Patient Satisfaction by the Numbers

Have you ever sat in a waiting room tapping your fingers, hoping each time the Nurse appears that your name will be called? Definitely been there, definitely hoped that.

Have you ever noticed that even as a Doctor or Practice Manager yourself, your level of overall satisfaction decreases in direct proportion to your wait time? That after around 10 minutes, your mind starts to calculate the cost of your wasted time? Do you start to issue imaginary invoices to the provider for your own time? I’ve done that as well.

According to recent research conducted by Software Advice, the average wait time in a dental office is 13.5 minutes. Of the over 5,000 patients surveyed, 97% reported frustration with the time they were expected to wait for a pre-booked appointment.

Further, the study found a real co-relation between wait times and patient satisfaction. When patients have to wait for the Hygienist they are more likely to be dissatisfied, but when the provider is earlier than expected patients are both more satisfied and more likely to follow the treatment plan.

Other than mastering the arts of accurate scheduling, streamlined patient processing and efficient clinical work, there is not a lot you can do to avoid delays. Some patients will always be late. Others may take longer than anticipated to treat. Emergencies, cancellations, staff absences… your days rarely unfold exactly as planned.

So while you cannot always control wait times, what you can work on is altering your patients’ perception of the length of their wait. Here are a few suggestions that might help you do that:

  • Create a pleasant atmosphere with comfortable seating.
  • Music and magazines have always been standard. Adding a TV monitor can have a big impact on patient entertainment.
  • Offering complimentary beverages is always appreciated. Bottled water is a great option: simple, refreshing and healthy.
  • Most patients today will keep themselves occupied with their mobile devices. So make sure you offer WiFi – independent of your practice’s access for security purposes – and clearly post login information.
  • Acknowledge patients upon arrival.
  • Communicate wait times whenever possible. 80% of patients say they would feel less frustrated if they were told expected wait times in advance.
  • Manage wait times carefully. Checking back, asking questions, offering an update will make the time seem to have passed more quickly. Rely on practice management software that tracks appointment status, wait times and patient alerts to draw your team’s attention so they can take immediate action to reduce the negative impact of waiting.
  • Use your portal to advise patients via text of any delay expected to exceed 15 minutes.
  • Also use your portal to allow patients to pre-populate and update their personal information and health histories. They will appreciate that you have created a system to help reduce their wait times.
  • Maximize the capabilities of your software to use electronic forms, have patient information at your fingertips and capture real-time data throughout the appointment.
  • Regularly analyze your data to identify and address trends to reduce wait times. Good practice management software tracks the entire patient visit from arrival to departure, giving you the opportunity to learn from recurring issues and specific bottleneck situations.

For the most part, we have all come to expect some degree of wait time when visiting a Dentist or Doctor. You can differentiate your practice by minimizing the impact of the wait, to the delight and surprise of your patients.

 

ABELDent Keeps You Informed on Digital Dental Office Solutions

Consult our Simple, Straightforward Guide to Building the Perfect Facebook Group

As a follow-up to our October article about using Facebook to promote your dental practice, here is a new article that will show you how to harness the power of Facebook groups to better engage and connect directly with your patients.

At ABELDent, we know how to connect dental practitioners to the right dental practice management software and the tools they need to increase productivity, but we also know how to connect to people – which is why we’re confident the insights presented in this guide will help you build a better practice.

Consult our Simple, Straightforward Guide to Building the Perfect Facebook Group

What to Know Before You Start

Understanding patient needs is the most important pillar of any healthcare practice, and being able to connect directly with those patients is the first step toward building a lasting relationship.

You probably already know that owning the customer experience is the key to marketing any brand on social media. But if you really want your dental practice to stand out from the competition, you need to understand how these platforms actually handle user experience, and where your individual brand fits into the equation.

These days, companies compete first and foremost on the basis of customer experience (according to Forbes, 89% of companies list it as their primary metric for success). Like any other type of customer, dental patients use how they feel about the service you’re offering to decide whether or not they will keep doing business with your brand – or engage with that brand in the first place.

