A real story about a real doctor

June 1, 2006
Most of us would agree that success does not come easily, nor does it happen overnight.

Most of us would agree that success does not come easily, nor does it happen overnight. Business gurus tell us that success leaves clues; study successful organizations and see what they are doing. Duh. Did I need a PhD in organization psychology to know that?

But my own experience tells me that it is not as easy as it sounds. I get questions all the time from dentists asking if the “stories I read in the journals” or the speakers they hear at a course are really true! It’s a valid question. Practicing dentistry can be isolating. I believe that sharing experiences with colleagues is important for your business and, most important, for your mental health. So here goes ... this is a real story about a real doctor from rural Sylvester, Ga.

I first started working with Dr. Larry Daugherty in 1998. He called and asked if I would come and consult with his team. He knew that hygiene was “falling short” and wasn’t sure how to proceed with the changes. The current hygienist had been with him for some time and seemed intransigent. During my subsequent telephone conversation with the hygienist, she stated that none of her patients had “gum disease” because she had been treating them for years and she was sure they were “all cleaned up.” By the end of our conversation, I knew that working with her would be difficult, to say the least!

Shortly thereafter, it became even more difficult when the doctor called and said that the hygienist was leaving because she did not want the stress that I, the consultant, was going to bring to the office. Needless to say, he was upset. It’s hard to find a hygienist in Sylvester, Ga. Well, he did find another hygienist, as I knew he would, because he is a fine, caring practitioner who treats his patients and team as family. Who wouldn’t want to work with this doctor? Working with a well-trained, dedicated, terrific team of four (this, too, did not happen overnight), this solo practitioner in rural America produces in the top 2 percent of dentists and today is a “happy man.” Yes, the production is great, but if you ask Dr. Daugherty about his success, he will tell you “it really is about getting to do the work that you know is the best for the patient.”

I was honored to have the opportunity to work with his new hygienist when she was fairly new out of school. She was excited about her career and anxious to learn! Currently, this solo hygienist produces an average of $20,000 per month, excluding exams, working with two treatment rooms and a hygiene assistant. Understand, the fees are rural, not Atlanta or Athens. In addition to her own outstanding production, she uses an intraoral camera to educate patients, allowing them to “see” the broken tooth or amalgam that needs to be replaced. When Dr. Daugherty comes to the hygiene room for the exam, the hygienist is ready with “facts and findings” of her discussion with the patient, and it’s a slam dunk.

I asked Dr. Daugherty to write just a few words to share some thoughts on his practice turnaround. With his permission, here is a portion of what he wrote:

“Patients are the same in every town across America. There are quality patients, and there are those who make us wish we had chosen ditchdigging as a career. However, practicing in a small town requires kissing a lot of frogs to get that one prince. Most of the time it is the dentist and not the patient pool that determines the success of the practice. Training with Pete Dawson and the Pankey Institute taught me that you do not have to see 15 to 20 patients a day to be successful. With Annette’s consulting and coaching, I learned to change my mind-set. My team and I learned not to prejudge the patient just because he was a farmer or did not have dental insurance. We offer the same treatment options to all patients, use CareCredit to help with financial arrangements, and let the patient make the decision. Hygiene transitioned from a prophy-based philosophy to delivering appropriate periodontal and oral health care. Any practice can double or even triple hygiene production. I know, because I did it in a town of 7,500 people. My hygiene production went from $450 per day to more than $1,200 per day. My patients are healthy, my team is happy, and I love to go to work every day.”

Annette Ashley Linder, BS, RDH, is a recognized leader in the field and an award-winning speaker and consultant. She is a featured speaker at dental meetings and provides in-office consulting services with her team of business and clinical consultants. She may be reached at her Web site at AnnetteLinder.com, via e-mail at [email protected], or by phone at (772) 546-2207.

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