The Fear of Change- One Gal’s Observation

Who Seems to Fear it More, the Clinical or Administrative Teams?

Ok, so I am going to date myself now and my hope is that my dental contemporaries out there are not shy to chime in.

Remember when x-rays required dipping tanks? We’d go into the small (very small) darkroom and carefully unwrap each x-ray taking care not to touch the film with our hands. If we were developing a full series we would clip them methodically to the rack and carefully dip the x-rays into the developer. We would slowly be sure to cover the tank so that no light streamed in, set our timer and slithered out of this tiny space. Usually we didn’t have to even wait for the buzzer to go off since we were so accustomed to this “drill” that knowing when the films were ready was instinctive.

We would then go in, dip the films in the water and place them in the fixer tank. This routine was repeated throughout the day and all of us on the clinical team worked together throughout the process. Boy, was that developer/fixer dangerous stuff! No matter how careful we were it was not unusual to get it on our uniforms (that were always white by the way). There were no other choices in colors and they were dresses! That’s right, no pants, no scrubs, no options.

Then came the birth of the Automatic Processor. It was a huge change for us, but we did adjust rather quickly and effortlessly. I believe that it was such a vast improvement to what we had before–damaging our clothes and staining our hands. That’s right, no one wore gloves back then or masks either for that matter.

This transition was really a pleasure and I can clearly remember my practice mates rejoicing as to how much cleaner and more efficient this new method was. It saved us time too, since the process was much faster than the old traditional way. There were lots of smiling faces walking the halls of the Medical/Dental Building I worked in on Long Island–happiness everywhere!

Of course, since then we have graduated to digital x-rays, intraoral cameras and a myriad of other technical advancements. For some reason, the changes that were developed for the clinical side of the practice appeared to be much more readily accepted than the improvements that were made to the Business Office. I don’t know why, and perhaps my assessment is not accurate but I can distinctly remember the fear that came over the administrative side of the practice when the peg board system was replaced by THE COMPUTER!

I can clearly recall one of my fellow front desk buddies refused to let go of the “One-Write” system and would enter her information both in the computer and on paper. “I’m terrified of losing information. Where does this all go? What happens if the computer breaks?” (crashing wasn’t even in our vocabulary back then). And if this wasn’t scary enough, what about replacing the Appointment Book with the computer? OH NO! This was frightening to the Business Team AND the doctor.

Technical transition can either make us or break us, at least this is how we felt. How many practices would you say continued to maintain both a computer version of the schedule and a hard-copy appointment book version? From what I observed, I would say perhaps 85-90% initially.

No secret that dental peeps fear change, but I have noticed that the advancements on the clinical side of a practice do not seem to rattle team members quite as much as advancements within the front desk. I’m really not sure why, but there seemed to be a little more resistance when it came to enhancing systems that pertained to the business office.

Of course, now in this day and age everyone is working with lots of technology. I can honestly say that with the hundreds of practices that I have worked with over the years, I don’t know of one that is not computerized—well for the most part anyway. There are still a number of practices that have slowly migrated to a paperless practice. As a matter of fact, as recently as 3 months ago I worked onsite with a practice that was actually making clinical notes in the paper charts as well as documenting all information in the computer.

I’d be interested to hear from you regarding your thoughts on the difference between the clinical side of the office and the administrative side. Do you feel one department is somewhat more resistant to changes than the other? The administrative team is often gun-shy with the possibility of more work, fear of crashes, and they “don’t have the time”. Whereas the clinical team often welcomes advancements and enjoys challenges.

 

On My Soap Box to Promote Elimination of the “Working Interview”

Opting for a Much Improved “Skill Assessment”

In my last blog post I posed the suggestion to do away with the traditional not-so-effective “Working Interview” that has become such an intricate segment of the hiring process within the dental profession. To reiterate my concerns, the structure for the day is generally non-existent with the job seeker coming in for the day or a few hours and is rarely given any guidelines as to where things are, little or no information on the operation and culture of the practice, no support materials to reference, and usually there is no one within the practice to answer their questions due to the fact that everyone is busy handling their personal assigned chores and duties.

Then there is always the issue regarding compensation.  How much is appropriate?  Must we pay them at all? Should we set them up as a hire, gathering all the necessary paperwork whether we hire them or not? And what about the fact that we are often exposing them to personal patient information (social security numbers, addresses, etc.).

My vast experience keeps telling me it is time for a change.  A change to safeguard these issues, along with giving us a much better picture of the candidate’s skill sets (or lack thereof) so that we have more substantial evidence in order to move forward and secure this hire or continue to search for additional candidates.

What I propose is to take an extra hour or two on a day without patients, perhaps a Friday if the office is closed, a weekend or even an evening if that is better. Having this event afterhours enables the doctor to pay close attention and observe the knowledge and ability of the job seeker. There is no need for concern over the confidential information that truly should not be shared at this point. With this planned extension of the hiring process, I recommend that you have a team member join you during this evaluation.  It would make the most sense to have your dental assistant present if you are seeking another assistant, your hygienist there to fill a hygiene position and someone from your business office if it is an administrative position.

You would pay the team member their regular hourly wage for the hour or two they are there, but you can also have your Employee Manual reflect this day and set a slightly different pay scale JUST for this particular segment of the process.  I’d much prefer that a current team member not only participate in this evaluation, but that THEY are paid for their time, in that this process should deliver much more valuable information than the old traditional “Working Interview”.