This is why companies in the know have begun to use the community-building nature of Facebook groups as a backdoor into deeper connections with potential and returning customers. The experience of being connected to a community paves the way to brand interaction, and Facebook privileges and promotes this kind of organic interaction.

Think about it. At the start of 2018, Facebook needed to change the way its News Feed functioned, and so they tweaked the algorithm – the code that decides what information to present to users and what information to deprioritize – to promote more posts from family and friends, while demoting content posted by brands, businesses, and media outlets.

While the new algorithm actively pushes followers away from traditional ad campaigns, it simultaneously rewards businesses that connect to users by building vibrant group communities.

Tip #1 – Find your Niche

Facebook groups are great at bringing together people who share a common interest. Creating a group dedicated to spreading dental health awareness, for example, might attract Facebook users who have similar oral health questions, or who want to learn more about local dentistry options in their city.

This gives you ample opportunities to improve awareness of yourself and your dental care brand simply by being helpful and informative.

Tip #2 – Engage with your Members

Posting and engaging with your group members goes a long way to building your numbers (just ask social media marketing expert Neil Patel, whose own Facebook group has over 11,000 members)!

More than just a controllable asset, a Facebook group is a hub – a space for people to gather, share, and discuss – which influences users in a far bigger way than a Facebook page alone.

People need answers to their questions, and if you are able to offer consistent solutions, you will see patient communication within your group soar, especially as people start to share the experience with friends and family on the platform, driving more attention to your brand. You can start by offering simple dental hygiene tips related to proper brushing and flossing techniques, the benefits of teeth whitening, and the importance of routine visits to the dentist. Once you’ve solidified your brand’s status, you can then begin to suggest specific services, such as those offered by your practice.

If you’ve been consistently providing answers to oral health questions, you can slowly begin to recommend that people stop by your clinic to learn more, turning Facebook engagement into potential business.

Tip #3 – Commit Yourself

If you’re thinking about starting a Facebook group for your dental clinic, or you want to improve the group you’ve already started, you need to put some time and energy into the endeavour. Remember the following:

  1. Be informative. Let the world know what your group is about. Write a great intro blurb in the About section to get people interested. This is your elevator pitch, so make those characters count.
  2. Be welcoming. Create a pinned post anytime a new person joins your group, welcoming them aboard and inviting them to introduce themselves. People who feel like they belong are more likely to participate and engage with your content.
  3. Be encouraging. Talk to existing customers in your group routinely, and encourage them to post positive reviews or testimonials. This will allow you to highlight patient experiences for others to see and share.
  4. Be present. Make sure you commit to giving your group members a piece of your time every day. It might not be the most ‘scalable’ use of your half-hour, but you need to be present in the group to get members to believe in you and your brand.

There you have it! Hopefully you can use this guide to create the perfect Facebook group that will allow you to position yourself and your brand in a more visible space, find new customers, and bring more attention to your dental practice.

At ABELDent, we routinely publish informative pieces on all things related to dentistry software and dentistry itself, so be sure to check in on the blog regularly!

Practical HR Best Practices for your Practice

I have been working recently alongside our Human Resources Consultant, updating our Associate Handbook to accommodate the seemingly ever-changing provincial employment standards. It has really reinforced for me the importance of having well defined, current policies in place.

The exercise also got me wondering: How many of our dental practice management software users have a handbook for their employees? Regardless of size, every company can benefit from adopting this best practice.

A handbook serves a multitude of purposes, it:

  • Documents your well-thought-out policies that should then be applied to all team members equally.
  • Helps onboard new employees.
  • Serves as a guideline when behaviours need to be addressed and adjusted.
  • Provides a foundation for end-of-employment decisions.
  • Can help demonstrate your commitment to compliance and consistency to government auditors, lawyers, or Human Rights Tribunals.

