Building a five-star practice

Aug. 1, 2000
My practice always has been my passion. In my beginning years, I made the decision that I wanted a high-quality, low-volume office. It meant sacrificing a quick start for delayed rewards in the future. But gradually, the patients demanding excellence referred discriminating patients like themselves ... and a five-star practice was born.

Albert L. Ousborne Jr., DDS

My practice always has been my passion. In my beginning years, I made the decision that I wanted a high-quality, low-volume office. It meant sacrificing a quick start for delayed rewards in the future. But gradually, the patients demanding excellence referred discriminating patients like themselves ... and a five-star practice was born.

We always have championed a fee-for-service philosophy, never accepting any type of insurance plan`s payments as our fee. In 1987, we went one step further. At the insistence of our staff, we entirely eliminated filing insurance claims for our patients. We`ve never looked back nor suffered any financial loss as a consequence.

Our practice is team-oriented. We hold numerous meetings to allow our staff members to have input on practice operations. We meet weekly on Tuesdays for our "nuts and bolts" session. During that meeting, we discuss only day-to-day operational problems. We see patients four days per week, and use a half day on Fridays to "sharpen our saw" as Stephen Covey says.

From 8 to 9 a.m. on Fridays, our office reviews the schedule for the following week. After that, we discuss the big-picture items, such as strategic planning, communication skills, systems development, personal growth, and in-house seminars and videos.

On Thursdays, I start my work day at 6:30 a.m. and end it at 2 p.m. This allows our "early-riser patients" an opportunity to come in prior to work. We`ve only had one opening in the five years since we`ve started at this hour!

All of our staff members have been carefully selected for their unique talents. Together, they form a highly-efficient team. We believe that scripting is not necessary when you employ individuals who can think and speak on their feet and who "buy into" the practice philosophy. We make every effort to create an environment that exudes an atmosphere of ultra- quality care and service.

That five-star image extends to our restrooms, where we have amenities such as electric shoe polishers, ladies sanitary products, seat covers, diapers, full dental supplies, hand creams, lotions, fragrances, lip balms, etc. All of these little details exemplify our identity.

Each patient is personally greeted in a living room which serves as our reception area. There are no sliding-glass windows. The reception area features an ice machine and all sorts of beverages, including juices, coffee, and various types of teas. We also have a selection of wines for patients who prefer wine. The administrative assistants schedule patients and make financial arrangements in complete privacy in two large, soundproof consultation rooms. A see-through wall between one of these rooms and the reception area houses a 200-gallon fish tank that is kept immaculately clean.

Our TVs and music are cabled into the office, allowing individual selection in all treatment rooms. We also have a directory listing our taped musical selections for individual choice. We have travel videos of interesting places to visit, such as New England, Hawaii, the Grand Canyon, or Yosemite, should a patient prefer to enjoy this experience during treatment. Our treatment-room chairs can be set up with massage cushions for long appointments. One of our treatment-room assistants soon will be a certified massage therapist. We plan to use her skills to help with additional patient comfort in the future.

Our motto is "Excellence by Choice." Our philosophy and mission statements are so significant to us that we have them framed on the walls in both patient restrooms, as well as in the reception area.

The walls of our reception room are graced with large, individual facial portraits of our smiling staff to familiarize our patients with our team, as well as to show them what our fine cosmetic artistry can achieve. A silent CAESY system adds to patients` curiosity about cosmetic services. Throughout the office, our closed-circuit monitors allow us to view the reception room, so that we always know when our guests have arrived.

Our selection of reading materials appeals to the broad range of interests of our patients. We subscribe to magazines covering most hobbies, including horseback riding, airplanes, boating, computers, photography, fine clothing, health, and travel - just to name a few. We also have the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and local newspapers available for those patients who are interested in these periodicals.

In addition, patients can choose from a selection of fine books on numerous areas of interest in the world, such as Williamsburg, Puerto Rico, Santa Barbara, Monte Carlo, Hawaii, Catalina Island, etc. We also make a private fax machine and phone available to our patients.

Our goal is to make every effort to not only satisfy our patients, but to create enough enthusiasm to turn them into raving fans of our practice. We want them to appreciate this extra-care approach and to become OmissionariesO for our practice, sending us more patients who will appreciate the ultra-fine quality of care that we seek to provide.

When I think back to my early years, I am proud that a relatively poor kid from the lower socioeconomic part of the city could have a future focus ? a vision, an impossible dream ? of what a dental practice could be and then transform that dream into reality. It puts fire in my belly to motivate the younger dentists to follow my example.

I believe our profession can be elevated and appreciated more when increased numbers of my colleagues pursue their ideal visions, take the risks and the accompanying delayed rewards, and go for their finest aspirations. The rewards are not only monetary; they are spiritual. They allow you to have and maintain a passion for dentistry and your life.

I also am proud of the many staff members who helped me grow my practice and contributed to its success. My vision could not have been accomplished without my dedicated team.

After 36 years in practice, I still genuinely look forward to going to my office. The many years I have spent in our profession has made me appreciate ? more than ever? how fortunate we are to be dentists. We have the privilege of setting up our own offices, making our own set of rules, and enjoying treating and being with wonderful people that we alone select. Each of us can choose our own definition of what happiness and success is, as well as the route we will take to achieve these goals.

Looking to the future, my next blessing will be in passing my enthusiasm for dentistry on to the next generation of young dentists and to help them realize that today?s dental practice can be whatever they envision it to be. Maybe they?ll believe it when they see it! Maybe my story will help them to have the confidence, persistence, and patience to create a fine practice ? one that stretches their imaginations and fulfills their dreams. As Omer Reed says, OIf it has been done, it is probably possible.O

Ousborne`s practice philosophy and mission statements

Philosophy Statement

We are dedicated, enthusiastic, gifted, and caring individuals, challenging ourselves to provide excellence, to enhance self-esteem, and to enrich the lives of patients who choose and cherish these values.

Mission Statement

We are a team of talented and discriminating individuals, acting as missionaries who are committed to consistently providing more than would reasonably be expected. We offer our five-star, first-class services and philosophy with excellence, professionalism, and integrity in a uniquely warm, tender, and caring environment.

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