New technology, new facility

by Linda L. Miles, CSP, CMC

New technology and an updated facility are improvements that can pay handsome dividends if certain steps are taken prior to the investment. But the purchase alone cannot magically produce the increased revenue to make these changes worthwhile. It isn't uncommon to become frustrated by the staff's lack of enthusiam. Read on to see how these changes actually can boost team commitment.

The dentist's view — "I purchased intraoral cameras, chairside terminals, and digital radiography. It was a huge expense, but my staff seems reluctant to use it consistently."

The staff's view — Our doctor is like a kid in a candy shop. Every major meeting means another new "toy." Consequently, we haven't had a raise in nearly two years."

I recommend a technology budget for every practice to maximize the annual $27,000 tax write-off. The staff wonders, "What's in it for me?" Well, for starters, the proper use of new technology saves time, increases accuracy, and increases productivity and return on investment.

Prior to any major purchase, outline the purchase plan and define the benefits. Many practices have a one-time bonus, rewarding the team for taking the initiative to learn the new technology. This incentive makes using the new equipment fun and rewarding, instead of being scorned by staff as "the raise we deserved and did not receive."

The dentist's view — "I built my new office at great expense. I thought production would double when our space did. My staff members were excited at first, but now they are resentful."

The staff's view — "We loved the new office, until we realized the mortgage is a stretch to make. The doctor continuously complains about overhead. We work as hard as we can, but it's never enough. Our patient-centered dentist has become money-driven."

All too often, dream offices become nightmares. The move brings to the fore old management systems, old patient-flow habits, and scheduling and communication problems. Productivity will not double simply because the space does.

New offices should bring joy and appreciation from staff and patients. Prior to a renovation or move, draft a plan of action. With the addition of space, staffing usually expands to meet new scheduling and patient-flow patterns. You must clearly define duties and provide comprehensive training on all new equipment. Create a dialogue to explain new equipment to patients as well.

Scheduling for maximum efficiency and patient care is far better than "scheduling to goal." Many employees have left practices following a major move, because the focus shifted from patient care to money.

The dentist's view — "Once we moved into our state-of-the-art facility, I thought the staff would automatically keep the place spotless. I find dishes in the lounge sink, the lab is a mess, and the garbage needs to be emptied."

The staff's view — "We have a new, beautiful office, but when our doctor expects us to work a full day and then clean up after 5:00, we aren't pleased. Our old, smaller office was easier to clean. The doctor doesn't realize that our "other job" (family, cooking, cleaning) awaits us when we get home. We deserve to have a cleaning crew."

Smaller offices usually are just as difficult to clean properly at the end of the day. When the entire staff divides the office into equal parts to be maintained throughout the day, end-of-day duties are far more manageable.

Having a cleaning crew is a great benefit, but it doesn't take the place of hourly maintenance shouldered by the staff. Cleaning crews generally take care of the floors, plumbing fixtures, and trash removal.

Each dentist must define cleaning expectations. A weekly "To Do List" eliminates guesswork, redundancy, or, worse still, always "dumping" mundane jobs to a few. A true team shares the unappealing work, along with the rewards.

Linda Miles, founder and CEO of the dental-management consulting firm Miles & Associates, has spent four decades as a dental employee and employer. She instinctively resolves sensitive issues in dental practices that ultimately become triple wins — for the dentist, the staff, and the patients. She believes that happy employees perform at far higher levels than those with hidden issues that are only discussed at lunch without the dentist present. Her third-party, experienced-based opinions are not pro-doctor or pro-staff, but always pro-practice. You may contact Ms. Miles at (800) 922-0866, LLMiles@ix.netcom.com, or visit www.dentalmanagementu.com.

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