management software part of your patient retention strategy asap.

Because reputation is something that you can mold over time, you can expect quantifiable results that will actively grow and improve your business so long as you’re willing to put in a little time and effort.

There are numerous benefits to maintaining a solid online reputation, but here are the ones I think are the most valuable:

  • Higher trust – People’s trust in a brand rises alongside its reputation.
  • Increased profits – Companies with better ratings and reviews get more business.
  • Better talent – Brands that boast a positive reputation will ultimately attract better employees.
  • Less risk – People move with crowds and reputation management is a way to attract that crowd.

4. Know Your Competition

In the healthcare industry we don’t often like to think of ourselves as being in competition with each other. But the reality is that when patients have options for care, they will inevitably compare your dental practice to others.

Knowing which dental clinics are in your area and how your service stacks up to theirs is essential if you are to stay competitive, so do your research and find out where your practice is falling behind other clinics in your area.

Losing patients can certainly be a demoralizing experience. Rather than taking it personally, it’s wise to treat it as an opportunity to figure out what you can do to minimize this type of setback in the future!

Purchasing new Dental Software? What you should know before signing on the dotted line!

A few months ago I wrote a blog article about what to look for in dental software to get the best fit for your practice. However, once you identify the software you prefer for your office, it is critical to ensure you have considered all factors before making a commitment to the vendor.

In this blog we will look at important selection criteria that often gets overlooked during the evaluation process – only to be discovered (and regretted) after an agreement has been signed.

Purchase Model/Overall Cost

Cost is often the main concern of dentists when comparing practice management solutions but it can be challenging to make an objective cost comparison.

  • Each vendor may offer a different mix of components that comprise their standard configuration
  • Any additional features you desire will likely only be available an additional cost – either from the vendor or from a third party
  • Some parts of the total solution may be offered in the form of perpetual software licenses for an upfront, one-time, payment
  • Some other features may only be available by paying a monthly subscription

The simplest way to deal with this complexity is to list the main features you require then calculate and compare each system’s upfront and monthly costs.

In addition to the core practice management software being offered, here are examples of specific features and services that may be available either bundled or separately:

  • Clinical applications (Charting, Clinical notes)
  • Patient Communication/Appointment Reminders/Patient Portal
  • Imaging software/Third Party Imaging Software Integrations
  • Patient Kiosk
  • Advanced Reporting
  • Payment Card Processing
  • Reputation Management
  • Remote Back-up services
  • Productivity Tool Integrations (Accounting, Office 365, Payroll, HR Management)
  • Software Maintenance (updates)
  • Software support (telephone, knowledge base, email, chat)
  • Training (on-site, classroom, web-based, telephone) 

You should also consider the after-tax cost of your investment. Upfront payments for software and hardware are treated as capital costs that can be depreciated at different rates. Alternatively, these assets can be leased and lease payments are treated as an expense against generated income. Monthly rental/subscription payments are treated similarly for determining after tax income. It’s best to check with your accountant to determine the optimum financing mix that minimizes your taxes and preserves cash flow based on your practice profile.   

Data Conversion

If you currently use practice management software, chances are you will want to transfer as much practice data over as possible to the new system. However, if you have many years of data, it makes sense to limit the carryover of transactions to the last two to three years so your new system starts with a relatively “clean” database.

Worth noting here is that you should be able to run your old software (and database) simultaneously with your new software during the early stages of the new implementation. This arrangement equips you to look up historical transactions as required.

Now let’s look at the different levels of practice data conversion to be considered.

Basic
-Patient Demographics including recall dates and account balances
Intermediate
-Patient Demographics including recall dates and account balances
-Appointments
-Financial transactions
-Procedure history
-Insurance information for eClaims
Full
-Patient Demographics including recall dates and account balances
-Appointments
-Financial transactions
-Procedure history
-Insurance information for eClaims
-Clinical charts and diagnostic notes
-Outstanding treatment plans
-Detailed insurance information/coverage

Your chosen level of data conversion will be influenced by the number of patients and records you decide to transfer. For example, you may not wish to pay for appointment information transfer if the number of future appointments is small and quick to enter manually.

Beware of companies who promise detailed conversions at no or low cost  as an enticement. Regardless of the amount of automation used in the conversion process, each data conversion is unique and takes substantial time for planning and testing. Low cost conversions will likely lead to poor results and cost you much more if you need to correct corrupt data or enter missing information.

Keep in mind that the The differences from one software to another can lead to data that doesn’t map accurately into ABELDent. Some systems are based on ancient, obscure or proprietary differences in dental software databases means not every data field from one system will have a direct match in another system. Furthermore, some software systems are based on obscure, proprietary technology that make it difficult to extract data. In addition, some vendors encrypt your data making it impossible to move it to another system without obtaining the decryption key (for which they may charge a substantial fee).

After you’ve chosen the level of data conversion that’s right for your dental practice, the easiest way to ensure a satisfactory conversion is to request a sample and check it for data accuracy. Ask the new vendor for a data conversion agreement that specifies the files and fields that will be carried over and where they link to in the new system. You will also need to schedule a time for the new vendor to receive your most current backup prior to going live so that the data transferred over is as up to date as possible.    

Implementation/Configuration:

When you are ready to make a commitment to a new dental software vendor, it is important to have an implementation plan in place so that the transition goes as smoothly as possible. Ask your new vendor what their implementation steps are and how any issues you may have experienced in the past would be resolved this time around.

Choose a reputable hardware/IT vendor and make sure they consult with the dental software vendor so that your new dental software system gets configured to specification. Skimping on quality hardware or using inexperienced technologists can cost you a lot more down the road in lost productivity if the system and/or the support prove unreliable.

Schedule several training sessions prior to your “live” date so that staff have an opportunity to get familiar with all the basic functions of the software. It is best to shut the office down during training so staff can give their full attention instead of dealing with interruptions. Once up and running, don’t be satisfied using just the basics. Switching from your current system implies you are looking for something more so book advanced training to help your team fully realize the  software’s capabilities and increase your return on investment!

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.

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.