In the busy day-to-day of a dental practice, HR matters can easily get pushed to the bottom of the priority list. Well-meaning intentions get brushed aside… right up until a significant event brings your policies – or lack thereof – into the spotlight. It’s then that you might regret not having taken action sooner. Here are a few things you can think about now that might spare you the regret. And the grief. And the legal fees. And the fines…

  • The final straw syndrome
    It happens all too frequently. A Manager makes the decision that she can no longer tolerate poor job performance or undesirable behaviour and terminates her employee. After the fact, she learns about the risk of wrongful dismissal.

Precaution: establish and follow a progressive discipline process. Make the employee aware of specific issues and give the employee an opportunity to improve. Follow one verbal notice with at least two written notices.

  • I’ll get to it later…
    It is never easy to have to correct behaviour with reprimands and criticism. What is easier is procrastinating and hoping the situation will improve itself. Chances are good that it will not. After two or three instances, the dates, times and specifics become blurred.

Precaution: Develop an empathetic, professional approach to delivering constructive criticism, and teach it to all supervisory staff. Identify and communicate issues early. People are usually receptive to feedback when it is delivered earnestly and fairly, when it focuses on behaviours rather than attitudes, and when there is benefit to self-improvement. Document your conversations to keep track of details.

  • When NOT to be constructive
    Sometimes, it can be easier for a Manager to avoid confrontation with an underperforming employee by reassigning them to a junior role, significantly changing their role or work conditions, or simply making their life difficult in the hopes that they will resign. In employment law, this is constructive dismissal.

Precaution: Don’t do that.

  • Job creep
    This is a common phenomenon in dental practices: You hire an excellent Office Manager who becomes your go-to person worth their weight in gold. Over time, this person takes on more and more responsibility and an ever-increasing variety of functions, and manages to do it all in a 40-hour workweek. When this employee resigns, the practice cannot expect to fill all the ‘hats’ with one hire.

Precaution: Create clear Job Descriptions for every role in your practice. Do not allow any one person to become indispensable; develop succession plans through effective work distribution and cross training. A smart system of checks and balances also helps mitigate fraudulent activity. This is one objective of a built-on software feature like ABELDent’s Authorization Manager.

  • When is an employee not an employee?
    Engaging Consultants to bring complementary skills, knowledge and talent into your practice is a great way to grow your business. Companies need to be aware, however, of the criteria that differentiate an employee from a contractor. Significant fines apply to an employer – yes, the onus is on the employer – when a misclassification occurs.

Precaution: Consult Canada Revenue Agency for clear definitions. 

  • Too little, too late
    How many employers have regretfully accepted the resignation of a star employee who did not realize how much they were valued, or was unaware that a correction or a promotion was “in the works“?

Precaution: Maintain a connection with each team member. Start today. Whether through annual performance appraisals or informal quarterly chats, enable healthy two-way dialogue.

I apply the advice of our staff HR Consultant in my day-to-day operations and truly champion the foundational philosophies: Hire the right people, focus on the fit. Train and retrain, clearly defining purpose, expectations and performance measurements.

Never underestimate the value of communication in running a business: Praise when earned, thanks when deserved, feedback when warranted. Ask your team for input and ideas, and listen to their perspectives.

If your practice could benefit from more pragmatic advice like this, customized HR solutions and proactive support, give me a call. I know someone who can help!

People management may seem intuitive, but don’t most things with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight?

Bad Press? You’re a Doctor… Spin It!

We often hear that there is no such thing as “bad” press. The fact that someone is talking about you at all is considered a good thing, right? It can place you in the spotlight for a fleeting moment and give you the opportunity to right a wrong. Misfortune may befall, and mistakes will be made. The fallout is usually brief; it’s how you deal with it can help you win friends and influence others.

There have always been forums for patients to voice complaints and, of course, regulatory bodies for serious claims. But in today’s culture of sharing the most mundane of activities and trivial opinions on social media, the exposure is magnified. People are increasingly post-happy, looking to provoke controversy in search of their 15 minutes of fame.

