Cooperation makes great things happen

What’s the one thing dental teams should encourage to help their practices and patients thrive? Cooperation. It’s the “one team, one dream” philosophy where everyone pitches in to make good things happen.

In a culture of cooperation, whenever someone needs help or something needs to get done, there is never a situation where a team member thinks, “That’s not my job.” Why? Because when we all believe we’re in it together, it’s everyone’s job to make it to the finish line, which is happy, healthy patients.

Here are a few key ways that we enhance cooperation, both within our team and with our patients.

Keys to cooperating with one another

“Communication is the key to cooperation among team members.”

Communication can take many forms, and one of the most important ones is the hand-off. As a team, we want patients to feel a sense of continuity. Why? Because continuity fosters trust.

Instead of using terms such as “front office” and “back office,” which imply a division in the practice, we use the terms “administrative team” and “clinical team.” Our administrative team does a great job communicating with our clinical team about all the information the patient shares with them. It’s not just the responsibility of the person who answers the phone or who welcomes the patient to the practice to do this. Everyone works hard to connect with patients because patients share different things with different people.

“Work together as a team to notate in the patient’s record key information that enhances the patient experience and clinical outcomes.”

Our clinical team never has to ask a patient what he or she is in for that day. They know in advance because the administrative team has communicated this to them already through the patient file. We communicate it again when we introduce the patient to the dental assistant. We use the same type of communication process as patients check out. At our practice, patients are escorted to the check-out area by the assistant, who shares details about the care provided that day. This ensures that what happened in the clinical area is accurately reflected in the computer.

Keys to cooperating with patients

“Patients have different clinical journeys, but they should know we are with them every step of the way and will help get them to their goals.”

Sometimes “going every step of the way” means staying late so a patient can juggle work and family responsibilities. Or it could be working together to customize a financial solution that optimizes a patient’s benefits and gives the patient an option, such as CareCredit, so they can pay a portion of their bill without stressing the family budget. Or it could mean taking the time to educate patients to the level of detail they want. Our practice is an education-focused group. Our doctor-owner used to teach at the local university, so it’s just part of our culture. Some patients want to know just topline information, while others want a deeper understanding to be able to make good health decisions.

“When we are all working together, cooperating, and communicating, the relational and clinical outcomes are always positive.”

It makes the whole team feel good when patients share how pleased they are with our practice on social media and in response to patient surveys. It is so valuable to get this type of feedback consistently, and it validates what we invest so much of your time doing—delivering great patient care. In the end, the one thing that a dental team can do to help the practice thrive is to be exactly that—a team—working toward the same goal: good oral health.

JENNY REID has been in dentistry for 20 years. For the last 17 years she has been the practice administrator for Keystone Dentistry, a general, implant, and cosmetic dental practice in Belton, Missouri. She has been a member of the American Association of Dental Office Managers since 2006. She loves collaborating with dental professionals to keep up on the latest dental trends.

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