I’ve heard the yelling from treatment room to the front desk, and I’ve witnessed nasty exchanges between doctor/hygienist/assistant and treatment care coordinator. Communication can be stressful and challenging — and can significantly reduce efficiency and quality. When we work with clients at Million Dollar PPO Coaching and Consulting, we spend a lot of time quietly observing how members of the team communicate with each other.

Transferring information from one area of a practice to another, or from one team member to another, is a critical component in maximizing efficiency. Allowing
information to flow freely and accurately throughout the office can significantly impact a practice’s ability to take advantage of the opportunities that arise through the day in each operatory and over the phone. Many practices are structured in such a way that multiple levels of communication, information handoff, and movement of patients throughout the practice are necessary during any one visit. As the number of links in this communication chain increases, the need for more effective verbal interaction and information transfer increases. Every link adds complexity to an already difficult system.

As advocates of efficiency for the purpose of productivity and profitability, we look at communication differently than many consulting companies. Instead of creating strategies to try and improve individual communication skills, we first focus on streamlining the flow of information. Creating a simpler strategy for moving data throughout the practice alleviates the stress and confusion that so often surrounds communication from “front” to “back.” As it becomes easier or less necessary to transfer data, the efficacy of communication improves, oftentimes with minimal or no change in individual verbal skills.

While there are a multitude of strategies and techniques for simplifying and improving the accuracy and flow of information, we have found that the simplest, most effective method for improving information transfer is to eliminate the need for it. All too often we are confronted with offices that require several handoffs and location changes during a patient visit.

Handing off check-out, posting treatment, scheduling, treatment plans, and financial arrangements from the clinical areas of a practice to the administrative areas of a practice is challenging at best, and dramatically increases the likelihood of miscommunication.

Our philosophy is to minimize, if not eliminate handoffs … to cross-train each team member to be able to take a patient through as much of the patient visit/experience as possible … to allow the handoff to require as little information transfer as possible … and to use the office-management software to transfer the data on its own.

When communication and data transfer must occur, a clear and effective pathway must be in place.Training each team member in as many different areas of the practice allows for these discussions to be clear and concise. If your hygienist has no idea how to create a treatment plan in Dentrix, the handoff between them and the treatment-car coordinator/receptionist can be challenging. If your dental assistant has not been trained how to walk out a patient, they will need to hand off this task after each patient, increasing the odds of miscommunication.

In addition to minimizing handoffs and increasing cross training, maximizing the morning huddle is the final key to improving back-to-front communication, creating a clear understanding between doctor and team about preparedness and expectations. When we teach huddle strategies, we train offices to first focus on reviewing charts/accounts and coming to the huddle prepared to review and discuss each patient and their particular visits, accounts, treatment, and potential.

Having a clear understanding about each patient prior to their visit also simplifies the flow of information among team members. When your staff has the opportunity to share valuable facts prior to or immediately following a visit, effective communication is enhanced.

Quality verbal interaction is critical to the success of a practice. Training and coaching can have a significant impact on the level of individual communication skills. However, creating systems and policies that allow for a smoother transfer of data — and that reduce the need for one-on-one point of service communication — can have a more profound impact on performance. Simplify data transmission and alleviate confusion,
and see significant results in a fast and effective manner. If you are interested in learning how Million Dollar PPO Coaching and Consulting can help improve your practice visit our Web site

Dr. Matthew Krieger is CEO and founder of Million Dollar PPO, a dental practice consulting and coaching company serving dentists across the United States. Its core philosophy is increasing profitability through increasing efficiency. It works with its clients through various programs to ensure that they have the understanding and the tools to create the practice that they’ve always dreamed of.