A common mindset is, “Well, if I do XYZ myself, I know it will be done properly!” Yet delegation is not about relinquishing control and/or an inability to manage time. When you are a new business owner, it is essential to involve yourself in establishing all systems and processes, in order that you know how everything works. But if you continue trying to do it all, not only do you risk burnout, you will probably hinder growth.
Every member of your team should have a job spec, which lists all the tasks they do on a daily, weekly and monthly basis, and is reviewed periodically. When tasks are documented, you can easily see where to eliminate certain duties, or delegate them. Job specs will also help you to compile an Operations Manual, with every system, process and expectation/desired result documented. An Operations Manual will give staff something to refer to if anyone is absent and makes training new starters easier.
Having the right people around you is essential. You need individuals who are confident enough to do their own job well and also have the motivation to take on other tasks. Take time to learn people’s strengths and weaknesses, and things they would love to do given the opportunity. When you delegate, you are saying that you trust someone. As people broaden their experience, this will naturally lead to more responsibilities and possibly future promotion. For example, a motivated receptionist could move into a practice management role if they have been able to develop and grow with your support. Even if that’s not at your practice, it still helps to enhance its reputation as a brilliant place to work!
Be a responsible delegator – it’s not about offloading tasks you find mundane. The golden rule is you should not delegate anything that you are not prepared to do yourself: that is a sure-fire way of losing respect. Communication is fundamental and you should promote a listening culture in your practice, with all opinions are considered equal. When you delegate, be upfront about expectations and timelines and give people all the information they need. The more direction you give, the better the result will be. Be approachable and patient, so your staff are comfortable about asking questions, or clarifying things they are not sure about. Mistakes happen of course, and that is how one learns, but you want to eliminate repeat errors. If people are confused or misdirected, not only will you waste time when something is done incorrectly, but you will also affect an individual’s confidence in the long run. Make sure you give credit where it is due too and share any achievements with the rest of the practice if appropriate.
As your practice grows, you simply will not have the time to do everything to a consistently high standard. If you delegate and share responsibilities, you will not only save time but create a productive and confident team. Delegation is a sign that you trust your staff; that you value their skills and want them to succeed while allowing you to focus on growing the business.
Lansdell & Rose are specialist medical and dental accountants that also share business tips with clients via an up-to-date and informative blog. Visit www.lansdellrose.co.uk or call 020 7376 9333.
Successful communication is fundamental to good clinical practice, allowing people to inform, be informed and to exchange information effectively. This is crucial to understanding the patient’s reason for attendance, their medical history, to explain treatment needs, gain consent and provide appropriate preventative advice.
There are three main elements of communication: words, tone of voice and body language. Verbal interaction accounts for just 7% of transmission, while tone of voice is estimated to convey 33% and non-verbal elements 60%2. Practitioners must provide patients with clear, jargon-free messages, explaining problems and procedures effectively and precisely. Understanding the issue and treatment protocol can enhance compliance, as well as minimise the risk of complaints2.
Research has shown that there is often a substantial gap between patients’ expectations and dentists’ understanding of those expectations. It is suggested that dentists sometimes believe they know what patients should want, rather than finding out what they do want. According to one survey, problems with dissatisfaction were attributed to issues regarding the information patients receive and the ‘responsiveness’ of the practitioner. In another, individuals complained of being excluded from treatment decision-making. Bad experiences with previous dentists and perceptions based on media reports of dental malpractice can also contribute to a patient’s lack of trust3.
Clear and concise communication is therefore crucial to avoid any discrepancies or misunderstandings in the information exchange. This is particularly true with nervous patients, as anxiety can impact on the complex process of communication, making it more difficult to hear, retain and comprehend information. Utilising modern technology to provide images of the problem can help to enhance communication and relay messages to patients. It is also beneficial to provide written material or reports that can be taken away and read at home.
The CS 3500 intraoral scanner from Carestream Dental takes communication to a whole new level. Available as a stand-alone solution, or as part of the integrated CS Solutions CAD/CAM restoration portfolio, the CS 3500 provides practitioners with precise true colour 2D and 3D digital impressions. From realistic digital models to printable reports, the CS 3500 teamed with CS Model software makes it easy to communicate and share information with patients.
Relaying information clearly and effectively enhances understanding, treatment adherence and the overall patient experience. Utilising the latest in innovative technology helps make patients feel more involved in their treatment and provides an effective means to convey information, even when patients are suffering from dental anxiety.
For more information please contact Carestream Dental on
0800 169 9692 or visit www.carestreamdental.co.uk
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 Jones, L. M., & Huggins, T. J. (2014). Empathy in the dentist-patient relationship: review and application. The New Zealand Dental Journal, 110 (3), 98-104.