Within this climate, it is only prudent to develop a plan for damage control. Like back-up and recovery of your data in the event of cybercrime or catastrophe, reputation management requires an ounce of prevention.

Essentially, it’s the patient experience itself that becomes your best risk mitigator. One of the wisest things you and your team can do is ask for patient feedback after each appointment. Did we meet your expectations? Is there anything we could improve to make you more satisfied? Especially if your team has tracked the patient’s appointment in your practice management software and has used the information in real time to smooth out any glitches, feedback is valuable.

Post-appointment surveys can be even more effective; they open lines of communication and keep you top-of-mind. They provide an equal opportunity for positive feedback which can be used (with permission) as a testimonial. A survey also opens the door to ask for referrals. The important thing is to ask for feedback and make it easy for your patients to give it.

In the case of a clinical error or unfortunate outcome, you would likely be immediately aware of the situation and able to work with your patient towards resolution. In the case of dissatisfaction with service or other issues, however, you may never have the opportunity for direct communication. And either case could go viral before you even break for lunch.

For a business, receiving a complaint – or worse, reading about one directed at your practice – can be shocking. The natural first reaction is emotional: we get angry, insulted, defensive. Some respond by immediately firing back an angry tweet.

Don’t do that. Instead:

  1. Give it time. In 24 hours, emotions will fade, and you can focus on facts. Make sure that your staff is aware of this advice.
  2. Assemble your facts. If warranted, involve relevant staff. Use your practice management software history for details. Make the exercise about fact-finding, not blame-seeking.
  3. Respond to your challenger using the same channel. Thank the patient for taking the time to communicate. “Your feedback helps us understand and address how patients perceive our service.”
  4. There is usually no need to apologize. “We are sorry you feel that way.” is a good way to validate feelings without accepting fault.
  5. Depending on the patient and the complaint, you might consider inviting the person to contact you directly to offer their perspective for improvement.
  6. Again, depending on the patient and the complaint, a personal phone call might be warranted, instead of or in addition to the above.
  7. Finally, there are situations where you are best advised to simply defer to your lawyer.

It seems unjust that one negative incident can outweigh the scores of positive interactions and examples of exceptional service you provide on a daily basis. Alas, the rule of asymmetrical rewards can apply in dentistry as much as in any customer-facing company.

Here is some food for thought to address the imbalance:

  • It is healthy to acknowledge your feelings. Criticism stings. Any Psychologist – and any mother – will assure you that “Nobody’s perfect” and “You can’t please everybody all of the time”. In fact, the principle of the pratfall effect validates the idea that infallibility is endearing. Flaws can make an individual more likable and less intimidating.
  • You – and your practice – have supporters. In the event of bad press, you may discover loyal patients inspired to voluntarily rally to your defence. I described in a recent post some of the steps you can take to improve your Facebook and social media presence… asking for testimonials is one of them. Let the occasional negative item get lost in a sea of praise. And the more digital presence you create, the more search engine prominence gets placed on space you control.
  • Remember the power of the self-fulfilling prophecy, also known as the Pygmalion effect. It’s helpful to keep this principle in mind so that you – and your staff – do not allow a minor complaint to build out of proportion.
  • Finally, count on the spotlight effect. Although an overblown bad review about a trivial matter can still seem earth shattering, the fact is that in most cases, an isolated bit of bad press is not noticed as much as we think.

I am not a Psychologist, but I am a mother, and I learned from the best. I also found inspiration and data for this post in an article by Rebekah Bernard in Medical Economics, and another by Kevan Lee, Director of Marketing at Buffer. When it comes to the power of positive thinking, I’ll take the half-full glass every time. Cheers!

Are you in the Market for a Dental Practice Business Partner?

I was intrigued by an article I read recently in The Canadian Press about the challenges a small business can face when taking on a business partner. Reading it reminded me that for many of our clients – entrepreneurial dental practice owners – moving from a sole proprietorship to a partnership represents a natural approach to growth.