I would suggest that for whatever position you are looking to fill, you create a specific overview so that you are able to judge the ability they have for manual and hands-on dexterity, math skills, the writing and penmanship skills, as well as giving scenarios to assess how well they think on their feet and solve what could be difficult problems.

I encourage team involvement as much as possible when it comes to changing to new materials, new systems, new equipment and especially when it involves a new team hire.  Incorporating this additional step to the hiring process should not only assure you of a better chance for the right hire, it should also give you a much clearer picture of the capability of your candidate. Besides, I like the fact that your team member is not only involved in helping to make a more educated hiring decision, but that “they” will be the one to receive compensation for their time.  The evaluation is conducted during off hours and would be considered an extension of the hiring process so you are no longer at risk, nor is there any confusion regarding the job candidate’s compensation.

 

With this, I strongly recommend that you make sure to include reference (in writing) to a 30 day trial period so that you and the team are able to observe their interaction with all the team members, vendors and of course the patients.

Why not consider this new approach to hiring?  I’d be happy to guide those of you that might have additional questions.

Making Changes To Assure Success

 

Quick fixes Rarely Bring Long-term Results

Making adjustments to the way we run our lives and our businesses is never easy. So much of who we are is ingrained in the day-to-day manner in which we conduct ourselves and manage our lives. Fear can easily take over when we attempt to change our comfort zone. Making alterations to the way we operate and handle things can be a shock to our systems.

All of us know to some degree that if things aren’t working satisfactorily then the only way to turn things around is to make changes. Recognizing the importance of making necessary change is not so much the act of enacting it, but sticking with it! We begin with all good intentions and a desire to move forward quickly for immediate results on what is needed. Then why is it that more often than not this determination begins to fade out and eventually disappear, and before we know it our old ways have resurfaced.

We know we need to lose weight, so leap straight ahead with a burst of determination. We don’t just join a health club, but start off BIG by joining a spin class and perhaps a very aggressive Zumba group. We don’t just cut back on some of our poor food choices, but we instead go on a fast routine working to stick with 1,000 calories or less a day. We don’t stop smoking with the aid of a counselor or support meds, but we choose to throw the cigarettes out the window (including the carton we just purchased) and go it cold turkey.

So what’s wrong with these approaches? Shouldn’t we be commended for the strong desire shown and a demonstration that says “we really mean business”?

Yes, a statement is being made and to the outsiders looking in they are quite impressed with your expression of sincerity. Truthfully though, these examples of making changes in one’s life will most likely be short lived. Taking an aggressive approach may sound encouraging yet when it comes to change, change that will stick, it takes planning and at a pace that doesn’t overwhelm.

This same principle applies to changes we make to our businesses. Bringing in new systems, crafting new protocols and getting those “cultural” issues set up and spelled out in the brand new Office Handbook that you are excited to implement can be exciting. Many employers apply these new ways of managing their business and teams in the very same way. Now that they are ready and focused to make the changes they are recognizing as needing to be fixed, making the shift can’t come soon enough. They are ready to roll and can’t wait to implement all that is suggested as soon as possible.

Again, enthusiasm and the desire to get things going is a wonderful thing, but being anxious to get as many changes made as possible as quickly as possible is a prescription for a quick failure. Just as weight loss programs bring long-term success through a slow and steady process, so does the process of making changes in policies and programs that have been a part of a business model for years.

Take one new format at a time and don’t necessarily put a timeframe on what needs to be revised, that is unless you are changing methods that are causing immediate harm to the business/team in some way. When an advisor that you respect and admire offers you advice that you know you need to pay attention to and strongly consider for the betterment of your practice, don’t let any of it throw you.

Between the two of you, evaluate the priority order for the changes you need to make and then slowly integrate step by step. Slowly incorporating new ways of handling things is definitely not easy for most of us, but slowing things down as much as possible will help us to become more and more secure with the change.

Slow and steady DOES win the race.

Taking the First Step

True progress may require some risk

What is it that allows or compels us to take a risk? To be the very first to attempt something that has never been tried or attempted before? What was it that inspired the first person to fly outside earth’s atmosphere? What gave them the courage to try this with no guarantee that they could ever safely return?

Risks are taken every day and we should all be grateful that this does happen, since if not for the brave souls out there testing the waters for us from everything from food to outer space, just think how stagnant our world would be.

To all the risk-takers in our dental profession I say, “thank you”, and salute you for moving from x-rays taken with big clunky machines that then needed developing in big tanks of solution and fixer to the amazing world of digital technology.

Then there was the giant step from paper appointment books and the peg-board financial managing systems to total computerization of the dental practice.  I can remember so well how long it took for some business office professionals to relinquish their massive scheduling books, fearing that once they transferred all of the vital information into a computer that the day’s, week’s and month’s activities could be forever lost.  Then there is all the insurance, accounts payable, contact information, etc.

We owe so much to pioneers in all walks of life.

I’m personally experiencing this now.  As we roll out Our Perio Team Software, the first of it’s kind specialty cloud-based program for the periodontal profession, we initially saw some skepticism. We fully expected this and were prepared to respond to questions.  But as more and more periodontists and their teams view what we are and what we do, we are seeing eyes open wide and many nods of approval.

Periodontists and team members, if you want to know more and take a personal tour, please let me know at  deb@ourdentalteam.com, and I will gladly arrange for a private walkthrough. You will NOT be disappointed, for as one periodontist said “Wow!! This is truly a game-changer”!!!