 Dougall, A., & Fiske, J. (2008). Access to special care dentistry, part 2. Communication. British Dental Journal, 205, 11-21.
 Apelian, N., et al. (2014). Humanizing clinical dentistry through a person-centred model. The International Journal of Whole Person Care, 1 (2): 30-50.
 Karydis, A., et al. (2001). Expectations and perceptions of Greek patients regarding the quality of dental health care. International Journal of Quality Health Care, 13 (5), 409-416.
 Redford, M., & Gift, H. C. (1997). Dentist-patient interactions in treatment decision-making: a qualitative study. Journal of Dental Education, 61 (1), 16-21.
This study looked in detail at the patient journey and found that: “for most participants [this] involved feelings of trepidation and anxiety in the lead-up to the appointment.” It went on to state that, “Much can be done to set patients at ease through good communication and friendly and relaxed staff.”
While plenty has been achieved since 2009 in regards to improving the patient experience, many practices could still benefit from addressing the fundamental communication issues that lie at the heart of the patient journey. After all, whichever business model your practice follows, whether Private, Mixed, NHS or multi-practice, the key aim will be to increase sales and profitability, and at the centre of that is the patient journey. This is what keeps your patients coming back or encourages them to attend your practice in the first place.
So by understanding your patient journey, looking at each stage in turn – and clearly communicating it to your patients – you will naturally create a more successful practice. Some do this extremely well, while others are far less consistent. For instance, a practice that has taken into account their patient journey might have a clear description on their website, detailing everything from first contact right through to aftercare and follow-ups.
This approach empowers patients with the foreknowledge of what to expect. Which in turn creates more and better quality leads, happier patients who appreciate you and are easier to serve and a more efficient business where you can cope with increased patient numbers without the need for more team members.
This might all seem too good to be true; it isn’t – but it does take a lot of hard work to achieve and is not an overnight project. Central to it all is understanding your own patient journey, providing clear communication and enhancing and enriching the patient experience.
What is the patient journey?
The patient journey comprises everything from the first visit to your website to any treatment itself and beyond. It covers every interaction or point of contact between patient and practice and is impacted by everything you do, this includes:
· Phone calls (in and out bound)
· Communications by post
· Text messages
· The service provided in reception
· Interactions with the dentists and associates
· Interactions with the dental nurses and treatment co-ordinators
· Posters, advertising, leaflets
· The content of your website
· Follow-ups post treatment and aftercare.
In order to get to grips with your patient journey and understand how this affects your patients and their decisions, it is crucial to analyse each interaction, deciding what you want those exchanges to say about your practice and what the desired outcome of each is.
To get this right you will need to focus on your brand and consider exactly what it stands for. You might decide your brand is clinical and professional, or friendly and welcoming, but whatever message you want to deliver must be consistent throughout each and every interaction; from the tone of voice to the way your practice is described.
Each point of contact will likely have a slightly different key message, so it is also vital that this is clearly communicated. For instance an email sent to a prospective patient should have a very different message and content to that of a phone call to arrange a follow-up.
Whatever the message, medium or content of your interactions, it is crucial that each one works to build trust in your practice and services.
Most dental patients don’t understand what they’re buying – they know their teeth hurt, or they look bad, but they don’t understand how to make the right choice. This means you have to assure them they can trust your practice and every member of your team.
To do that you need to be consistent: have the same branding everywhere, with every communication to the same standard, and all the team in the same uniform. You must be accurate, having the correct pricing on every document, good spelling and grammar, and their paperwork ready when they come in. You also need to be up-to-date – not having pictures of old team members on the website; and provide all the necessary details when asked, explaining exactly what’s going to happen, and what the differences between treatment options are.
Once you’ve spent time considering and designing your patient journey, looking at the ways you build trust and communicate with your patients, you will need to find the best way to implement these changes. This is where turning to a proven solution can help. 7connections, along with software giant Infusionsoft can assist your practice in implementing the ideal patient journey using the much-discussed Artisan Lifecycle Marketing approach. A marketing and lead generation system, it addresses the patient journey from start to finish, so that you can begin to grow your business through increased efficiency, higher productivity and more satisfied patients.
A strong patient journey is one of the most fundamental aspects of creating a successful practice. By spending time focusing on how your patients experience your practice from start to finish, you will ensure the service you provide is always of the highest calibre.
Alternatively, please visit the new website www.7connections.com.
 The Patient Perspective, 2009. Available at: http://www.gdc-uk.org/Aboutus/policy/Documents/RevalidationThePatientPerspective.pdf [accessed 29.4.15]