Small-to-medium business owners can get so caught up in the prospect of infusing their business with investment money, help and expertise that they overlook the due diligence they would normally extend to other types of decisions. They would rarely hire an employee without a formal interview, confirmation of experience and credentials, reference checks, and a fit check… why should a potential partner undergo anything less?

A partner is a much more significant commitment. When a partnership fails, it can be emotionally and financially devastating. It disrupts your business, your staff, your patients, and could harm your reputation. Financial wrangling can lead to complete fallout and business closure. It can deliver some very hard lessons and a blow to entrepreneurial spirit. In short, it’s wise to consult with an experienced dental practice broker who knows about the issues specific to dentistry that a general business partnership advisor may not be cognizant of.

Joyce M. Rosenberg, Business Writer for the Associated Press, in her article on this topic, stresses the importance of professional financial advice and legal counsel in drawing up a partnership agreement.

Along with explicit financial and legal understanding, it is important to examine:

  • Goals and vision for the business. Are you in agreement about short- and long-term goals?
  • Roles and responsibilities. How will work be divided and shared? Are your clinical interests complementary, or is there potential for conflict?
  • Fit. Do you complement each other in your working style? Will there be a good fit with existing staff? Do you share values and purpose?
  • Work ethic. What expectations exist regarding hours of work, amount of work, pace of work, quality of work?
  • Service philosophy. Do you share patient treatment and service standards?
  • Growth plans. Are you in agreement regarding reinvestment versus payout?
  • Conflict. Can you establish today how eventual conflict will be handled and resolved? Can you agree to recognize and confront the signs that the partnership may no longer be working?

Partners do not need to be clones of each other; different perspectives and constructive challenge are healthy in every business. But they do need to be able to communicate. They need to understand what their strengths, weakness and differences are in order to plan effectively and work through obstacles as they arise. They need to trust each other.

I often hear the comment that we spend more time with a business partner than with a life partner. Shouldn’t we exert the same degree of effort in choosing one?

Take Advantage of Facebook to Market your Dental Practice. Step 1: Create a page. Step 2: Use It.

How many organizations, small and large, stop after step 1 of this simple 2-step formula? Sadly, far too many. Neglecting a Facebook page – or any other digital property – is one of the most common social media management mistakes. And it’s a big one.

It is tempting to believe that if you build it, they will come. But they will not. Not unless you let people know about it, make it interesting, offer opportunities for interaction, and keep it fresh. Facebook mastered the push-out mechanism, making it incredibly easy to define and reach your desired target audiences, but as the saying goes, it won’t work unless you do.

It works like SEO – search engine optimization – for your website. Complex algorithms are constantly judging the content, context and relevance of your material against keywords, and ranking it accordingly. Google et al want their users’ searches to be productive. Facebook wants to be popular. It wants to be liked.

So how can a dental practice optimize Facebook without turning it into a full-time job? Here are a few tips we’ve compiled:

  1. Involve your team. Add Facebook strategy to your weekly team meeting agenda. Or devote one team lunch every month to brainstorm content ideas.
  2. Assign a Champion. You’re bound to have at least one person on your team who would like to take this on as part of their job – with a reasonable time commitment of course so as not to interfere with other tasks. If not a team member, find a digital native: a son, daughter, or local college student who would love a part-time job.
  3. Be helpful. Supply facts, health information and useful links that will inspire your readers to like, love, be wowed by, and share your posts. Following you is the ultimate Facebook compliment. Be worthy.
  4. Try a little empathy. Publish what your think patients want to buy, not just what you want to sell. Special offers for Facebook friends are useful to reward followers and attract new business.
  5. Go for the visual. Photos, graphics, videos, and colour all add to readability. Before-and-after procedure photos are always popular – just make sure that you have permission for any photo you use.
  6. Stand out. Facebook algorithms are able to distinguish original and distinctive content. If it judges your post newsworthy, it will push your content to news feeds.
  7. Think local. Your existing and prospective patients are within convenient proximity. Get interested and involved in community events and report on them.
  8. Repurpose your content. Market your practice to even more people in your community by posting each of your messages on other social media like Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr and Twitter.
  9. Get help. Ask your staff, family, friends and existing patients to like and follow you. Even better, ask them to post and share testimonials on their personal pages. Facebook gives higher visibility to an original post on a personal page.
  10. Using, monitoring and managing your Facebook page is a vital aspect of overall Reputation Management. Stay tuned for an upcoming post on this topic!

The most important takeaway from this post is the emphasis on fresh and frequent activity on your page. Attention spans are short and digital multi-tasking is the norm. So when it comes to a company page on Facebook, use it… or lose it.

An innocent-looking email can play serious tricks on your Dental Practice.

Every year about this time, our Social Committee starts revving up the excitement about our annual Halloween costume contest. Thoughts turn to the ghoulish and creepy, but to me, there’s nothing more off-putting than cybercrime. Especially when it comes to attacking dental practice data, ransomware tops the nasty list.

The stress, expense and loss of revenue are only part of the problem. Consider patient safety, potential breach exposure, government fines, tarnished reputations and governing body reprimands… the risks are immense.

With all the precautionary information circulating about data protection and software security, one might expect hacking thievery to be on the decline. Not so. It is actually reported to be on the rise!

I was shocked to hear just a couple of weeks ago about an alarming data hostage situation at the City of Midland, about an hour’s drive north of Toronto. A data hack and ransom demand affected the City’s computer operations, leaving the population of 16,000 without access to a number of important services. The City paid the bitcoin ransom for the decryption key and was back in business in two days.

Earlier this year, the City of Atlanta suffered devastating and expensive damage at the hands of a cyber attacker. Reportedly, decades of documents were lost and the City is still racking up millions in restoration costs, in addition to the $2 million just to fix the original problem caused by the hack.

We seem to be learning the hard way that no business is off limits to hackers who want to rake in easy money. And the anonymity of cryptocurrency is making them more difficult to catch. As an ounce of prevention, I’m re-posting my list of security measures and recommend that you share it within your dental practice as a reminder:

  1. Use a reputable email service provider with both anti-virus and anti-malware security built in. A good email product has layers of filtering to block, quarantine or eliminate bad files from ever reaching the desktop.
  2. Secure a personalized domain for your practice (name@PracticeName.com).
  3. Train yourself and your staff to recognize the warning signs of non-legitimate emails:

– an email is unexpected and the sender name not recognized
– there are obvious spelling, grammar and language mistakes
– a legitimate company logo is mimicked, appears warped, blurred, stretched, etc.
– a different url appears if you hover your mouse over the “From” address or link
– the subject does not make sense in the context of your business/practice

  1. Never follow unknown or suspicious links.
  2. Do not open attachments from an unknown sender, or if any aspect of the email seems strange. Examine zip files carefully; do not open .exe files. When in doubt, verify with the sender.
  3. Be wary about websites visited. Ensure all users stay on legitimate business sites, not distracted by ads, banners and pop-ups.
  4. Have at least two backups. Rotate daily and weekly backup files. Keep one offsite to protect your data from physical threats like fire, theft, or flood. Backups MUST be encrypted and you MUST safeguard the encryption key (password to decrypt).
  5. Have the backup data verified quarterly. This is like simulating a disaster; restoring your data from the backup to make sure that it works! Simply checking the backup notification is not data verification.

If you haven’t already spoken to us about protection, backup, data verification and recovery, click here to learn more and take action right away. Malware is everywhere and does not limit its ghoulish behaviour to one day in October.

If your practice has managed to avoid cyber threats and ransomware, outfit your IT team with superhero capes! Pamper them with some caramels and candy apples. Then treat them to this blog post to reinforce the importance of keeping up the good work.